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

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  • Sack: To fire, dismiss etc. As in "Given the sack", i.e. to put your belongings in. There was much complaining about "Americanisms" when the UK version of The Apprentice retained the catchphrase "You're fired!", but in reality that phrase is just as common nowadays, if not more so, as "You're sacked".
    • There is a medieval origin to both. If a workman did a bad job, instead of being paid he was given a sack to take his tools away in. If a workman did a very bad job, said tools would be burned.
    • In the sack, however, means in bed, particularly in the "yeah, s/he's great in the sack" type of construction. "I'm going to hit the sack" just means you're going to go to bed, presumably coming from where those down on their luck or working on farms would sleep in barns and stables; "hit the hay" has the same derivation.
  • School: Education establishments up to the age of 18. Never refers to (higher education) college or university (although a department of a British university can be a "school", for instance, the School of Mines at Imperial College, London), unlike in the US; the latter use can therefore provoke a "what, you're still in school at your age?" auto-response in the British mind. See British Education System for more info about actual schools; it gets quite complicated because different parts of the UK do it very differently.
  • Scouse / Scouser: A resident of Liverpool. Short for 'lobscouse' (derived from Norwegian 'lapskaus' and similar words in other Northern European tongues), meaning a meat stew eaten by sailors that became popular in port cities such as Liverpool.
    • Scouse in general is the slow-cooked meat and veg stew, traditionally based on mutton but also made with beef etc. – used as far away as Cornwall and Norfolk. 'Blind Scouse' is the vegetarian version with no meat whatsoever in it.
    • Sepp: Rhyming slang first used by British soldiers in Iraq. Septic Tank - Yank, shorthand for American, generally a military one.
  • Series: When talking about TV shows, a 'series' is both the show as a whole and what Americans would call a 'season'; perhaps because they don't last for several months. This has caused mild panic among American fans of British television, because when an American hears the term "Series Finale," it means the show is over for good, as opposed to being finished until next year. 'Season' is increasingly gaining traction in the UK as well. Incidentally, in British English you tend to talk about TV 'programmes' rather than 'shows'.
  • Set square: In UK English, this refers to a measuring tool which is essentially a right angled triangle shaped ruler (known as a triangle in the USA). The device sometimes known in US English as a set square (essentially a ruler with a brace on the end) is always known as a t-square.
  • Seven shades: A large quantity of shit. Something you don't want beaten out of you. This legendarily includes the two shades nobody has been able to find yet, with the added air of menace that implies there's always room for experimentation. (If you find yourself producing seven shades of shit without being beaten up, this website recommends seeking medical attention.)
  • Shag: Inoffensive word meaning "to have sex with". It can also serve as a noun for the act itself or the participants.
    • Also a kind of carpet. Some believe there is a connection between the two terms.
    • And a sort of coarse-cut tobacco.
    • And a seabird (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) closely related to the cormorant. Thus "cormorant" can sometimes be heard as a euphemism for sexual intercourse, especially of an illicit variety.
  • Shite: Pretty much the same as "shit", but more often used to describe something, so "That's shite" is a bit more common, and a bit stronger, than "That's shit". Some people think it sounds nastier than 'shit', and it causes massive dissonance when Groundskeeper Willie uses it on The Simpsons, though it is admittedly more common in Bonnie Scotland.
    • So a "gobshite" is someone who talks a lot of shit.
    • In Glasgow patter, a gabshite is a gossipy person, coming from the word "gab", meaning talk.
  • Silly: In Britain, the word is more often used dismissively, in similar contexts to "dumb" or "stupid". In America it's acquired a meaning more along the lines of "goofy" or "wacky". Not likely to cause Separated by a Common Language, as both definitions are generally understood on either side of the Atlantic.
  • Skint: Broke, as in no money.
  • Skip: Dumpster.
  • Slag / Slapper: Slut, US "tramp", etc. Has connotations of less-than-desirable appearance as well as promiscuity.
    • Not to be confused with the term for scrap metal, usually partially molten, left over from some industrial processes. This sense is known in Britain, especially in the iron and steel industry, and yes the engineers and scientists have a sense of humour about it. The similar byproduct of the coal industry has left large mounds all over the countryside, especially of South Wales, known as "slag heaps".
    • "To slag something/someone off" means to disparage it or them.
  • Slash, to have a/go for a: A piss. This kinda makes Slash Fiction sound like it's something it's not.
  • Sleeping policeman: Speed bump (US), ramp (Ireland). 'Kipping cop' is also heard.
  • Snigger: US "snicker". Used less nowadays, as like the word "niggardly" it has an unfortunate potential for being misheard or falling victim to the Scunthorpe Problem.
  • Snog: Make out, kiss with tongues. Used a lot more by teenagers than adults, however, so can come off a bit childish. A Northern term with a similar meaning is "pash", probably derived from 'passionate'.
    • In some parts of the UK, it sounds a bit totally radical, and the act is more commonly referred to as pulling. Which causes a bit of confusion regarding the other meanings of pulling.
  • Sod: Used in "sod off", a relatively polite way of requesting that someone should go forth and multiply (see fuck off); alone, it tends to refer to an idiot, moron, or someone who can be unpleasant ("he's a daft old sod" vs "he's an absolute sod"). Comes from "Sodomite"; it is a curiosity of the modern British swearword lexicon that this most traditionally taboo sexual act tends to be the source of words at the milder end of the expletive spectrum; see also bugger.
  • Sot: A drunkard. Now very old fashioned and not likely to be used.
  • Spanner: A wrench, as seen in the title of Spanner in the Works. May also be used as an insult, with implications of incompetence (e.g. "Don't do that, you spanner!").
  • Spastic: In America, it means hyperactive ("manic" in British English) or out of control, but to British ears, this is a major insult for the mentally disabled (like "retard", or worse). Used to be the official term for sufferers of cerebral palsy – the charity The Spastic Society changed its name several years ago to "Scope". In American the term "Spaz" has the same meaning, it's an insult like "retard".
  • Spraff: To ejaculate.
  • Spunk: Semen. Of course, this one has double meanings, but can be hilarious when a character (especially female) is described as "full of spunk". Especially if followed up with "...I like spunk".
    • Although "spunk" is occasionally used to mean semen in America, it's far less common.
  • Stag (also buck) night/do/party: Bachelor party. See hen night for the female equivalent. Stag party was common Stateside during the mid-20th century, but has faded since. These days many take a stag weekend and go to a cheap European destination like Prague – and, since the decline in Football Hooligans, have filled the niche of "rowdy drunk guys who give Europeans the worst possible impression of British people".
  • Still Military slang. Has two derivations. See Boxhead above for the version pertaining to Germans. The General commanding British forces in Germany decreed that the derogatory noun "squareheads" should no longer be used to describe German military personnel or civilians. Overnight a new term "boxheads" was coined to get around this. Although some British servicemen started calling Germans "stills". Similarly on the Falkland Islands, soldiers and airmen were ordered not to call Falklanders "Bennies". note . Falklanders became "stills" too. Legend has it that when asked why by an officer, a Tom replied with "Because they're still squareheads/Bennies, sir!" Has been used where objections have been raised to a previously cherished collective noun for a race or group.
    • It is possible that in situations where British personnel have been instructed not to call Americans Sepps for diplomatic reasons, United States military personnel have also become "stills".
  • Stone: A unit of measurement equal to 14 lb, mostly used in the context of personal weight. So one says "I weigh 10 stone 4 pounds", not "I weigh 144 pounds" – to a Brit, the latter seems as odd as saying "I'm 74 inches tall" instead of "I'm six foot two" would.
    • Brits usually measure their weight in stones, distance in miles, their height in feet and inches, and milk, beer and blood in pintsnote , but everything else in the metric system. (Blood is also popularly measured in Imperial standard armfuls.)
  • Strewth!: Abbreviation of "Gawd strewth!" ("God's truth!"). A general-purpose exclamation, originally Cockney but now mostly associated with Australians.
  • Stroke: A term for the "/" character, also known as slash, oblique or solidus. Tropers may know the term from Stroke Country (or Northern Ireland/Ulster/The Province/etc/etc/etc...).
  • Subway: Often means "underpass", and interchangeable with the latter. Not generally used for subterranean rail: the subway/metro system in London is always known as the Underground or the Tube (after the shape of the tunnels and trains).
    • In Glasgow, the underground is actually known as the subway (when it's not being referred to as the Clockwork Orange...) Cue amusement upon discovering there's a Subway (as in, the sandwich shop) right next door to the actual subway.
  • Sunday Best: Your most formal clothing, only worn for special occasions such as weddings, funerals, job interviews, court appearances, and the like. Originated when Church attendance was both more common and more formal than tends to be the case nowadays, but the phrase is still in use.

  • Take the piss (out of): To make fun of or mock someone or something. "Take the mickey (out of)" is a common euphemistic variant, which can be shortened to "take the mick" or euphemised still further to "take the michael" or similar. note 
  • Takeaway: Take-out, food that is purchased for consumption off the premises.
  • Tat: Cheap and/or tasteless trinkets.
    • See also tatty which can be a verb referring to something that is cheap and/or tasteless as per tat, or something that is somewhat broken or well-worn in the sense of being run-down or shabby.
  • Tea: A hot beverage, made with boiling water and black tea leaves. "Tea" from the American South would be referred to as "Iced Tea" in the UK. Also, one of many possible names for an afternoon or evening meal.
    • As far as the evening meal is concerned, Tea is usually, but not universally, a lighter meal than a full dinner, perhaps consisting of sandwiches and cakes and accompanied by, well, Tea. This varies widely, however, depending on the region; in the North of England in particular, it may well be a full meal.
    • Note also the Cream Tea, which is not the practice of adding cream to the hot beverage (yeuch!) but a light snack consisting of a split Scone served with butter, clotted cream, and jam, accompanied, of course, by Tea. Some people argue as to whether the cream or jam should be applied to the scone first; if offered your first Cream Tea, feel free to try both ways, one on each half of the scone, to reassure yourself that there is in fact no appreciable difference whatsoever.
  • Tin: A metal container or package, often synonymous with a 'can', e.g. "tin of beans", "tin-opener".note  Used here on TV Tropes in the trope Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
    • In Scotland, a tin can refer to a can of beer or lager. The plural form is tinnies. Foster's actually put the word "tinnies" on their packaging to try to appeal to the local market, an effort doomed from the outset because Foster's tastes like piss.
  • Tip: (Garbage) dump. Also applied, as is "dump" in America, to any unkempt area: "My room looks a complete tip".
  • Tit: As in every other English dialect, means "breast" (or more specifically a nipple, as in 'teat', though it can be used interchangeably for either), but it has many different uses in British usage.
    • Can be used as a general (mild) insult: "You're such a tit".
    • Mean a button or knob control, usually in an aircraft (though this is old-fashioned now).
    • Can mean something has died or gone wrong in the expression "gone tits up".
    • "Arse over tit(s)" as a synonym for "head over heels". More logical, too – heads are normally found above heels, are they not?
    • Can describe a person who is heavily under the influence of drugs, as being "off their tits"
    • Can be used to express annoyance at someone: "He really gets on my tits". Obviously the phrase is a corruption of "gets on my nerves" or "gets on my wick", and can be used regardless of gender.
    • European birds of the genus Parus, the same as the American chickadees, are commonly called tits. There are Great Tits, Blue Tits and Coal Tits, amongst others. Some people find this titillating.
    • "Tit" generally only means "nipple" when referring to non-human females, eg. "a three-titted 'un" for a cow with only three functioning teats. In a human context it means "breast".
  • Toff: Posh, upper-class person. Often landed, horsey, etc.; may well be an Upper-Class Twit.
  • Torch: A flashlight, shortened from "electric torch". Can completely change how a scene is imagined by American readers, as in a scene with a child reading by torchlight under the covers; it also doubtlessly caused a bit of confusion for American gamers when Donkey Kong Country featured a level named "Torchlight Trouble" which contained no (burning) torches but a very prominent flashlight.
  • Tory: Member of the Conservative Party in politics. Can also refer to something that aligns with the Tory Party's way of doing things - 'This is a very Tory economic plan.' Sometimes also used for supporters of the party even if they're not official members.
  • Toss off: To jerk off. Except in the sense where it means casually producing a great work, say: "He tossed off another painting in an afternoon".
  • Tosser: Very similar to wanker, i.e. jerkoff, though fractionally friendlier.
    • Toss-pot used to mean "heavy drinker" (from "pot" meaning a drinking vessel, especially a pint glass, and "toss" being the action of draining it very quickly as if throwing the contents down one's throat – see The Hobbit for instance), but now has the same meaning as "tosser", albeit milder.
  • Totty: Attractive woman or women, e.g. in the construction "posh totty". Almost universally used as a plural noun.
  • Trainers: Short for training shoes, called "sneakers" in US English. Used to be called "plimsolls", but this usage seems to have died out, certainly in regard to adult footwear. "Sneakers" in British English tends to be reserved for small, thin shoes like Converse or clunky Skechers trainers too American to be called anything but.
    • Plimsolls are a specific kind of sports shoe – black rubber-soled slip-ons used primarily by primary school children – and as such the term is still very much in use regarding the under-twelves at least. Tennis shoes used to be called plimsolls too but this seems to have died out as well.
  • Tramp: A homeless person, equivalent to the US "bum". Means the same thing in the US (see Lady and the Tramp), but much less common after the 30s. Since there are rather unfortunate alternative meanings to both "bum" (in the UK) and "tramp" (more in the US) there is much potential for Separated by a Common Language amusement here.
  • Transport: Used in the sense where Americans would use 'transportation' (which always sounds amusingly redundant to Britons). 'Transportation' in a British context also has the now somewhat archaic meaning of being forcibly sent to a Penal Colony; thus the US "Department of Transportation" can sound unintentionally sinister to British ears. "Public transport" (buses, railways, etc.) is what Americans would call "public transportation" or "mass transit".
  • Trousers: Any long legwear. Pants [q.v.] invariably refers to underpants.
  • Truck: A railway freight car. What Americans call trucks are called lorries in Britain (see above), though "truck" in this sense has gained more and more use in recent decades in the UK too. What American railfans know as trucks are called bogies in Britain.
  • Trunk call: The British equivalent of a long-distance telephone call, as pointed out in Murder on the Orient Express.
  • Twat: As in America, but pronounced to rhyme with 'hat', 'bat', 'cat'. Almost never used in the American gynecological sense, but rather as a slightly harsher form of twit.
    • Curiously it can also be used as a verb; "to twat someone" essentially means "to hit someone very hard".
  • Twit: Nominally "idiot", as in Spike Milligan's Casabazonka, but nearly always used as a humourous or affectionate term rather than an insult. See Upper-Class Twit. May have some connection with the expression "twitter-pated", but long predates Twitter.
    Diana (Maggie Smith): Twit.
    Sidney (Michael Caine): Twit and a half.
    California Suite

  • Uni: Short for university. The older form "varsity" has almost vanished now, except for in the 'Varsity Boat Race', the annual rowing clash on the River Thames between the rival crews of Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

  • Vanilla Slice: The name for a pastry also known as a Custard Slice, Napoleon, French Slice or Mille-feuille. It consists of two or three layers of puff pastry sandwiching whipped cream or confectioner's custard.
  • To vom (v.t.) A verb contraction derived from the verb/noun "vomit", for the action and the result of throwing up. People from Somerset and the West Country tend to vom after consuming too much alcohol, and may, after five or six pints of Thatcher's finest cider, be completely and utterly vommed.

  • Wally: An idiot. Used most often in the '80s. Believed to have arisen at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, where a festival-goer of that name got lost and his friends called his name to guide him, only for the rest of the crowd to take up the chant. Also sometimes used to refer to a pickled gherkin, as sold in Fish And Chip shops.
  • Wanker: The most British of insults. "To wank" is to masturbate, so calling someone a wanker implies that they spend a great deal of time playing with themselves. Often used where an American would use "Asshole," or, appropriately enough, "Jerk-off."
    • Variants:
    • Wank: Shortened version of wanker.
    Winston Ingram: Shut yer hole, Boaby. If ah wis Long John Silver you'd be first tae walk the plank ya wank.
    • Wankshaft: Nothing to do with Richard Roundtree or Isaac Hayes.
    • Wank-stain: Means basically the same as wanker. Ironically, nobody would ever use it to talk about actual stains produced by wanking.
    • Wanking chariot: A bed. Infer from context.
    • Wank bank: A sort of sexy mind palace, where you save mucky memories for, er, "later." May, less commonly, refer to a physical Porn Stash, a sperm bank, or a sex shop.
  • -ward: In UK English this suffix tends to have an s added to the end much more often than in US English (e.g. Forwards/Forward - in UK English "forwards" is an adverb ("to move forwards") and "forward" is an adjective ("forward movement")).
  • Washing: Laundry – "I'll just put the washing in the machine". "Wash" is what Americans would say.
  • Washing up: Dishwashing; "washing-up liquid" = dishwashing detergent.
  • Watershed: 9:00pm-5:30am, a time during which television programmes with more offensive language, adult themes and violence can be shown. Similar to the US safe harbor, though there are fewer words which cannot be said (in fact, it's often just cunt and nigger, although networks often try to keep very offensive language off of prime time viewing, demoting programmes like Hell'sKitchen to sister channels such as BBC 3, or ITV 2, where they can go uncensored). On premium or subscription channels there is no watershed.
    • The "primary" meaning of the word watershed is to refer to "the ridge dividing two drainage basins" - ie, a dividing line separating two systems. So prevalent is awareness of the TV watershed in the UK that most people will only know about the word in relation to broadcasting.
  • ... week: When preceded by a weekday (e.g. "Tuesday week"), means "next [weekday]". Although, the further North you go or in Australia, it will probably mean "[weekday] after next [weekday]". Just as there is potential for confusion with the American format, it is wise to clarify with the speaker.
  • Well: Sometimes takes the place of "really", such as "I had a well good time". For pronunciation, in almost any sentence it appears in in this context, it will have the emphasis. (Above, "I had a well good time.")
  • Wellingtons/Wellington boots/Wellies: Rain boots, rubber boots, billy boots, or gum-boots in the USA. Named after The Duke of Wellington, who popularised them in Britain.
    • Also can be used in the phrase "Give it some welly!", meaning to "put your back into it", i.e. put a lot of physical effort into something.
  • Whilst: While. Although in use in all English-speaking countries, in America it has dropped out of widespread use and is now seen as archaic or pretentious, the stuff of Upper Class Twits. Generally speaking, North American English speakers lean towards "while", and English-speakers from other countries use both words, with a slight tendency towards "whilst".
    • Similarly applies to the likes of "amid/amidst", "among/amongst", etc.
  • Wireless: Old-fashioned term for a radio.
  • Wog: Slang for "foreigner", usually used to mean people of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent (though one old British proverb, popularized by a Labour backbencher to mock imperialists, joked that "the wogs begin at Calais"). The term is of uncertain origin; there are numerous theories, one of which claims that it originated with the construction of the Egyptian railway in the 1850s or of the Suez Canal in the 1890s depending on which version you hear, where the locals employed to work on the project were denoted as "Workers/Working on Government Service"; but none of them are confirmed (the only thing known for certain is that "wog" dates back to Victorian times), and they're all suspect as no acronym coinage has been confirmed to date back earlier than World War 1. Widely considered to be quite derogatory and offensive, and not something you use in polite company; even as far back as The '70s Basil Fawlty's acceptance of the term was used to depict him as a Lower-Class Lout. Or, indeed, ten years earlier than that when Archie Bunker 's ultra-bigoted prototype Alf Garnett was given it several times an episode. Garnett claimed it used to be "Western Oriental Gentleman" but now it was just wog.
  • Wot: A phonetic spelling of how "what" is pronounced in some accents, which is used in place of "which" or "that is". It serves as a stereotypically lower class sounding word (even by people who speak with said accents), and is so used to sound Sophisticated as Hell in an ironic way (e.g. "For ladies wot do lunch"; "Gents wot 'what, what?'") or mock someone with Delusions of Eloquence.
  • Wotcha: An informal greeting (not to be confused with the more universal contraction of "what are you...", which uses the same spelling and pronounciation), often associated with excitable sorts and people trying to sound vaguely cockney. Originally from the greeting "what cheer"?


  • Yah (also rah, see above): A slang term denoting an upper-class public school boy or girl. Semi-equivalent to US "preppy", but rather louder and more obnoxious. Commonly associated with an irritating, braying voice (usually speaking a mangled Received Pronunciation), which renders "yeah" (or year) as "yah". Often found cluttering otherwise charming Scottish university towns, much to the resentment of the localsnote . Common stereotypes including getting "Daddy" (or "Pater" if they are really upper-class) to pay for things and going on gap yahs.
  • Yank: Endearing term for an American person, derived from "Yankee". It can sometimes be used in a pejorative context as well. Brits take note: to some Americans (mostly those from the southeastern US), "Yank/Yankee" is a grave insult.

  • Zebra crossing/Pelican crossing: US "crosswalk", as seen on the cover of "Abbey Road". Zebra crossings are named for their white stripes on the dark tarmac, and have no traffic lights, only yellow flashing globes known as Belisha beacons: pedestrians must rely on drivers voluntarily haltingnote . Pelican crossings have a button to trigger the traffic lights, and indicate to the pedestrian when it is safe to cross. Another major transatlantic difference is that the lights on a pelican crossing display a (standing) red man or a (walking) green man silhouette (similar to the ones on a toilet door) rather than "Walk" or "Don't Walk". 'Pelican' originated as an acronym, "pelicon" (pedestrian light-controlled), but soon mutated into the animal-themed "pelican" by analogy with "zebra".
    • American crosswalks are slowly abandoning signals that display "walk" or "don't walk", in favor of signals that display a white (or green) walking man for "walk", and a neon-orange hand for "don't walk."
    • There are also Puffin crossingsnote , Toucan crossingsnote  and Pegasus crossingsnote , which are like Pelican crossings but with minor differences. Most Brits don't know they exist unless they live in an urban area which has had them installed (and actually needs them).
  • Zed: Pronunciation for the twenty-sixth letter of the alphabet (not "zee"). Also applies to Canadian English. Similarly, that zebra crossing above? That would pronounced "zeh-bra" and not "zee-bra" like in the United States.


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