Birmingham slang list – a locals guide

Whether you’re visiting Birmingham for a weekend city break, moving there for university or simply trying to broaden your Brummie slang knowledge, you have come to the right place. Today we share the ultimate Birmingham slang list – a locals guide. 

What is Birmingham slang?

The UK is known for its huge array of accents. Some are soft and melodious on the ear whilst others can sound harsh and cold making the speaker appear hostile and unwelcoming. Not only does each region have their own accent, but very often each region can have their very own words, commonly known as ‘slang terms’. Slang is defined as an informal vocabulary that is common in spoken conversation but avoided in formal writing. It is typically exclusive to members of particular groups and regions. Birmingham has a number of its very own slang words that do not tend to be used elsewhere in the UK which can make Brummies quite difficult to understand at times. 

Birmingham slang list

  • Bostin– a word used to describe something amazing or great in the same way as other colloquialisms such as ‘smashing’ or ‘cracking’. 
  • Gambol- This word is very specific to Brummies, a term used to describe a gymnastic forward roll.
  • Tip tops- A type of ice lolly, commonly known in other areas of the UK as an ice pop, popsicle, ice lolly.
  • Tararabit- This term is used when saying goodbye and means ‘see you later’.
  • Yam Yam- The name for those from the black country, the area just next to Birmingham. To an outsider these accents may appear similar but true Brummies and Yam Yams can hear the difference straight away. 
  • Bab- Another word for ‘hun’ or ‘love’, often used in an endearing way.
  • Ar- Means ‘yes’ to agree with something.
  • Babby- a young child.
  • Bonce- a head. 
  • Cack-handed- a clumsy way of doing something. 
  • Cob- a bread roll, known elsewhere as a bap, bun or barm.
  • Ee-yar- ‘here you are’, this is used typically when passing someone an object for example.
  • Ent- it is not. 
  • Fizzy pop- a fizzy drink such as pepsi, coca cola or lemonade.
  • Gully- also known as an alleyway, a cut through between houses or estates.
  • Island- a roundabout.
  • Myther- to pester someone.
  • Round the wrekin- This saying means “the long way round”, in the same way that “round the houses” is used more widely. It is another birmingham/ black country saying that I didn’t even realise was native to the area until I said it at university in Manchester and no one knew what I was talking about. 
  • Tea- dinner.
  • Town- The term used by people referring to Birmingham city centre. 
  • Wench- affectionate term for a young woman.
  • Bawlin- to shout or scream at someone.
  • Bost- used to describe something that is broken.
  • Mooch- to have a look around.
  • Mom- unlike the rest of the UK, us Brummies call our mothers “Mom” rather than “Mum”. This makes buying Birthday and Mother Day cards highly frustrating, as in the UK almost all cards will have “Mum” on them. To be honest, there have been times in the past where I’ve written over the U in ‘Mum’ to change it into an ‘O’ for Mom. 
  • Yampy- often used to describe a mad or daft person.
  • Lamp- this term can be used as an alternative phrase for ‘hitting’ someone. 
  • Got a bob on / got a cob on- if someone is in a bad mood they may be described to have a cob on. 

Birmingham slang pronunciation 

One of the key steps in understanding Birmingham slang is understanding the pronunciation of the dialect. To make it a bit easier to understand, we have put together some examples of ways in which Brummies pronounce English words differently.

  • The regular vowel ‘I’ is often replaced with ‘oy’ in Brummie. For example the phrase “I quite like it” becomes “Oy kwoyt loyk it”. Some say it resembles the same pronunciation of a Dublin accent which may be a result of the large number of Irish migrants who settled here when looking for work to escape the potato famine.
  • The ‘o’ and ‘a’ sounds in words such as ‘go’ and ‘day’ often sound lazy to the non-native. This drawing out of words is one of the reasons Brummie accents can be perceived as dumb sounding, unfortunately for us, it doesn’t reflect our intelligence- its just how we speak!
  • It’s important that you don’t confuse the pronunciation of Brummies with those from the black country who sound much broader. Examples of this include when  ‘you’ becomes ‘yow’ and the ‘y’ at the end of the word becomes ‘ay’ so lovely would be pronounced ‘lovelay’. 

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