In British slang, the word "bare" can be used as an intensifier, as in

That film is bare good [That film is very good]

or, from Wiktionary,

This porno's bare whack, bruv [This porno's very whack, bruv]

It can also be used as an adjective,

There are bare people at this party [There are lots of people at this party]

But what is its origin and etymology?

  • 1
    In your last example isn't 'bare' a determiner rather than an adjective? Other words that could fit here are 'eight', 'some', and (with appropriate changes to the form of be and person used) 'a'
    – bdsl
    Commented May 26, 2018 at 21:01

3 Answers 3


the use of the word "bare" as a British slang comes from Jamaican patois. I'm 100% sure of this. I'm Nigerian, 36 years old, and moved to London at the age of 7. So I grew up in London. I'm familiar with virtually all the slangs that have come and gone, and those that still persist. In Jamaican patois, the word "bare" and "pure" can be used interchangeably to mean "plenty of". So "bare gyal" or "pure gyal" means plenty of girls. You can Youtube a song by the Jamaican reggae artist, Bounty Killer, titled "bare gyal ah mad ova me", which translates to "loads of girls are going crazy for me".

In 1996 when I was 16, white kids were definitely not using "bare" as a slang. It was a slang confined to the black community (that's not to say the odd white kid who had black friend's wouldn't use it.). Then Asian's (British Pakistani's, Bangladeshis,) and other ethnic minorities who were influenced or took on aspects of black British culture began to use it along with many other slangs from the black community.

I can't put a date on it, but I'd say it's only in the last 3 to 4 years that I've been hearing white kids using it. And I'm talking white people who, I can tell (from the way they speak) don't have many black friends.

Also, the meaning of the slang "bare" has changed a little in the UK. When I was growing up it only meant "plenty of". So "bare money", "bare girls". But these days, as someone noted above, it also means very. So "bare angry", "bare hungry". Before, people would have used the word "nuff" to mean very. So, "that chicken is nuff spicy". The word "nuff", again coming from Jamaican patois. Nuff = enough.

Another word from the black community (and Jamaica specifically) which I'm beginning to hear some white kids use is "chirps", meaning to "chat up". So, "go chirps that girl over there", or "that girl was chirpsing you, couldn't you tell?".

  • 4
    Thanks for the answer, that's quite helpful. I disagree with your comments on timing, though - in 1999/2000, when I was 16, a lot of kids in my (predominantly white and Asian) school in Berkshire already used "bare" to mean "plenty of" or "very". It had clearly migrated from black kids in London to white kids in the suburbs by 1999 or 2000. Commented May 2, 2017 at 20:45

The BBC.com site suggests that the slang usage of bare (very/a lot) is from the reversal from the common meaning (scarse/just enough). This usage is common also with other terms like wicked and bad for instace:

  • Take bare, for example, one of a number of slang terms recently banned by a London school. It means "a lot of", as in "there's bare people here", and is the classic concealing reversal of the accepted meaning that you also find in wicked, bad and cool. Victorian criminals did essentially the same with back slang, reversing words so that boy became yob and so on.

According to theguardian.com the slang meaning of "bare" was originally used by hipsters:

  • Not actually anything to do with nudity, bare is an adjective meaning "a lot of", or "obviously".

    • "I can't come to your party, I've got bare work to do."

    • "He bare fancies that girl he's talking to. I really hope he doesn't start telling her about his birthmark in the shape of Italy."

  • Used by: Hipsters, at first; slowly but surely filtering down through the student ranks.

  • 2
    It's not clear that this is related to the British slang usage at all. Why do you think that it is? Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 13:57
  • @ChrisTaylor - I have updated my answer.
    – user66974
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 14:51

I think it comes from the meaning of bare as in "pure"; "nothing but..."; stripped of all other things, undiluted, unfiltered.

So 'bare whack' = 100% undiluted awesomeness.

  • 2
    What is the evidence for this? Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 16:32
  • @ChrisTaylor That is just what the word 'bare' means. Look at all the meanings of the word on dictionary.com; basicly they all make sense in this context. Also I have heard people use it in different situations to the point that you can correlate (cross-reference) that that is the specific meaning and effect of the word 'bare' that they were going for in those cases.
    – RagingR2
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 17:14
  • @ChrisTaylor In addition, I have also seen 'bare' described as a synonym for 'properly', 'thoroughly', which is basicly the same thing I said above: undiluted, undisguised, truelly. I think 'plain' is an even better comparison, it has essentially the same original meaning as 'bare' and is used in exactly the same way in common parlance. Just plain cool = nothing but cool = very cool.
    – RagingR2
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 17:16

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