Cockney Rhyming Slang

Sometimes, for fun, I give my students things like this to ‘translate’ (answer at bottom of article):

Got to my mickey, found me way up the apples, put on me whistle and then the dog went. It was me trouble telling me to fetch the teapots.


What is Cockney rhyming slang?

Cockney rhyming slang is not a language but a collection of phrases used by Cockneys and other Londoners.

What’s a Cockney?

What Not To Wear photo
St Mary Le Bow church in Cheapside, London

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.

What’s Rhyming Slang?

Rhyming Slang phrases are derived from taking an expression which rhymes with a word and then using that expression instead of the word. 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 “bucher’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 convention which version is used.

Some 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.

English Rhymes with Cockney
Feet Plates of meat Plates
Teeth Hampstead Heath Hampsteads
Legs Scotch eggs Scotches
Eyes Mince pies Minces
Arms Chalk Farms Chalk Farms
Hair Barnet Fair Barnet
Head Loaf of bread Loaf
Face Boat race Boat race
Mouth North and south North and south

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 too 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! Cockney Rhyming Slang 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, eg “Emma Freuds: hemorrhoids”; (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 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.

This article is from where you can translate things to and from Cockney slang.

ANSWERGot to my house (mickey mouse), found my way up the stairs (apples and pears), put on my suit (whistle and flute) when the phone (dog and bone) rang. It was my wife (trouble and strife) telling me to get the kids (teapot lids)

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

One thought

  1. Interesting, Janet!

    When l was a child I was told off if l brought back home anything Cockney. We didn’t live anywhere near Cheapside but there were always some school children who would use Cockney expressions at school.
    It was a big faux-pas to use them at school or at home and when later on l was sent to a Boarding School in Ascot I was thankful to my parents for being strict on that matter.
    Now l do understand some Cockney and it doesn’t bother me as much as when I was a teenager. I suppose that moving away from London softened my feelings…

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