The English language has many phrases that are used frequently by locals but can be confusing to people trying to translate them. We are here to help.

Your British winter phrase guide

Talk like you’ve been in London for years.

  1. Brolly – this is an abbreviation of umbrella, slightly quaint and old-fashioned term, but still a very well used term in England. ‘Grab the brolly it’s started to rain’.
  2. It’s drizzling – used when it is raining but not very heavily. ‘It’s only drizzling’.
  3. Fine rain – light rain, almost a mist but it can still ‘soak you right through’ (get you wet) so you’ll need a coat!
  4. It’s brightening – a very common upbeat assessment that the weather will change soon to sunshine. ‘Look over there, it’s brightening’.
  5. Cuppa – a cup of tea. It’s an informal expression between people that know each other. ‘Fancy a cuppa?’ means ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’.
  6. Afternoon Tea – this is a much fancier and upmarket event than the simple cuppa. Tea will be served in traditional cups and saucer, there will also be scones with cream and jam, and sandwiches too.
  7. It’s a bit nippy out there – simply means it’s cold outside. People might also say ‘there’s a nip in the air’ this just means you can feel the cold in the air. It’s chilly means exactly the same thing – as you can probably tell by now, the Brits have a lot of words for weather!
  8. Autumn – the season after summer and before winter, when in the UK the leaves are orange and fall from the trees, and it’s just starting to cool down. People will use the phrase ‘autumnal’ too. ‘Those colours are very autumnal’ (meaning orange, red, brown and yellow). In American English it is called Fall.
  9. As snug as a bug in a rug – means to be very warm and comfortable, often in a very warm scarf, coat or blanket.
  10. Cheers – a drinking toast (said at the same time as clinking glasses together with someone). It is also used to mean thank you in informal situations. ‘Cheers for that Dave!’
  11. A round – buying drinks for all your friends in the pub. People in the group take it in turns to buy ‘the round’.
  12. Hot toddy – is a hot alcoholic drink made with whisky, honey, water, lemon, herbs and spices. Recipes vary but you’ll hear it referred to a lot as a winter warmer!
  13. Mince pie – traditional around Christmas time, this pie is sweet and is filled with a mixture of dried fruits and spices.
  14. Bits and bobs – various things, ‘I’m going to the Christmas market to get a few bits and bobs’. ‘Bits and pieces’ is also used and means the same thing.
  15. Half past 7 – this means 7:30. Brits will know exactly what you mean if you say the time is 7:30, or 6:30 or whatever the time happens to be but they will often express time in variations of minutes past and to the hour. For example, ten past 7 (7:10), quarter past 7 (7:15) and twenty to 7 (6:40). If they think the hour is obvious they may simply say ‘it’s half past’ without stating the hour.
  16. Chockablock (chocka is the abbreviation) – something that is very full. ‘My schedule for exploring the UK is chocka’.
  17. Full of beans – used to describe someone when they are energetic and ready for action. ‘You’re full of beans this morning’.
  18. Gobsmacked – means you are shocked with amazement. ‘I can’t believe it; I’m gobsmacked by how much there is to see in London’.
  19. Fiver / tenner – means £5 and £10. Quid also means pounds (£). So if someone says 5 quid or a fiver, they both mean £5.
  20. Cheeky – doing something that you maybe shouldn’t be doing but in a funny, friendly or endearing way so the result is that people like you for it rather than being annoyed. British people often call children ‘cheeky monkeys’ or say phrases to each other like ‘let’s have a cheeky look round the shops before class’.

Have you heard a phrase you’d like us to explain? Post in the comments and we’ll help you!

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