Our Mini-Guide to British Sayings

English might be a global language but that doesn’t mean it’s not sometimes tricky to understand. The English language is littered with idioms and funny sayings. Their literal meanings can seem strange if you’re not familiar with what they represent. Here are a few of our favourites and their meanings for the next time you find yourself confused…


1. “It’s raining cats and dogs!”

When a Brit says this to you, there’s no need to run for cover from falling animals; it just means there’s some heavy rainfall outside. This is probably the most common phrase you’ll here because, in case you hadn’t noticed, it rains a lot in Britain!

2. “Break a leg”

If you hear this phrase said, nobody is wishing anyone ill health. In fact, it means the opposite and is a way of wishing somebody good luck in the theatre industry. With several theatres in Nottingham, this is a good phrase to be aware of.


3. “A few sandwiches short of a picnic”

This phrase probably sounds the most stereotypically British. Mentioning sandwiches and a picnic; all that’s missing is a cup of tea! In all seriousness, though, you might use this to describe someone who hasn’t got a lot of common sense.

4. “Feeling under the weather”

This saying is a metaphor for explaining that someone is unwell. Be careful, though, because someone who is feeling completely fine cannot be described with the opposite of being “over the weather”!


5. “Breaking the ice”

This one refers to starting a conversation with someone you don’t know very well or even at all. I assume it relates to the idea of there being a coldness to someone you don’t know very well.

6. “Spill the beans”

This is a common phrase among students, especially when catching up after a social event. There’s no need to grab your nearest can of baked beans here. Just make sure to tell your friends all the gossip you know!


7. “Sitting on the fence”

If somebody says this to you, they want you to make up your mind and stop being indecisive. Fortunately, you don’t actually have to sit on a fence so there’s no need to worry about getting a splinter in an uncomfortable place!

8. “It’s a piece of cake”

A few of our sayings revolve around food, which says a lot about the priorities of the British! This saying refers to something being really easy, so, whatever action your friend is telling you is “a piece of cake”, it might not be a tasty experience, but it shouldn’t be difficult to do.


9. “To make a dog’s dinner”

This idiom refers to another of Britain’s favourite things: dogs! But, unluckily, if you’re seen to be “making a dog’s dinner of something” then you’re probably not doing the job very well. Sorry to break the bad news!

10. “Not my cup of tea”

Whoever says that, is surely not talking about the beloved British beverage, so don’t worry about having over brewed the tea. This phrase merely means that what you are talking about is not for them. For example, horror movies are not my cup of tea. 

Hopefully this breakdown of common sayings will come in useful for you. 
Get in touch with us if you come across any more odd phrases and we might make a sequel to this blog post!

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