Come Again? Translating British English

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A common belief for an American visiting the UK is that language isn’t a barrier – you speak English, they speak English. Right? Wrong!

One of the biggest learnings Andy and I have had during the past year abroad is that British English and American English are very, very different. It’s like another language in a way. I am not going to sit here and entertain the famous argument of whose English is real English (feel free to debate that in the comments section below) but instead, I want to highlight the ways in which British English is very different from the English Andy and I spoke back home.

Below are some common phrases heard/used here in the UK. Bold type is the British word/phrase. Italics is the American translation. Enjoy!

Hiya – Hi there

You all right? – How are you? *Note: The correct response to “you all right?” is always “yes”. It is asked as a greeting and not because anyone actually cares how you are doing. Do not, I repeat, do not go on and on about how you are not alright. Seriously, no one cares.

On the piss – Getting drunk

AceWhen something or someone is good, great and/or awesome

DaftWhen something or someone is dumb, stupid

LegendWhen something or someone is awesome, amazing

Cracking  – Similar to Ace. When something or something is the best

SmashingWhen something is really good, terrific

Gutted -When you’re extremely disappointed, really upset

Bloke/Chap – a guy

Bird – a girl

Wanker – an asshole, a jerk, a loser

Fit  – A good looking person

Grafter – A hard working person 

QuidWhat the Brits call their money (£££), similar to the American term “bucks”

Stag do/hen do – A bachelor party/bachelorette party

Fortnight – Two weeks time

I’m easyI don’t care, it’s all the same to me

To pinch (something) – To steal something

Not my cup of tea – When you don’t like something/someone

(What are you) on about(What are you) talking about

Taking the Mickey out of (something, someone) – Making fun of something or someone

Taking the piss out of someone – Making fun of something or someone

Made redundantto be laid off




Wellysshort for Wellington boots (aka rain boots)


Wanking off – use your imagination 😉

What did I miss? There are so many British words and phrases that require American translation that I can’t think of them all! And, let’s not forget all the American terms the Brits have no clue about. I went first, now leave yours in the comments section below.

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