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British Terms and Phrases That Americans Need to Know Before Moving to the UK

The English language is very weird. There are stark differences between the terminologies used in London and in New York even if, in both cities, English is the primary language.

For example, what is an apartment in the United States is a flat in the United Kingdom. So, if you are looking for accommodation for students in London, you say flat, not an apartment.

A lorry in the UK is a truck in the U.S. Your online shopping delivery will not be transported through a delivery truck, which is the term used by Americans, it will be heading to your location onboard a lorry, which is the term used by the British.

Of course, every place has its own unique terms and slang phrases which can be confusing. However, to prevent the shock, and to communicate to the locals better, here are a few words that you should learn before you move to England.

Chucking it Down

It rains a lot in the UK. In fact, London, the capital and largest city, gets an average of 23.3 inches or 592 millimeters of precipitation per year. The entire nation gets about 133 days of precipitation, with an annual average of rain and snowfall at 33.7 inches or 885 millimeters.

That is probably why the Brits have over 50 words all used to pertain to precipitation. It is difficult to memorize all of them, but one that you should probably remember is “chucking it down,” a phrase used for torrential rain. When you hear it from a Brit, it means that you probably should bring an umbrella because it is going to pour.


When they say “mint” as a noun, they could be referring to the fragrant herb used for cooking and in beverages. When used as an adjective, it could only mean one thing: whatever they are talking about is pretty cool.

So, if your new friend in London tells you that you are pretty mint, they think you are awesome. When they say that your party is mint, it means that they enjoyed hanging out with you.


Tory is one word you will hear when you switched in the evening news. The word has a long history with roots in the 17th century but, today, a Tory is used to refer to a person who clings to traditionalism and conservatism. It is often used interchangeably with “Conservative” or to refer to those who are members of the Conservative Party.

It is a political term and, therefore, will only pop up when you are reading the papers or watching the BBC. You may also hear it from two or more people who are arguing about a political issue.

Although it is often used as an insult, usually by people on the opposing political party Labour. However, some Conservatives are actually happy to be called a “Tory.”


The English language has plenty of words for surprise. Take out a thesaurus and you will find amazed, dumbfound, shock, flabbergast, startle, and so on. However, in the UK, they have another term unique to them: gobsmacked.

To be gobsmacked is to be astonished. For example, a friend telling you about their finals and how they were gobsmacked to see their grade. Your roommate watching a movie is gobsmacked by a plot twist.

It is, however, mostly used in the North (Manchester, Blackpool, Sheffield, etc.).

Don’t Be Daft

Daft means silly, foolish, or crazy. So, when someone tells you “don’t be daft,” it means you are being a little ridiculous. Here is a scenario: You are asking a favor from your classmate to send you a copy of their notes after the lecture and you apologize for the inconvenience or you offer to do something for them in return. They may say “don’t be daft” to mean that it is no trouble at all, and they will be happy to do it for you.

It could also be used as an insult. Context matters.


There is only one meaning of chuffed and that is “delighted.” A person who is chuffed is pleased about something that happened to them. When they say they are chuffed to meet you, they are happy to make your acquaintance. Go ahead and say that you are chuffed to meet them, too.

There are plenty of many unique terms and phrases that you will encounter as you move across the Atlantic. The best thing to do to be familiar with all of them is to observe how they used them. Pretty soon, you will be talking like you were born and raised in the UK.

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