Cambridge Slang – A (Short) Guide
Cambridge is a vibrant and diverse community. Students come from a variety of socioeconomic and geographical backgrounds and that contributes greatly to enrich the social scene at the university. However, there are also shared experiences that many Cambridge students can relate to. Almost everyone from Cambridge can tell you about the bizarre traditions that exist, and many will agree that our speech is heavily influenced by a variety of obscure words which only make sense within the Cambridge bubble. Unfortunately, these words may also appear on my blog posts so I’ll try to introduce you to this novel vocab list.
ASNaC: (Say As-nack) Anglo-Saxon, Nordic and Celtic. Either the Tripos or anyone reading it.
Backs: Areas of grass running along the backs of the colleges by the river.
Bedder: Member of the housekeeping staff at most colleges. They hoover your room and empty the bins but do not make your bed!
Boatie: Slang for a rower.
Bops: A college-run party. Usually fancy dress.
Bumps: A rowing race in Lent and Easter where crews try to bump the boat ahead of them.
Cambridge Week: The disgusting Cambridge tradition of weeks starting on Thursdays. Some say it was introduced to eliminate the idea of a weekend. At Cambridge, any time can be the best time to work.
Courts: Those rectangles/circles/ovals of grass in the middle of certain college buildings that students cannot walk on. Fellows can for some reason…
CUSU: (Say Koo-Soo) Cambridge University Student’s Union, an organisation that helps connect the student councils at each college (
Catz: Popular name for St. Catherine’s College.
May Week: The week following the end of exams when many colleges host May Balls (see image bellow).
Caius: Popular name for Gonville and Caius (Cambridge College).
Cindies: popular name for Ballare nightclub.
Emma: Popular name for Emmanuel College.
Formal: 3 course evening meal served in a college’s main Hall. Open to all students at that college and very reasonably priced. At several colleges, attendees are required to wear a formal attire with the college gown.
Fitz: (Not to be confused with Fitzbillies (Bakery, Cafe)/Fitzwilliam Museum) Popular name for Fitwilliam College.
Fresher: Anyone in their first year of studies.
Fresher’s Week: The week when Michaelmas term begins. Filled with events for Fresher’s organised by the college JCR/MCR and CUSU.
Gyp-room: Refers to a kitchen in student accommodation (minus the ovens…).
JCR: Junior Combination Room. The College Union for undergraduate students.
Life: Popular name for Kuda nightclub.
Mathmo: Anyone reading the Mathematics Tripos.
May Ball: The famous and extravagant all-night parties held in June (yes, I know…) after exams are over.
MCR: Medium/Mature Combination Room. College Union for postgraduate students.
NatSci: (Say Nat-Skee) Anyone reading the Natural Sciences Tripos.
Squash: A welcome mingle organised by different societies. Often with plenty of squash to drink.
Swaps: A group meal with students from another college or year. Arranged in Formal Halls or one of the many infamous swap restaurants in Cambridge (Mai Thai, Curry King, Sesame, etc)
Plodge: Short for Porter’s Lodge. You will visit this place way too often (see image below).
Porter: Vital members of college staff who are a combination of receptionists and security staff. They also know everything that goes on in college, so making friends with them is a really good idea!
Pennying: A surprisingly complicated drinking game (May inspire a future blog post).
Pidge: Short for Pigeon Hole – a labelled compartment in the plodge where mail is delivered.
Reading: Another term for studying. E.g. I’m reading Natural Sciences (May seem familiar if you watch University Challenge).
Term: A two month long academic session at Cambridge. There are three in a year – Michaelmas, Lent and Easter.
Tripos: Cambridge term for an undergraduate degree course. E.g. the Engineering Tripos.
Tit Hall: Popular name for Trinity Hall (Cambridge College).
The Other Place: Oxford University.
Supo: Short for supervision. A teaching system that involves an hour long session with your supervisor. Groups of two-three students are common per supervision.
I realize this induction may not have been the most interesting thing you have read but hopefully it will be useful later. Thanks for reading!
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