The most popular British insults. More than just insults, this list really includes rude words, exclamations and adjectives that don't fit anywhere else very well.
arsehole: n asshole.
bampot: n clumsy idiot. As with a lot of the Brits’ less-than-complimentary words, it isn’t really offensive — it’s used more in goading fun than anything else. Has a derivation similar to that of “barmy.”
barmpot: n clumsy idiot. As with a lot of the Brits’ less-than-complimentary words, it isn’t really offensive — it’s used more in goading fun than anything else. Has a derivation similar to that of “barmy.”
barmy: adj idiotic. You might describe your father’s plan to pioneer the first civilian moon landing using nothing but stuff he’d collected from a junkyard as “barmy.” Well, unless the junkyard he had in mind was out the back of Cape Kennedy and he had funding from China. It may or may not derive from the fact that there was once a psychiatric hospital in a place called Barming, near Maidstone in Kent, England. It may equally easily come from an Old English word for yeast, “barm,” intended to imply that the brain is fermenting. As these competing etymologies seem equally plausible, it seems only sensible to settle the matter in an old-fashioned fistfight.
berk: n idiot. Yes, yes, another friendly U.K. word for moron; this one implies a degree of clumsiness: Look, you berk, I said to bend it, not bust it. The word originally derives from the rhyming slang “Berkeley Hunt” (or “Berkshire Hunt”), which rhymes with — well, “punt,” among other words.
Billy no-mates: n person with no friends: Everyone else turned up half an hour late so I was sitting there like Billy no-mates for ages.
bint: n woman, in the loosest sense of the word. One step short of a prostitute, a bint is a bird with less class, less selectivity, more makeup and even more skin. Blokes don’t talk to bints unless they’ve had at least eight pints of beer, which is why bints turn up in free-for-students nightclubs at 2:45 a.m. with their faked student ID and dance around their Moschino rucksacks. The word derives from the Arabic for “woman.” Well, I say “derives from” – it is the Arabic for “woman.”
blighter: adj guy (or, rather, a more refined, more upper-class version thereof). Usually used in a slightly critical tone: Just wait until I get my hands on the blighter who steals my newspaper every morning.
bloody: adj 1 damned. An exclamation of surprise, shock or anger, it’s one of the great multi-purpose British swear words. Best known as part of the phrase “Bloody hell!” but can also be used in the middle of sentences for emphasis in a similar way to “fucking”: And then he had the cheek to call me a bloody liar! or even with particular audacity in the middle of words: Who does she think she is, Cinde-bloody-rella? Etymology-wise, it’s possible that “bloody” has in fact nothing to do with blood and actually a contraction of the Christian phrase “by Our Lady.” Or it might also be from “god’s blood”. 2. bloody-minded obstinate; determined: If he wasn’t going to be so bloody-minded about it we’d have come to a deal ages ago.
blooming: adj darned. An extremely innocuous expletive — could be seen as a reduced-strength version of “bloody.” Rather antiquated nowadays.
bollocks: 1 n testicles. The word is in pretty common use in the U.K. and works well as a general “surprise” expletive in a similar way to “bugger.” the dog’s bollocks something particularly good (yes, good): See that car — it’s the dog’s bollocks, so it is. This in turn gives way to copy-cat phrases such as “the pooch’s privates” or “the mutt’s nuts,” which all generally mean the same thing. bollocking a big telling-off 2 rubbish; nonsense: Well, that’s a load of bollocks. Some additional U.S./U.K. confusion is added by the fact that the words “bollix” and “bollixed” are sometimes used in the U.S. to describe something thrown into confusion or destroyed.
bugger: 1 n jerk. Or substitute any other inoffensive insult (“git” works just as well) 2 v sodomise 3 -off a friendlier alternative to “fuck off.” 4 interj “rats.” Stand-alone expletive usable in a similar way as “bollocks”: Oh, bugger!
charva: n newish word in the U.K. to describe a range of people much similar to pikeys. From Romany (spoken by the Roma people, i.e. gypsies) for “child.” Used in 1960s London to mean “fuck,” as evinced by the Derek Raymond Factory series of novels.
chav: n variant of “charva.”
cheeky: adj risqué; just short of rude. You’re being cheeky if you make a joke that you can only just barely get away with without getting into trouble.
cobblers: n rubbish; nonsense. An informal term; you’d be more likely to use it in response to your mate’s claim that he can down fifteen pints in a sitting than while giving evidence in a murder trial. Possibly Cockney rhyming slang, from “cobbler’s awls” / “balls.” This may be true. Who knows?
cock-up: v make a complete mess of something: I went to a job interview today and cocked it up completely. Brits also use the phrase “balls-up” to mean the same thing. Ironically enough, however, “balls-up” is seen as a lot less rude.
codger: n grouch. Belligerent old bugger. The old codger next door decided my hedge was too tall and set fire to it last Wednesday!
dago: n Spanish person (rather uncharitable and slightly antiquated). I mean the term is uncharitable and antiquated, not the Spanish person in question. There are two possible etymologies: One is that it is a slightly abbreviated “Diego,” that being of course a popular Spanish name. It may also be a contraction of the town name San Diego (named after Santiago, a.k.a. St. James, the patron saint of Spain). The term is in use in the U.S. but, rather perversely, refers to Italians.
divvy: 1 n idiot. Likely derived from “divot,” meaning “clod.” Calling someone a divvy is pretty tame, much on a par with telling them they are a “dimwit.” 2 divide up (universal).
dodgy: adj something either shady: I bought it off some dodgy punter in the pub, sexually suggestive: The old bloke in the office keeps saying dodgy things to me at the coffee machine, or simply not quite as things should be: I got rid of that car; the suspension felt dodgy. What appalling sentence structure. Fuck it.
dozy: adj perhaps most kindly characterised as “slow.” Someone described as dozy might be a little sluggish in understanding things.
duffer: n idiot; simpleton. Often related to a particular task: We had to fire Brian – he turned out to be a complete duffer.
eejit: n idiot. Intended to be somewhat mocking of an Irish person pronouncing the same word, this made its way into the language in its own right after being popularised by the television programme Father Ted.
git: n a tricky one to define. But, of course, that’s what I’m getting paid the big bucks for. What it doesn’t mean is what The Waltons meant when they said it (“git outta here, John-Boy”). Git is technically an insult but has a twinge of jealousy to it. You’d call someone a git if they’d won the Readers’ Digest Prize Draw, outsmarted you in a battle of wits or been named in Bill Gates’ last will and testament because of a spelling mistake. Like “sod,” it has a friendly tone to it. It may be derived from Arabic, or it may be a contraction of the word “illegitimate.” Or neither.
Gordon Bennett: interj Christ. By this I don’t mean that Britain is under the grip of a strange new religion where Jesus Christ has been replaced by a man called Gordon Bennett, who came to earth in the guise of a used car salesman to save humanity from eternal damnation. No, I mean more that this is a general-purpose expletive, used in a similar context to “Christ!” or “Bollocks!”: Your brother Tommy’s won the lottery! / Gordon Bennett! Its source lies in the mid-19th century with James Gordon Bennett, son of the founder of the New York Herald and Associated Press (who was also called Gordon Bennett, in case you thought this was going to be simple). Born with cash to spare, Gordon Jr. became legendary for high-roller stunts and fits of notoriety including urinating in his in-laws’ fireplace, and burning money in public. His name entered the lexicon as a term of exclamation for anything a bit over the top.
gormless: adj slightly lacking in the common sense department; a bit daft. The word (as “gaumless”) also exists in Scots-derived American English with the same meaning but is not in common use.
grotty: adj gross; disgusting. Your mother might use it to describe your room, or your girlfriend might use it to describe your whole flat. Or maybe you’re cleaner than I am.
manky: adj gross; disgusting. The word is derived from the French “manqué,” the past participle of “manquer” (to fail).
minger: adj. pron. “ming-er” someone breathtakingly unattractive: She looked okay when we were in the bar, but when I woke up the next morning it turned out she was a complete minger. On fire and put out with a shovel, that sort of thing.
munter: n deeply unattractive woman. Pretty much equivalent to “dog” or “pig.”
muppet: n dimwit: You’ve left the handbrake off, you muppet.
naff: adj tacky, ineffectual and generally crap. This could be a part of the reason why the French clothing firm Naf Naf recently pulled out of the U.K. It may derive from the 1960s gay slang language “Polari” in which it was used as an acronym for “Not Available For Fucking.”
nancy: n man who is either extremely effeminate, or homosexual. Or both. A rather derogatory term, and often conjoined into the phrase “nancy-boy.”
nosey parker: n a person who takes a little bit too much interest in other people’s goings on. Presumably “nosey” is related to putting one’s nose in others’ business, but heaven knows where the “parker” part came from.
numpty: n Scottish idiot, in a friendly sort of a way: You’ve parked in a disabled space, you numpty.
nutter: n someone with a screw loose. This applies to both the “insane” or “reckless” definitions, so a gentleman who scaled the Eiger naked and a chap who ate both of his parents could both validly be “nutters,” albeit in slightly different ways.
off one’s onion: adj Northern England crazy: Some chap was dancing with cars in the street – I think he was off his onion!
off one’s rocker: adj crazy: Some chap was dancing with cars in the street – I think he was off his rocker! And there I go again with the copy-paste. God, I love computers.
off one’s trolley: adj crazy: Some chap was dancing with cars in the street – I think he was off his trolley! Yes, I did just copy-paste the previous entry.
pikey: n adj white trash. It’s an old English word meaning “gipsy,” but nowadays pikey is also applied to people in possession of track suits, Citroen Saxos with eighteen-inch wheels and under-car lighting, and pregnant fifteen-year-old girlfriends.
pillock: n idiot. You could almost decide having read this dictionary that any unknown British word is most likely to mean “idiot.” And you could almost be right. The Brits have so many because different ones sound better in different sentences. Pillock is likely a contraction of the 16th century word “pillicock,” which was used to refer to the male member.
pish: n, v Scottish piss. It can be used not only to refer to urine/urination, but also as a mild sort of swear word, similar to “crap.”
piss-artist: n useless drunk. The .com must have gone, but I’m too scared to check. Have you ever played that game where you pick a .com and bet amongst your friends as to whether it’s a porn site or not? I bet you’re sitting there thinking that sounds like a stupid game, but let me get you started. turkishdelight.com? You’re wondering, aren’t you?
plonker: adj idiot. I’m tempted to write a Dictionary of British Insults. Also (rarely) used to refer to one’s penis. Or someone else’s, if you don’t have one. Or if you do have one, but you’re trying to refer to someone else’s and not your own. I’m tempted to also write a Dictionary of British Words For Penis. A future bestseller; keep an eye out. Not that eye.
po-faced: adj glum; long-faced: I bumped into Sheena in the newsagent this afternoon - she looked mighty po-faced about something. As well as being a useful word for people who want to win at Scrabble by memorising stupid goddamned two-letter words and then sitting there looking all smug about them even thought they don’t know what they mean, “Po” is an abbreviation for “chamber pot” (an old-fashioned bed-pan).
poxy: adj crappy; third-rate. Presumably derived in some way from when horrible things were described as being ridden with a pox.
prat: n idiot: I met my sister’s boyfriend the other day and he seems like a complete prat. Derived from a time when the word was slang for your posterior (in a similar way to the more contemporaneous “arse”) from whence, interestingly, came the peculiarly American word “pratfall” (a fall on one’s behind).
scrubber: n another not overly complimentary word for a young lady of loose moral fibre.
shite: n shit. The only plausible reason I can think of for this word’s existence at all is that it has more rhyming potential for football songs. Perhaps soon we’ll have the word “shitove,” giving Whitney Houston and her cohorts further opportunities to over-use the word “love” in their drivelly good-for-nothing pop songs.
skanky: adj disgusting. Describing something or someone as skanky would imply that they haven’t been cleaned in quite some time. Brits do not use the word “skank” to refer to a prostitute.
taking the piss: n make fun of: Andy fell down the stairs on the way into the pub last night, and everyone spent the entire night taking the piss out of him. This is the most common term in British English to describe making fun of someone. Contrary to what one might assume, it doesn’t involve a complex system of tubes or a bicycle pump.
trollop: n woman of loose morals. This is a somewhat antiquated equivalent of “tart,” and was sixteenth-century slang for a prostitute.
tyke: n rascal; tearaway. Normally used to describe children who are doing something a bit mischievous but not particularly awful. You’d be much more likely to hear “Quit spraying me with the hose, you wee tyke!” than you would “Run, the little tyke’s got a bomb!”
uphill gardener: n homosexual. Perhaps best left at that.
wally: n dimwit; dunce. In a friendly sort of a way. You’d never leap out of your car after someone’s smashed into the back of it and shout “you complete fucking wally!”
wazzack: n idiot. When I originally put this on my website I spelled it “wazzak.” I received emails variously informing me that it was spelled “wazzock” or “wuzzock.” I then received one from a chap who claimed to have invented the word in South Somerset when he was seven and that “wazzack” was in fact the correct spelling. And the one I got from a chap in Nottinghamshire claiming that he invented it and it was spelled “wassak.” Why must society be like this? Why must we all lay claim to something? I put the two people in touch via email and they have subsequently fallen in love.