10 British English Phrases Commonly Used In The United Kingdom

British English Phrase Fancy a brew

May 12, 2021

If you are learning English or thinking about spending some time in the UK, you might want to know what the common phrases used in Britain are. So here is a list of 10 British English phrases commonly used in the UK.

Brief History About British English Phrases

British English has existed in some form since the invasion of Britain in the 5th Century. Three Germanic tribes (the Jutes, Saxons, and Angles) invaded the British shores but broke away from each other. They then formed what we now know as England, Scotland, and Wales.

This is where a mixture of our most commonly used British English phrases was born. Many of these phrases have evolved, and are still regularly used in the United Kingdom today.

How many people speak English across the world?

English is now spoken by an estimated 360 million people across the world. However, most of these aren’t native English speakers.

Where Did British Phrases Come From?

The origins of many of these phrases are still a complete mystery to native English speakers and some of them can be quite difficult for non-native speakers to understand. But, with over 40 dialects throughout the UK, it’s hardly a surprise that there can be some interesting and varying phrases used across the country.

10 British English Phrases Commonly Used In The United Kingdom

Here are 10 of the most common British English phrases used in the UK, with their meaning.

1.    “Fancy a brew?”

This phrase is mainly used in the North (in the South, they usually say “Fancy a cuppa?”) and this means “Would you like a cup of tea?”.

2.    “I’m chuffed to bits”

This means “I’m really pleased”. Again, this is usually used in the North of the country, mainly around the Newcastle and Yorkshire areas, and is a really friendly and informal way of expressing how pleased you are about something.

3.    “Alright?”

This is an informal way of saying “Hi, how are you?” if it is used as an opening to a conversation.

4.    “I’ve bodged it!”

The word “bodge” in this instance means that something has been made or repaired in a clumsy or half-hearted way. The phrase means that something has been fixed or mended in a way that has solved the problem, but isn’t necessarily the correct way of repairing something.

5.    “Bob’s your uncle”

This phrase is the same as someone saying “et voila” in French, it simply means “and there it is”. This phrase dates back to the 1800s and most British people still use this today; however, most of them have no idea where the phrase came from.

6.    “Faff”

If you “faff around”, this simply means that you’re messing around doing something unnecessary or wasting a lot of time doing something of very little importance, for example, a child might “faff” around putting away their toys when they’ve been told to go to bed.

7.    “Gallivanting”

If somebody says that you’re “off gallivanting about”, it means that you’re roaming or traveling around in a carefree way; for example, if someone was to take multiple holidays and have a lovely time with no concern for missing work, someone may say “oh you’re off gallivanting abroad again”.

8.    “Miffed”

You’re “miffed” if you’re irritated, annoyed, or confused (it can mean any of these things depending on the situation). If someone said “I’m a bit miffed about that, to be honest”, it means that a situation has irked them.

9.    “Pear-Shaped”

Using pear-shaped as a phrase can be quite confusing, as “pear-shaped” can literally mean that something is shaped like a pear; however, more commonly, “Pear-Shaped” means that something has gone wrong. If someone was to say “Oh that’s gone completely Pear-Shaped”, it means that something has gone very wrong, or something is very different from how it was supposed to be.

10.   “Shambles”

If something is a “Shambles”, it means that it’s chaotic, a bit of a mess, or a disorganized situation. If someone was to say “This party is an absolute shambles”, it means that something has happened to make it disorganized or a bit of a failure.

Facts About British English

Aside from having some interesting, but really confusing British English phrases, the United Kingdom actually has a long history of phrases and sayings, and many of these are still used within the UK to this very day.

Did you know…

  • Around four thousand words are added to the English dictionary every single year, so it’s no surprise that it can be difficult to keep up with all of the changes! Even native English speakers have a hard time learning every new phrase and slang word when they return home.
  • Over 80% of the information and coding stored on computers worldwide is in English, which allows many countries to work together when using computer coding, as there is no need for translation.
  • English is the official language of 67 countries, including Ghana, Australia, and Sierra Leone.
  • The oldest English word that is still used today, is the word “Town” and the first use of the word dates back to the 12th Century after the Norman conquest.
  • The first English dictionary was written in 1755 and contained only 3000 words.
  • The English language is surprisingly said to be one of the happiest languages in the world; however, that’s probably slightly biased as over a quarter of the world’s population speak English.
  • Finally, our favorite fact! William Shakespeare added over 1,700 words to the English language and over 1000 of these words are still used to this very day.

If all of these phrases and meanings are still way too confusing to understand or whether you just need a helping hand with travel, legal or medical documentation, we offer a quick and accurate Translation Service, so please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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