Follow TV Tropes

Following

British English / English Slang - M to R

Go To

Italicised words are also heard in Australian English. For tropes encompassing all branches of English, see Separated by a Common Language.

Return to the main page here.


    open/close all folders 
Advertisement:

    M 
  • Mackem: Slang for a person from Sunderland (usually preceded by Dirty Monkey, when used as an insult). One folk etymology is that it derives from the phrase "We mackem an' tackem"note , proudly referring to Sunderland's shipyards and sailors. See also Geordie... and never confuse the two.
  • Mad: In both the USA and Britain, it can mean either 'angry' or 'insane'. In America, it usually means 'angry', but Britain it's more often the latter (while using it to mean 'angry' is generally seen as an Americanism). Thus to be "mad about" something means to be crazy about it, also expressed as "mad for", especially in Manchester ("mad fer it!"). Americans understand the "crazy" aspect, but it usually means more obsessive "Mad About You" than crazy.
  • Manc: Slightly derogatory term for someone from Manchester (who are rightfully called Mancunians, by the way), England's third city, although many people from Manchester cheerfully refer to themselves as 'Mancs'.
  • Manky: Filthy, disgusting. One unintentionally funny consequence of this comes about when you realise that there's a Pokémon called Mankey...
  • Mate/Chum: Friend, pal, companion. "Mate" can also be a mode of address, or an exclamation of surprise, approval or disgust, depending on the tone ("Ah, MATE!" equivalent to "dude").
    • It doesn't mean partner, unless you're talking about animals. This is one of the most confusing things when reading this word written by American authors!
    • Mate's rates: A cheaper price for some good or service, generally because the buyer has some strong personal relationship with the seller.
  • Manor: In addition to meaning a big house with extensive grounds, "manor" is sometimes used to indicate either a policeman's area of beat or someone's turf: "Frankie Fraser reckons he can do over the Alliance & Leicester on main street. Not on my manor!" Originally a London-based term, it is now spreading thanks to shows like Eastenders.
  • Maths: Universal British way of shortening mathematics, not "math".
  • Meat and two veg: Slang for the penis and testes.
  • Mick: An Irishman. Considered offensive.
  • Milliard: Back when the Long Scale (see billion above) was still in use, "a milliard" was a way of saying a thousand million. Today, you'd just say "billion".
  • Mince: Ground beef (by default; other meats can be specified, as in "turkey mince"). As a verb, to grind up. Also, to walk effeminately.
    • Minced meat: Also ground beef/other; in this case usually specified as "minced beef/lamb/pork". NOT to be confused with:
  • Mincemeat: A dark and sticky mixture of chopped dried fruits, suet (or vegetarian substitute), distilled spirits, sugar and spices, most commonly used as the filling in the small Christmastime staple foodstuffs mince pies – so called because "meat" just meant "food" in middle English, back when the term was coined. The More You Know.
  • Minge: Female genitals. Very slightly less offensive than "clunge" (see above) but still a very low-class way of referring to the anatomy in question.
  • Minger: Ugly person. Pronounced like "singer", not "finger" or "ginger". Mingin' is the equivalent adjective. Unrelated to the above word.
  • Mini-break: A vacation lasting less than a week.
  • Mobile phone: A common mistake among American writers is to have British characters refer to handheld phones as "cell phones" or "cells". Brits tend to just refer to them as "mobile phones", "mobiles", or simply "phones".
    • A cell, said by a Brit, means what it actually means: the basic unit of living organisms, or one of two elements to a battery (though the singular are commonly called batteries, too).
    • In the U.S., you can say "cell phone," "cell" or "mobile phone" pretty freely. If you ask someone if you can borrow their "mobile," you might get a funny look at first, but they can probably figure out what you're asking.
  • Mohican: Another name for the mohawk hairstyle. Both words are used and understood.
  • Mong: Short for "mongoloid", an archaic and now offensive term for people with Down's Syndrome. May be used as a semi-offensive insult, similarly to the way "retard" is used on both sides of the the Atlantic. "Mongo" (pronounced mong-go) is a variant.
    • In recent times "mong" has become more offensive since, being based on the apparent physical similarities between people who have Down's Syndrome and people of Mongolian descent ("Mongols"), it manages to offend both groups quite spectacularly.
    • Still popular in the Army, at least according to ARRSE. Squaddies combine it with chav (see above) to form chavmong, a particularly aggressive and stupid breed of chav..
  • Monged: Very high (on drugs). Rhymes with "wronged", and not directly correlated with the above. "Monging out" is the process of getting to "monged" status.
  • Monkey hanger: A derogatory term for people from Hartlepoolnote ; the term refers to an infamous incident in the 1800s where a group of Hartlepudlians, unsure if a monkey found on a French vessel was actually a French spy, placed it on trial and hanged it for its crimes when it (obviously) didn't testify. The term even has its own wiki page.
  • Motorway: The equivalent of a US "freeway" or "interstate highway". Motorway numbers are always preceded by a capital M, such as the M1, the M25, and so on. Other roads that have been later upgraded to meet Motorway specifications have M suffixed to their designation, most commonly used with the A1(M) among others.
  • Muff: Slang term for female pubic hair or genitalia – also North American, but rarer. "Muff Diving" refers to the act of performing oral sex on a female.
    • Unrelated to Mufty Day which is a regional name for a day when children (and teachers) need not wear school uniforms (or dress like a teacher). Some parts of the country simply use "non-uniform day" or "civvies day". (This is from the older military term 'mufti', meaning 'civilian clothes', from the habit of off-duty colonial officers in the days of The Raj of wearing clothes vaguely resembling the garb of muftis, Muslim jurists.)
    • Also, that woollen thing you shove your hands in when it's cold and you don't have pockets or gloves (or are posh).
  • Mug: A very versatile word. Most commonly used for the drinking implement, as in the US, but also as a verb "to mug" meaning "to violently rob". However "to mug for/at the camera/audience" is not to violently rob a camera/audience but to pull faces at one, from the noun "mug" meaning "face", as in "I don't want to see your stupid mug in here again!". From this we also get the term "mug-shot", the photo they take for your prison record.
    • Another use is as a descriptor of a person, meaning they are an idiot. A good example would be "He's a bit of a mug" or "You absolute mug!" Possibly from the term "muggins" which has a similar definition, but tending more towards gullibility than general intelligence. Usually used self-deprecatingly, as in "And who had to clean up after them? Bloody muggins here, didn't I."
  • Mum: Mom.
    • Or Mam in much of northern England and Wales too.
    • Mom in the West Midlands, but pronounced differently, a mix of ma'am and morm.
    • Often Mammy in Scotland – but Mum is just as common.
    • Mammy also tends to apply in Ireland and its Northern counterpart.
    • Mummy for younger kids, posh people, and parts of W Yorks. Leads to a lot of groan-worthy Ancient Egyptian jokes in things like Christmas crackers, as well as the Doctor asking "are you my mummy?" of the eponymous creature in "Mummy on the Orient Express".
  • Munter: An unattractive person, analogous to minger above. Also related to munted which implies someone who is so chemically imbalanced on drink and/or drugs as to have become physically unattractive, itself also similar to monged.

    N 
  • Naff: Garbage, useless, worthless, pointless. Popularised by Porridge, which used it as a placeholder for more serious profanity. Said to be derived from NAAFI, the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes, by implying the low quality of the merchandise sold by said body.
    • Can be used, and has been used by annoyed royalty, in the pejorative ''Naff Off!" Interestingly, Afrikaans has a similar-sounding expletive imperative. So ultimately derived from Dutch?
  • Nappy: A diaper. Derived from the word "napkin".
  • Nicked: Arrested. Prison is "the nick", or "chokey"/"stir" in P. G. Wodehouse-era works.
    • Also "stolen", generally in the context of petty theft: "nick" as a verb in this sense means to steal.
  • Nig: Can be a pejorative for "black-skinned person" in the form of nig-nog (note: highly offensive and now frowned upon. A whole TV sitcom, back in The '70s, was notorious for the (sparing) use of this word.). These days, used in the Army to describe a new soldier just passed out as a recruit, and new to his unit (American "greenhorn" or French "bleu"), an acronym for New In Green.
  • Nigger: Means exactly the same thing it does in the United States and thus should not be used. However, there are some uniquely British circumstances surrounding it. Mainly, it was not widely recognized as being as offensive (by white people...) as it is until the 1970s in the UK, which is why it persists in British media rather longer than it does in America - Ralph referring the boys as "a bunch of painted niggers" in Lord of the Flies for instance. British tailoring, drapery, and haberdashery had a shade of brown called "nigger-brown" until the mid seventies. This may explain a couple of recent North American controversies involving Chinese-made clothing being labelled as "nigger-brown".
  • Nonce: Slang term for child molester (or gay man), of uncertain origin more . It is now a general purpose insult, though it retains its connotations of paedophilia.
  • Nought: "Zero" in American. In Australia, "zero" is for numbers, and "nought/naught" is used the same way as "all for nought". Strikes many Americans as odd, even though the phrase "all for nought" is fairly common in America. Although when reading out a string of numbers (like a telephone number), most British speakers will substitute "Oh" (as in the letter O), e.g. "oh-one-six-oh-two..."; this is not used where the string being read out is alphanumeric. 'Zero' is becoming more common, though.
  • Noughts and Crosses: Tic-Tac-Toe. (0s and Xs, get it?) Still, Americans call their "noughts" in Tic Tac Toe after the letter "O".
  • Noughties: An uninspired name for the 21st century's uninspiring first decade. Americans may find this humorous – it was (meant to be) humorous for Brits too when it was coined, but became so commonplace it lost most of its punny association. Sometimes substituted with the even more uninspired The 2000s.
  • Numpty: Extremely mild term of abuse, very similar to "plonker" (see below) but is usually gentler with more of an implication of affectionate exasperation.
    • Used mainly in Scotland, Northern England and Wales.
    • Other favourites include "prat" and "muppet".

    O 
  • Off-licence: Liquor store: the name comes from the fact that they're licensed to sell alcohol to be consumed off the premises. Sometimes called an "offie".
    • This can also mean the licence the shop holds that allows it to sell booze. Pubs and restaurants are instead granted an "on-licence" (to sell alcohol to be consumed on the premises) but are never called that.
  • Old money: Literally, the predecimal system of currency used prior to 1971, when pounds, shillings & pence were replaced by pounds and (new) pence. Figuratively, may be extended to describe imperial systems of measurements, e.g. length, weight, distance, temperature.
    "It's a warm 25ºC, or about 77ºF in old money."
    • "What's that in old money?" can mean the questioner thinks you asked a stupid or unclear question.
    • It also refers to a person's background/'breeding', i.e. possessed of ancestral wealth. Distinctions are often made between families of 'new' (i.e. upstart, ostentatious) and 'old money', with the quiet 'got-nothing-to-prove' attitude of 'old-monied' folk seen as something to aspire to.
  • Oi!: Cockney word for, "Hey!" No connection to the Yiddish term "oy". Sometimes written as "Hoi!" for cases where someone is surprised (as in "H-[uh?]...OI!") or hailing someone from afar. And for the record, if it's missing the exclamation mark (point) at the end, it's spelt wrong. Also common in Wales.
    • If you're Northern it's written like that but any vague sound is made. They all have different meanings, like teenage grunts, seemingly indecipherable to Yanks.
  • On the take: Open to bribery; frequently interchangeable with the corrupt definition of bent above.
  • Oriental: Adjective for an ethnically East Asian person or people. Possesses no negative connotations, unlike in American English.

    P 
  • P45: The document you get from the taxman after termination of an employment contract, often mentioned in allusion to a dismissal. Similar (at least in terms of symbolically) to the American Pink Slip.
  • Paddy: An Irishman. Considered offensive, but acceptable in some contexts, (for example, there's an Irish bookmakers called "Paddy Power", and a brand of Irish Whiskey called, simply, "Paddy") and almost completely innocuous when it's used as a nickname for someone named Patrick.
  • Paki: An extremely offensive term for people of South Asian descent, comparable to "nigger"; one survey ranked it as the most offensive word in British English. Tends to cause trouble when Americans believe that it's merely the short version of "Pakistani".
  • Pants: As a noun, refers to underwear, either male or female, i.e short for 'underpants'. For the things Americans call 'pants', see trousers. The difference is the source of much British humour at American works: just consider the difference in meaning of "pulling his pants down" on either side of the Atlantic.
    • As an adjective, also used as derogatory slang similar in strength and meaning to rubbish.
  • Pavement: Sidewalk. Literally one with stone or concrete 'paving slabs'. Usually used to refer to the road surface in America.
  • Pensioner: A retired person, i.e. one old enough to receive their state pension. OAP (Old Age Pensioner) is also heard. "Senior citizen" is the posh way of saying this. The US equivalent is "retiree".
  • Petrol: Gasoline.
  • Pikey: Originally a term for Irish Travellers, it's been of late spreading out into a general insult implying low social status and lower morals – the kind of people trailer trash look down on.
  • Pillock: similar to "plonker" below.
  • Pint: An imperial pint, 20 imperial fluid ounces, the standard serving size for beer (along with the half-pint). Whereas Americans say "A pint's a pound the world around,"note , Brits say "A pint of water's a pound and a quarter."
    • Alternatively, "A pint of pure water weighs a pound and a quarter", which has the advantage of rolling off the tongue rather better, as well as being better chemistry.
  • Pissed: Slang for "drunk". For "annoyed", use pissed off. As with pants, this can be a source of amusement when the American and British mix (e.g. "Why is his boss pissed at work?").
    • Side note: in the appropriate context, every single word (or phrase) in British English is acceptable slang for "drunk", with the letters "-ed" added on where needed, from "trollied" to "smashed" to "wankered". Make of this what you will. Michael McIntyre comments on this precise phenomenon here.
  • Plaster or sticking plaster: What Americans call a Band-Aid. The equivalent British Brand Name Takeover would be Elastoplast.
    • Band Aid to a Brit is "that-Africa-song-thing-Bobby-Geldof-and-everybody-did-in-the-'80s-oh-weren't-the-eighties-great,-love?"
  • Plastered: Drunk. See "pissed", above. It might be taken to imply that the subject is falling-down drunk, and thus will require plasters (see above), or that the subject is so drunk that alcohol is adhering to them like builder's plaster. Do not ask about the Squick derivation. note 
  • Plectrum: A guitar pick.
  • Plonker: Someone who is oafish or foolish (e.g. "Rodney, you plonker!"). Broadly similar to 'wanker', with the added insult of being a fool. Less offensive than wanker, however. Allegedly originated as a slang term for a particular World War I artillery shell that happened to be somewhat phallic in shape, and from there came to mean a penis, a meaning that's almost entirely disappeared since.
  • Polyfilla: Spackle. A Brand Name Takeover (in the tradition of Hoover and Sellotape), the word Polyfilla is now so absolutely associated with the generic product that asking for "Spackle" will likely get you nothing more than a puzzled look. This is mentioned by Bill Bryson in one of his books when, after returning to the US, he was unable to recall what the American word was and was reduced to explaining that "my wife's people call it Polyfilla?" until he found someone who recognised what he was after.
  • Poof or poofter: a gay man, generally a derogatory term, but mild. Slightly outmoded now. Usually implies some level of Camp Gay-ness.
  • Porridge: Jail time. As in: "Aye, he's doing porridge up in Barlinnie." (Also, obviously, a hot breakfast foodstuff made from oats and liquid.)
  • Posh: Upper-class; stylish; materialistic. Famously applied to Posh Spice.
  • Potty: In Britain, exclusively a chamber pot (usually a child's plastic one), never a toilet.
    • Can also mean 'insane' when used as an adjective, as in "Have you gone potty?", but this is becoming obsolete.
  • Prod or Proddy. A Northern Ireland Unionist. Coined by Irish Nationalists as a term of abuse, but often used by the British in a "plague on both your houses" spirit.
  • Provo: A member of the Provisional Wing of the Irish Republican Army, the main terrorist organization active during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Considered insulting when applied to Irishmen generally and considered one of the worst insults in the world when directed at Ulster Loyalists.
  • Pub: Short for public house. The difference between a bar and a pub is sometimes contentiousnote , but pubs tend to have an older style to them, with wooden decor, and will primarily serve beer and cider, with a more relaxed atmosphere. Most will serve a specific kind of stodgy food during the day - "pub grub" - and may have an outdoor section, or beer garden. You also sit at tables, never around a bar, a.k.a. The Great Distinction.
  • Public school: Private school, confusingly enough. They are 'public' in that they are technically open to anyone... just not everyone. That is, mediaeval schools were originally controlled by the Church, providing education for sons of the clergy, or by the trade guilds e.g. Haberdashers, Merchants, and entry was restricted accordingly. Public schools were, conversely, open to any child – at least, any child whose parents could pay the fees – regardless of background (it is a myth that the term originates with "free schools for the poor", although many current public/independent schools and former or current grammar schools did start that way, to confuse matters). "Private School" means something slightly different and colloquial usage in Scotland is more in line with the American usage. Use "Government school"/"state school" (which genuinely are open to all) and "independent school" if you want to be unambiguous. Not all independent schools are public schools, in England and Wales, but all public schools (E&W) are independent.
    • Public schools are more accurately defined as a particular class of independent schools; they do have a special legal status, as defined by the Public Schools Act 1868. But hardly anybody knows that. In general usage "public school" = "fee-paying school". Most often used pejoratively regarding the upbringing of the privileged classes, including the Prime Minister David Cameron and many of the present Government.
  • -pudlian: A suffix for those from places ending in "-pool"; the most famous examples are probably Liverpool, Blackpool, and Hartlepool, which contain Liverpudlians, Blackpudlians, and Hartlepudlians respectively. Although people from Blackpool (because it's the major Northern seaside resort) prefer to be called "Sandgrown'uns".
  • Puff: An effeminate and/or gay man. See "Poof" above.
  • Pull: Can mean either "attempt to persuade someone to have sex with you" or "succeed at persuading someone to have sex with you"; the latter's American equivalent is "score": "I'm on the pull / I pulled last night".
    • Increasingly used to imply make out with or snog. "I pulled her", "They pulled," etc
  • Pumps: Only ever used to refer to a certain variety of (usually) canvas, rubber-soled flat shoe used in indoor sports (primarily in school.) Never used to describe any other kind of shoe.
    • Also refers to passed gas, along with 'fart', 'trump', etc...
    • Can be used as a verb - to pump - when referring to sexual intercourse, generally in the North and Scotland: "I pumped her" etc...
  • Punt: A gamble: "I'll take a punt on that".
    • Also, a small flat-bottomed boat that is propelled by a very long pole. Punting is a very popular in the rivers around Cambridge University.
  • Punter: Customers or clients, usually of a business providing entertainment, gambling or illegal goods/services. Funfair owners, casino bosses and the suspicious-looking bloke in a pub selling DVDs of questionable origin might refer to their customers as "punters"; the managers of Harrods or Selfridges are less likely to do the same.
    • Also a term for a prostitute's client ("john" in the US).
  • Purse: A woman's wallet. A US 'purse' is a British handbag.
  • Prawn: Shrimp. Stateside, 'prawn' refers to larger shrimp served in Chinese restaurants.
  • Presenter: A TV host.

    Q 
  • Quid: A pound sterling, £. Remains the same in plural: "ten quid" is ten pounds. Generally speaking, "quid" is the Brit slang for pounds in the same way that "buck(s)" is the American slang for dollar(s).
    • It is also Irish slang for the euro (€), because the currency up until 2002 was the (Irish) pound or punt (nothing to do with punt above) and had similar slang to the sterling. Most of these (quid, notes, fivers, tenners, etc.) carried over – some older people even refer to the euro as the pound – and very few new slang terms (save maybe "yo-yos") were created for the euro.
    • Common in quite a few countries in fact. "Quid" being latin for "What", it probably simply means "Ten whatever they call their money over here".
Advertisement:

    R 
  • Railway - equivalent to US railroad.
  • Randy: Horny. Appears to be at least vaguely known in the US, thanks to Austin Powers. Very common butt of Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names jokes.
  • Rah: Short for "Hoorah/Hooray Henry", a stereotypical posh youth, esp. if loud, extrovert and prone to Conspicuous Consumption. A folk etymology of the term is that it comes from everything they say (in their clipped, nasal upper-class accents) sounding like "Rah rah rah".
  • Right: Can be used as an intensifier which often slants the word following it in a negative manner if it isn't already (for example "He's in a right state!" means "He's in a very bad state", other examples include; "He's a right pillock").
  • Ring Road (a.k.a. orbital motorway, the latter most often applied to London's M25): A "beltway" or "loop". US newspapers' references to politics "inside the beltway" confuse Britons. References to the "beltway echo chamber" translate roughly as the "Westminster bubble".
  • Root: Have sex with. More Australian than British, it has nevertheless gained some traction as a euphemism in England, but is still thought of as being Antipodean.
    • The more common usage in British English is to support a competitor in an event (of any sort). ie. "I'm rooting for X" means, "I want X to win".
  • Rubber: An eraser, those pink and generally oblong things you use to messily undo pencil writing.
    • The comedian Rene Hicks mentioned how when she was in Britain a local asked if she had a rubber and promised to bring it back. Of course to the American mind this means condom, so hilarity ensued.
  • Rucksack: A backpack.
  • Rugby, Rugger: If you see Englishmen (or Scots, or Welsh, or Irish, or French, or Italians...) playing what appears to be some kind of gridiron football, only they're not wearing pads or helmets, and they don't stop every thirty seconds, and they never pass the ball forward, and quite a few of the players seem to be bleeding and bruised but nobody seems to particularly care, you are likely watching Rugby Union. Or possibly Rugby League.
  • Rugger Bugger: A particular, and particularly unpleasant, kind of man. They might, or might not, play or have played Rugby in some capacity - if they do or did, you will be told about it - but they will be large, loud, crude, red-faced and graceless, and think that theirs is the natural state for all true men; anyone not resembling them in every detail is some sort of Poof. The stereotypical fictional P.E. Teacher of a British School is very much one of these.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report