Guide to American Slang

Guide to American Slang

Americans have some different ways of saying simple things. Here’s a guide to some American slang.


Ace: to succeed or do well

Beat it: get out

Blow or Bomb: to fail or be unsuccessful

Blue or Have the Blues: to feel depressed or sad

Break the Ice: make a beginning

Buck(s): dollar(s)

Burn the midnight oil: to study or work all night long

Bury the hatchet: to reconcile

By the skin of your teeth: just barely

Can: restroom or toilet

Chew the fat: talk with someone

Cool: good, pleasing

Cop: a police officer, also means to touch

Couch potato: a lazy person; one who sits and watches TV

Cram: to study feverishly before an exam

Crash: to go to sleep; or to show up without invitation

Dough: money

Down to earth: practical, simple

Dutch or Go Dutch: paying for your part of the meal at a restaurant

Face the music: prepare to accept the repercussions of your actions

Feather in your cap: an accomplishment

Get in one’s hair: bother

Get lost: leave

Get under one’s skin: bother

Give the cold shoulder: ignore

Give a ring: to call by telephone

Hang out: to gather in a casual and social manner

Hangover: the physical effects of heavy drinking (headache)

Hangup: a fear or phobia

Hit the books: study

Hit the road: to leave

Hit the sack or Hit the hay: to go to sleep

Hold your horses: be calm!

Hottie: a good looking man or woman

Jock: an athlete

Know the ropes: be familiar

Lemon: a bad buy or purchase

Let the cat out of the bag: reveal a secret

Mooch: to borrow frequently causing annoyance

Once in a blue moon: infrequent

Out of the question: unthinkable

Pass the buck: transfer responsibility to someone else

Piece of cake: easy or effortless

Pig out: to overeat

Pissed off: a crude term for angry

Pop quiz: an exam that is not announced

Pull the wool over one’s eyes: deceive

Rip off: overcharge or steal

R.S.V.P.: French for “respondez s’il vous plait” the formal reply to an invitation, usually by phone or mail

Shoot the breeze: to talk

Split: to leave

Slacker: a person who neither works nor goes to school

Spill the beans: to reveal a secret

Sweet/Sweetness: good, pleasing

Take a hike: Leave! (command)

Take a rain check: do at another time, postpone

Take for granted: to assume

The “Late” Mr. Smith: the word “late” is used to say Mr. Smith is dead

“What’s up?”: How are you?

Source: Brookhaven College

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