American slang words foreigners should know

rappers in the hood

Though both the UK and the United States claim English as their primary language, there are some phrases and slang words that vary between the two countries. If you plan to travel to America, knowing what certain American slang phrases mean can save you a lot of frustration and embarrassment. Refer to this list of slang words to help you sound like a native in no time.

Phrase Meaning Example
Couch potato Someone who spends all their time doing things on the couch I’m such a couch potato today!
Buck American dollar That movie costs ten bucks.
Going Dutch To split the bill in half I’ll join you for dinner if we can go Dutch.
Hang out To spend time together Let’s hang out at the bar after work today.
Hyped To get excited I’m so hyped up to read this new book.
Sweet Good or nice That’s a sweet new television show.
Zonked Totally exhausted This has been a long day and I am completely zonked.
Pants Same as trousers I’m wearing pink pants today.


Gravy Really easy This class is so gravy.
Cupcaking Flirting Those two are really cupcaking.
Take a raincheck Rescheduling or postponing I’m busy tomorrow so can I take a raincheck on dinner?


Jonesing Craving I am really jonesing for a big juicy cheeseburger right now.
Screw up Make a mistake I really screwed up that work assignment.
Uptight Stuffy My boss is so uptight sometimes!
Feeling blue Sadness or depression My baby growing up sometimes makes me feel blue.
Cram Study feverishly before a test I can’t go tonight because I have to cram for my physics midterm tomorrow.
Creep Weird or strange person My new next door neighbor seems like a real creep.
By the skin of my teeth Barely I passed that test by the skin of my teeth.
Bail To leave suddenly I hate this place so I’m going to bail early.
Give a ring Call someone on the phone Give me a ring when you’re ready for me to pick you up.
The cold shoulder Deliberately ignoring another person My son is angry at me and is giving me the cold shoulder.
For real To proclaim honesty I’m going to get it done today, for real.
Drive up the wall Irritate or annoy Those people who live above me really drive me up the wall with their loud music.
Plead the fifth Reference to the 5th amendment where a person doesn’t have to incriminate themselves in court. I don’t want to talk about your weight so I’m going to plead the fifth.
Wrap up To finish something I need to wrap up this project before I start on a new one.
Trash To mess something up Those raccoons really trashed my flower beds.
Bought the farm Untimely death My dog ate rotten trash and bought the farm.
Spill the beans Give away a secret It’s time to spill the beans to my mom about sneaking out of the house.
Shoot the breeze Killing time with conversation We have to wait an hour for the store to open so let’s sit here and shoot the breeze.
John Hancock A signature – references when John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence I need your John Hancock on this form before I submit it.
Ride shotgun Ride in the front passenger seat When we drive to the city I’m going to ride shotgun.

This list of slang words is definitely not comprehensive, but includes many common phrases you’ll hear when you spend time in the United States. American slang words can be fun to learn and even more fun to say!