Brit Slang: “My What a Twee Little Cottage” – 65 British English Slang Words For Use Around the House


Continuing our ongoing series of articles on British Slang, this week we present a fun list of words related to the house and home. Do you know your Bin man from your Loo or your semi-detached house to a terraced house? This list will educate you.

This list was a lot of fun to put together when we wrote our British Slang Dictionary last year – details on where to get it here!

  1. Aerial – n – A television antenna, usually located on the roof.
  2. AGA – n – A massive cooking range modeled with a vintage look.
  3. All Mod Cons – n – A home or car with all the modern conveniences.
  4. Allotment – n – A garden plot in a shared community garden.
  5. Bedfordshire – n – Bed or bedtime. Said as “I’m off to Bedfordshire.”
  6. Bedsit – n – An apartment where the bedroom serves as the living space similar to a studio apartment.
  7. Bespoke – adj – Something that is custom-made for you. i.e. bespoke cabinetry.
  8. Bin – n – A trash/garbage can.
  9. Bin liner – n – A garbage bag that goes in a trashcan.
  10. Bin man – n – Garbage man.
  11. Bodge job – n – A poorly done job.
  12. Bog – n – The toilet.
  13. Bog roll – n – Toilet paper.
  14. Bog standard – n – Normal or average.
  15. Brush – n – A broom.
  16. Builder – n – A construction worker or contractor. “Let’s get the builder in.”
  17. Chesterfield – n – Hard leather sofa.
  18. Chocolate box – adj – Excessively decorative and sentimental, like the old pictures on boxes of candy. Usually used to describe a quaint village.
  19. Clone town – n – The process where all the high streets in Britain have the same big chain stores so they all look pretty much the same and push out small local businesses.
  20. Close – n – A cul-de-sac.
  21. Cot – n – Baby crib.
  22. Council house – n – Public housing or a housing project.
  23. Damp – n – Mold or wet rot that is common in older homes.
  24. DIY – abbr – Shorthand for Do it Yourself – i.e. for home improvement projects. “Fancy doing a little DIY this weekend?”
  25. Draught – n – We say ‘draft’ as in a cold draft.
  26. Dustbin – n – Garbage can.
  27. Dustman – n – Garbage man.
  28. Electrics – n – The electrical fittings in a house.
  29. Estate agent – n – A realtor or real estate agent and generally they’re not very respected.
  30. Ex-Council – n – An apartment or house that used to be public housing but has since been bought by the tenants (and perhaps sold on but it will always be known as ex-council).
  31. Fairy lights – n – The general name for Christmas Lights.
  32. Fitted – v – To have something installed.
  33. Flat – n – An apartment.
  34. Flatmate – n – A roommate in your flat.
  35. Fly tipping – v – The act of dumping your trash in a place you’re not supposed to.
  36. Freehold – n – Owning both the land and the building on the land. Sometimes in Britain a different person owns the land and the building. See ‘leasehold’.
  37. Greenbelt – n – The land around cities and town in Britain that is left undeveloped to preserve the environment.
  38. Greenfield – n – Land that can’t be developed or built upon that’s left to exist for the purpose of pretty landscapes.
  39. Have a go hero – n – A person that attempts to defend their home or property against an intruder with force.
  40. High street – n – Main street.
  41. Hoovering – v – The act of vacuuming.
  42. Housing Estate – n – A sub-division community but it can also mean a public housing estate as well.
  43. Jumble sale – n – A garage sale.
  44. Leasehold – n – A possessory right to live in a building or flat but not owning the land upon which it sits. Common for apartments. Leases are usually for 99 or 999 years.
  45. Lodger – n – A person who rents a room in your home, lower on the scale than a flatmate.
  46. Loo – n – The bathroom.
  47. Maisonette – n – A set of rooms for living in, typically on two stories of a larger building and with its own entrance from outside.
  48. Move house – v – To move to a new house.
  49. On the blink – adj – Something that doesn’t work.
  50. Pavement – n – The sidewalk.
  51. Planning Permission – n – The process of getting a building permit in the UK, often involving several layers of government and approvals. Can take years.
  52. Power Cut – n – An electricity black out.
  53. Rag & bone man – n – A scavenger who makes value out of garbage. A garbage picker.
  54. Removal men – n – A moving company that helps you move house.
  55. Rubbish – n – 1. Garbage
  56. Semi-detached – n – Usually a pair of houses that share a common wall and are mirror images of each other – a duplex. Also, called a ‘semi’ for short.
  57. Terraced Houses – n – A series of houses that line a street and all look the same.
  58. Tip – n – A garbage dump or a place that’s a mess.
  59. Twee – adj – Something that’s quaint.
  60. Village green – n – Common land at the center of a village where people can play Cricket or Football.
  61. W.C. – n – Watercloset, which is a lavatory.
  62. Washing up – n – To do the dishes.
  63. Washing up liquid – n – Dishwashing soap.
  64. Wendy house – n – A small children’s playhouse.
  65. White van man – n – A general term for contractors or home repairmen who usually travel around in an unmarked white van.

Did we leave anything off the list? Please share it in the comments below!

british-slang-dictionary-coverThe words on this list were excerpted from Anglotopia’s Dictionary of British English: Brit Slang from A to Zed. Available now from major retailers in prints and eBook form. The book features over 1,000 British Slang words including extra sections on Australian and Kiwi Slang, Cockney Slang, London slang and more! There’s also a hilarious section on Britain’s rude place names.  Full details here.

Read More at Anglotopia


  1. avatar says

    Having lived over there 10 years, it was awhile before I understood that “tea” often meant a meal and not a drink. Also the difference in “calling” vs. “ringing”. Confusing to an American. But I still loved living there. Even with the confusion at times. Well worth it.

    • avatarLisaJ says

      You must have lived in the North where we have breakfast, dinner and then tea.In the south they have breakfast, lunch and dinner. Glad to see you loved living here !!

      • avatar says

        Too sweeping a generalization LisaJ…I was born and raised in Cheshire and it was always breakfast, lunch and dinner. The man of the house came home for his main meal after 5.00p.m. so that a bigger meal, ergo…dinner. What about when someone does a job and get’s paid under the table ? …called ‘doing a foreigner’.

  2. avatar says

    I am a fan of P.G Wodehouse and the Jeeves and Wooster stories. Two phrases that I do not understand are “gravel soil” and “company’s own water”. Since these appear when the subject is a manor house, my assumption is that the references are to the gravel surrounding the home and water from a governmental provider rather than a well.

  3. avatarPam says

    Petrol park = gas station
    Knock you up = knock on your door to wake you up
    W.C. = bathrooms
    Bonnet = car hood
    Lorrie = bus?
    Bacon = thin ham slices
    Porridge = cooked oatmeal
    Bacon buddy = thin ham sandwich
    Baguette with salad = sandwich on a baguette with lettuce and tomato in it.

    • avatarMichelle says

      Petrol park ??? Where in UK do people say that?
      We do say petrol station or garage.

      I’ll knock you in the morning/ I’ll give you a knock = a wake up call.
      I’ll knock you up means something quite different…

      • avatarPam Muirheid says

        In Scotland they do say knock you up! My granny, who lived outside Glasgow, used to say “I’m away to knock up Mrs Bruce next door!” I did a double take first time I heard that but it just meant she was going to knock on the wall to get her attention as they lived in a semi detached house.

        • avatarMary Mac says

          My Scottish cousins also use “knock you up” to mean wake you up in the morning. Made me do a double-take!

          Another cousin used to say “Keep your pecker up!”, which meant keep your chin up. She was mortified when she heard what that meant in the US! Haha.

    • avatar says

      Pam – FYI
      Lorry = truck (Articulated Lorrie = tractor trailer/18 wheeler etc.
      Bacon Butty (‘tt’, not ‘dd’ = bacon roll (also chip butty = fries in a bun, though chips are chunkier than fries)

    • avatarMelB says

      For Pam, its not a bacon “buddy” its butty you sound the T probably why you think it an odd phrase and a Buttie or Butty is a sandwich. Never heard of a Petrol Park, its a Petrol station if anything and a Lorry is a truck – try saying “red Lorry yellow lorry” repeatedly and fast – we used to atschool, its a tongue twister 😀

    • avatarHazel Sharratt says

      Nobody in England says petrol park.. we just say petrol station or garage.. a lorry is a different thing entirely from a bus.. A bus is..well a bus, and a lorry is a huge vehicle that is used for transporting goods.. Bacon is bacon wherever you are from.. thin ham slices are thin ham slices.. A bacon butty/sandwich is a bacon sandwich.. not a ham sandwich.. ‘knock you up’ is a crude way to say make somebody pregnant.. :)

    • avatar says

      Re: Greenfield Sites. There are also Brownfield Sites, areas where building have been demolished. One tends to hear of these in urban areas, where there is pressure to reinvest in these ‘used’ spots instead on further crowding occupied areas of infringing on green spaces.

      • avatarKate says

        Also, a greenfield site is simply one that has never been built on before. It does not denote planning protection – that would be Greenbelt.

  4. avatarChris says

    “Twee” has a pejorative sense – “quaint” doesn’t. If you call something twee, you’re criticising it as being overly folksy. The village scene in your headline banner is quaint but I wouldn’t describe it as twee.

  5. avatar says

    Some confusion here!

    A Greenfield Site is a new area for development on previously agricultural or rural land.

    A White Van Man is a derogatory term for typically bad drivers who break the speed limit, race the traffic lights and drive erratically with no respect for others, possibly self-employed and in a hurry, driving an anonymous delivery, or builders´ Ford Transit van, or similar.

    A Village Green has nothing to do with football or cricket. It´s the common area in the centre of some villages which is usually grassed and maintained as an open area on which almost everything is prohibited by local by-laws. Occasionally there may be a cricket pitch, but that is rare these days.

    A Rag and Bone Man is a local scrap metal dealer, often traditionally associated with travelling communities, who goes around villages in a pick-up truck, offering small sums to take away old metal appliances and articles. Almost unknown these days know that washing machine and fridge suppliers usually offer to take away your old appliance for free.

    Oh, and Jumble Sale? That what´s the local church or charity used to organise to raise funds before Ebay was invented. :-)

    • avatarSoos says

      Our village green is on a slope, so no cricket there. That takes place at the top of the hill.
      We have village picnics and small village fetes on our green. There is a flagpole and trees and a bench to enjoy the view.

  6. avatarJo Stuckey says

    These are brill, I am British with American relatives, recently, whilst one was visiting we were talking about this very same subject with my children.
    English first then american.
    Chips – fries
    Crisps – chips
    French fries (a type of long thin crisp) – chips
    Cellar – basement

    I’m sure their are many more!

  7. avatarSoos says

    Just to add a small point. Even though we are a small island compared to the States, there are still differences in idioms and accents not just between North and South but also between each county and whether it is rural or urban. Modern communications have ironed it out a bit, but much still remains. I moved from Kent (South East) to rural Gloucestershire (South Midlands) and not only did I have to adjust my listening when speaking to older long term residents because of the strong accent, but also I had to refer to a glossary of old Gloucestershire language terms. Sadly a lot of interesting language is dying out amongst the younger folk.

  8. avatar says

    I’m not sure of the spelling, but a lie low is an inflatable bed, like an aero-bed in the states. I hope that’s correct – learned from friends. Please correct if wrong. :)

  9. avatarCass Walker says

    I’m in the US, in New England, and we actually use a lot of the pretty regularly. I guess our ties to home are closer than we thought!
    I have an addition to the list that I’ve only heard on Welsh tv:
    “marigolds” for the yellow gloves folks use to protect their hands when cleaning or washing up. Do they say that anywHere else?

  10. avatarMary K Rouzel says

    Yes we do say Marigolds for rubber gloves because it was a specific make which became a general term for them, like Hoover for vacuum cleaner even if they are made by other companies.

  11. avatar says

    I agree with Soos – there are many differences in slang and idioms around our small country. I grew up in the south of England and had never heard “brush” used for “broom” until I moved to Scotland. In between, I lived in Texas and moving to Scotland was as linguistically different to England as Texas is!

  12. avatarCorinna says

    Re mealtimes, although I’m a Brit who has spent half their life in New Zealand, I am never sure what people mean by ‘supper’. It seems it can be anything from a late evening meal to a mug of Horlicks (there’s another weird one for you – a hot milky drink associated with bedtime!).

  13. avatarAgatha Bagwash says

    The point of a have a go hero is that he is not defending himself or his property. He is defending somebody else or trying to prevent a crime. That’s what makes him a hero

  14. avatarAgatha Bagwash says

    A jumble sale is nothing like a garage sale. It is held somewhere like a village hall and is usually in aid of some project or charity

  15. avatarNC says

    “Lorrie” [sic above] is actually “lorry”, and it means an 18-wheeler truck

    Terraced houses = 3+ row houses/townhouses all joined wall>wall (unlike a semi-detached, which in the US would be a side-by-side duplex – a maisonette would be a upstairs/downstairs duplex like the New England “double decker”, with full homes – each with separate entrances – on each floor)

    “Bodge job” is actually “botch job”, as in “botched”.

    An AGA is not merely a “vintage styled” stove, but a completely different method of cookin: the AGA is plumbed into the fuel source and permanently on, with thick doors on the ovens and covers over the different-temprature hotplates – instead of adjusting the heat under the food as per a conventional modern stove, you move the pan to the appropriate hotplate. Same with the ovens. It can also be attached to a water-tank so that the same fuel heats the boiler. Properly installed and used, they can be an extremely fuel-efficient way of cooking, heating water, and even heating your home if you run the vent through appropriate chimneys and ducts to let the ambient heat do some of the work.

  16. avatarNick Griffin Miller says

    Bacon isn’t bacon wherever you are! In US bacon is “streaky bacon” in UK. Bacon in UK is more like “Canadian Bacon” in the US.

  17. avatarMary says

    Not sure why these are considered *slang* when these words have, for the most part, always been used in the UK. *Slang* is sort of like a nick-name. IE: calling your brother, who’s name is Michael, “Bubba”. Just because different words have the same meaning in different countries, does not make any of them *slang*. Just sayin’………

Leave a Reply