Colloquial - Word of the Week

Definition - Colloquial:

Adjective:1a: Relating to informal conversation 1b: A way of speaking that is too informal, given the circumstances 2: Referring to a commonly-used word for which there is a more formal, "correct" alternative


"He always spoke very formally at work, but changed to colloquial English around his friends."

The word "colloquial" means the way you speak when using non-formal English.  The difference between formal and colloquial English is not as big as in some languages, like Japanese, but there are still many words and phrases that would happen in one situation but not in the other.

For example, people speaking colloquially will use words like "dude", or "cool", and not use some formal grammar rules. For example, they might end sentences with prepositions (words like "in" or "after"), or use split infinitives ("to boldly go" is a well-known example of a split infinitive - the right form is "to go boldly"). Using colloquial language is not always appropriate in all situations - for example, in a job interview, or in a court of law.


The word "colloquial" means "of conversation", and comes from a combination of the Latin prefix "com-", which means "together" or "with", and "loqui," which means "to speak".

What is a "colloquialism"?

A colloquialism is a word or phrase that is used in the common way of speaking, for which there is a "more correct" or formal word.  For example, a policeman in England is sometimes called a"bobby", because of the Metropolitan Police's founder, Sir Robert Peel (Bobby is short for Robert). Most of Kaplan's English courses teach you the colloquial English you'll use every day, like at train stations and dinner tables. Some courses, like Business English, teach you how to speak in special situations.  Why not take a look at our other English courses and see which one suits you best?