Cockney Rhyming Slang from London

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The Cockney Rhyming Slang characters

How to vote

Each slang is ranked and rated by real Cockney speakers. Rate any slang as:

๐Ÿ‘ Classic

Widely used and recognised as cockney rhyming Slang from the good old days. Example: Apples and Pears.

๐Ÿ‘ Modern

It might be brand new rhyming slang but if you’ve heard it used, rate it Modern. Example: Pete Tong.

๐Ÿ‘Ž Mockney

Never heard of it? Sounds made up? Reckon it’s fake or a wind-up? What a load of old Pony: rate it Mockney.


Top 20 latest cockney slang

New slang is coming out all the time. We list it and our users rate it.

What is cockney rhyming slang?

Cockney rhyming slang is a humorous slang first used by cockneys in the east end of London and now understood widely in London and throughout Britain.

There are several theories about how cockney rhyming slang first got started. The most common theory is that it was invented in London in the 1840s by market traders, costermongers (sellers of fruit and vegetables from handcarts) and street hawkers. It was probably first used as a cant – a language designed to disguise what was being said from passers-by, especially the police. So it was a form of thieves’ cant.

Another theory is that it emerged amongst the London dock builders. Amongst these workers, local London workers took pleasure in perplexing the many immigrant dock workers, from places like Ireland.

And it is quite possibly tied into the patter and saying of itinerant chanters and ballad-singers who moved around the country amusing and entertaining the public.

So the first recorded use of cockney rhyming slang is unclear at the moment but the spoken form has certainly existed since the 1840s and 1850s.

Today, cockney rhyming slang phrases have entered the British lexicon, and many are still used in London and indeed all around Britain.

Although most academics agree that cockney rhyming slang is in decline, there are still many popular slang phrases in common use today. Every time you say “blow a raspberry“, “on me Todd“, “use your loaf“, “have a butcher’s” you’re using cockney slang and keeping a little piece of London’s history alive.

How does cockney rhyming slang work?

Cockney rhyming slang works by using an expression which rhymes with a word instead of the word itself. For example, the word “look” rhymes with butcher’s hook.

In many cases the rhyming word is omitted – so you won’t find too many Londoners having a “butcher’s hook” at this site, but you might find a few having a “butcher’s”.

The rhyming word is not always omitted so cockney expressions can vary in their construction, and it is simply a matter of tradition which version is used. Rhyming slang often includes humour. Many phrases make sarcastic or ironic references to their subjects. Examples include trouble and strife (for wife), Fat Boy Slim (for gym).

There are a few phrases which don’t follow the typical rhyming pattern, but are simple rhymes in themselves but are still widely understood as cockney rhyming slang. An example is giraffe for laugh – “Are you ‘avin a Giraffe mate?”.

What’s a cockney?

St. Mary le Bow Church Cheapside
St. Mary le Bow Church Cheapside

A true cockney is someone born within the sound of Bow Bells. (St Mary-le-Bow Church in Cheapside, London).

However the term cockney is now loosely applied to many born outside this area as long as they have a “cockney” accent or a cockney heritage.

The cockney accent is heard less often in Central London these days but is widely heard in the outer London boroughs, the London suburbs and all across South East England. It is common in Bedfordshire towns like Luton and Leighton Buzzard, and Essex towns such as Romford. 

Cockney rhyming slang for parts of the body

In this list of example cockney slang for parts of the body, you’ll notice that some expressions omit the rhyming word but others do not. There is no hard and fast rule for when the rhyming word should be omitted. It’s just tradition.

EnglishRhymes withCockney
FeetPlates of meatPlates
TeethHampstead HeathHampsteads
LegsScotch eggsScotches
EyesMince piesMinces
ArmsChalk FarmsChalk Farms
HairBarnet FairBarnet
HeadLoaf of breadLoaf
FaceBoat raceBoat race
MouthNorth and southNorth and south

(Full list of slang for parts of the body)

Who uses cockney rhyming slang?

Cockney rhyming slang originated in the East End of London. Some slang expressions have escaped from London and are in popular use throughout the rest of Britain. For example “use your loaf” is an everyday phrase for the British, but not many people realise it is cockney rhyming slang (“loaf of bread: head”). There are many more examples of this unwitting use of cockney rhyming slang.

Television has raised awareness of cockney rhyming Slang to far greater heights. Classic TV shows such as “Steptoe and Son”, “Minder”, “Porridge” and “Only Fools and Horses” have done much to spread the slang throughout Britain and to the rest of the world.

Is cockney rhyming slang dead?

Not on your Nelly! It may have had its highs and lows but today it is in use as never before.

In the last few years hundreds of brand new slang expressions have been invented – many betraying their modern roots, e.g. “Emma Freuds: haemorrhoids”; (Emma Freud is a TV and radio broadcaster) and “Ayrton Senna“: tenner (10 pound note).

How is Cockney slang developing?

Modern cockney slang that is being developed today tends to only rhyme words with the names of celebrities or famous people. There are very few new cockney slang expressions that do not follow this trend.

The only one that has gained much ground recently that bucks this trend is wind and kite meaning “Web site”.

Cockney expressions are being exported from London all over the world.

Here at cockneyrhymingslang.co.uk we get loads of enquiries from folks as far afield as the USA, Canada and Japan, all wanting to know the meaning of cockney expressions.

We’re continually adding new slang to the dictionary.

Who decides what goes into the “dictionary”?

This is a perennial question which our readers ask. Who decides what cockney slang is “authentic” and what is “mockney”? To one Londoner, a piece of slang they have never heard is classed as fake, whereas to another who heard it at work or in the school playground it might be pure authentic cockney rhyming slang.

The only real way to discern the genuine from the fake is to put it to the vote, and that’s why we introduced our voting system here at cockneyrhymingslang.co.uk back in 1998.

Since then we’ve been collecting the real verdict on what’s real and what’s fake, as judged by our website visitors.

We’d be the first to admit that a simple straw poll is not the same as a scientific study (and many academic studies are indeed carried out every year).

But what better way to celebrate the fun and inventiveness of cockney rhyming slang than to allow the hive mind, the global internet community judge what’s genuine?

All the same we have a few safeguards in place to ensure that the voting system can’t be gamed too much by those with vested interests. Our software discards multiple votes and makes sure that over-voting is not possible too.

The outcome is mostly a fair and balanced dictionary of genuine cockney rhyming slang.

We’re always happy to hear contributions of new slang, because there has always been new slang being invented. Newness and otherness is a fundamental aspect of cockney rhyming slang, despite some slang surviving since its very first days.

Why not contribute some yourself?

If you have any questions about how the dictionary works or how slang is invented and curated, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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