Learn English slang | Tea leaf

Learn English slang with the popular rhyming expression tea leaf. What does it mean if someone is called a tea leaf? Watch this video lesson and understand and use English slang better…

Here's British comedian Micky Flanagan talking on The Graham Norton Show about how he was a bit of a tea leaf when we was growing up. It's a funny story and even though his fellow guests are a little bit shocked to hear him say it was so common to steal things, he says they were mostly small things and it was part of the culture growing up where he did. See if you can understand his story as he has quite a strong London accent and he uses quite a bit of English slang...

Here's another good example from the London 2012 Olympic Games. British cycling Olympian Bradley Wiggins warned that there was a tea leaf about trying to steal some of their belongings at the hotel where the Olympic cyclists were staying, as reported in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

So what do you do to learn English slang? Put your ideas in the comments below…


Tea leaf rhymes with 'thief'. If you tell someone to be careful of another person because you think that person is not honest and that person steals things, you could say to your friend: "Be careful of her. She's a tea leaf!" Don't leave your wallet here, she'll steal your money. "She's a tea leaf!"

Tea leaf is normally used for somebody who steals small things. Not a big criminal. Not normally somebody who uses a gun, but somebody who you can't really trust and you think steals things. "He's a tea leaf!"

So if your flatmate steals your food from your fridge, you could call them a tea leaf as well. It's a funny expression. It's a jokey way of explaining that somebody isn't too honest and takes things that don't belong to them. "He's a tea leaf - he's a thief!"