Prison Slang UK - Decoding UK Prison Slang: A Comprehensive Insight

Prison Slang UK

Navigating the complex world of UK prison slang can be a daunting task for outsiders. This unique lexicon serves as both a means of communication and a cultural identifier within the prison system. In this guide, we delve into the origins, purposes, and meanings of various slang terms commonly used in UK prisons.

Why is Prison Slang Used?

The use of slang in UK prisons serves several functions. It fosters a sense of community among inmates, allowing them to communicate in a language that is uniquely their own. Additionally, slang often acts as a coded language, enabling discussions about sensitive or taboo topics without alerting prison staff. It also serves as a coping mechanism, helping inmates deal with the harsh realities of prison life through a shared vocabulary.

A Brief History of Prison Slang

Prison slang in the UK has a rich history, tracing its roots back to the early days of the penal system. Over time, this language has evolved to reflect changing societal norms, technologies, and cultural influences. Despite these changes, many terms have remained consistent, passed down through generations of inmates. This slang serves as a mirror to the challenges and intricacies of life behind bars.

Prison Slang

Prison Slang Terms UK - Commonly used Slang used by Prisoners in the UK

Common UK Prison Slang Terms and Their Meanings

  • Co-D: Short for Co-Defendant, often someone tried alongside you for the same crime.

  • Chokey: Refers specifically to a Category A prison, which houses the most dangerous offenders.

  • Bacon/Bacon Bonce: A derogatory term for a sex offender, often referred to as a “Nonce.”

  • Block/Box: Slang for solitary confinement, a punitive measure within prison.

  • Lifer: An inmate serving a life sentence.

  • Mash: A term for a mobile phone within prison walls.

  • My G: A friendly term used between close friends or allies in prison.

  • Nick: Another word for prison.

  • Nerk/nirk: A term for a stupid or unpleasant person, often another inmate.

  • Nicker: Refers to the prison chaplain.

  • Nonce: An inmate imprisoned for offences against children. The origin of the term is disputed.

  • Pompey: Northern England slang for prison, possibly originating from the notorious prison ship HMS Pompee.

  • Porridge: A term for serving a prison sentence, popularised by the BBC series of the same name. ‘Stir’ is a derivative term.

  • Screw: A term for a prison officer, possibly originating from Victorian punishment methods or the pattern of walking in a prison.

  • Slop out: The time allocated for cleaning out human waste from cells.

  • Snout/burner: Refers to cigarettes or tobacco, often used as currency within prison.

  • Squealer, Rat, Grass: Terms for an informant within the prison.

  • Stir: Another term for serving a prison sentence.

  • Shank: An improvised weapon used for stabbing.

  • Wagwan: A greeting, essentially asking, “What’s going on?”


Understanding the slang used in UK prisons provides a unique lens into the culture and daily life within these institutions. While some terms may appear trivial or humorous, they often carry significant weight and meaning for those who use them. Whether you’re a researcher, a family member of an inmate, or simply interested in the subject, this guide offers a comprehensive overview of the language used in the UK’s prison system.

Prison Slang Terms UK