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English Slang Words with Examples

About slang words

When you’re living and learning English in London, one of the things you’ll soon discover is that English has a lot of slang words. Slang is a term for words or phrases that are very informal. They’re used much more commonly in spoken English than in written English, and should always be used with care, as some slang expressions can be offensive to other people.

It’s important to remember that slang isn’t generally recognised as being a standard part of the English language. Having said that, you’re highly likely to hear slang when you’re talking to native English speakers, so it’s good to be able to understand it. Over time, some slang expressions do make their way into mainstream English too, so understanding slang can help you see the ways in which the English language is changing. slang words, english class

Slang substitutions 

Some of the most common English slang words involve giving words a new and different meaning to the one you’d find in a dictionary.

For example:

  • Dough: while this is used to make bread, in slang “dough” is another word for money.
  • Dig: while you may think of digging a hole, saying that you “dig” something is a way to say you like it. For example, “I really dig that new One Direction song.”
  • Sick: for most people, being sick means they’re ill, but it’s also a way to say you think something is great, for example “That was a sick skateboard move.”
  • Grand: if something is grand then you may think it’s great, but in English slang it also means a thousand pounds. So you might hear someone say something like: “My new car cost me two grand.”
  • Gutted: while this normally refers to something a butcher would do to an animal carcass, it can be used to describe feelings of sadness. For example, “I was gutted when my team lost the football match.”

English Slang combinations

Other slang words are created by combining two words to make a new word which takes part of each word’s meaning.

For example:

  • frenemy: this combines the words “friend” and “enemy” – it’s a way of describing someone who may seem to be your friend but behaves towards you in ways you don’t like.
  • bromance: a combination of “brother” and “romance”, this is a light-hearted way of describing a platonic friendship between two males.
  • staycation: this is used to describe a holiday where you stay at home – it’s made up of the words “stay” and “vacation”.

New activities – new words

Of course, with the relentless march of technology, there are also lots of new slang terms to describe some of the functions of social media. So you might hear some of the following slang expressions in relation to social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:

  • friend/unfriend: on Facebook, you can add someone to your circle by “friending” them, which will mean you see their latest updates whenever you log on. If, later on, you decide you don’t want to see what they’re sharing, you can always “unfriend” them.
  • follow/unfollow: if you want to see someone’s latest updates on Twitter, Instagram or their blog, you can “follow” them. You can also “unfollow” someone if their updates don’t interest you anymore.
  • selfie: this is the name for a photograph you take of yourself, usually with your mobile phone and with something interesting happening in the background. Sharing “selfies” has become increasingly popular on Facebook, Instagram and other social media.

These are just a few of the English slang terms you might come across while learning English in London. Have you heard any others?

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