English Colloquialism Examples

, Staff Writer
Updated August 11, 2021
English Colloquialism Examples
    Students talking at Picadilly Circus
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Strike an informal tone in your speech or writing by studying English colloquialism examples. You'll see how these words and phrases add personality and a casual feeling to any kind of communication, as well as how they vary from region to region. Like idioms, these words and colloquial phrases can be difficult for a non-native speaker to understand.

Examples of British English Colloquialisms

Great Britain has some unique colloquialisms and regional expressions that can lend a region-specific and less formal touch to any piece of writing. These are a few notable ones, including many British slang words:

  • Ace - word to describe something excellent
  • Anorak - someone who is a little bit of a geek with expertise usually in an obscure niche
  • Blimey - exclamation of surprise
  • Bloke - a regular man or "guy"
  • Boot - the trunk of a car
  • Brilliant - something that's really great
  • Brolly - an umbrella
  • Cheeky - to be overly familiar or bold, sometimes in an endearing way
  • Cheers - thank you
  • Chinwag - a chat
  • Chockablock - something that is completely filled
  • Chuffed - proud or excited
  • Codswallop - something made-up or not true
  • Dodgy - something less than safe or secure
  • Dog's dinner - a big mess, often used to describe a situation
  • Gobsmacked - completely surprised
  • Gutted - horribly disappointed
  • Knackered - totally exhausted
  • Lurgy - an illness with symptoms like a cold or flu
  • Pea souper - a very foggy day
  • Poppycock - something ridiculous and possibly untrue
  • Posh - something or someone that is very fancy
  • Rubbish - an exclamation meaning something is untrue or of poor quality
  • Skive - to skip work or school
  • Smarmy - smug or snobby with a false earnestness
  • Strop - a bad mood or sulk
  • Swot - a very serious, possibly geeky, student
  • Tosh - something that's untrue
  • Whinge - to whine and complain

American English Colloquial Expressions

Americans have a few unique words and phrases of their own, especially when it comes to casual conversation. Add these colloquialisms and American slang expressions to your writing or speech if you want to sound less formal:

  • Ballpark - used to describe something that is close to accurate
  • Bomb - to do terribly on a test
  • Cattywampus - a crooked thing
  • Flake - a person who cancels plans regularly or the act of regularly canceling plans
  • Lemon - a purchase that is unreliable and has many problems
  • Podunk - used to describe a small town
  • Raincheck - a promise to reschedule plans that had to be canceled
  • Ride shotgun - to sit in the front passenger seat of a car
  • Score - to get what you want
  • Trash - to destroy something

Canadian English Colloquialisms

Canadians also have expressions that are unique, and there's quite a bit of variation in Canadian slang by region. If you want to sound casual, try these words and phrases:

  • Chirping - making fun of or taunting someone
  • Click - a kilometer
  • Eh or Hey - used at the end of a sentence to signal a check for agreement
  • Gong show - an event that gets out of control
  • Keener - someone who tries too hard to win favor
  • Kerfuffle - a difference of opinion that causes a fuss
  • Pencil crayons - colored pencils
  • Serviette - a napkin
  • Skid - a kid from a poor family
  • Toque - a warm cap or beanie, rhymes with "duke"

Australian Colloquial Expressions

You'll also find many English colloquialisms in Australia. While some are shared with other English-speaking countries, some are unique to this area:

  • Arvo - afternoon
  • Bottle-o - a liquor store
  • Bludger - a lazy person
  • Cobber - a good friend
  • Deadset - something that is true
  • Flat out - extremely busy
  • Furphy - unlikely stories or rumors
  • Mongrel - a person who is unkind or troublesome
  • Rapt - really pleased
  • Swag - a sleeping bag
  • Woop woop - a town in the middle of nowhere

How Colloquialisms Relate to Other Terms

Colloquialisms are region-specific words and phrases that add color and a casual tone to your writing or speech, but they aren't the only way to accomplish this goal. You can also learn about other similar terms that can make your writing more interesting. Several of these overlap with colloquialisms.

  • Slang - Slang is informal speech, but it isn't necessarily used by everyone in an area. For instance, young people may use slang that their grandparents don't understand.
  • Idiom - An idiom is a phrase that has meaning only understood by people who know the language and culture well. It can be a colloquialism, but it's often more involved. English idiom examples include "hold your horses" or "let the cat out of the bag."
  • Jargon - Jargon words tend to be more formal and not used by common people. They are often associated with specific industries or areas of expertise. For example, there are many types of political jargon or corporate buzzwords that are only understood by people in those fields.
  • Aphorism - Like colloquialisms, aphorisms are used by common people. However, they tend to be a truism or piece of wisdom, rather than a region-specific method of expression. "Actions speak louder than words" is a common example.

Have the Right Words

Colloquial sentence examples can help you learn the difference between American and British English. Understanding colloquialisms can also give you more tools to choose the right words for any type of writing, from formal papers to casual letters to friends.

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