A Beginner’s Guide to Navigating British Slang

On my very first night at the University of York, I found myself in a room full of students speaking the same language as me, and yet it sounded as if we were conversing in different tongues. Between the thick British accents (which may I add, are not accurately portrayed in modern American or British media) and the local slang, I couldn’t help but to find myself constantly asking for clarification. If only there was a beginner’s guide to navigating British slang, written by an American student studying abroad in York, England…

 Well, here it is: the one-stop-shop for others out there who are just like me- too embarrassed to ask for translation in day-to-day conversation. *Please note that the following list is comprised of real-life examples so far and continues to grow every day based on my experiences here.*

Food and drinks:

Chips: French fries

Crisps: chips

Chippy:  fish shop

Tea: third meal of the day; (the meals are categorized as breakfast, dinner (American version of lunch), and tea (American version of dinner)

Biscuits: cookies

Lemonade: carbonated lemonade

Cloudy lemonade: American lemonade

Soda water: club soda

Pop: soda

Toasty: essentially a grilled cheese or American melt

Bacon: ham


Uni: college

College 1: 2-year preparatory school before entering university

College 2: Living/learning community at university

Modules: classes/ courses

Flat: apartment or the American version of a dorm

Common Expressions:

Ow do?:  How are you?

Cheers!: thank you

Sup up: drink up

Jump it: Down it/ drink it


Quid: British pound

Bloke: non-offensive term meaning “guy”

Bird: offensive term meaning “girl”

Bants: joke/ banter

Mate: friend

Fag: cigarette

Jumper: sweater

Bubble: hair tie

Toilet: restroom (no one here uses “restroom” or “bathroom”)

Legless: drunk

Wankered: drunk

Trolleyed: drunk

Chunder: Vomit

Hoover: vacuum/ vacuuming

Holiday: vacation

As far as the thick accents go, don’t be surprised to hear a lack of pronunciation on hard consonants at the end of a sentence. For example, just the other day, I was having some friendly banter with my flat mate, or as he pronounced it, “ban-tah.”

On the contrary, below is a list of American terms that do not translate to British culture. If you use these terms in conversation with not only locals to England, but with just about any other culture, people will in fact stare at you… you’ve been warned!    


Tap mac



Cheese wiz

A sandwich melt (British “melts” are cheese melted on top of meat, served without bread)


White claws

Twisted tea

Mike’s hard

Chap stick

Grape jelly (or jelly in general- it’s only referred to as “jam” here, and sadly no, they do not carry grape jam in any of the stores)


Down the shore

Easy mac

Plastic wrap/ Saran wrap




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