Guide: How to Say “Napkin” in British English

Welcome to this comprehensive guide on how to say “napkin” in British English! Whether you’re looking for the formal or informal ways to refer to this essential item used for personal hygiene and dining, we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we’ll explore various regional variations, provide useful tips, and share plenty of examples to help you master the art of British English. So, let’s dive in!

Formal Ways to Say “Napkin” in British English

In formal British English settings, such as restaurants, formal events, or business meetings, people may use the term “napkin” exclusively. This is the most widely understood and commonly used term across the United Kingdom.

Informal Ways to Say “Napkin” in British English

In informal contexts, Britons use a variety of colloquial terms to refer to a napkin. Here are a few:

1. Serviette

The term “serviette” is commonly used in both formal and informal situations across the UK. While “napkin” remains more universal and recognized, “serviette” is a less formal alternative that you’re likely to hear in homes, casual eateries, and informal gatherings.

2. Hanky / Handkerchief

In informal settings, some Britons may refer to a napkin as a “hanky” or “handkerchief.” These terms are more commonly used by older generations or in regional areas, but they can still be heard in everyday conversation.

3. Square

Another informal term that some Britons use is “square.” While it’s less commonly heard, you might come across it occasionally, especially among specific social circles.

Regional Variations

Although the terms mentioned above are widely understood throughout the UK, regional variations do exist. In various areas across the country, it’s not uncommon to encounter alternative expressions for a napkin. Here are a few:

1. Scrim

In parts of Northern England, notably Yorkshire and Lancashire, a napkin can sometimes be referred to as a “scrim.” This regional variation is rooted in local dialects and may not be familiar to people from other areas.

2. Servietta

In Scotland, particularly among Scottish Gaelic speakers, you might hear “servietta” used as an alternative term for a napkin. This Scottish variation demonstrates the linguistic diversity within Britain and adds a touch of cultural flavor to the language.

Tips for Using Napkin Terminology

  • Be aware of the context: The choice between “napkin” and “serviette” often depends on the formality of the setting. It’s essential to consider the environment and adjust your language accordingly.
  • Observe native speakers: Pay attention to how native British English speakers refer to napkins in different situations. This will help you grasp the appropriate terminology and usage more naturally.
  • Ask for clarification: Whenever you encounter unfamiliar terms or regional variations for a napkin, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Britons are generally friendly and happy to explain any linguistic intricacies.
  • Embrace cultural diversity: British English is known for its rich tapestry of regional dialects and accents. Don’t be afraid to explore different regional variations, as they add color and diversity to the language.

Example: While dining at a formal restaurant, it is appropriate to use the word “napkin.” However, if you are hosting a casual get-together at your home, you can impress your guests by referring to it as a “serviette.”


Congratulations! You’ve now become well-versed in the various ways to say “napkin” in British English. Remember, “napkin” is the most commonly used and universally understood term in formal situations. In informal settings, you can confidently choose between “serviette,” “hanky,” “handkerchief,” or even “square.” Keep in mind that regional variations exist, so don’t be surprised if you encounter terms like “scrim” in parts of Northern England or “servietta” in Scotland. Embrace the diversity, practice speaking with native speakers, and continue exploring the wonderful nuances of British English. Enjoy your next meal, armed with the knowledge of the perfect term for a napkin!

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