• noun a foolish person, a cheeky, unwashed child. For many years, in London working-class slang, Herbert or ’Erbert was used to refer to any otherwise unnamed man or boy. Gradually, probably by being used in phrases such as ‘silly ’erbert’, it came to have the more pejorative sense. There probably never was an eponymous Herbert; it was merely a common working-class name from the Edwardian era.