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British Life and Culture

by Mandy Barrow

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British life and culture - England, Scotland and Wales
Glossary of English and British Words

Welcome to the Woodlands Junior A-Z Glossary of English and British Words. We created this page after receiving many request from visitors asking us to explain the meaning of some of the words we have used on our website.

The English language is full of weird and wonderful words and phrases.

For example:

What does one do if they 'spend a penny'?

What has happened to someone who has 'kicked the bucket'?

Why do people in England drive slowly over a 'sleeping policeman'?


Can't find the word ?


A-LEVELS n. 1. An exam which is the second part of the General Certificate of Education needed in order to attend the university. These are generally taken at age 18.

ALLOTMENT n. 1. A collection of rented plots of land usually for the growing of fruit and vegetables.

ANORAK n. 1. Hooded coat. Parka.

ARTICULATED LORRY n. 1. A semi truck. This is almost always shortened to ARTIC (pronounced AR-TICK with the emphasis on the second syllable).

An aubergineAUBERGINE (o-ber-jean) n. 1. Eggplant.


bandage BANDAGE n. 1. A strip of material for binding up a wound. (The stick-on things are called plasters)

Bangers (Sausages) BANGERS n. 1. Sausages. A very common meal is BANGERS and MASH (sausages and mashed potatoes). The sausages are called BANGERS because they will burst if you do not pierce them while they are cooking.

BANK HOLIDAYS n. banks are officially closed, legal holiday, equivalent to a national or federal holiday

BARKING. adj. Crazy. See also mad.

BARMY. adj. Strange or very silly. Often said in jest amongst friends

BATHROOM. n. A room containing a sink, a bathtub or bathtub/shower combination and usually, though not always, a toilet.

BIN n. 1. Waste paper basket.

BIRD n. 1. Slang term for a girl or woman.

BIRO (bi-row) n. 1. Ball point pen. The name biro was named after the inventor - Hungarian Laszlo Biro - who made the first ball-point pen in 1938. In 1944 the US Army bought 30,000 of them because the soldiers could write with them outside in the rain.A plate of biscuits

BISCUIT n. 1. Cookie. 2. Cracker, as in, "BISCUITS and cheese". Other types of BISCUITS include BATH OLIVERS, WATER BISCUITS, BOURBONS and DIGESTIVES.


BITTER n. 1. Name for a type of English beer. This is served at cellar temperature and is a bit darker than LAGER.

BLACK PUDDING n. 1. Not a pudding at all, but rather a form of blood sausage.
Visit our Food page)

BLANCMANGE (blah-mahn-je) n. 1. A dessert rather like custard made by mixing a white powder (today this is often fruit flavoured) with hot milk. When this cools it solidifies producing a flavoured jello-like dessert. It may be eaten warm or after it has cooled.
(Visit our Food page)

BLIMEY. int. An expression of surprise, frustration or even joy. Similar to "wow," "darn," "whoa," etc.

BOBBY n. 1. Policeman in the UK. The term came from Robert Peel, the "inventor" of the policeman. See also Copper

BOB'S YOUR UNCLE phrase. 1. Everything is complete. There is no more to be done.
(See our phrases page)

BLOKE. n. A guy. Similar to "chap."

BLOODY HELL (blud-ee-el) Expletive. 1. This blasphemous expression may be used to voice one's incredulity about something just said. This is equivalent to the American phrase "Why, Gosh. Who would have thought!"

BLOODY. adj. Descriptive term for something that frustrates or bothers someone, as in "that bloody boss!"

BOGEY. n. Mucus material from the nose; a booger.

BONKERS adj. 1. Acting crazy or mad. Other variations include CRACKERS, DAFT and BARMY.

BONNET n. 1. That part of an automobile which is at the other end from the BOOT. Some countries refer to it as the hood.

BOOK v. 1. To reserve. The British never reserve a table at a restaurant or a room at an hotel, they always BOOK it: "Do we need to BOOK in advance, do you think?" The term BOOKING means a reservation.

BOOT n. 1. That part of an automobile which is at the other end from the BONNET. Some countries refer to it as the trunk.

BOXING DAY n. 1. A holiday which falls on the day after Christmas (the Feast of St. Stephen). In earlier years the wealthy would put leftover Christmas food in boxes for their servants or the poor.

BRACES n. 1. Suspenders.

Branston PickleBRANSTON n. 1. Pickle spread used in sandwiches.

BRICKIE n. 1. A bricklayer.

umbrellaBROLLY n. 1. Umbrella.

BUBBLE AND SQUEAK n. 1. Fried left-over potatoes and greens (with perhaps some onions added for flavour).
(Visit our Food page)

BUGGY n. 1. A stroller.

BUM n. 1. Slightly jocular name for the posterior / buttocks.

bum bag BUM BAG n. 1. A bag worn round the waist. (Fanny is a midly vulgar term for vagina it does not mean buttocks as in American English)

BUNG. v. To (1) carelessly put something somewhere; (2) to throw.

BUTTY n. 1. Sandwich, as in JAM BUTTIES (jelly sandwiches) or CHIP BUTTIES (French fry sandwiches).The perfect chip butty consists of two fairly large slices from a large white loaf, liberally buttered, layered with chips (salt and vinegar optional) and smothered in tomato sauce. (Visit our Food page)


call boxCALL BOX n. 1. Telephone box.


camp bedCAMP-BED n. 1. A bed put up in a tent.

CANDY FLOSS n. 1. Cotton candy.

CANTEEN n. 1. Cafeteria.

CAPITAL The most important city in a country

A CaravanCARAVAN n. 1. Mobile home. 2. Trailer.

CAR PARK n. 1. A parking lot.

CATS' EYES n. 1. The reflectors that are imbedded in the middle of the road to make it easier to see the middle line at night.

CELLOTAPE (see sellotape)

CHAP n. Same as "bloke"; a guy.

CHAV n. Typically a working class person of lowish intelligence who wears designer label copies.

CHEERS phrase. 1. A typical English drinking toast. 2.Thanks. .3. Good bye.

CHEERIO phrase. 1. Good bye.

CHEMIST n. 1. Drug store.

CHIPPIE n. 1. A fish and CHIP shop.

CHIPPINGS n. 1. Gravel, as in the roadside sign "Beware of loose CHIPPINGS".

CHIPS n. 1. French fries, as in "fish and CHIPS".

CHRISTIANITY A religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

CHUFF. v. (1) To make loud puffing or breathing noises. (2) slang To speak nonsense. Chuffed, chuffing.

CHUFFED adv. 1. Happy, as in, "I was really CHUFFED when I passed my exams."

CHUTNEY n. A preserve made with vegetables and mild spices, used by the English to accompany cold meats, cheeses and savoury pies.

CIDER n. 1. Not apple juice, but a rather strong alcoholic drink made from apple juice.

CINEMA n. (1) A movie theater. This is not to be confused with a THEATRE.

CLEVER adj. 1. bright or intelligent. A clever student is an intelligent student.

CLOTTED CREAM n. 1. A cream so thick that you can spread it with your knife. It is made by indirectly heating full-cream cow's milk using steam or a water bath and then leaving it in shallow pans to cool slowly. During this time, the cream content rises to the surface and forms 'clots' or 'clouts'.It forms an essential part of a cream tea.

CLOAKROOM n. 1. Toilet.

COCKNEY n. 1. Anyone born within the sound (hearing distance) of the Bow bells in London (the East end).

conkCONK. n. The nose. See also HOOTER

CONTINENTAL QUILT n. 1. A comforter.

COOKER n. 1. An apparatus for cooking food; a stove.

copperCOPPER n. Policeman

CORKING. adj. Excellent; splendid. Like spiffing. Often used sarcastically.

cotCOT n. 1. A bed for a baby

CRAZY. adj. 1. Acting mad. Other variations include CRACKERS, DAFT, BONKERS, BARKING MAD and BARMY.

Cream Tea

CREAM TEAS n. 1. A traditional snack widely served in the U.K. It consists of TEA, SCONES (a type of muffin), and generous portions of CLOTTED CREAM and JAM (usually strawberry). Find out more


CRISPS. n. Snack chips; usually the potato kind.

CRUMPET. n. A small, round, bread muffin cooked on a griddle. It is often toasted and served with butter. Americans know it as an "English muffin." Find out more

CUSTARD n. 1. A yellow sauce used as a topping on various desserts.


DAPS n. Gym Shoes (See also Pumps and Plimsolls)

DEAD ON adj. 1. Exactly (when said of time), as in, "The meeting will start DEAD ON 9:00".

DEPARTMENT STORES Big shops which sell many different goods

DIARY n. 1. Appointment calendar. 2. Written record of events

DIGS n. 1. Long term rented accommodation in a private house, often used by university students.

DODGY. adj. Evasive; suspicious; doubtful

Double Decker Bus. In London we have red double decker buses.DOUBLE DECKER n. 1. A two-level bus. (London Double Decker buses)

DRAWING PIN n. 1. Thumb tack.

DRAWING ROOM n. 1. Living room.

DRESSING GOWN. n. A bathrobe.

DUAL CARRIAGEWAY n. 1. Divided highway.

DUSTBIN. n. Garbage can.


ELEVENSES n. 1. Morning coffee (TEA) break.

ENGAGED adj. 1. Busy. A telephone may be ENGAGED. Similarly, a public toilet may also be ENGAGED. 2. Commitment with a view to marriage.

ESTATE AGENT n. One who advertises and acts as an agent for the sale or letting of houses and property. What the Americans mean by a Realtor


FATHER CHRISTMAS. n. British name for Santa Claus.

FETE (fate) n. 1. An outdoor event for raising money that usually includes competitions and things for sale e.g. school fete, village fete.

Fish FingersFISH FINGERS n. 1. Fish sticks. In either language they taste pretty awful.

FISHMONGER n. 1. A person that sells fish.

FLAT n. 1. Apartment, whether rented or owned (condominium).

FLOOR n. 1. The British (and Europeans as well) start counting floors of a building with zero. The first floor is the GROUND FLOOR, the second is the FIRST FLOOR etc.

FOOTBALL. n. (1) The game of soccer. (2) A soccer ball.

FORTNIGHT n. 1. Two weeks.

FRINGE n fringe - Collective strands of hair covering part or all of the forehead

FULL STOP n. 1. A period. The thing at the end of this sentence.


GAMMON n. 1. Ham.

GATEAU (ga-toe) n. 1. Rich cake.

GIRL GUIDE n. 1. Girl Scout. The (Girl) Scouts are usually called the GUIDES.

GIT. n. Oddball; jerk; fool.

GOB n. 1. Slang term for mouth.
GOB v. 1. To spit.

GOBSMACKED adj. 1. utterly astonished / surprised

GRAVY n. A sauce made from meat juices, usually combined with a liquid such as chicken or beef broth, wine or milk and thickened with flour, cornstarch or some other thickening agent. Gravy may also be the simple juices left in the pan after meat, poultry or fish has been cooked.

GROTTY adj. 1. Unpleasant.


handbag HANDBAG n. 1. A bag, often a shoulder bag, where a lady puts her purse (money container). Handbags come in all sizes. Some are carried in the hand.

HEAD MASTER n. 1. Principal of a school. These also may be known as HEAD MISTRESS or HEAD TEACHER


HOLIDAY(S). n. Vacation trip; vacation time period.

HooterHOOTER n. 1. A horn. 2. A derogatory term for the nose, as in, "He's got quite a HOOTER".

HOOVER n. 1. Vacuum cleaner.


IRONMONGER n. 1. Hardware store.


jamJAM n. A preserve of fruit boiled with sugar and water. It is spread on bread and butter.

JELLY n. Jelly (Jello.) is a sweet or savoury food gel, usually made through the addition of gelatin. It wobbles when you move it. It is usually sweetened, flavoured with fruit juices, and eaten as dessert.

JOLLY adv. Very, as in, "It's JOLLY hard work". 2. Happy

JUMPER. n. A sweater.


(The phrase comes from when people stood on an upside down bucket with a rope around their neck, and the bucket was kicked away.)

KIT n. 1. Gear.

KIP. v. To sleep.

KNACKERED v tired / worn out

knickers KNICKERS. n. (Pronounced "NICK-urs") Underpants worn by women or girls.



LARDER n. 1. Pantry.

LAVER BREAD (lavah bred) n. 1. An edible seaweed (originally from Wales). LAVER means seaweed.

LAY-BY n. 1. Roadside rest area.

LIFT n. 1. Elevator.

LILO. n. An inflatable air mattress made of rubber or plastic.

LOFT n. 1. Attic of a house.

lollipop ManLOLLIPOP LADY/MAN n. 1. School crossing guard.

LOLLY n. 1. Money. 2. Popsicle.

LOO n. 1. Toilet. Also called lav, lavatory or bog

LORRY n. 1. Truck.


LUNCH n. A meal eaten at or around midday


MACINTOSH n. 1. Raincoat, also known as a MAC.

MANKY. adj. 1. Dirty and very used, as in the "manky old boot" 2. feeling ill, rough, out of sorts 3. Rotten.

MarmiteMARMITE n. 1. A spread made from yeast extract

MOTORBIKE. n. A motorcycle. ("Motorbike" in American English usually refers to a small, light motorcycle, often with pedals, also called a "moped.")

MUM. n. Mother; equivalent to the American "mom."


NAG v. 1. To tease in a petty way ; To annoy by constant scolding, complaining, or urging. ; 2. An old horse

NARK v. annoy

NEWSAGENT n. 1. A shop which sells only newspapers, magazines and sweets.

NICK. v. To steal.

NIP. v. To run quickly to a place.

NIPPER n. 1. A young boy, a kid.

NIPPY adj Cold


NUTTER. n. A crazy person. Very much like "nut."


OVER THE MOON phrase. 1. Very pleased.


PACKED LUNCH n. light afternoon meal packed to be eaten in a different location.

pantsPANTS n. 1. Underwear

PARLIAMENT The group of people who rule the United Kingdom

PAVEMENT n. The sidewalk. In American English, this word usually means the concrete or asphalt used in roads or sidewalks.

PEAR-SHAPED expression used to indicate that something has gone horribly wrong with a person's plans

PECKISH adj. A little bit hungry.

PETROL n. (Pronounced "PE-troll") Gasoline.

A Pillar Box where we post letters. Also called a post box.PILLAR BOX n. 1. Mail box for mailing letters. See also POST BOX

PILLOCK n. 1. A useless or stupid man.

PITCH. n. A playing field for sports, as in the "Football pitch."

plaster PLASTER n. 1. A stick-on strip which is put on a small wound.

PLIMSOLLS n. Gym Shoes (See also Pumps and Daps)

PLOUGHMAN'S n. 1. A traditional PUB lunch which consists of bread, cheese, and pickled onions.

POST. n. The mail.

POST BOX n. 1. Mail box for posting letters. See also PILLAR BOX

POSTMAN n. 1. Mailman.

POUND or POUND STERLING n. 1. The basic monetary unit used in the United Kingdom.

pPRAM n. 1. Stroller, baby carriage See also PUSH CHAIR

PRAT. n. A derogatory term for someone stupid or foolish. Originally meant the butt. Equivalent to "ass" (a stupid person) in American English.

PRISE. v. (Pronounced "prize") Variation of "pry," to pull two things apart.

PUB Short for 'public house'. A place where people can buy drinks and food and chat with friends. Find out more

PUMPS n. Gym Shoes (See also Plimsolls and Daps)

PUDDING n. the dessert course of a meal (`pud' is used informally)

purse PURSE n. 1. A very small bag to put money in. A PURSE is something a lady puts her money into and then puts the PURSE into her handbag. A man puts his money in a wallet.

pPUSH CHAIR n. 1. Stroller, baby carriage See also PRAM


QUID n. 1. One POUND. (money)

QUEUE. (Pronounced like "cue") n. A line, as in a group of people lined up for something.


RASHER n. 1. Slice, as in, a RASHER of bacon.

RUBBER n. 1. Eraser.

RUBBISH n. 1. Trash.

RUDDY. adj. Similar to bloody. "That ruddy Boss!"

RUG n. 1. Car blanket.


SACK. v. To fire from a job.

SCOTCH 1) Frustrate 2) Scottish Whisky (esp the cheaper blended sort)

SCOTCH EGG n. Shelled hard-boiled egg coated in sausage-meat, then coated in breadcrumbs

SCOTS n. The people originating from Scotland (“Scots what hae wi’ Wallace bled”), the dialect of English spoken by those people.

SCOTTISH adj. of or pertaining to Scotland

SELLOTAPE. n. Trademark for a clear plastic adhesive tape used for repairing tears or broken items. See also cellotape.

SHIRTY. adj. Angry; bad tempered.

SKIVE. v. (Rhymes with "jive" or "hive") To avoid work of any kind. Skived, skiving.

Speed bump to slow cars downSLEEPING POLICEMAN. n. A speed hump or speed bump.

SPEND A PENNY phrase. 1. To go to the toilet. From the days when public conveniences required a penny to be put in the slot to enter.

SPIFFING. adj. Excellent or first-rate (upper-class schoolboy slang, but often used in a sarcastic way to make fun of wealthy or pompous people).

STONE. n. 1. a small piece of rock.
2. a traditional British unit of weight,

SQUAT. v. 1. To sit in a crouching position with knees bent and the buttocks on or near the heels. 2. To crouch down, as an animal does.

STARKERS. adj. Naked. “He was absolutely starkers”.

SUBWAY n. 1. An walkway under a street.

SURNAME n. A person's last name

SUSS OUT v. 1. To figure something out, to investigate. As in, "to SUSS OUT the answer ".

SWEETS. n. Candy.


tapTAP. n. A faucet.

TEA (the drink) n. An infusion made by pouring freshly boiled water onto the leaves of the Tea plant, widely regarded by the English as improving every situation (Your house has fallen down? Never mind love, just have a cup of tea).

TEA n. A light meal in the early evening.

TEACAKE n. 1. A kind of sweetened bread with raisins, often served toasted. There are lots of CAKES like this: BATH BUNS, CHELSEA BUNS and ECCLES CAKES. (Visit our Food page for more)

TEA TOWEL n. 1. Dish towel.

TEE SHIRT n. 1. Short sleeved sports shirt.

call boxTelephone box.

TELLY n. 1. A television (Also called 'the box')

TERRACE HOUSE n. 1. Row house. Town house.

TA Slang Thank you

THEATRE n. 1. An establishment where one may see plays, ballet etc. This is most certainly not a place to see movies.

TISSUE n. 1. Kleenex.

TORCH n. A small portable battery-powered electric lamp (flashlight)

TOSH n. Foolish nonsense

TRAINER. n. A sneaker; tennis shoe.

TREACLE. (Pronounced "TREE-kull") n. 1. Molasses.

TROLLEY. n. A small wheeled cart used to move a great deal of objects or heavy items. (Trolley most often means a type of streetcar in American English.)

Off your Trolley’ – Mad

trousersTROUSERS. n. 1. Leg wear for boh men and women.


Underground trains

UNDERGROUND n (With a capital letter) the London subway system. Also called The Tube

UNDIES n. 1. Underwear (see also Pants)


VACANT adj. 1. The state a lavatory is in when it's not ENGAGED.

VERGES n. 1. Shoulder of a road as in, "SOFT VERGES".

VEST n. 1. A tee shirt. Undershirt.




WAISTCOAT n. A man's sleeveless garment
worn underneath a coat

WARDROBE n. A cupboard to hang clothes in.

WASH UP or WASHING UP v. 1. To wash plates, pans, knives, forks etc. It does not mean to wash hands and face.

WASHING n. Laundry (dirty clothes waiting to be washed)

WASTE BIN n. 1. Waste paper basket.

WAY OUT n. 1. Exit.

A pair of children's wellies.WELLIES n. 1. WELLINGTONS. Rubber boots. The Duke of Wellington invented rubber boots, hence the name.

WHACKED adj. 1. Tired. Exhausted.

WICKED adj. Slang Excellent

WIRELESS. n. Olf fashion name for the radio.

WONKY. adj. 1. Not straight, crooked, kilter / out of line. 2. Shaky or weak.


Yorkshire Pudding

YORKSHIRE PUDDING n. 1. Not a dessert but a kind of baked batter mix mostly eaten with roast beef.
(Visit our Food page for more information and to find out about ‘Toad in the Hole’? – Yorkshire pudding with sausages baked in it.)


ZEBRA CROSSING (zeb-rah not zee-bra) n. 1. One of several types of pedestrian crossings, so named because of the distinctive black and white stripes which mark the road where the pedestrian is to cross.


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© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2013

Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

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