British Word of the Week: Pants

You think this one’s easy right? Pants are, well, pants.

But not so fast; it depends which side of the pond you’re on.

pants in the uk

In the U.S., “pants” means trousers or slacks but those terms are very rarely used these days. It’s believed that we shortened “pantaloons” to “pants.”

However, in the U.K., “pants” means underwear and what Americans call pants are called “trousers.” Capiche? (It may make more sense if you think of “pants” as the shortened version of “underpants.”)

So when visiting the U.K., be careful using the word “pants” so to avoid embarrassing yourself, as this young lady did:

(story told in the words of one of my Facebook fans)

My daughter is a student at University of Edinburgh when she arrived there 3 years ago she had a memorable experience with “pants and trousers.” I still laugh when I think about it.

The weather in Scotland is without a doubt freezing cold and brutal for a young lady from Southern California who’s used to wearing sandals and tank tops all year round. She quickly learned to bundle up. She also learned that “pants” has two meanings.

The morning of her first day she paid no attention to the sleet/rain/high winds that were beating against her dorm window and decided on a cute little skirt and a pair slip on shoes. Fashion prevailed! Bad idea.

By the time she arrived at her first class she was soaked to the bone, and freezing. She walked in and introduced herself to the professor, they exchanged pleasantries and she told him she was really cold and should have worn pants. The professor turned a bright shade of red and asked her to please take a seat. A few of the other students looked at her kind of funny as well. She had no idea what had just happened…until the girl behind her leaned forward and told her.

Poor thing wanted to die!

The word “pants” is also used by Brits as a form of slang to mean “not good” or “rubbish.”

Example: “The last film I saw was pants!”


  1. KimberlyJ1792 says

    vern, my uk bf is amused how i have much difficulty saying the word “trousers”. To me it’s a creepy old man word…. going to take some getting used to.

  2. Stacey Burnaroos says

    Hey that is really funny re: your article about the new slang word “pants”. I have many relatives and cousins in England and Wales whom I am very close to and Keep in contact with them on The great Facebook!!!! And I get to hear some Great British slang, just yesterday I heard “Oh boo, that’s a bit pants, and “pants. Big hug”, and I wondered what the heck they meant, and now I know!! Lol

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