I heard it in Diana the movie.

Someone tells the surgeon “nice one” when they meet in the stairs.

I am not sure if we need context here or if it is just an idiomatic expression in English (or perhaps just an expression in British English).


Nice one is quite informal and has a couple of meanings. It's often followed by mate, (a friendly form of address between men) in BrE and AuE as in Nice one, mate. In AmE the term buddy could be used instead of mate.

When used in the positive it means Well done or Thanks (or both) here's a few typical examples.

You take your car to the garage to have the brakes fixed, when you pick it up the engineer says 'The brakes are done and we also adjusted your clutch', You reply 'Nice one'. This is the well done and thanks meaning.

You are in the pub and someone buys you a drink, when they give you the drink you say 'Nice one' This is the informal thanks meaning.

You are watching football and someone scores a good goal. You say 'Nice one'. This is the informal well done meaning.

All of the above are positive and likely to be what you heard in the movie but it's possible to use Nice one in a negative way. Here are a couple of examples.

You are in the pub and someone spills your drink. You say 'Nice one' but you mean That was stupid and careless of you.

You are telling a long joke to a friend and another friend cuts in and says the punchline long before the punchline should be said. You can say 'Nice one' to express your disgust at your friend spoiling the joke.

You can really only tell the difference between positive and negative Nice one by the context and more so by the tone of voice used by the speaker.

I wouldn't say it was specifically British English, Australians definitely use the positive version and as noted in the comments Americans use both the positive and negative meaning but might not use it for thanks.

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    Americans also say "Nice one" as a compliment meaning that someone has done a good job -- just like your example of seeing someone score a goal. Or sarcastically to mean that someone has made a clumsy mistake. I don't think an American would say "nice one" to mean "thank you". And of course an American would never say "nice one, mate" as we don't call each other "mate". Might say, "Nice one, buddy". – Jay Aug 26 '14 at 13:28
  • @Jay Nice one. I've updated to include that info. – Frank Aug 26 '14 at 13:45
  • In those positive examples, I think you may be more likely to hear a single word ("Nice!") than the two-word counterpart ("Nice one!") – at least in the U.S. My gut feeling is that, by including the word "one", the expression has a somewhat negative tone overall, but of course there are exceptions. – J.R. Aug 26 '14 at 21:27
  • @J.R. In BrE nice would also be OK, as would super, great, brilliant, magic and a host of other words; most, if not all, would work for the positive and negative meanings. – Frank Aug 27 '14 at 5:43

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