Welcome to Metrogirl's BritSpeak Dictionary! Many of the words you will find here are slang, dialect or colloquialisms, the colourful language of daily living.   You might not want to use some of these words in polite company but you may well hear them and wonder what the speaker is talking about.   Note that a lot of the words have alternative and more conventional meanings which are readily understood from the context.   To keep the length manageable, only differences in usage are noted.   Some dated terms have been included as they may yet be encountered, particularly when mixing with older people.

In general the British are more direct than Americans and don't employ euphemisms or dysphemisms as much.   Words relating to bodily functions are often used without embarassment which can make some Americans uncomfortable.   Perhaps the British are just more realistic;  everyone needs to use the toilet, women menstruate, men like to look at pornography - these are all facts of life and the pragmatic British accept them for what they are.   One thing of which a foreigner must be aware is the contextual difference of some words.   It's fine to call a good friend a "wanker"or an "old bugger" in an affectionate context, but you would be likely to get punched on the nose if you try it with a stranger...

Special note on spelling.   Words like "licence" and "license":   If it's a noun (driving licence) it's a "c". If it's a verb, it's an "s". Think of it like Advice - something I give you, or Advise, something I do.   The British tend to prefer "ise" to "ize", although "ize" is nowadays accepted as the more correct form.   Words like "theatre", "metre" (distance) and "centre" are always spelled with the r before the e.   However, a meter which measures is spelled "er" and I would never "Advize" you - that would be completely wrong!

The thing I find curious is that in my travels across the US I've found communities which use and understand some of these "British English" words and phrases, yet in other parts of the US you get blank looks if you say them.   "Fortnight" is the one word that really gets me, it's so commonly used in England yet it hardly made it over to the US except for certain small parts of Illinois, Georgia, Arkansas and Texas - there may be more, but I haven't found them yet!   To my British readers - some of these words may be dialect from another part of the country and they might be new to you too.   Enjoy! **Note - Newly Revised April 2007 - over 50 more definitions added **

British - American Dictionary

British Word             Americans Say


Accumulator Car battery (dated)

Aeroplane Airplane (although it's similar it sounds quite different)

After (named) For. (Brits say "Named after John Smith" not " Named for John Smith")

Afters Dessert

Aggro Deliberate troublemaking

Air screw Propeller

All-in Inclusive

Alsatian German shepherd (dog)

Aluminium Aluminum

Anaesthetist Anesthesiologist

Anorak Parka

Antenatal Prenatal

Anticlockwise Counterclockwise

Argentine, The Argentina

Argentine Argentinian

Argy-bargy Heated argument

Artic Tractor-trailer

Aubergine Eggplant

Autumn Fall


Back of beyond Middle of nowhere

Bairn Child (northern dialect, orig. Swedish)

Ball Prom or formal dance Balls Nonsense (lit. testicles) "That's a load of balls!"

Banger Sausage, firecracker or old car; in some dialects "overtime work"

Bank holiday National or public holiday

Bap Bread bun similar to a seedless hamburger bun

Bargepole Ten foot pole ("I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole")

Barrister Trial lawyer (qualified to the highest level)

Beer-off Liquor store (Yorks, Lancs, from "Beer sold for off-the-premises consumption")

Belisha Beacon Orange light signifying pedestrian crossing

Belisha Crossing Pedestrian crossing (named after person proposing it)

Bender Drinking spree, Homosexual person, Lavish break from work

Berk Person behaving like a moron - can also be spelled Burke

Bill (restaurant) Check

Bin Garbage can

Bin liner Garbage bag

Biscuit Cookie

Biscuit, savoury Cracker

Black Maria Paddywagon

Blancmange A pudding made from corn starch, milk, sugar and vanilla, often coloured

Blighty England (dated)

Blob, On the Menstruating

Block of flats Apartment house

Bloke Guy (Interestingly some former English colonies shorten "Bloke" to "Oke")

Bloody Mild expletive or Very ("This is bloody heavy!" or "Things are bloody at the moment.")

Blotto Drunk (adjective meaning inebriate) Bob Shilling (no longer currency, but still used as in "a couple of bob" = cheap Nine Bob Note expression for something counterfeit, or a homosexual "Queer as a nine bob note"

Bobby Policeman

Bobby's Job Easy task

Boddles A large quantity, e.g. "boddles of dosh" = "a lot of money".

Bog Restroom, toilet

Bogroll Bathroom tissue (toilet paper)

Bollock (v) To reprimand. A Bollocking = a severe reprimand

Bollocks Balls (testicles), nonsense

Bolshy Aggressive, difficult (from Bolshevik) Bonk verb - Have sex with, noun - the sex act ("We had a bonk") Bonkers crazy - "He's quite bonkers, you know..."

Bonnet Hood (of car)

Book Reserve (meaning to order, tickets etc., in advance)

Boot Trunk (of car)

Bottoms Up! Toast before drinking (meaning turn the bottoms of the glasses up - i.e. drink)

Bounder Cad

Braces Suspenders

Brock Badger (dated)

Brolly Umbrella

Brooch Pin

Bubble and squeak Mashed potatoes mixed with Cabbage or Brussels Sprouts and fried in meat juices

Bugger all Nothing

Bum Buttocks

Bun in the oven Pregnant

Bung (noun) Stopper

Bung (verb) Toss

Busker Street performer

Butty Sandwich (from "Buttered Bread")


Cabinet maker Skilled carpenter (compare with Joiner)

Cadge Beg or scrounge, borrow something from reluctant lender

Calabrese Broccoli rabe

Canteen Staff restaurant

Caravan Towed motor home, RV, Trailer

Car park Parking lot

Carpet (verb) Reprimand

Carriageway Highway

Carrier bag Shopping bag

Casualty (department) Emergency Room

Chat show Talk show

Chat up Chat flirtatiously or proposition for sex

Cheerio Goodbye

Cheers Ubiquitous term meaning Thank you, Goodbye, Hello (rarely), or a salutation before drinking

Chemist Pharmacist

Cheque Check

Chips French fries

Chuffed Pleased (from the French for "warmed")

Cinema Movie theater (also "the pictures", as in "I'm going to the pictures")

Clingfilm Plastic wrap (brand name)

Clippie Bus conductor (Scotland and some parts of England)

Close Dead end (road name - as in Acacia Close, which would be a dead end)

Clothes Peg Clothes pin Cobblers Testicles, or nonsense - "What a load of cobblers!"

Coney Rabbit (technically a Rabbit is the young of a Coney)

Conker Horse chestnut (the game of "Conkers" is played with horse-chestnuts)

Cooker Stove or oven

Coppice See copse. Also used as a verb - to cut upper branches off trees, sim. to "pollard"

Copse Thicket

Cornflour Corn starch

Cotton wool Cotton

Courgette Zucchini

Coriander Cilantro

Cracker Party favor

Crapper Toilet

Creche Day care center

Crisps Potato chips

Crumpet Attractive woman ... or an English muffin

Cul de sac Dead end (another French derivative)

Cuppa Cup of tea

Current account Checking account

Cutting Clipping (eg from a newspaper)

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