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Cockney Rhyming Slang 101: Discover London’s Secret Language

Today, we’re taking a detour from textbook English to explore one of the quirkiest and most entertaining aspects of British English – Cockney rhyming slang.

So if you’ve ever heard someone mention “apples and pears” and wondered what on earth they were talking about, you’re in for a treat!


What is Cockney Rhyming Slang?

Developed in the 19th century by London's East End communities, this unique dialect is a very playful way of speaking. A common word is replaced with a two-part phrase that rhymes with it.

The twist? Often, only the first word of the rhyming phrase is used, making it even trickier to understand!

For example, boat race rhymes with face, so boat can be used to mean face:

“She's got a pretty boat” means she's got a pretty face.

How Did it Start?

There’s some debate about the origins of Cockney rhyming slang. Some people believe it was a type of code, allowing London's working class to communicate in secret (especially around authorities like the police). Others say it was just a bit of fun and wordplay, used to add colour and creativity to everyday speech.

Do People Really Use Cockney Rhyming Slang?

Great question! Traditionally, Cockney rhyming slang was a vibrant part of everyday English in local markets and pubs. While not as common today, it hasn’t disappeared entirely!

You can still hear rhyming slang in certain contexts:

1. British pop culture: TV shows, movies, and books set in London often include Cockney rhyming slang for an authentic feel. Have you ever watched the popular show “EastEnders”? Or the film “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”? Then you’ll definitely have heard some examples!

2. Certain regions: In parts of London, especially the East End, you can still find people who use it, though typically in a more nostalgic or humorous way.

3. For fun: Many British people are familiar with Cockney rhyming slang and might use it jokingly or when they want to add a bit of playful banter to a conversation. It’s more of a cultural reference than everyday language now.

Common Phrases

Here are five classic examples:

Cockney Rhyming Slang



apples and pears


“I’m just going up the apples.”

dog and bone


“Give me a ring on the dog.”

trouble and strife


“Give me a ring on the dog.”

Adam and Eve


“I can’t Adam and Eve it!”

Rosie Lee


“Fancy a cup of Rosie?”

Ready to Give it a Go?

While you might not hear Cockney rhyming slang every day, understanding it gives you a deeper insight into British culture and history. Plus, it’s a fun way to spice up your English and impress your friends! Here are a few tips to get started:

  1. Learn the basics: Start with some of the common phrases above. Practice using them in sentences to get comfortable.

  2. Context is key: Pay attention to the context in which these phrases are used. It’s often informal and light-hearted.

  3. Don't be afraid to ask! Native speakers are usually happy to explain if you're curious.


Join the Conversation

At Brighter English, we love exploring the richness of the English language in all its forms. Why not bring some Cockney rhyming slang to our next Conversation Club? It’s sure to spark some interesting discussions and lots of laughter.

Book your trial session here:

Remember, language learning isn’t just about grammar and vocabulary – it’s also about connecting with cultures and having fun along the way. So, give it a go, and who knows? You might just find yourself using Cockney rhyming slang in your everyday chit-chat.

Cheerio for now!

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