Colloquialism: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know what a colloquialism is? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on colloquialisms, including the definition, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What is a colloquialism?

According to Collins English Dictionary, a colloquialism is a word or phrase that is appropriate to conversation and other informal situations, such as a slang term in everyday speech. This does not have the characteristic of formal English. The pronunciation of colloquialism is kəˈləʊkwɪəˌlɪzəm. These are often used by English speakers. Colloquial names for things are a part of ordinary natural language. They are prominent in subcultures and specific social groups like teenagers, locations like Australia or the United States, as well as by authors like Shakespeare and in narrative novels like the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain or Holden Caulfiels in The Catcher in the Rye. In British English and American English, there are different colloquialisms and informal words that are used by a native speaker. Profanity could also be considered colloquial language, jargon, dialect, dialogue, or informal speech.

Many different languages also contain words that mean colloquialism. You may notice that some of these translations of colloquialism look and sound similar to one another. These are called cognates, which are words and phrases in different languages that likely have the same root or language of origin, causing them to sound the same. The below list of translations of colloquialism is provided by Word Sense

  •  Tagalog: pansalitaan‎
  •  Greek: κοινολεξία‎ (fem.)
  •  Maori: kīwaha‎
  •  German: Gemeinsprache‎ (fem.), Umgangssprache‎ (fem.), Umgangssprachausdruck‎ (masc.), Alltagssprache‎ (fem.), volkstümlicher Sprachgebrauch‎ (masc.)
  •  Mandarin: 口語‎, 口语‎ (kǒuyǔ), 俗語‎, 俗语‎ (súyǔ), 白話‎, 白话‎ (báihua)
  •  Finnish: arkikielen ilmaus‎, puhekielen ilmaus‎
  •  Japanese: 口語表現‎ (こうごひょうげん, kōgo hyōgen), 俗語‎ (ぞくご, zokugo), 口語‎ (こうご, kōgo)
  •  Russian: просторе́чие‎ (neut.), разгово́рное выраже́ние‎ (neut.)
  •  Swedish: slang‎, talspråk‎
  •  Arabic: عَامِّيَّة‎ (fem.), (Western Arabic states) دَارِجَة‎ (fem.)
  •  Spanish: expresión coloquial‎ (fem.), vulgarismo‎ (masc.)
  •  French: expression familière‎ (fem.)

What are examples of colloquialisms?

A colloquialism can be used in many different contexts in the English language. Trying to use a word or literary technique in a sentence is one of the best ways to memorize what it is, but you can also try making flashcards or quizzes that test your knowledge. Try using this term of the day in a sentence today! Below are a couple of examples of colloquialisms that can help get you started incorporating this tool into your everyday use.  Take a look at these colloquialism examples from Your Dictionary and see how many you know! 

  •  Swag – a sleeping bag
  •  Chirping – making fun of or taunting someone
  •  Whinge – to whine and complain
  •  Flake – a person who cancels plans regularly or the act of regularly canceling plans
  •  Click – a kilometer
  •  Pop, Coke – soda, soft drink
  •  Blimey – exclamation of surprise
  •  Pull someone’s leg – joke
  •  Bomb – to do terribly on a test
  •  Dodgy – something less than safe or secure
  •  Anorak – someone who is a little bit of a geek with expertise usually in an obscure niche
  •  Brilliant – something that’s really great
  •  Lurgy – an illness with symptoms like a cold or flu
  •  Skive – to skip work or school
  •  Cheers – thank you
  •  Chuffed – proud or excited
  •  Bottle-o – a liquor store
  •  Mongrel – a person who is unkind or troublesome
  •  Serviette – a napkin
  •  Swot – a very serious, possibly geeky, student
  •  Posh – something or someone that is very fancy
  •  Keener – someone who tries too hard to win favor
  •  Score – to get what you want
  •  Chockablock – something that is completely filled
  •  Tosh – something that’s untrue
  •  Pencil crayons – colored pencils
  •  Knackered – totally exhausted
  •  Rapt – really pleased
  •  Smarmy – smug or snobby with a false earnestness
  •  Gong show – an event that gets out of control
  •  Codswallop – something made-up or not true
  •  Skid – a kid from a poor family
  •  Brolly – an umbrella
  •  Gobsmacked – completely surprised
  •  Dog’s dinner – a big mess, often used to describe a situation
  •  Rubbish – an exclamation meaning something is untrue or of poor quality
  •  Raincheck – a promise to reschedule plans that had to be canceled
  •  Furphy – unlikely stories or rumors
  •  Podunk – used to describe a small town
  •  Flat out – extremely busy
  •  Kerfuffle – a difference of opinion that causes a fuss
  •  Cobber – a good friend
  •  Arvo – afternoon
  •  Pea souper – a very foggy day
  •  Ride shotgun – to sit in the front passenger seat of a car
  •  Woop woop – a town in the middle of nowhere
  •  Boot – the trunk of a car
  •  Strop – a bad mood or sulk
  •  Poppycock – something ridiculous and possibly untrue
  •  Eh or Hey – used at the end of a sentence to signal a check for agreement
  •  Deadset – something that is true
  •  Chinwag – a chat
  •  Ballpark – used to describe something that is close to accurate
  •  Cattywampus – a crooked thing
  •  Toque – a warm cap or beanie, rhymes with “duke”
  •  Trash – to destroy something
  •  Ace – word to describe something excellent
  •  Bludger – a lazy person
  •  Cheeky – to be overly familiar or bold, sometimes in an endearing way
  •  Bloke – a regular man or “guy”
  •  Lemon – a purchase that is unreliable and has many problems
  •  Gutted – horribly disappointed

What are other literary techniques and devices?

There are many different grammatical and literary techniques and devices that you might see when you are reading poetry or prose. Knowing these devices is very important because they are always used in writing or speech for some purpose. Knowing these devices can help readers and listeners understand the speaker or author’s deeper meaning and why they are using such a device. Take a look at the below list of literary devices from Reedsy and see how many you know! Then try researching ones that are unfamiliar to you. 

  •  Dramatic irony
  •  Frame story
  •  Chiasmus
  •  Tautology
  •  Soliloquy
  •  Exposition
  •  Hypophora
  •  Alliteration
  •  Allusion
  •  Foreshadowing
  •  Synecdoche
  •  Isocolon
  •  Onomatopoeia
  •  Repetition
  •  Tragicomedy
  •  Cumulative sentence
  •  Anachronism
  •  Aphorism
  •  Zoomorphism
  •  Hyperbole
  •  Anthropomorphism
  •  Juxtaposition
  •  Anaphora
  •  Malapropism
  •  Euphemism
  •  Flashback
  •  Simile
  •  Allegory
  •  Polysyndeton
  •  Paradox
  •  In Medias Res
  •  Motif
  •  Tone
  •  Irony
  •  Point of view
  •  Oxymoron
  •  Anastrophe
  •  Metonymy
  •  Personification
  •  Litotes
  •  Archetype
  •  Imagery
  •  Symbolism
  •  Tmesis
  •  Satire

Overall, the word colloquialism means a form of informal speech used from a specific region or subculture. 


  1. 45+ Literary Devices and Terms Every Writer Should Know | Reedsy 
  2. Colloquialism | Collins English Dictionary
  3. Colloquialism Examples | Your Dictionary
  4. Colloquialism | Word Sense