COLLOQUIAL AND SLANG EXPRESSIONS
IN COLLABORATION WITH LEO G. PERKINS (MEIKAI UNIV. PROFESSOR EMERITUS)
|This page will list over 500 of the most common, most useful, colloquial
and slang expressions used by Americans in daily speech.
Many think COLLOQUIAL ENGLISH is substandard and unacceptable. It isn't! It's the most common, most natural, most communicative English.
Slang, while not used in formal writing (which is giving way to colloquial English) is very common in movies, television, newspapers, magazines, and ordinary conversation.
Sometimes a word may be considered either colloquial or slang (common and somewhat accepted).
We will include some expressions considered “taboo”(forbidden) as slang. Although these are commonly used by many people, they're vulgar, socially unacceptable, or abusive.
COLLOQUIAL ENGLISH is subjective, non-technical, personal, warm, human, friendly, and informal. It's everyday English. It's unceremonious and conversational. Most people should use COLLOQUIAL ENGLISH most of the time. It's characterized by idiomatic use, and even some “acceptable” slang. It's often elliptical ― it leaves out words and expressions and almost always uses natural contractions (short forms) instead of unnatural full forms. COLLOQUIAL ENGLISH is most common and most widely used. It's gradually replacing FORMAL and ADVISORY ENGLISH.
Let's look at them.
|ace in the hole||n. something important held in reserve ‐ held back to use to gain an advantage at an appropriate time. ―Jane's ability to play the piano was her ace in the hole; in case she lost her job she could be a professional pianist./Joe's owning the equipment in the recording studio was his ace in the hole - the others in the group had to treat him properly if they wanted to use his equipment.|
|all right||1. interj. “yes”; “okay.”― All right. I'll do it. / All right, you can go to the party.
2. mod. for sure; for certain. ―That's the dog that bit me, all right. / I was driving, all right.
3. mod. O.K.(okay) (Hyphenated and slang when used before a nominal)― I'm all right. / Ted's an all-right person. / That was an all-right movie we say last night.
|And how!||exclam. “I agree!”; definitely ―“Are you pleased with your pay raise? ” “And how!”/ “Would you like to get something to eat?”“And how!”|
(out of you)
|n. another complaint, word, or sound from someone (usually negative)―I don't want to hear another peep out of you! / Enough! Not another peep!|
|asleep at the switch||mod. inattentive to what one is doing; not alert; not paying attention―When it came time to ring the bell, the man was asleep at the switch and they had to remind him to ring it. / When they kicked the ball to Jack, he was asleep at the switch and didn't kick it into the net as they had expected.|
|asshole||(offensive) 1. the anus ―The nurse stuck a thermometer up his asshole. / I have a sore asshole from
2.n. an obnoxious person― That teacher is an asshole. / My neighbor is really an asshole. He treats everyone badly.
|at a snail's pace||mod. very slowly ― The committee is working on the new program at a snail's pace. / The economy is recovering at a snail's pace.|
|phr. back to the beginning; starting all over again― We thought we were doing well, but the plan won't work. We're back to square one./ Let's see if we can modify the plan without going all the way back to square one.|
|bad-mouth||1. tr.v. speak badly of someone or something ― The boy was bad-mouthing his teacher. / I won't stand for you bad-mouthing y friend./ That guy bad-mouths everyone who doesn't agree with him.
2. n. someone who speaks badly of someone or something ― Sachiko is such a bad-mouth. / There are too many bad-mouths in the world.
|badass||1. mod. tough; bad; belligerent― His uncle is a badass cop. / Stop acting like a badass gangster.
2. n. tough guy; belligerent, arrogant person (usually a male)― Why do you have to be such a badass all the time? / That guy over there is really a badass.
1. n. hard task requiring hard word - originally for males - now for either sex― This job the boss gave me is a real ball-breaker. / That problem is a real ball-breaker.
2. n. hard or cruel boss ― Mr. Thomas is a real ball-breaker. He makes his employees work like slaves. / The solders told me their sergeant is a real ball-breaker.
3. n. someone who is threatening or abusive―That woman is a real ball-breaker. She mistreats the people who work for her. That prison guard is a ball-breaker. No one likes him.
|ball is in
|phr. someone's turn, move or play (always with the) ― I did what I was supposed to do. Now the ball is in your court. / You have to get the paper published. / The prosecuting attorney made several strong accusations. The ball was now in the defense attorney's court.|
|baloney||n. nonsense (also as an exclamation) ― What you said is a lot of baloney. / “You have to work on this report.”“Baloney! That's not my responsibility!” / What they told you is (a bunch of ) baloney.|
|bamboozle||tr.v. to deceive someone; confuse someone. ― That slick salesman tried to bamboozle me. / The woman bamboozled the old man out his life's savings. / I know what I'm doing. Don't try to bamboozle me.|
|bananas||(often with “go”) 1. mod. crazy ― That noise is driving me bananas. / That guy is bananas. / What she says make any sense. 2. mod. enthusiastic ― The audience went bananas over the singer's performance. / The boys were bananas when the man gave them each twenty dollars.|
||1.n. bit of excitement; a thrill; some amusement―We got a bang at the party. / I got a bang out of seeing the team beat the champions.
2.n. degree of potency [strength] of the alcohol in liquor ―This whiskey has quite a bang. / This wine has lost its bang.
|bare-assed||mod. naked (Potentially offensive)―I saw some bare-assed boys swimming in the pond.|
|barrel ass||v. move or drive carelessly or fast (Potentially offensive)―The driver was barreling ass at over a hundred kilometers an hour. /
The boy got a phone call and barreled ass out of the building.
|barrel of fun||n. a lot of fun;unusual amount of fun―Jack is a real barrel of fun. I always have a good time when I go somewhere with him. / We had a barrel of fun at your party.|
|bash||1.n. wild party;night on the town―That was sure a big bash last night. I drank so much I couldn't stand up.
/ They're having a big bash at the Foreign Correspondent's Club tomorrow
2.v. to party; celebrate―Let's bash tonight to celebrate our graduation. / I'm not a person who likes to bash.
|bashing||n. criticizing; defaming (combining form that follows the name of the person or thing being criticized)―Many foreigners are guilty of Japan-bashing. / Many professors are guilty of college-bashing.|
|basket case||n. person who is a nervous wreck (formerly meant a totally disabled person) ― After the entrance examination the student was a basket case. / Having a bunch of children can make a person a basket case.|
|bear||n. very hard task―This job is a real bear. / Cutting down that old tree was a real bear.|
|beat||1.mod. exhausted; worn-out;very-tired―I'm beat from cleaning up the garage. / The whole team was beat after that
2.mod. down and out; ruined―This suit is really beat. I don't need it any more. / The tramp looked really beat.
3.n. area a police officer, news reporter, etc. is assigned to cover―The police carefully checked to see that every store on his beat was safe. / The news reporter was assigned to the waterfront beat.
4.n. in music, the rhythm ― especially the bass―Man, that's a great orchestra. Just listen to that beat./ That song is all right, but it doesn't have much of a beat.
|Beat it!||exclam. “Get out!”; “Go away!”―Don't bother me. Beat it! / I don't want you around. Beat it!|
one's brains out
(to do something)
|phr. work hard at a task or to do something― I'm tired of beating my brains out trying to help students who don't want to learn. / We've been beating our brains out trying to find an easy way to get students to study.|
|beat someone [something]
|1.tr.v. outdistance someone; perform better than someone―We need to beat the other companies out to get the contract. / My son beat
out the other runners in the race.
2.tr.v. type something or play something on the piano―Give me your draft. I'll beat your paper out for you in a few minutes on my typewriter. / Mary beat out a fast tune on the piano.
|1. tr.v. beat someone severely ―My dad threatened to beat my brains out if I don't study./ That thug nearly
beat the man's brains out.
2.tr.v. drive oneself hard (to accomplish something)―I beat my brains out all day at the office, so I'm tired when I get home./ We've been beating our brains out trying to come up with a better way to schedule first year students.
|beat up||mod. visibly worn; shabby; in bad condition―This hat is all beat up. / My coat is too beat up to wear to the party. / This car is all beat up.|
|beats me||phr. I don't know―“When will they get here?” “Beats me!” / It beats me how he can live on such a low income.
|beef||n. complaint. Margaret had a beef about how little money they gave to the contest judges / Don't tell me your trouble. If you have a beef, take it up with the authorities.|
|behind the eight ball||mod. in trouble; in a weak or losig situation. Everyone turned their papers in on time except me and I'm reallu behind the eight ball with the teacher. / Jack told everyone about my being late and it put me behind the eight ball.|
|bent out of shape||mod. mad; insulted; indignant; upset You shouldn't get bent out of shape just because I used your pencil. / Laruy was bent out of shape because he wasn't invited to the party.|
|big deal||n something really important. Don't make such a big deal out of your passiing the test. Everyone passed it. / Henry sold several computers last month to a trading company. It was really a big deal.|
|big mouth||1. n. person who talks too much or too loudly; someone who tells secrets Janet
is really a big mouth. She talks all the time. / Tell that big mouth over
there to shut up.
2. tr. v. spread secrets around How come Tim always big mouths everyone around? / Don't big mouth what I told you.
|big of someone||mod. generous of someone; nice of someone It was reallt big of you to help me with my paper. / It was big of the teacher to give me another chance to finish the assingmentl / Helping that poor crippled dog was big of that man.|
|big shot||1. n. very important person That man over there is really a big shot. He's a high government official. / If you keep working hard someday you can be a big shot.
2. mod. mighty; over-bearing; overly-important Your big-shot title doesn't mean anything to me. /That man is full of big-shot ideas.
|big talk||1. n. bragging; exaggerated claims I've heard nothing but big talk from him
since he got here. / Enough of your big talk. get to work and show me what
you can do.
2.tr.v. boss others around Don't come in here and start big talking everone. You aren't our boss. / That woman tried to big talk the two men.
|big wheel||n. very important person Mr. Smith is a big wheel in the United Nations. / Ken is a big wheel in the city government. / My brother's a big wheel.|
|bigheaded||mod. conceited; filled with self-importance Don't get bigheaded, but I think you're the top teacher in the department. / The new worker sure is bigheaded.|
|bitch box||n. loudspeaker, especially one announcing orders or instructions The bitch box at the local police station was making so many loud announcements I couln't sleep. / The teacher paged the student ov er the school bitch box.|
|blow||1.tr.v. leave (someplace) in a hurry I have an appointment. I have to blow. / If you're looking for Hank, he blew this place an hour ago.
2.tr.v. ruin something; ruin an opportunity You had a chance to make some money and you blew it. / Jerry had a chance to get a scholarship, but he blew it.
3. n. setback; attack Losing the race was a real blow to Tom's self confidence. / Losing the championship was a real blow to the teacm.
4. tr.v. waste money; spend money; lose money We blew a lot of money drinking last night. / Jack blew all his pay in a poker game.