55 Slang expressions
you should know
Slang expressions are used in highly informal speech that is outside conventional or standard usage and consists both of coined words and phrases, and of new or extended meanings attached to established terms.
Slang develops from the attempt to find fresh and vigorous, colourful, pungent or humorous expression and generally either passes into disuse or comes to have a more formal status.
Slang expressions are used as an informal speech and make the language more user friendly. It makes spoken English more colourful and helps you express your thoughts in a better manner.
Examples of some common slang expressions, along with their meanings and examples are given below:
Definition: Someone who is just like everyone else, a normal person.
Example: Mickey is your average Joe – he likes football, hates opera and thinks it’s a crime to do any work on weekends.
Etymology: ‘Average’ means ‘in the middle’ or ‘not extreme’ and ‘Joe’ is a common male name. So ‘average Joe’ refers to a man who is not extremely different from everyone else.
Synonyms: regular guy
Definition: Someone who isn’t very smart, a stupid person.
Example: Susan and Jim are such airheads – they love sports but they are failing all of their classes at school!
Etymology: If your head is filled with air instead of brains, you probably can’t think very well.
Definition: An unpleasant or backwards place, an ugly and undesirable city or area.
Example: Some people think Detroit is the armpit of America.
Etymology: Sometimes an ‘armpit’ (where the arm meets the body) has a strong and offensive odour.
Apple of my eye
Definition: One’s favourite person, the one you love
Example: Miranda is the apple of my eye – I love her more than anything on earth.
Etymology: In Old English, the pupil of the eye (the round, dark centre) was called the ‘apple’. It was thought that the pupil was a round object much like an apple (a piece of fruit). When you look at someone, their reflection appears in your pupil. So if someone is the ‘apple of your eye’, he or she is someone that you look at a lot and enjoy seeing.
Definition: Encouragement, praise for something well done.
Example: All right! You won the spelling contest.
Synonyms: way to go
Ass is grass
Definition: The subject finds him or herself in trouble, to be in a bad situation.
Example: Mr. Kearny, your ass is grass! What did you do to my computer files while I was away?
Definition: Sane, rational, of sound mind.
Example: Be careful when you talk to Gary. Mter the car accident, he hasn’t been all-there.
All your eggs in one basket
Definition: Having all of your resources in one place, putting your money or hopes or future into one thing.
Example: You don’t want to keep all of your eggs in one basket. You might lose everything!
Etymology: ‘Eggs’ are delicate and if all of your eggs were in one container and that container was damaged, you might lose all of your eggs in one quick and painful moment.
Definition: In prison or jail, incarcerated.
Example: My brother Charlie tried to rob a bank, but the cops caught him and now he’s behind bars.
Etymology: Prison inmates are locked behind metal bars, which prevent their escape.
Synonyms: up the river, in the slammer, under glass
Definition: An important or prominent person in society, someone who commands a lot of influence and power.
Example: Those big shots on Wall Street think they can buy the world with their money…
Definition: To kill or murder, to assassinate.
Example: Igor got bumped off last week. The police have no clue who did it.
Etymology: When you ‘bump’ something, you give it a little push. ‘Off’ means ‘not on’. So if you ‘bump’ someone ‘off’, you push him toward the end of his life.
Synonyms: rub out
Definition: An episode of heavy drinking, a period of any kind of unusually intense behaviour.
Example: After losing my job, I was so depressed that I went on a three day bender.
Etymology: Comes from the 19th century sense of the word ‘bender’, which was used for anything great or spectacular
Bells and whistles
Definition: Excessive or unnecessary features on something, showy or flashy parts.
Example: My father bought a new computer with all the bells and whistles. I think it even makes toast.
Etymology: ‘Bells’ and ‘whistles’ make noise and attract attention, but they are not a necessary part of most things.
Synonyms: frills, extras
Bite the bullet
Definition: To confront a painfully difficult situation, to have a major problem in one’s hands.
Example: After my Jimmy stole money from my company, I had to bite the bullet and fire him.
Bring home the bacon
Definition: To earn money and support your family.
Example: My husband brings home the bacon while I stay at home and take care of the kids.
Etymology: ‘Bacon’ is food (a salty meat made from pork). When you have a job and make money, you bring food and other necessities home for your spouse and children.
Definition: To get someone’s telephone number.
Example: I need a date for tomorrow night, so I’m going to try to bust some digits tonight.
Etymology: ‘Digits’ are numbers and ‘bust’ means ‘break open’. So the phrase suggests that you’re getting some numbers from a source that has to be opened up.
Definition: Extremely tired, lacking energy, worn out from working too much.
Example: I was completely burned out after working on a big project for three weeks straight.
Etymology: When you are ‘burned out’ you have no more fuel to burn. You are without energy, like a candle that has consumed all of its wax.
Synonyms: wiped out, worn out, pooped
Definition: Not an urgent priority. To put something on the ‘back burner’ is to put something off until later.
Example: We worked hard on the project at first, but when a new project came along, we put it on the back burner.
Etymology: ‘The ‘back burner’ of a stove is where you put things that are slowly cooking and that you can leave alone for a while.
Definition: A troublemaker, someone who has a bad attitude and causes trouble.
Example: Emily is a real bad egg – she’s always starting fights and causing trouble.
Etymology: In this phrase, ‘egg’ means ‘person’ or ‘individual’. This is probably because the human head looks a lot like an egg. A bad egg, then, is a simply a bad person. There is a similar phrase to describe a good person – a ‘good egg’.
Definition: to stop existing, to stop performing as a business.
Example: A lot of Internet companies went belly-up in 2001.
Etymology: when a fish dies, it floats to the top of the water with its belly up.
Synonyms: to go under, to go bankrupt
Definition: To pass out, to lose consciousness.
Example: After running a 3:25 mile, David blacked out on the pavement.
Definition: Someone in a group or family who has a bad reputation, a misfit or outcast.
Example: Ted is the black sheep of our family – he dropped out of school and hasn’t had a job in years.
Etymology: Years ago, the wool from black sheep was less valuable than wool from white sheep. As a result, farmers were not happy when black sheep were born and considered them to be the undesirable members of the flock.
Definition: A term denoting importance or priority.
Example: You didn’t finish your project? No biggie, Professor Rolands extended the deadline.
Synonyms: big deal
Chew the fat
Definition: To ramble about something irrelevant, small talk, chatting freely.
Example: I’d love to sit here and chew the fat with you, but I’ve got a dentist’s appointment at 10.
Synonyms: shoot the breeze
Definition: To die.
Example: Old man Douglas croaked last week.
Etymology: ‘Croak’ refers to the sound that some animals make when they die.
Close your head
Definition: To be quiet, stop talking.
Example: Close your head, Rich! The professor is about to address the class.
Synonyms: shut up
Cut and dry
Definition: Something which is very obvious and clear, not requiring further explanation.
Example: Stop asking me questions – the instructions are cut and dry.
Definition: Loss of courage, fear.
Example: Lisa wanted to jump off the high diving board, but she got cold feet once she got up there.
Etymology: If your ‘feet’ are ‘cold’, you can’t walk or move forward very well – you are frozen in one place.
Definition: To fail or stop functioning.
Example: My computer crashed just when I was going to print my paper!
Definition: The coding placed on the hard drive of a computer that stores information about the user and makes it available to Web sites.
Example: My computer rings a little bell every time a cookie is sent to the hard drive.
Definition: Somebody who is likely to suffer negative consequences, an outlook that is not favourable.
Example: Dan is dead meat unless he can get an extension for his project due date.
Dime a dozen
Definition: Very common, typical or ordinary.
Example: Blonde actresses are a dime a dozen in Hollywood.
Dirty old man
Definition: A person who has an unhealthy interest in sexual matters, usually referring to an old man who is interested in young girls.
Example: That dirty old man in the park tried to touch me!
Definition: A weak individual who is regularly used and abused by others.
Example: Ned will never get anywhere until he stops being such a doormat.
Etymology: A ‘doormat’ is where people wipe their feet before entering a house, so someone who is called a ‘doormat’ is someone who gets ‘stepped on’ or abused by other people.
Definition: A homosexual man who dresses like a woman.
Example: The drag queens on the subway are wearing gold dresses!
Down to the wire
Definition: Until the very last possible moment, just before the end, almost at the conclusion of something, close to the deadline.
Example: The race was down to the wire and the audience was hushed in silence.
Definition: American paper money.
Example: It seems like Bill Gates has all the dead presidents in the world.
Etymology: American dollar bills are decorated with pictures of great American heroes, most of whom are deceased former Presidents.
Definition: One who is shot at with a gun is said to ‘eat lead’, as an exclamation, the phrase is directed toward the intended target.
Example: “Eat lead!” yelled the bank robber as he fired his gun at the police outside.
Etymology: A bullet is made of lead so when a gun is fired at someone, the intended target might be ‘eating lead’ – that is, bringing the bullet inside their body.
Definition: Spectacular, terrific.
Example: We had an epic party. It didn’t end till 7 a.m. the next day!
Synonyms: groovy, rad, cool
Easy as pie
Definition: Very simple, extremely easy.
Example: The job was easy as pie and we finished up an hour early.
Etymology: ‘Pie’ is a tasty, sweet dish that is easy to make and even easier to eat.
Synonyms: piece of cake
Eat your heart out
Definition: A taunt, be envious of someone for whatever reason, to cause jealousy.
Example: Phil is going to found the next Microsoft. Eat your heart out, Bill Gates!
Definition: Manual labour, hard work, usually indicates that not enough effort is being put forth.
Example: Put some elbow grease into it! That piano has to go upstairs to the third floor.
Definition: To lose one’s professionalism, to be overly anxious or paranoid, to lose control of one’s emotions.
Example: Don’t flip out just yet, you still have three days to finish your assignment.
Synonyms: spaz out, lose one’s cool
Definition: Quickly prepared food, usually served by large chains such as McDonalds.
Example: I’m sick of McDonalds – can’t we have something besides fast food for a change?
Etymology: ‘Fast’ means quick and ‘food’ is anything you can eat. ‘Fast food’ is food you order and get in a minute or two, without having to sit and wait for it.
Synonyms: junk food
Definition: A person who has great wealth and power, a tycoon.
Example: Many of the city’s fat cats eat at that steak restaurant on First Avenue.
Etymology: This term comes from the 1920s, when it was used to describe wealthy contributors to American political parties.
Synonyms: big shot
Definition: To indicate that somebody should proceed, give approval for continuing an action or taking one.
Example: If you have any questions during the lecture, don’t be afraid to ask. Just fire away!
Synonyms: give someone hell
Definition: Software available on the Internet at no cost, programs and applications distributed for free.
Example: A small business can save a lot of money by using freeware.
Foot in the door
Definition: An opening or particularly promising opportunity.
Example: Working as an intern is one way to get your foot in the door of a big corporation.
Definition: A student in their first year of undergraduate college education.
Example: I hate these frosh-they ask the stupidest questions and have the worst attitudes.
Definition: A detective or private investigator.
Example: Captain Harris assigned two gumshoes to the case.
Etymology: Refers to the rubber sole on the shoes of many police officers. The phrase is frequently heard in the movies, especially in older film noir detective flims from the 1940s.
Definition: A phrase meaning ‘leave now!’ or ‘get out of here’.
Example: Get lost, pal. We don’t need your kind around here.
Synonyms: scram, get outta here
Definition: To offer support, to give aid to someone in need.
Example: I’m going to get behind Robert’s plan and do everything I can to help make it work.
Definition: To proceed with something, to start or continue doing something, can also be used in the sense of ‘hurry up!’
Example: I’m going to get going on my paper and try to finish it by tomorrow.
Definition: A problem or error, a flaw that causes great confusion or trouble.
Example: Because of a glitch in hardware connections, my new computer game did not work.
Definition: Stimulation ofour skin cells by fright or the cold, causing visible patches to form and hair to stand on end, often used in the sense of being cowardly and nervous.
Example: That film was so scary I had goose bumps the whole time.
Definition: To make secret, to conceal something from others.
Example: Dave has really gone underground with his plans for the new computer.