Each university has its slang and Cambridge is no different! Get learning these words now, you’ll be surprised how often you end up using them!


BANTER: (n) Refers to jokes, amusing/witty conversation and general good times.

The Lady Margaret Boat Club, a classic Cambridge tradition

BOATIE: (n) Most commonly encountered in groups of eight before dawn. Usually wearing red (see “blazer”). Often wearing lycra. Sometimes wearing nothing.

BOILER ROOM: (n) The room below C staircase Cripps where St John’s Ents (see below) are held. Sweat has been known to drip from the ceiling!

BOP: (n) A slightly old-fashioned word for Ent (see below), more commonly used by The Other Place (see below)!

BLAZER: (n) A type of casual suit jacket, often worn with chinos to garden parties in May Week (see below). Originates from the red blazers worn by St John’s very own Boat Club.

BLUE: (n) (i) The highest sporting honour in Cambridge, reserved for people who represent the University. (ii) A person who plays sport at University level. (iii) As in (LIGHT)BLUES; The University first team in any sport. (iv) As in CAMBRIDGE BLUE; the colour worn by Cambridge University sports teams. (A light blue, possibly closer to green).

BLUE TAC: (n) Girl found in the company of university sports players.

BUBBLE: (n) As in CAMBRIDGE BUBBLE; (i) Refers to the perception of Cambridge being uniquely different from the rest of the world. (ii) Refers to how students get so caught up in the pace of life at Cambridge that they lose track of national news and current affairs.

BUMPS: (n) Rowing competition at the end of Lent and Easter Terms (see below) where College boats line up end to end and try to bump into each other. Literally.

BUTTERY: (n) (i) The College canteen where you can get cheap meals and snacks all day. (ii) The place where you buy wine for Hall at some other Colleges e.g Trinity.

CAMBRIDGE UNION: (n) The prestigious University debating society which holds regular events involving celebrities, statesmen and other impressive speakers. Not to be confused with CUSU (see below).

CHAT: (n) Refers to conversation/banter and is qualified with an adjective e.g. Good. Best used with a hint of irony. Difficult to explain in writing, but you’ll hear this a lot.

COLLEGE SCARF: (n) A scarf available from the shop Ryder and Amies, with a unique pattern revealing the wearer’s College. Essential fashion item at a sports match or around Cambridge in winter (in a Harry Potter house sort of a way).

CUPPERS: (n) The important knock-out cup competition for a College sport at Cambridge.

CUSU: (n) Cambridge University Students’ Union. Represents the views of Cambridge students to the media, the NUS and University authorities. Provides support for JCRs (see below) and a range of services for students. Runs student club nights and does many more good things besides.

DOMINATION: (n) Refers to how St John’s destroys all other Colleges on the pitch and on the river.

DoS: (n) Director of Studies. The fellow (see below) responsible for your overall academic progress. Often one of the people who interviewed you.

DRINKING SOCIETY: (n) A group (often of the same gender) who arrange regular social outings and Hall swaps (see below) with other similar (often of the opposite gender) societies from other Colleges.

EASTER: (n) The exciting final term of the year, notable for its contrasts between daily revision and May Week (see below) hedonism, exams and society annual dinners.

ENT: (n) Party held within a College, organised by the JCR and the Ents Committee of the College, complete with dirt cheap drinks, great DJs, fancy dress and very happy students.

FELLOW: (n) Senior member of a College, usually of academic importance. Usually teaches at University or College level. Is allowed to eat at high table in Hall, walk on the grass and bring bikes into the courts.

HALL SWAP: (n) Event when a group of students from one College attend Hall with a group from another College.

HAVING A ‘MARE: (v) As in nightmare.

JCR: (n) The Junior Combination Room. (i) The union to which all junior members of College (undergraduate and postgraduate students) belong. (ii) The student common room in 2nd Court. (iii) The colloquial name for the JCRC (see below).

JCRC: (n) The Junior Combination Room Committee. The elected representatives of Johnian students to the media, CUSU and College authorities. Provides support for all students with academic, ethical, welfare and other issues. Provides a huge range of services including bike hire, Sky TV, free doughnuts and lots more. Runs all College ents, Open Mic nights and a number of other events. Any student can stand for election in November to serve for one year.

KEEN: (adj) More enthusiastic and/or organised, often about work, than the average student.

KEEPING TERM: (v) Spending 8 weeks at a time as resident in College.

LENT: (n) The 2nd term of the year, notable for the intensity of extra-curricular, sport and social activities, including Varsity (see below).

MAY BALL: (n) An incredible night of opulence held in June, after exams. Legend has it that St John’s May Ball was rated by Time Magazine as the 7th best party in the world. The Oscars came 6th. Unlimited food, drink and limitless entertainment from dusk ’til dawn. Recent headliners at St John’s have included Gorgon City, Ellie Goulding, Calvin Harris, Dizzee Rascal, Just Jack, Hot Chip, Flight of the Conchords and the Scissor Sisters.

MAY WEEK: (n) The amazing week in June, after exams when May Balls, garden parties and other celebrations take place. Fun on a level you won’t believe.

MCR: (n) Middle Combination Room. The union for postgraduate students at a College.

MICHAELMAS: (n) The 1st term of the academic year, notable for Freshers’ Week optimism, signing up to email lists and resolving to “work harder this year”.

PIGEON HOLE: (n) A small hole in the wall in the corner of 1st Court where the porters (see below) leave your mail. Also referred to as “pidge”.

P’LODGE: (n) Short for Porters’ Lodge. One of 3 entrances to the College where keys are issued and Porters reside. Always the place to go for help or information, or if locked out.

PORTER: (n) (Usually) Friendly people responsible for the safety of students in College who seem to know everything about how the College works. Worth getting to know.

PROCRASTINATE: (v) To put off academic work, sometimes in a ludicrous manner. A familiar word during Easter Term.

Punting on the River Cam, another Cambridge tradition!

PUNT: (n) A boat, not dissimilar to a gondola, propelled with a pole on the River Cam. (v) To take one of these boats up the River.

RED BOY: (n) (i) A member of the ridiculously successful College rugby team. (ii) A red jumper worn by College rugby players, often stained, ripped or both. (iii) A delicious cocktail available in the bar and the Maypole pub.

RED GIRL: (n) Female equivalent of the Red Boy.

SBR: (n) The Samuel Butler Room (i) The union (MCR) to which all Johnian postgraduate students belong. (ii) The graduate student common room in 1st Court.

SIGN ON: (n) A Johnian song in response to “I’d rather be at Oxford”. (To the tune of You’ll Never Walk Alone) “Sign on, sign on; with hope in your hearts; ‘cos you’ll never be at John’s; you’ll never be at John’s.” (You can replace sign on with “apply” or “jog on”).

STASH: (n) Any item of clothing that proclaims the owner’s membership or position in a sport or society. Often a reason in itself to join the society. Commonly worn by students who realise in Lent Term of their 2nd year that they own more stash than actual clothes.

STOMP: (n) A strange tradition during Bumps where Johnian boaties go to Trinity at dawn and attempt to kidnap their boaties and take them to breakfast (rather than be caught themselves).

SQUASH: (n) An event similar to an open evening, where students can find out about joining a society. Worth attending for the free food and drink.

TCS: (n) The Cambridge Student. The student newspaper funded by, but editorially independent from, CUSU. It comes out each Thursday.

THE OTHER PLACE: (n) Oxford (Well there has to be somewhere for the people who don’t get into Cambridge…)

UNIVERSITY CARD: (n) The most essential piece of plastic, ever. A swipe card which gets you into various rooms and allows you to buy meals and (non-alcoholic) drinks in the buttery (see above) and bar.

VARSITY: (n) (i) The height of the sporting calendar in Cambridge. The match played between Cambridge and Oxford Universities, where representatives officially earn Blues status. Varsity matches tend to take place in Lent Term. Highlights include the Boat Race on the Thames, the foot- ball at Craven Cottage and the Rugby at Twickenham. (ii) The independent student newspaper of Cambridge which comes out every Friday. (iii) The annual snowsports trip held at the end of Michaelmas, where Oxford and Cambridge students take over a ski resort.