Disclaimer: This article contains lots of bad words. If you don’t want to read bad words, don’t click on an article about swearing.
I haven’t included racist or homophobic language. You should swear at someone because they are behaving badly, not because of how they were born.
Note: Don’t use these phrases in your job interviews and Cambridge exams. And be careful when using them on a first date.
So you are learning English. The language of Shakespeare. Of Dickens. Of Wordsworth and James Joyce. You love its beauty and majesty and you never tire of its power and precision. English sparks joy.
But sometimes you just have to scream at someone. Sometimes your computer freezes and you lose 2 hours of work. Sometimes your car won’t start and you’re already late.
That’s when you want to swear.
When I’m teaching my classes I almost never swear. I try to be a ‘good model’ of English so that students can safely mimic me. But when the lesson is over – I start swearing like a sailor.
When to Swear
- When you are frustrated.
- When something unexpected happens.
- When you want to make a sentence funnier.
- When today ends with the letter Y.
The 10 Best English Swear Words
The cornerstone of all swearing.
Basically you can and should use it liberally before nouns and adjectives.
- He’s so fucking stupid!
- It’s too fucking cold in here!
And before verbs.
- Fucking slow down!
- Can you please fucking shut up?
- Could you fucking pass the fucking salt?
And before other swear words.
- Where the fucking fuck is my fucking phone?
Synonyms: cock, prick, knob, tool (and a million others)
A dick is a penis. Obviously calling someone a penis has a negative meaning.
Why do you like Brian? He’s a total dick.
I mostly use it in the phrase ‘don’t be a dick’. It means ‘please behave with more class and dignity, like Anthony Hopkins in The Remains of the Day’.
The first time I told my girlfriend she was ‘being a dick’ she was NOT happy. But the next day she said, ‘you know what? I was being a dick. I’m truly, truly sorry.’
That’s how I remember it, anyway.
There’s shit in the sense of ‘this movie is shit‘, which means ‘really bad’. And there’s ‘a shit’ which is just like ‘a dick’ in part 2.
Note: If you want to get creative you can often add the suffix head to these curse words. ‘He’s a shithead’. ‘Trump is such a dickhead.’
But my favourite version is ‘little shit’, which is how I show affection to my cat.
My cat has his own schedule, and he doesn’t give a shit what I am doing. He wants to go outside at 3AM and be let back in one microsecond before I fall back asleep. He’s extremely demanding and everything has to be done just how he likes it. Otherwise he wails his fucking head off, scratches at doors – whatever it takes. But you can’t stay mad at him. He’s adorable!
Guess what that little shit did? He waited until I got in the bath to start demanding his dinner! He does it on purpose!
4. Talking Shit
Movies are shit, someone is a shit, and people talk shit. That means saying stupid or impossible things.
- Francis says we swallow 10 spiders in our sleep.
- As always, Francis is talking shit. That’s not true.
My favourite is to look someone in the eye and say ‘don’t talk shit’. The important thing is to put a space between each word.
Most swearing is based on religion. But if God didn’t want us to swear, why did he make it so cool?
You can say ‘Jesus’ almost any time anything happens. Your cat vomits on your new socks? Jesus! Your neighbour has a new haircut that makes him look like a fucking serial killer? Jesus! You drop a knife and it nearly hits your toe? Jesus!
The best thing about the word ‘Jesus’ is that it’s so modular. Modular means you can easily add bits to it. So if you want extra emphasis you go:
That’s literally twice as powerful as just saying ‘Jesus’.
But there’s more. One of the two great American inventions of the 20th century was stuffed crust pizza. The other was adding the letter H to Jesus’s name.
Jesus H. Christ!
Try it! It’s very satisfying.
If you want to get really creative with this one, you can try this:
Christ on a bike!
Yes, it’s real. People say it. Especially me.
6. Jesus Wept
We haven’t totally finished the Jesus theme. That’s because I feel ‘Jesus wept’ deserves its own entry.
‘Jesus wept’ is the shortest sentence in The Bible, and in the 1990s people started using it to express disappointment and/or annoyance. You have to put some negative energy into your voice as you say it.
Imagine your drunk boyfriend is trying to unlock the front door but he can’t get the key in the lock. You’re not angry enough to shout ‘stop dicking around!’ but you do want to say something. That’s where ‘Jesus wept’ comes in.
Or you’re watching your favourite football team and after 10 minutes they are 2-0 down and miss a penalty. You put your head in your hands and go ‘Jesus wept‘.
Because it’s a line from The Bible it’s much safer to use in public than those in section 5. If you say it in school and you get in trouble, you can say that you were just memorising scripture.
7. Holy Fuck
Take your basic ‘farmer English’ and add a hint of religious mysticism and you get ‘Holy Fuck’. It feels so smooth coming out of your mouth. Use it to express surprise and amazement.
- Holy fuck! That bumblebee is the size of a tennis ball!
- Holy fuck! That bitch is wearing a white dress to MY wedding!
- Holy fuck! The guy who wrote Chernobyl also wrote The Hangover 2!
8. God Damn It
This one is pretty mild these days (although technically you’ll go to hell if you use it), but it remains deeply satisfying to say. Use it when you’re frustrated.
- Ah god damn it! This machine is broken again!
- Who’s phoning me during dinner? God damn it!
It’s another one with fun variations.
- Damn it all to hell!
- Fuck this goddamnedcocksucking game. Seriously. Fuck it sideways.
A fuckwit is an idiot. A moron. An imbecile.
But it’s got the word ‘fuck’ in it so it’s much stronger than all of those.
You have to WARM IT UP before you TURN IT ON you absolute FUCKWIT.
10. Sod It
This is a very British way of saying ‘I’ve had enough of this’ or ‘I don’t want to continue’.
It’s too hot to do any work. Sod it, let’s go to the pub.
People often say ‘sod this’ or ‘sod that’.
As you know, ‘this‘ is used for things that are physically or emotionally close to you.
- We’ve nearly finished this IKEA wardrobe but there’s a piece of wood and 14 screws left over. I think we’ve made a big mistake.
- Sod this. Let’s call a pizza and watch TV.
And ‘that‘ is used for things that are physically or emotionally DISTANT.
- My boss wants me to work on Saturday.
- Sod that! Come to the lake with me and we’ll eat corn on the cob smothered in butter.
Let's Practice Swearing
Who is the most famous writer in English?
You, a cat, are having a nice relaxing day. Suddenly, this happens.
What do you say?
Come on, bro! Let your emotions out! Tell us how you really feel!
What did Karl (the guy on the right) say?
The other two sentences are 100% accurate (so if he said them, he wouldn't have been talking shit).
Pineapple is absolutely fucking disgusting. If I went on a date with Jennifer Lawrence and she ordered a Hawaiian pizza I would walk out.
Why is Eggsy so upset?
Nobody would ever react badly to watching Peppa Pig, and Eggsy's exam results were great because he prepared by taking online courses here at EFL Academy.
The correct answer is that he's watching Chernobyl. It's amazing, but holy fuck, it's hard to watch.
Let's Practice Swearing
Share story to unlock your results
Sweary Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Initialisms
FFS – For fuck’s sake. Great for showing disbelief. Trump said what?! Oh, FFS.
WTF – What the fuck? Multi-purpose. WTF were you doing in a hotel with our marriage counselor?
BS – Bullshit. Used when something is untrue. That’s BS! I never went to The Plaza Inn with Simon last night!
STFU – Shut the fuck up.
GTFO – Get the fuck out.
Fubar – Fucked up beyond all recognition. Used to describe a situation that has gone VERY wrong.
BFD – Big fucking deal. Who cares?
A Partial List of English Swear Words
Arse – Means ‘bottom’. Arse is British English and ass is American. She has a face like a slapped arse.
Asshat – A moron. An idiot. Jack is, and always will be, a prize asshat. If you marry him I shall never speak to you again.
Bugger – Basically a much milder version of ‘fuck’. You want me to work on Saturday? Bugger that!
Cow – A rude name for a woman. Drive on the left you silly cow!
Damn – Means all kinds of things, from ‘wow!’ to ‘that is bad news’. Here’s a picture of my younger sister. / Damn! She’s hot! / And here’s a picture of her husband. / Damn.
Git – Someone you don’t like. That Boris Johnson is a bit of a git, isn’t he? / Clean your room you lazy git!
A Bit Harsh
Arsehole – A particular part of a bottom. It’s ruder than ‘arse’ because holes are generally rude.
Balls – Testicles. Generally used to mean something bad. We put him in charge of the Lisbon project and he totally ballsed it up. He doesn’t have the balls to make hard decisions.
Bitch – Like cow, but cowier.
Bollocks – A very British way of saying ‘bullshit’.
Bullshit – An American way of saying ‘bollocks’.
Pissed – angry or drunk. I got pissed last night, and when I got home my wife was really pissed.
Son of a bitch – Child of a cow. That son of a bitch has parked in my space again! I’ll rip his head off!
Tits – Boobs. Lol.
Bastard – A bad dude.
Bellend – Another way to say ‘dick’.
Cocksucker – Someone who gives blowjobs to men. Still considered offensive even though more than half of the population do it. Not a word I ever use, but it has lots of strong harsh syllables in it, so you can really spit it in someone’s face.
Fanny – In the UK, a lady’s special area (rude). In the USA, a bottom (not that rude).
Pussy/Snatch/Twat/Minge/Beaver – Lady’s special area again. “When you’re a star you can just grab ’em by the pussy.” The 45th President of the USA.
Slag/Slut/Whore – A woman who sleeps with lots of men. There’s no equivalent for a man who sleeps with lots of women.
Wanker – A man who pleasures himself sexually. The implication is that he’s a loser who can’t get a girlfriend.
Cunt – Lady bits. For some reason this version is considered much stronger than the other variants. Calling someone a cunt is a good way to start a fight.
Motherfucker – This one is still considered provocative even though it’s used 400 times in every Hollywood movie.