British English Idioms
This lesson is about British English idioms. An
is one type of figurative
in the English language.
Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses
is a commonly used phrase that does not mean what it says.
Idioms should not be taken literally
That means that you should not believe it exactly as it is written.
Idioms can be unique to a language,
culture, or area
. A British English idiom may not have the
same meaning (or any meaning at all) in another language or culture.
and British English are similar,
they do not always use the same idioms.
However, some idioms are found in both American
are a few well-known idioms that have the same
meaning in both American English and British English.
- a piece of cake
(If something is a
piece of cake, it is very easy to do.)
That math test was a
piece of cake.
- just the ticket
(If something is just
the ticket, it is the perfect thing.)
A day on the beach is just
ticket to help me relax.
- doing time
(When someone is doing
time, they are spending time in jail or prison.)
Sam is doing time
- off your rocker
(If you are off your
rocker, you are acting crazy or insane.)
Tom is acting weird today. He is off
- with child
(A woman who is with
child is pregnant.)
Sally is eating healthy because she is with
- lost your lunch
(If you vomit, you might say you lost
She had the flu and lost
The idioms above are the same in both American
English and British English.
Many times idioms in British
English are different from idioms in American English.
For example, suppose someone is in jail or prison.
you would say they are:
, you would say they are:
All of these are ways of saying that someone is in prison.
Here is another example:
, if you want someone to hurry
, you might say:
However, in British
, you would say:
your finger out!
Get your finger out!
Here is one more example:
, if something is very common and easy to get, you
might say it is:
dime a dozen
, you might say it is:
British English idioms
Here are some idioms that are
unique to British English.
- take the mickey/mike out
(If you take the
mickey or take
mike, you are teasing or copying someone.)
The kids would take
the mickey out of him because of the way he talked.
- jobs for the boys
(This is a reference to people in power who use their power to
give jobs to friends and family.)
The store owner only has jobs
- off your own bat
(You do something off
your own bat when you do something without being told.)
He cleaned the kitchen off
- daft as a brush
(Someone who is daft
as a brush is not very smart.)
Sometimes Bill acts daft
a brush, but he is actually very smart.
- queer fish
(You might say that someone is a queer
fish if you think they are strange.)
Bob is a queer fish
because he likes to eat strawberry jam on his hamburger.
- on the blower
(If someone is on the
blower, they are talking on the phone.)
It is considered rude to be on
the blower in public.
- noddy work
(Noddy work is
something that is very easy to do.)
Washing laundry is noddy
- quart into a pint pot
(If you are putting a quart
a pint pot, you are putting too much into a small
space. A quart is more than a pint.)
Trying to fit everything into my little closet is like
trying to put a quart
into a pint pot.
- lose your bottle
(If you lose your
bottle, you lose your courage to do something.)
Ask her on a date before you lose
- laugh to see a pudding crawl
(If someone would laugh
see a pudding crawl, that means it is easy to make them
Sally thinks I'm funny, but Sally would laugh
to see a pudding crawl.
- banana skin
(A banana skin
is something that causes embarrassment.)
No one liked the film. It is a banana
skin for the movie industry.
- bent as a nine bob note
(If someone is bent
as a nine bob note, they are dishonest.)
Tim is a criminal, and he is bent
as a nine bob note.
- on the dole
(If someone does not have a job and is receiving financial
assistance from the government, you say they are on
After he lost his job, his family was on
the dole for two years.
- in a tick
(If someone says they will do something in
a tick, that means they will complete it soon
Supper will be ready in
was an overview of British English idioms. Now that you understand,
it is time to practice! Get
our ESL Books.
Get Updates, Special Offers, and English Resources