Can You Understand These British Idioms and Common Phrases?


By: Becky Stigall

5 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

We all know the Brits do things a bit... differently. Not wrong, of course, just different. If you are familiar with the way the British communicate, then take this quiz to test your knowledge.

Look, here in the United States, football is a game that you play by throwing the ball. In the UK, football is what we call soccer, a game that is played by kicking the ball. Sigh... we're not even going to spend too much time wondering why we don't call soccer football and rename the game of football to something that is more aligned with the goal of the sport, like throwball... just throwing that out there.

Anyway, the sport of US football is actually thought to have derived from the British name for soccer. Just stay with us, now. First, there was soccer, which was called football; then there was rugby, which was sometimes called rugby football; then there was football, which is what we here in the US know as football. Is this true? Who knows, but it sounds plausible, right?

So, back to British idioms. Are you enough of an Anglophile to identify these 35 British idioms and common phrases? Let's get started to find out how much you really know.

Assuming your British friend is not a cheerleader, what might he mean when he says "cheers"?

To a Brit, the word "cheers" means "thank you" or "thanks." It does also serve as a toast, even to the British.


Someone who is "skint" in the U.K. might be what in the U.S.?

This substitute for the word "penniless" appears to have first been used in the early 1900s.


If someone is getting "shirty," what might she be?

In another reference to clothing, the same person might be getting her knickers in a twist.


If a Brit were super pleased with his grades on an exam, he might say which of the following?

A person can also be "dead chuffed," which is better than it sounds.


What we refer to as a parking lot, the Brits might call what?

A car park can mean either a parking lot or a parking garage. It's definitely a place to park your car.


What do the British say when they find something hard to believe?

Here's an example... "You want me to lend you $100.00! Are you having a laugh?"


We say malarkey, but Brits say _____.

The word "tosh" means "crap" or "rubbish" to our cousins across the pond.


What word would the Brits use to indicate they are somewhat fatigued?

It's been a long day; I'm a bit knackered!


What shining term may be used to indicate that something is great?

Of course, the word "brilliant" still means brilliant, too!


What British insult is a term that means "jerk"?

"Wanker" is another one of those terms that might have a completely different meaning here in the States.


Which of the following British idioms indicates that something has gone rather wrong?

Hey, what do they have against pears?


We throw a wrench in the works; the British might throw what?

A spanner is a wrench to the Brits. A wrench will span things, after all.


He was so excited, he was talking how?

Whew, take a breath. That's some pretty fast talking.


Which word would the British use to indicate they are amazed?

A Brit would be gobsmacked should he or she find something beyond belief. The word is thought to step from the British slang for mouth, which is "gob."


If you were British, and you were less than thrilled, what might you say?

"I've got the hump" means, to the British at least, that something is less than pleasing. They use this phrase instead of saying, "I'm not very happy with that," or, "I'm upset."


What is a simple term meant to refer to a length of time?

The British use the word "fortnight" to refer to a period of two weeks. A bit different from Lincoln's "score," isn't it?


We say "yummy," but Brits say _____.

Not sure how this one got started, but it certainly is expressive. We would have guessed it's a bad thing.


If a Brit is going to a "footy" game, what sport is he going to attend?

Well, we already know the Brits refer to soccer as football, so this makes sense!


What might a Brit say when he is completely enamored with someone?

We use the phrase "the bee's knees" here in the states, as well, even though it seems a bit old-timey. Guess some references are universal.


When we play hooky, the Brits might do what?

"Skive" is a word Brits may use when they fake an illness or make up some other excuse to get out of an obligation. Don't skive the rest of this quiz.


If someone is confused about what is happening, a Brit might say that person has done what?

We might lose our minds here in the States, but the British lose a plot. Go figure.


What might a Brit say if he/she were unveiling a surprise?

To a Brit, "Bob's your uncle" is a variant of "ta da!" The actual name of your uncle has no bearing on the exclamation.


Never talk politics in mixed company; it might result in a __________.

The word "kerfuffle" is not completely unheard of here in the states. Can't say it's used much here though.


If a Brit wanted to tell you to get lost, he/she might say what?

The American version of "get stuffed" might be considered rather crass in comparison to our cousins across the pond.


If a Brit were sarcastically referring to a mixup, he might say which of the following?

Not exclusively British, we use this phrase both sarcastically and earnestly as well.


What might a Brit say when she finds something to be an epic fail?

The phrase "damp squib" refers to something that just isn't right or fun. A squib is a firework, and damp fireworks just fizzle.


If a Brit told you they went to a "knees-up," what might he/she be expressing?

A knees-up is another way for Brits to describe a lively party. Maybe the expression came from enthusiastic dancing?


Whereas we might kiss someone we like, what might the Brits do?

We can thank "Bridget Jones' Diary" for introducing us to the word "snog." The word appears to have first been used in the mid 20th century.


When your British friend comes in from the cold, she might refer to such weather as what?

It's true, after all, that a brass monkey would be really cold. Wear gloves before you touch one.


What is another term for a nice chat?

A chinwag can range from an innocent conversation to outright gossip. In either case, chins are literally wagging.


What might a Brit say when she is trying to convey that something has gone completely awry?

While here in the States, we might say that something has "gone to pot," the Brits say that it has "gone all to pot." Guess we get our reference from them.


In the phrase, "at the end of your tether," what might the word "tether" refer to?

When one is at the end of one's rope, he/she might be ready to give up.


In the British phrase "across the pond," what does the word "pond" refer to?

To Brits, the "pond" refers to the Atlantic Ocean. Whether one is in the UK or the US depends on where the speaker is.


A British man who is "up the spout" might be what?

The phrase "up the spout" is used to refer to any number of situations when the individual might be between a rock and a hard place (but that's another phrase altogether).


What might a Brit do in the loo if he has had a bit too much to drink?

The word "chunder" to those of us across the pond seems to have little to do with vomit, but there it is.


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