Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Idioms: drunk

Type: Reference material

Tim Bowen goes synonym-crazy and takes us through the many different ways to say that someone is drunk (has had too much alcohol).

The word drunk is often said to be the English word with the most synonyms. Certainly there are a large number of different ways of saying that someone is drunk, ranging from the euphemistic (e.g. he’s rather the worse for wear), to the direct or graphic (e.g. she’s absolutely paralytic), to some which are downright strange (e.g. he’s three sheets to the wind). Someone who is only slightly drunk can be described as tipsy, and someone who is completly drunk can be described as punch-drunk or sloshed.

Euphemistic terms for drunk include examples such as She’s had a few, He’s had one too many, She’s had a drop too much and the term tired and emotional, first skilfully applied by the press in the 1960s to describe a politician with a fondness for the bottle without directly accusing him of being drunk. More examples of direct expressions include legless, plastered, hammered, wasted, wrecked, loaded, trashed and tanked up. One of the most common is pissed, which can cause misunderstandings in conversations between British and American speakers of English as it has a different meaning in American English, where it means ‘angry’. The British English equivalent for ‘angry’ is pissed off.

Among the odder ways of saying drunk are half cut (the origin of which is as yet unexplained), the entertaining lit up like a Christmas tree, and Brahms and Liszt, the latter being an example of Cockney rhyming slang. Sometimes the simplest words are the most effective, however. A particular favourite in this context is full, as in ‘Sorry. I don't want any more. I'm a bit full'.

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