Do you know someone who's a bit of a blinding geezer? Bumped into an old geezer in the street? Tim Bowen explains the meanings and origins of this word of the week.

British English has a large number of informal words for man. Some of the more common examples are bloke, guy and geezer. The latter can be heard in expressions like ‘Dave’s a bit of a geezer’, a use which the Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners defines as 'a man who you think is involved with illegal or immoral activities'.

Geezer is commonly used to refer to any man whose name you don’t know, as in ‘I was chatting to a couple of geezers in the pub last night’. If someone is a geezer, they may also be overtly masculine and possibly a down-to-earth, plain-speaking type. The word is not synonymous with macho, however, and is roughly the equivalent of the American word dude. An England international footballer once referred to Prince William as ‘a nice, relaxed geezer’. In North America, however, geezer usually refers to elderly men, as in ‘I was walking down the street when this old geezer walked straight into me’.

The origin of geezer is an interesting one. It appears to derive from the now obsolete term guiser, meaning someone who walks around in disguise, a performer in a masquerade. So a word that was used in the Middle Ages to refer to mummers (actors in traditional plays without words) has now simply come to mean bloke.