The most common British words or British English terms related to the body or medicine.
arse: n 1 what you sit on. Very close in meaning to the American “ass,” although actually derived from a different root, as arse is an old English word meaning “tail.” I can’t be arsed I can’t be bothered. bunch of arse load of nonsense: I never bothered reading the bible, the whole thing is a bunch of arse. 2 interj rats. Used alone in a similar fashion to bollocks: I’m sorry to tell you, sir, but you’ve missed the last train. / Arse!
barnet: n hair; hairstyle. Another example of Cockney rhyming slang which has slipped into the common vernacular: “Barnet Fair” / “hair.” Barnet is an area of London. Presumably they had a fair there at some point.
beavering: v working enthusiastically. These days you’d have difficulty saying it without a chorus of sniggers from the assembled crowd, as everyone in the U.K. is well aware of the American use of the word “beaver.” It’s the sort of thing your grandmother might say at Christmas dinner that would make the younger generations choke on their soup.
blow off: v break wind (rather old-fashioned): My goodness, is that Deardrie cooking breakfast again? / Hmm, no, I think the dog’s blown off. Brits do not use the American meaning (to brush off).
bogie: n pron. “bo-ghee” booger. The charming little things everyone excavates from their nose now and again but likes to pretend they don’t.
bum: 1 n posterior; pretty much the British equivalent of “butt.” 2 v mooch: Mind if I bum a ride home? or perhaps more amusingly: Can I bum a fag? What the Americans call “bums” Brits call “tramps.”
cack: n shit: I’ve cacked myself; the club was okay but the music was cack. Well known in the U.K. but perhaps not all that widely used.
chuff: 1 v fart. 2 n one’s posterior. 3 n Northern England vagina. 4 interj general swear word usable much the same as “fuck”: It was all going fine until the chuffing pigs turned up. Entirely separate from the word “chuffed,” so use with care.
collywobbles: n spine-tingling fear; heebie jeebies. Originally meant the act or fear of having an unexpected and uncontrolled bowel movement. Which does make one wonder whether “colly” is an accepted abbreviation for “colon.” Probably isn’t. I’m done with the wondering now.
Elastoplast: n adhesive bandage, i.e. Band-Aid. Antiquated term –”Plaster” is used more commonly in modern British English.
fanny: n female genitalia. This is another word which could leave you abroad and in dire straits. In the U.S., your fanny is your posterior and a “fanny pack” is what Brits decided to call a “bum bag” instead. There’s a neoprene belt sold in the U.S. that is designed to stop snow from entering your ski jacket during a fall. It is marketed under the name “Fanny Flaps.” It is not for sale in the U.K.
floater: n number-two which refuses to be flushed away. It is not, as one of my contributors discovered, an appropriate name for laptop that’s shared around various parts of the office.
fringe: 1 n bangs. The bits of hair coming down over your forehead. So called because it’s the fringe of your hair. Americans call them “bangs” because they look like small explosions of hair emitting from the scalp. 2 the edge of something (universal).
giddy: n dizzy or vertiginous. In the U.S. this means silliness and/or giggling - the British definition is more of a medical condition. The British driving license application form asks the applicant whether they are “subject to excessive giddiness.”
gob: 1 n mouth. Almost always used in the context “shut your gob.” 2 v spit: The pikey fucker just gobbed down my shirt! It’s possible the word is derived from Gaelic, where it means a bird’s beak, or from the English navy, where it was used widely to refer to the toilet.
guff: 1 v fart. Presumably some sort of derivation of “chuff” or vice versa. Not to be confused with “gaff.” 2 n verbiage: I asked him what happened, but he just gave me a load of guff.
gyp: n irritating pain: I don’t think I’ll make it out tonight; my ankle is giving me gyp. Interestingly, in the U.S. “gypping” is cheating.
jabs: n inoculations: I’m off to the Amazon for a week – got to get my jabs this morning!
jacksie: n ass: If you bring that thing into one of these meetings again I’m going to shove it up your jacksie! From Cockney rhyming slang “Jack and Danny” / “fanny”.
John Thomas: n penis. The term derives from the name given to the appendage of the leading man in D.H. Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The book was made famous by the obscenity trial it landed Penguin Books in during the 1950s. Someone once told me that in America one could buy “John Thomas relish” to put on your lunch. This turned out to be nonsense, but is somehow still amusing. Perhaps I’ll invent it.
lurgy: n a general diagnosis for any sort of minor sickness which you’re not sure of the exact affliction. Could cover anything from the common cold to food poisoning. Or streptococcal meningitis, if you’re particularly poor at self-diagnosis. It can also be used as a substitute for the American “cooties.”
minge: 1 n lady’s front bottom. The etymology may be Romany. 2 n Pubic hair.
oxter: n Scottish armpit. From the Middle English oxta, meaning “axis” or “axle”.
pastille: n a small candy. I don’t know enough about candy to be more specific. A while ago the word was used to refer to cough drops, but now Brits largely call those “lozenges” or “throat sweets.” The main use of the word now is in the branded chewy sweets made by Rowntree called Fruit Pastilles.
pecker: n penis. A common misconception is that, to Brits, this means “chin” - hence the phrase “keep your pecker up.” Sorry folks, but in the U.K. “pecker” means exactly the same thing as it does in the U.S. The phrase “keep your pecker up” is probably derived from a time when a “pecker” was simply a reference to a bird’s beak and encouraged keeping your head held high. I understand that the word became a euphemism for “penis” after the poet Catullus used it to refer to his love Lesbia’s pet sparrow in a rather suggestive poem which drew some fairly blatant parallels.
plaster: n Band-Aid. sticking - a more old-fashioned word meaning the same. Both British and American English share the term plastered to mean that you are wildly under the influence of alcohol.
pop off: v fart; trump. Used more by children than adults: Eww! I think Roger’s mum popped off in the kitchen!
quim: n female genitalia. Rather antiquated. The person who asked about the word also asked me: “As bad as American “cunt”? Or more akin to the mellower “pussy”? Would Britwomen themselves ever use the term to refer to their own anatomy with other women friends? Would men ever use it to refer to women in a derogatory way?” No, Yes, No, Yes. Hope that helps.
razz: v vomit: Well, yeah, we were having a great time until Phil razzed down the back of the sofa and they made us all go home.
see a man about a dog: v urinate: Give me a minute, Dave – I’ve got to go and see a man about a dog.
shat: n the past-participle of “shit” – this also exists in the U.S. but is in much more common usage in the U.K.: That pigeon just shat on my car!
slaphead: n bald person: Have you noticed that Charlie’s becoming something of a slaphead? Lucky for him he’s on the tall side.
slash: v have a- urinate. Its usage is more appropriate to punters in the pub than middle-aged ladies at a Tupperware party.
smeg: n generic swear word based upon the word “smegma.” Also a popular German kitchen equipment manufacturer, who are no doubt in the process of changing their name. Popularised (and most likely invented) by Rob Naylor, who created the Red Dwarf book and television series.
sticking plaster: n Somewhat antiquated version of “plaster.” See “plaster” for definition. I can’t be bothered copy-pasting.
sun cream: n sunscreen.
tackle: n male genitalia. From the sailing term “block and tackle.” Use your imagination.
thrupney bits: n breasts: She was a bit dull but what a cracking pair of thrupney bits! From Cockney rhyming slang “thrupney bits” / “tits.” The thrupney bit was once a three-pence coin but is no longer in circulation. Although I’ve been doing my best to avoid putting plurals into this piece of work, I have a lot of trouble trying to think of any situation in which you would ever refer to a single thrupney bit. Perhaps someday the terms “thrupney bit implants” or “thrupney bit cancer” will be commonplace, but they aren’t now.
todger: n penis. “Tadger,” “todge” and “tadge” have been known to slip in too. As it were.
twat: 1 n female genitalia. Not to be used in overly-polite company. The word, I mean. 2 v thump; hit: I don’t remember anything after the boom swung around and I got twatted. 3 n idiot. Generally directed at blokes. A suitably confusing example would read “some twat in the pub accused me of having been near his bird’s twat, so I twatted him.” On the female genitalia front, so to speak, the poet Robert Browning once read a rather vulgar protestant polemic which referred to an “old nun’s twat,” and subsequently mentioned a nun’s “cowl and twat” in one of his poems, under the mistaken impression that it was a part of her clothing.
up the spout: n pregnant: I honestly didn’t mean to offend her, I thought she was up the spout!
willie: n penis. The film Free Willie attracted large optimistic female audiences when it was released in the U.K. That could either mean audiences of large optimistic females, or large audiences of optimistic females. Either way it’s a lie. Of perhaps more amusement to Brits was the 1985 American film Goonies, which featured a group of children who found a secret pirate-ship commanded by a fearsome pirate named One-Eyed-Willie. Or how about the Alaskan car-wash company, Wet Willies, who offer two levels of service named Little Willie and Big Willie? Seems something of a no-brainer.