5 English slang words you should only use with your friends

by Erin McGann
June 01, 2021
friends laughing together about English slang words

There are some English slang words that are almost in regular usage, and even at work, most people wouldn’t even notice if you dropped them into conversation. Saying ‘stuff’ when you mean non-specific things is a bit slang-y, but most people wouldn’t think anything of it. But there are some other words and phrases you need to keep for your off-duty hours!

5 English slang words for informal use

1. Guys

A ‘guy’ is an informal word for a man, however it also has become a bit of a lazy way of referring to a single person regardless of gender, though people who identify as womxn generally don’t like being referred to as a ‘guy’. When you’re using this to be a collective noun for a group of people, as in ‘all the guys say’, it used to mean a non-gender specific way of referring to a group, but it still has a very male feeling to the word. For a more non-gendered approach to group nouns, try ‘everyone’, ‘people’, ‘pals’, ‘peeps’, or ‘folks’. Regardless, it’s not something you should use at work. 

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2. Sucks or lame

Both words mean something that is not very good. To say something ‘sucked’, ‘is sucky’ or ‘is lame’ is a very juvenile way of describing something as bad and disappointing. ‘Sucking’ has nothing to do with the actual meaning of the verb, which is a very specific way of attaching, think of a suction cup attaching to a wall. If I walked into a pole while looking at my phone, in front of a bus full of people, I might say to my friend ‘that really sucked’. It was bad, and it was very disappointing that it happened. It came out of California surfer speak in the 1980s, and is very informal American slang that isn’t appropriate in a work context. 

3. Busted

This very American word has a couple of different meanings. As a verb, it’s used in the past tense to mean getting caught doing something. For example: ‘I got busted trying to sneak in late.’ It can also mean something is broken, for example: ‘Don’t use that printer, it’s busted.’ In both cases, it’s very informal, and not right for work! Just use ‘caught’ in the first instance, like ‘I got caught trying to sneak in late’. For the second usage, try ‘broken’ or ‘not working’, for example: ‘Don’t use that printer, it’s not working.’

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4. Bloke or mate

These are British slang words to refer to a person. ‘Bloke’ means a nonspecific male person, where you might you ‘guy’ in an American context though it hasn’t developed to include women in any way. ‘Mate’ is a friend, or someone you’re being friendly with, mostly. They are both very informal words you would only use with your friends, never in a work context. Again, find a non-gendered word to mean a person, and ‘person’ is good! ‘Mate’ isn’t really one you’d use in a work context unless it’s very informal, and as I’ve explained before, it’s a tricky one so you need to be very sure before you use it. 

5. Piss

British people have many uses for the word ‘piss’, and none of them are okay in a work context. It’s a bit of a rude word really, and not my favourite to hear, and the word itself means ‘to urinate’. But there are several phrases it’s good to at least know: taking the piss, being pissed, and going for a piss.

  • ‘Taking the piss’ means someone is making fun of you, or mildly insulting you, or both. You may ask ‘are you taking the piss?’ which is a way of asking whether you’re saying something really stupid or are you making fun of me.
  • ‘Being pissed’ refers to being drunk, so you could say ‘he was really pissed last night’.
  • ‘Going for a piss’ actually refers to going to the toilet to urinate, but it’s a not very pleasant way of saying it. We don’t need the details of what you might do in the toilet! 

As you can see, none of these are phrases you want to use at your workplace, but are, mostly, fine with your friends. 

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