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Language: Top 100 Cockney Rhyming Slang Words and Phrases

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Hot on the heels of our success with our Top 100 Best British Slang Phrases, we thought we’d explore the beauty of Cockney Rhyming Slang next.

Rhyming slang is believed to have originated in the mid-19th century in the East End of London, with sources suggesting some time in the 1840s. It dates from around 1840 among the predominantly Cockney population of the East End of London who are well-known for having a characteristic accent and speech patterns.

It remains a matter of speculation whether rhyming slang was a linguistic accident, a game, or a cryptolect developed intentionally to confuse non-locals. If deliberate, it may also have been used to maintain a sense of community. It is possible that it was used in the marketplace to allow vendors to talk amongst themselves in order to facilitate collusion, without customers knowing what they were saying. Another suggestion is that it may have been used by criminals (see thieves’ cant) to confuse the police.

Whatever the origins – there are many fun turns of phrases and we’ve put together the Top 100 Words and Phrases that we could find for your reading pleasure.

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Here’s an interesting lesson on the slang from locals in London:

Top 100 Cockney Rhyming Slang Words and Phrases:

  1. Adam and Eve – believe
  2. Alan Whickers – knickers
  3. apples and pears – stairs
  4. Artful Dodger – lodger
  5. Ascot Races – braces
  6. Aunt Joanna – piano
  7. Baked Bean – Queen
  8. Baker’s Dozen – Cousin
  9. Ball and Chalk – Walk
  10. Barnaby Rudge – Judge
  11. Barnet Fair – hair
  12. Barney Rubble – trouble
  13. Battlecruiser – boozer
  14. bees and honey – money
  15. bird lime – time (in prison)
  16. Boat Race – face
  17. Bob Hope – soap
  18. bottle and glass – arse
  19. Brahms and Liszt – pissed (drunk)
  20. Brass Tacks – facts
  21. Bread and Cheese – sneeze
  22. Bread and Honey – money
  23. Bricks and Mortar – daughter
  24. Bristol City – breasts
  25. Brown Bread – dead
  26. Bubble and Squeak – Greek
  27. Bubble Bath – Laugh
  28. butcher’s hook – a look
  29. Chalfont St. Giles – piles
  30. Chalk Farm – arm
  31. china plate – mate (friend)
  32. Cock and Hen – ten
  33. Cows and Kisses – Missus (wife)
  34. currant bun – sun (also The Sun, a British newspaper)
  35. custard and jelly – telly (television)
  36. Daisy Roots – boots
  37. Darby and Joan – moan
  38. Dicky bird – word
  39. Dicky Dirt – shirt
  40. Dinky Doos – shoes
  41. dog and bone – phone
  42. dog’s meat – feet [from early 20th c.]
  43. Duck and Dive – skive
  44. Duke of Kent – rent
  45. dustbin lid – kid
  46. Elephant’s Trunk – drunk
  47. Fireman’s Hose – nose
  48. Flowery Dell – cell
  49. Frog and Toad – road
  50. Gypsy’s kiss – piss
  51. half-inch – pinch (to steal)
  52. Hampton Wick – prick
  53. Hank Marvin – starving
  54. irish pig – wig
  55. Isle of Wight – tights
  56. jam-jar – car
  57. Jayme Gibbs
  58. Jimmy Riddle – piddle
  59. joanna – piano (pronounced ‘pianna’ in Cockney)
  60. Khyber Pass – arse
  61. Kick and Prance – dance
  62. Lady Godiva – fiver
  63. Laugh n a joke – smoke
  64. Lionel Blairs – flares
  65. Loaf of Bread – head
  66. loop the loop – soup
  67. Mickey Bliss – piss
  68. Mince Pies – eyes
  69. Mork and Mindy – windy’
  70. north and south – mouth
  71. Orchestra stalls – balls
  72. Pat and Mick – sick
  73. Peckham Rye – tie
  74. plates of meat – feet
  75. Pony and Trap – crap
  76. Rats and Mice – Dice (gambling)
  77. raspberry tart – fart
  78. Roast Pork – fork
  79. Rosy Lee – tea (drink)
  80. Strides ’round the houses – trousers
  81. Rub-a-Dub – pub
  82. Ruby Murray – curry
  83. Sausage Roll – goal
  84. septic tank – Yank
  85. sherbert (short for sherbert dab) – cab (taxi)
  86. Skin and Blister – sister
  87. Sky Rocket – pocket
  88. Sweeney Todd – flying squad
  89. syrup of figs – wig (sic)
  90. tables and chairs – stairs
  91. tea leaf – thief
  92. Tom and Dick – sick
  93. tom tit – shit
  94. tomfoolery – jewellery
  95. Tommy Trinder – window
  96. trouble and strife – wife
  97. two and eight – state (of upset)
  98. Vera Lynn – gin
  99. whistle and flute – suit (of clothes)
  100. Wonga – cash- can also be used in the context of gaming to place bets.
  101. Bonus – raspberry ripple – nipple

Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

jonathan
Author: jonathan

Jonathan is a consummate Anglophile who launched Anglotopia.net in 2007 to channel his passion for Britain. Londontopia is its sister publication dedicated to everything London.

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155 COMMENTS

  1. What I find funny is in my family we always used the phrase “Let’s get down to the brass tacks.” never realized where it might have come from.

    • Facts. Could be a reference to the seventies and eighties when a lot of people had brass tacks on their fireplaces or walls because it was the thing to have at the time.

    • Brass tacks were used by vendors or purveyors of textile material. They used the tacks, set into the counter, measure the cloth to be bought. The purveyors were usually tailors.

  2. What about ‘it’s all gon Pete tong’ – wrong

    I also use ‘your Avin a giraffe’

  3. Never heard sherbert for cab. It means a beer in my neck of the woods (as in I’m going down the rub a dub dub for a sherbert) but no idea why.

      • I think she meant no idea why sherbert meant beer. I think it’s derived more from Australian slang than cockney (although I know their roots are in the same place)

    • Leila, Sherbert Dip = Nip, which is a short drink of a spirit eg nip of gin/vodka. It shouldn’t really be used with beers but over time it has been used that way also

  4. Irish Jig is wig! There are several wronguns in the list including Plates of meat being the correct term for feet and Ball o’ Chalk (abbreviated to Ballo) being the correct slang for walk. Muppet!

  5. Ronald Macaulay has an interesting chapter in “The Social Art” (Oxford Press) on the practice of rhyming amongst Scottish children in counting out games. Thank you for this list. Quite interesting, although I doubt that they are exclusively cockney in origin.

      • J Arthur Rank = wa?k (as above)
        Scooby Doo = clue (as in he ain’t got a scooby)
        Skin and blister = sister
        Rock and roll = dole
        Nelson Mandella = stella (2 nelsons please)

        Didn’t see anyone translate the money

        Godiva = fiver
        score = £20
        Pony = £25
        ton = £100
        monkey = £500
        grand = £1000

        Now I’m gonna ave a double double with liquor and lashings of non-brewed condiment.

        Lovely jubbly

        EiS

    • I heard germans on the sweeney, as Hans is a german name. Keep your filthy germans to yourself 🙂

  6. Not all the entries are Kosher(meaning real) many are local to an area but not in general use throughout the East End of London.Arf

  7. Had to chuckle that it’s OK to say shit as the answer to Tom Tit, but the answer to Bristol City = breasts, when it is obviously Titty! LOL!

      • My Mum was Cockney and we were brought up knowing all the rhyming slang. I agree you don’t use all the words usually just the first one. When we kept stalling to go to bed we were told” go on get up the apples.” To say apples and pears would have sounded strange and not necessary because children knew the whole phrase.

    • Nigel Benn -#10…
      Chickens(dippers) or Yorkshires(rippers)- slippers.
      Ian Beales-wheeles .
      Swiss Navy- Gravy.

  8. With the great mutability of CRS the Khyber has recently morphed into the Mylene.
    As in: ‘Stick it up yer Mylene (Klass)’

  9. So as an East Ender myself, I’d say Bottle and Glass was “class”. a term applied to boxers for their skill and bravery i.e. he’s got a lot of bottle. Or, someone who’s taken an easy way out would have “lost his bottle” ….

    I never heard it’s use to describe an ars* …

  10. Being a 40 summit East Ender who’s dad, grandad, great grandad, etc, get the picture, were all born, Hoxton, Bethnal Green, Bow …. I got to say there are so many errors here and im sure some of these are just made up …. Trevor is right Bottle & Glass means Class … it’s Khyber Pass for Arse …. My Nan always called us kids Saucepan Lids and the reference to Sherbert, (learnt this at an early age, thanks grandad) back in the day you could buy a penny bag of sherbert that kids put with water to make a fizzy drink, Sherbert not actual slang was used for beer as beer being fizzy to, it also was used as a code word for having a crafty beer, so this misses, mother, girlfriend didnt find out.

    • You are dead to rights, most of the above so called cockney is really eastury slang made up as they go along, by posers. If they came up against a real geezer from the east end they would be lost for words. ie, Tables & Chairs “Mmm” the real McCoy, Is Apples & Pairs.= Stairs and like most of the real thing in speach you drop a word there for “Stairs” are known as Apples. So I said night to me trouble, nipped up the apples, took off me daises then on me uncle ned, put me head on the weeping willow and went a Bo peep,

  11. Bottle n Glass for class or courage makes sense. But I think a lot are corruptions of the original phrases. I always understood a Scotch to be a Gold Watch, probably due to it being a more expensive drink that only gentry, or persons with gold watches would buy, plus possibly it’s colour. Also Potato Mould = Cold was left out as in “It’s a bit taitters today”

      • It is Berkshire Hunt and the original meaning is very rude though berk is considered a mild term now.

  12. I had a geezer come up to me in a pub once and asked me if i
    was interested in buying a “kettle” it is of course a watch, from “kettle and hob” meaning
    “fob” as in fob watch!
    The whole point of Rhyming Slang is that you don’t say the whole thing, those that do
    are usually “outsiders” and are just playing at it…..

    • I was born in the East End of London 73 years ago. I’ve used rhyming slang all my life.Your right John you only use the first part of the saying.This makes it harder for outsiders to understand.Cockney slang was made up by East Enders but now everybody from everywhere is dabbling in it. I still stick to the original slang and not use any of this new stuff.

    • One I’v only ever heard once from a work mate from Walthamstow was Ice Cream for ice cream freezer = geezer.

  13. Im from East London Hackney marshes but i had to move down to shitty Cornwall with a Hampton whick Conner Mclaren whos from Scotland what a Brad Pitt hole lol

  14. We always used Bag of fruit – suit ( not whistle & flute)
    I guess thats from down under

  15. Terry McCan on Minder, referred to his home as his ‘DRUM’, anyone know why? How about a ‘quick J. Arthur’ for self pleasure?

  16. 24 is WRONG!!!
    Not Bristol City……it’s Bristol Tips (cigarette) = Tits
    “Nice Bristols!”

  17. up your ‘arris came from aristotle= bottle =bottle and glass=ass
    my current fave is to have a few Ednas =Edna Everage=beverage
    Rodger a Northener

  18. Queens Park Ranger- Stranger.
    Bag for life- Wife.
    Stoke on Trent- Bent.
    Roast Joint- Pint.
    Donald Trump- Dump.
    Barry White- Shite.
    Garden Gate- Mate.
    Alan Duke- Puke.
    Joe Cuddy- Buddy.
    Bag of sand- Grand.
    Some Dublinesse slang!

  19. I’m born and bred in London and very proud of it my parents are Irish and the Channel Islands I remember being very confused when we went down the market but sadly the cockney accent seems to be moving more to outside London. To me there is some mistakes in the list but end of the day cockney slang has evolved with the city it was made famous by

  20. what happened to 58 ??? lol Also,I use Solomon’s (Solomon Grundy-undies ! )…………..as an aside,we use a lot of these expressions up in Yorkshire so we can follow your lingo without too much bother nowadays ! lol

  21. I think an outsider (Me lol) would have to study lots of it to work out what the original cockney rhymes are. Then they would have the trouble of remembering it all to get through a cockney rhyming conversation, as you only use the 1st word. ?? I love the cockney slang, it’s brilliant. ??

  22. How can you use celebrities names in your old london rhyming slangwords when some of them were not even born yet in old london

  23. There is an episode of minder where Arthur says to Terry…”Have you got a Richard in there?” Obviously meaning a bird. (and as he says it she appears) Is this the real meaning? Richard 3rd =Bird rather than turd? (or is it the scriptwriters getting it wrong!)

    • Richard III does mean Bird (this also prompted the phrase “Dicky Bird” (Dick being a short version of Richard), but this is of course not rhyming slang.

  24. Raspberry ripple – cripple (as in ‘beat up’)
    Trouble and strife – wife
    Haddock and bloater – motor (car)

  25. Cockney rhyming slang was first used to disguise what you wanted to say to avoid the police. Also, Cherry ‘Hogs – was used iif you were going to the dogs, as in Dog racing.

  26. anyone knows whot means poop? An old geezer in essex keeps callin me poop but i didn’t understand whot he meant

  27. I have a piece of commemorative china, dated 1911 for the coronation of George V. It’s in the shape of a duck, and it was made by the Shelley China Co, a very upscale UK pottery. On the side is written: ‘A real prize Aylesbury Duck’. Bearing in mind the translation for ‘Aylesbury Duck’, was this some sort of gag gift? Or am I reading something into it that’s not there?
    Made me smile, anyway……;-)

  28. My ol dad always used the tom tit slang I remember as a kid, he wasn’t a cockney though coming from Hendon. I don’t thin proper cockneys use rhymning slang as much as we think!

  29. Gawd forbids …..Kids
    Jack the Rippers…slippers
    I suppose….Nose
    Uncle Ned…..Bed
    J Arfur…Wank
    Jam Jar…..Car

  30. I’m a third generation cockney and half of these are just made up modern words that can’t be true Cockney rhyming slang as the celebrities they’re referring to weren’t even born, let alone famous in old London where the cockneys lived. People who think they’re using rhyming slang make me laugh as they’re just talking bollocks and using any word that they can think of to rhyme and not getting the point that people weren’t supposed to understand what you were saying or it defeats the object of using it

      • It’s true what you say about modern slang, but it don;t matter! It evolves.
        Gotta be good that people still enjoy CRS even if it is made up.
        Also the old East End is now dying as more n more toffs move in, so it helps to keep CRS alive.

    • Just reading this link and explaining to my lovely Portuguese lady the concept of the original Cockney Ryhming Slang, I was born in Mile End in the 60’s and couldn’t agree more that most of the above is a load of bollocks.
      Too many ‘Mockneys’ clearly commenting on here as they wouldn’t know a real Cockney saying if it bit them on the arse.
      Anyone who used these terms back in the day knows you never used the second part of the slang…..’you having a Bubble ‘ ( bath wouldn’t be mentioned as any other cockney would know what it meant )
      The of course you have ‘ Bubble and Squeak which sometimes you needed to use to differentiate between ‘laugh and ‘Greek
      The new Mockney sayings stated above are indeed bollocks.

  31. Instead of asking the time of day, “what’s the time”, my father always said, “what’s the Harry Lime.” He emigrated from Leicester England to the USA in 1957, but I always assumed this was a known cockney phrase he learned when working in London.

  32. Can anyone tell me what a cup of Milo is please? I read it in a book set in 1970’s London. Thanks.

    • Nothing to do with rhyming slang, I’m afraid. “Milo” is/was a bedtime drink similar to Ovaltine. Not seen it for years.

  33. As a child we always used the phrase ” donkeys” meaning a long time – haven’t seen him in donkeys, which when I heard of cockney r s assumed meant donkey’s ears = years. We also used loaf as in use your loaf for use your head. I am sure there were others I just don’t remember now. But we weren’t Londoners this was Northern Ireland. So is it possible these entered the language through radio?

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