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A Comprehensive Guide to Colloquial Words & Examples

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Language is dynamic. Well, it has to be if it has to survive. The more a language evolves with every generation, the better chances for it to survive in a world where Latin and Greek have become dead languages. This process usually gives rise to colloquial words. How does this survival work? Well, let’s find out.

What are Colloquial Words?

People play around with languages and often come up with unique terms that just stick in the minds of millions. These unique terms are colloquial terms. Have you ever heard of the expression, “Spill the tea”? If you haven’t, then it’s understandable why you’d be confused. Why would anyone ask someone to spill some beverage?

Well, in this case, ‘tea’ doesn’t mean a beverage. It means gossip. Confusing, right? It’s hard to figure out how ‘tea’ means ‘gossip’ logically. There’s barely any connection between the two. But don’t go searching for meaning in colloquial words. You’ll end up empty-handed.

On that note, let’s finally the main question – “What are colloquial words?”

According to the online Cambridge Dictionary, they are informal “words and expressions” that are used more in everyday speech than formal writing.

Let’s make it simpler. These are words you’ll hear in daily conversations. If you’re on social media, especially Twitter, you will be bombarded with such colloquial terms. Sometimes, it feels like Twitter users speak ONLY in colloquial language. But worry not! Even if you’re not familiar with these words, this blog will help you out. Read on to discover more about colloquialisms.

How to Pronounce Colloquial?

The word ‘colloquial’ seems like a nightmare to spell. But it’s even harder to pronounce for some. Take a deep breath. All hope is not lost. The secret to pronouncing ‘colloquial’ accurately is to break it down into simpler segments. First, let’s break it phonetically.

In that case, you can read ‘colloquial’ as ‘col-lo-qui-al.’ Now, you know where you should break the word. Let’s move on to how you can pronounce it better. You can read it as ‘kuh-loh-kwee-uhl’. Listen to this YouTube video for the best pronunciation of ‘colloquial’ in American English.

Colloquial vs Colloquialism: What’s the Difference?

You’ll come across both the terms ‘colloquial’ and ‘colloquialism’ while exploring spoken words of everyday use. Are there drastic differences between the two? Not at all! Their meanings and spellings are quite similar. However, their parts of speech vary.

Putting it simply, ‘colloquial’ is an adjective. It is used to describe a word, phrase, idiom, or expression that people use in their daily lives.

Comprehensive Insights on Colloquial Examples You Must Avoid 

Get the hang of inappropriate colloquialisms in essays, case studies, dissertations, and other academic research papers by referring to the colloquial examples provided here. Take note of these suggestions and never miss out on delivering excellence in its best form.

Colloquial – Language Variation And Register Analysis In Hindi

Check This Language Variation

View Example

Example 1: It’s hard to understand what he says most of the time because he uses colloquial terms.

Here, the word colloquial acts as the adjective to the noun ‘terms.’ It denotes the informal characteristic of terms used in daily conversations.

Next, let’s move on to ‘colloquialism.’ This is a noun. When someone uses such informal terms in their speech, you can say, “Wow! They’re a master in colloquialism.” That’s the only difference between the two words.

Example 2: Use colloquialisms to make readers feel more engaged with your writing.

Example 3: Use colloquial words to make readers feel more engaged with your writing.

It’s that simple! So don’t get confused between the two. Putting it in a nutshell, ‘colloquial’ is an adjective and ‘colloquialism’ is a noun. That’s all there is to it.

Colloquial Expression List

Your grasp of colloquial terms can depend on many factors. These usually include your age, region, etc. But right now, your knowledge is highly dependent on whether you’re chronically online or not. The more you scroll through social media apps, the better your knowledge becomes. But let’s make things easier for you. Below, you’ll find some colloquial and familiar words examples. Review them thoroughly. A few entries might surprise you.

Colloquial idioms examples:



Lose your touch

Lose a skill you were once good in

Cut to the chase

Exclude unnecessary details and get to the point

Rags to riches

To go from being poor to being wealthy/to find success after coming from a poor background

To go Dutch

Pay for your own meal when going out to eat with a group

To be loaded

To possess a lot of money/wealth

Rule of thumb

An unwritten rule that everyone knows from experience

Find your feet

Adjust to a new environment

Food for thought

Something that one should think about carefully

Weather a storm

To endure a challenging time

Out of the woods

The worst part of a difficult situation finally ends

Colloquial phrases examples:



Spill the tea

To gossip

Lighten up

To relax

Knee jerk reaction

A sudden reaction

Head over heels

Completely in love

Get the ball rolling

To get things started

Tickled pink

Extremely happy or amused

More money than brains

Someone who is more wealthy than intelligent

Wrap up

To finish something

Pig out

To eat a lot

Screw up

To make a mistake

Colloquial words examples:




To be extremely disappointed


Used to describe a questionable situation


Used to describe a situation where two people have a disagreement among themselves


A term used by a man to describe a good male friend or acquaintance


Both words signify something that is too silly and predictable.


Both words signify a significant partner.


A newcomer or an amateur


Someone who is very smart


To skip out on something


To get caught red-handed doing something wrong

Sometimes, colloquial words can be region specific. The UK, the USA and Australia might have English as their first language. But that doesn’t mean their English usage will be the same. British people have their way of speaking. So do Australians and Americans. Let’s look at some region-specific colloquial terms.

British colloquial terms & meanings

  • Jiffy– To do something quickly
  • Minted– This is used to describe a rich person
  • Miffed– Used to denote being annoyed or slightly confused
  • Wonky– To denote something that is unstable
  • Under the cosh– To feel pressured or restricted about something

American colloquial terms & meanings

  • Hip– Used to denote something trendy and popular
  • Hyped– To feel really excited about something
  • Jacked– Used to describe someone who is very muscular
  • Recap– To repeat something to refresh the memory
  • Hangry– To be hungry and, therefore, angry

Australian colloquial terms & meanings

  • Footy– Refers to football
  • Brekkie– Used to denote breakfast
  • Barbie– Used when denoting a barbeque
  • Give it a burl– To try something out
  • Banger– To denote something that is excellent or of high quality

That’s all the words you need to know for now. These are just the tip of the iceberg. There are millions of such colloquial words that people use in daily conversations. But it’ll be impossible to remember them all. Instead, let’s see how you can use these colloquial terms in sentences. Check out the next segment.

Examples of the Use of Colloquial Phrases in a Sentence

You’re now familiar with different colloquial phrases. Now how about using them in sentences? It’ll help you understand how these phrases are used in conversations. First, let’s come up with sentences with the ones you’ve already covered.

1. Spill the tea

Meaning: To talk about something that is a hot topic, or gossip

Sentence: I got so mad at him for lying to his fiancé that I spilled the tea on his secret affair.

2. Lighten up

Meaning: To stress less about a situation

Sentence: You’ll going to push yourself to an early grave if you don’t lighten up your workload.

3. Knee-jerk reaction

Meaning: A sudden and instinctive reaction to a situation

Sentence: The supervisor’s knee-jerk reaction to being held accountable for his mistakes was to push the blame on his assistant.

4. Head over heels

Meaning: To be completely in love with something or someone

Sentence: She fell head over heels in love with the puppy.

5. To get the ball rolling

Meaning: To set things in motion or begin a chain of events

Sentence: The manager had to step in and get the ball rolling when the team couldn’t figure out what to do.

6. Tickled pink

Meaning: To be extremely happy or amused at a situation

Sentence: Martha was tickled pink when her dog showed off her new pup.

7. More money than brains

Meaning: To be wealthy but lack the intelligence to understand where to spend wealth

Sentence: Since he had more money than brains, his friends would often cheap him.

8. Wrap up

Meaning: To give the final touch to something or to end something

Sentence: I wanted to wrap up my work early since I had a train to catch.

9. Pig out

Meaning: To gorge on food

Sentence: I had starved myself for the entire day so I could pig out at the buffet.

10. Screw up

Meaning: To mess up something/to do something wrong unintentionally

Sentence: Ian lost his job because he screwed up an important project for a high-profile client.

Did those examples help? If you need more examples of uses of colloquial phrases in sentences, feel free to contact experts at You can learn more about appropriate uses from these professionals.

Things to Keep in Mind While Giving a Colloquial Speech

Does the thought of giving a speech give you heart palpitations? Don’t worry! You’re just the only one who hates public speaking. The thought itself is stressful. But wouldn’t it be easier if you could manage to make the audience like you? Now, think back to the tips you’ve read about speech giving. One of the most important (if not THE MOST IMPORTANT) tips is to keep the audience engaged. You want your listeners to like you.

But how can you capture their attention? Simple! Talk to them in their own language. Don’t let formality become a barrier. Suppose you’re giving a speech in front of teenagers. Surely you don’t expect them to follow Victorian English? Opt for a colloquial speech instead.

Tips to make a colloquial speech:

  • Avoid including sentences that are too long or complex.
  • Break up complex sentences into simpler parts.
  • Use colloquial terms to make the content more relatable.
  • Do NOT overuse colloquial words– use them naturally.
  • Understand the appropriate meaning and usage of colloquial terms.

If you force colloquial terms into your speech, understand them first. Go through the examples already cited in this blog. You’ll barely find any relation between the words or phrases and their meanings. There’s no doubt that using these terms can help you grab the reader’s attention. But one wrong usage can ruin everything. So, proceed with caution.

Colloquialism vs Slang vs. Jargon: Understand the Differences

There’s a misconception that colloquialism, slang and jargon are the same. The difference may be slight. But all three mean different things. Here’s where the confusion arises. Some slang and jargon are considered colloquial terms. But not all of them make the cut. So, first, let’s define the two.

What is slang?

Slang refers to informal spoken words that are usually restricted to a particular group of people. Sometimes, these slang words can be offensive when used outside of this specific group. The use of slang is defined by cultures, subcultures and even regions.

What is jargon?

Jargon is also used by a small group of people, just like slang. However, people are not separated by race, geography or culture here. Instead, they are separated by occupation. Jargon is, therefore, also called technical terminology. Such words are only understood by people of that particular occupation.

Now let’s compare the three together. Jargon and slang have restricted use. They are either restricted by culture, occupation, or race. Therefore, they act as identifiers. You would immediately know if someone belongs to the same occupation as you do if they use a very technical term related to it. But colloquial language has no barriers. It is used by people worldwide regardless of their age, race, gender, or occupation. Thus, it’s more global.

Appropriate Use of Colloquial Terms: Where Should You Use Them?

Congrats! You’ve almost reached the finish line. Throughout this blog, you’ve learned the basics of colloquialism. Now, you feel more confident about using them. But where do you use such terms? Note the definition again. Colloquial words are used only during daily conversations. But here are some additional pointers.

  • Do NOT use colloquial words while conversing with professors/employers.
  • Avoid using region-specific terms when talking to foreigners.

That’s all for the spoken segment. Now, colloquial language has become such a huge part of students’ lives that many often use it in academic writing. This is an ABSOLUTE NO. You cannot use colloquial words, idioms or phrases when writing paper assignment. That’s because academic writing is a serious affair. Turning to colloquial terms will give off the impression that you’re not serious.

Academic writing is serious. You must properly convey complex ideas to your readers in simple terms to improve their understanding. But you can’t rely on colloquial language to build rapport with the readers. Read on to know more.

Colloquial language is characterized by the following –

  • Excessive use of empty phrases
  • Inclusion of hasty assessments or impolite generalizations
  • Use of non-definable terms (sometimes not included in dictionaries)
  • Occasional offensive terms against another race or religion

Naturally, your academic papers cannot include such terms. So be cautious when writing assignments. Here’s a comparison of informal writing with colloquial terms and formal academic writing. Notice the difference carefully.

  • Informal writing (colloquial): Sandra’s writing was dope because she explored her life as an author in Victorian society.
  • Formal writing (academic):In the book, Sandra expertly explores the publishing restrictions and challenges women authors faced in the misogynistic Victorian society.

As you can see clearly, the informal way of writing is very vague. It leaves much for the reader to decipher. But the academic style of writing is crisp and detailed. Make sure you keep these vital details in mind. You don’t want to hamper your grades, do you?

Frequently Asked Questions

How are colloquialisms different from slang?

Ans. Colloquialisms and slang are both used when conversing in daily life. But there are undoubtedly slight variations. Colloquialism refers to the language used in daily conversations worldwide. Meanwhile, a specific group of people speak in slang. These people might be of different races, religions or ethnicities. Some of these slang words have made it to the colloquial lexicon. But not all of them.

Are colloquialisms considered acceptable in formal writing?

Ans. Colloquialisms are certainly not looked upon favorably when used in formal writing. These words or phrases are usually restricted to the spoken language. Using them in academic or formal writing undermines the seriousness of the formal tone. So, try to avoid them at all costs. Do not use words like ‘y’all,’ ‘gonna,’ ‘dope,’ or ‘ain’t’ and similar colloquial terms in your writing.

Do colloquialisms vary from one country to another?

Ans. Colloquialisms can vary from one country to the other. For example, there are certain terms used specifically in Australia. But Australians speak English. So do Americans and British people. However, there are many colloquial terms in Australian English that are restricted to Australia. For example, Australians use ‘barbie’ to denote ‘barbeque.’ Similarly, the British use ‘wonky’ to denote an unstable structure.

Can colloquialisms sometimes be misunderstood or cause confusion?

Ans. Colloquialisms can often lead to misunderstandings or confusion because of the language barrier. Sometimes, you might unintentionally hurt someone by using specific colloquial terms that have negative connotations. For example, words like ‘ghetto’ and ‘nigger’ are offensive to the Black community. So be careful of other’s cultures, races and religions before engaging in colloquialism.

Are there any benefits to using colloquialisms in conversations?

Ans. There are plenty of benefits to colloquialism. First, you can capture your audience’s attention if you speak in colloquial terms they are familiar with. Think back to all the boring classroom lectures. Imagine how relatable your professors would have been if they had used colloquial language. Its usage can also help you identify people of similar occupations, cultures or religions. It gives a sense of belonging.

What is the impact of colloquial language on language learners?

Ans. Colloquial language can make language learning challenging. There are no rules to this kind of language. It doesn’t follow logic, correct spelling or proper grammar. For new learners, it’s a nightmare. But once you become familiar with colloquial terms, integrating into a new culture becomes easier. You can converse fluently like native speakers once you master this.

Do colloquialisms have a shelf life? Do they become outdated?

Ans. Colloquial terms can have a shelf-life. They might lose favor among the people and be discarded. Sometimes, people stop using certain terms because they can be offensive to other races and cultures. So, you can’t expect a colloquial term to last forever. Language is always evolving. People will come up with new terms to replace the outdated ones.

Are colloquialisms exclusive to spoken language, or can they appear in written form as well?

Ans. Colloquialisms are restricted to spoken language. You cannot include them in written form. Colloquial terms are very informal. They lack logic, might not be correctly spelled or have proper grammar. Therefore, they are not appropriate for formal writing.

Harrison Walker

Hi, I am Harrison Walker. I am an avid traveller, a fiction blogger, and passionate writer. I hold a PhD degree in English literature and work as a full-time English essay expert for Over a span of 10 years, I have helped students from various universities with their essay writing requirements irrespective of the academic level and topics. I have written guest blogs for prominent academic writing sites that guide students on English essay and assignment writing. When I am not busy imparting knowledge, I am probably reading an impeccable piece of some classic literature or partying with my gang. 

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