Strictly British

U.S.: Briefs, underwear, underpants. In the U.K. the term "trousers" is used to refer to the outer garments covering the legs (a term that is also used in the U.S. but is less common there).

  • They were temporarily detained by Peeves, who had jammed a door on the fourth floor shut and was refusing to let anyone pass until they set fire to their own pants... (HBP18)

A kind of hard candy; can also be used to refer to something like a cough drop.

A sort of pie with a crimped, thick short pastry crust, full of chopped and seasoned meat and potatoes. The idea originated in Cornwall (hence, Cornish Pasties), where wives of miners would fill the pastry case and make the crust into a handle that could be held in dirty hands, whilst eating. Often, one end of the pie would be filled with fruit, to serve as a dessert. The word 'pasty' is derived from paste/pasta = paste. Not to be confused with skimpy breast coverings!

  • "Go on, have a pasty," said Harry (PS6)

Peaked, sickly-looking.



An early form of bicycle with a very large front wheel and a small rear wheel (NSOED).
If this form of bicycle is completely unfamiliar to you, we recommend DVDs of the U.K. television series WEB LINKThe Prisoner - a stylized penny-farthing appeared on the badge of every inhabitant of the Village. Be seeing you -

pepper pot
U.S: pepper shaker.

  • It felt like being in a giant pepper pot (DH20)

A stupid person or a fool (NSOED).

U.S.: playing field.

  • And then a deep, booming gong sounded somewhere beyond the woods, and, at once, green and red lanterns blazed into life in the trees, lighting a path to the pitch (GF7) (U.K. edition only)

"Plaster" used in this sense is roughly equivalent to a bandage or band-aid, often with some sort of medicine in/on it.

A type of long, wide knickerbockers popular among modern golfers.

Affectionate term used for a small child, from "poppet," which is a kind of a puppet or doll.

Scottish breakfast dish of oatmeal mixed with water and simmered until it is creamy. Can be served with sugar, honey, or salt, according to preference. Eaten throughout Britain.

  • His face went from red to green faster than a set of traffic lights. And it didn't stop there. Within seconds it was the grayish white of old porridge.
    - Vernon Dursley, reading the first letter from no one (PS3)

  • "What have we got today?" Harry asked Ron as he poured sugar on his porridge.
    - Gryffindors at breakfast (PS8)


pot plant (British edition only)
Potted plant, a plant grown in a pot as opposed to in the ground. (Note: although in the U.S. this would refer to a marijuana plant, that's not what it means here.)

  • ...Broderick Bode...was discovered dead in his bed, strangled by a pot plant (OP25)

  • "Who expects Devil's Snare to turn up as a pot plant?" (OP25)

  • many flourishing pot plants in brass containers (HBP20)

A low, soft, stuffed seat (possibly in the form of a beanbag, ottoman, or couch).

  • the mass of occupied chintz chairs and pouffes (GF13)

  • sitting on pouffes very close to her (GF13)

Slang term for a fool; also for a person's backside.

  • "Harry, you prat," said Ron, "you didn't take that song thing seriously, did you?"
    - Ron to Harry (GF26)

  • "Been having a nice little chat with her about whether or not I'm a lying, attention-seeking prat, have you?"
    - Harry (OP12)

  • "But we didn't think Mum could take us leaving school early, not on top of Percy turning out to be the world's biggest prat."
    - the twins (OP12)

  • a pompous prat (DH30)

Some of the older pupils (students) in many secondary (12-18) schools are given duties supervising the younger children and assisting the teachers in maintaining discipline. Prefects are usually the most outstanding or best behaved students, but in some schools all the upper year pupils share prefect duties.

  • "I'm up front, the prefects have got two compartments to themselves--"
    - Percy (PS6)

Prime Minister
The head of the executive branch of government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (NSOED). The Prime Minister's official residence is number ten, Downing Street in London.

  • To his great surprise, the Prime Minister felt a fleeting stab of pity for Fudge at this point. It was, however, eclipsed almost immediately by a glow of smugness at the thought that, deficient though he himself might be in the area of materializing out of fireplaces, there had never been a murder in any of the government departments under his charge... (HBP1)

Short for "public house"; an establishment where alcohol is sold and drunk. U.S.: a bar.

public school (British edition only)
What in the U.S. would be termed a private school; it's "public" in the sense that the kids are attending a school rather than having a private tutor at home. See also comprehensive.

The dessert course of a meal.

  • "On top of the fridge stood tonight's pudding: a huge mound of whipped cream and sugared violets" (CS1)

  • "Aunt Petunia's masterpiece of a pudding, the mountain of cream and sugared violets, was floating up near the ceiling" (CS2)

  • "When the second course arrived they noticed a number of unfamiliar puddings, too" (GF16)

  • "...a rhubarb crumble for pudding" (OP4)

(noun) A long, narrow, flat-bottomed boat used on inland waterways (like the Isis river that flows through Oxford). It's a kind of pole-boat. As a verb, "to punt" means to push a boat along by a long pole; the punter pushes the pole against the bottom of the river to move the boat.

For those who indicated confusion about what "punt" meant in this context, we recommend the works of the British mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers, specifically the Lord Peter Wimsey novel WEB LINKGaudy Night. One of the major scenes of the book features Lord Peter punting on the Isis river with Harriet Vane.

  • Eventually the area was roped off and Filch, gnashing his teeth furiously, was given the task of punting students across [the swamp] to their classrooms (OP30).

Primary editor: Michele L. Worley.
Original page date 28-October-2005; Last page update 5-August-2007 MLW