Of all the differences between the English of Great Britain and that of the United States, the most interesting and important are the words that are used in both places, but with different (and sometimes even opposite) meanings. This list contains 100 such words and phrases, arranged from A to Z, from the most familiar like "pants" to the lesser known like "boob tube."
- Appropriation - embezzlement - issue of money
- (British) Asian/Asian (American) - someone whose family is from South Asia - someone whose family is from East Asia
- Athlete - someone who runs athletics events - a sportsman (general)
- Bathroom - the place with bathtub or shower - the place with toilet
- bill: the thing you get at the end of your meal in a restaurant that says how much you have to pay ("the check" in US English): paper money, as in "a five-dollar bill" ("banknote" or "note" ) in British English)
- biscuit - as in "chocolate biscuit" ("cookie" in American English) - a type of savory bun (as in "chicken and biscuits")
- volar - fart - blow someone up (similar to "put someone on their feet" in British English)
- Boob Tube – a strapless top (“tube top” in American English) – TV
- Brackets - brackets - brackets
- Report (legal): documents given to a lawyer about legal proceedings: documents presented to a court to show the arguments of a party
- Bum - buttocks/buttocks - homeless person/vagrant
- Buzzard - a medium-sized hawk - a type of vulture
- campsite – an area where people can camp (“campground” in American English) – a place for a single tent (“pitch” in British English)
- Accident - someone who was injured (as in "accident department") - someone who died (as in "accident numbers")
- French fries: hot, thickly sliced potato chips, as in "fish and chips" ("fries" in American English): thin, crispy snacks eaten cold from a bag, as in "chips" and "Nacho fries." ("chips" in British English)
- Cider – an alcoholic beverage similar to beer but made from apples ("hard cider" in American English) – a soft drink made from apples
- (Police) Commissioner - professional police chief ("Chief of Police" in American English) - person in charge of supervising police forces
- Commonwealth/ (The) Commonwealth – a federation primarily of former British colonies/ the subsequent period between the death of King Charles I in 1649 and the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 – a way of reaching out to US states and territories such as Puerto Rico
- Constable - Constable - officer who delivers summons ("Bailiff" or "Sheriff's Officer" in British English)
- cook - stove in the kitchen for cooking ("range" in American English) - a person who cooks ("cook" in British English)
- maize (field) - wheat - mais (often called "sweet corn" in British English)
- cot – a baby crib (“crib” in American English) – an extra fold-out bed (like a camp bed)
- Cookies - Christmas cookies - Fool
- DC - Detective Constable (as in "DC Smith") - District of Columbia (as in "Washington DC")
- Dormitory - a room for several people, often with bunk beds, for example in a boarding school - a place where university students live ("corridors" or "student corridors" in British English)
- Appetizer – the first course / appetizer – the main course
- Faculty – The largest organization of a university, often made up of several departments: professors and similar staff (“academic staff” in British English)
- Fagot - cigarette - a very uncharacteristic insult for a homosexual
- Bassoon - a kind of meatball - a non-PC insult to homosexuals
- Costumes: dressing up in a costume, for example, for Halloween: formal wear such as a ball gown.
- Fanny – vagina/vulva – buttocks (as in “fanny pack”)
- first degree - first degree burning - first degree murder
- first floor – up from the ground floor ("second floor" in American English) – the ground floor ("ground floor" in British English)
- Flapjack – a sweet snack made mostly from oats (like a "granola bar") – pancakes
- Soccer – Football/ Soccer – American Football
- Gas - natural gas - gasoline ("petrol" in British English)
- go to the bathroom - go crazy - go to the bathroom (for a baby)
- graduate: successful completion of a bachelor's/bachelor's degree: successful completion of any academic level, e.g. "graduating from secondary school" ("finish" in British English)
- grill - to cook under heat ("broil" in American English) - to cook on a griddle/grill
- gymnasium – gymnasium, the place where sports are practiced, including at school – gym class (“physical education class” in British English)
- Basket - a large basket for groceries, as in "picnic basket" - a laundry basket
- Hockey - field hockey, played on field - ice hockey
- homey - cozy (place) - simple or ugly
- bonnet - the top of a convertible - the engine cover ("bonnet" in British English)
- Hooker - a rugby position - slang for a hooker
- jelly - a wobbly dessert, as in "jelly and ice cream" ("Jell-O" in American English) - a type of gelatin with no solid pieces of fruit inside (as in "peanut butter and jelly sandwich")
- Jock - slang for a Scotsman - slang for an athlete
- Sweater – sweater – a kind of knitted dress
- touch - get pregnant - wake up someone knocking on your door
- crazy - crazy - angry
- bad - stingy / the opposite of generous - cruel / nasty
- Paramedic - doctor / internist - paramedic / paramedic / paramedic
- Tanatorio - Place for corpses ("morgue" in EE.UU.) - Funeral home/funeral home
- Diaper – a type of baby underpants (“diaper” in British English) – an offensive word for afro hair.
- nervous – nervous/ scared – cheeky
- Outside lane: The lane closest to the opposite side of the road and usually used by faster cars ("inside lane" in American English): The lane next to the road that is usually used by slower cars ("inside lane" in British English) ). )
- Pantomime - a type of play/musical, often based on fairy tales, played at Christmas (often abbreviated to "panto") - a performance without speech ("mime" in British English)
- trousers - underpants - long trousers ("trousers" in British English)
- Parentheses - parentheses in general (brackets, square brackets, etc.) - parentheses
- Pavement: the part of the roadside that people walk on ("sidewalk" in American English): the material of which a road is made
- Penny - one hundredth of a pound - one penny
- pissed off - drunk - pissed off ("pissed off" in British English)
- Prep School – a private school that prepares students for high school – a private school that prepares students for college
- Professor - the senior academic staff of a university - all the professors of a university
- Prom - Musical performance, as in "The Proms" - dancing/dancing, especially in schools
- public school – an old and usually high-ranking private school (historically the first schools open to the paying public), a government (local and/or national) funded school ("government school" in British English)
- Pudding: Dessert in general, or a hot, heavy dessert similar to Christmas Pudding: A type of pudding dessert, similar to crème caramel.
- Purse - a small and/or women's bag - a handbag or shoulder bag
- Bahnbetriebswerk - a place where trains are parked - a railway terminal
- Rider - a person who rides a bicycle, motorcycle, horse, etc. - a person who travels on a train, bus, etc. ("passenger" in British English)
- Robin - A small red-breasted bird - A medium-sized red-breasted bird
- roommate - someone who shares the same room - someone who shares the same house/apartment ("housemate" or "flatmate" in British English)
- a rubber – an eraser – a condom
- Saloon - part of a pub - a western-style bar
- Semester - half an academic year - between a quarter and a half academic year, depending on how the academic year is divided ("Term" in British English)
- semi - semi-detached house ("duplex" in American English) - semi-trailer truck ("articulated truck" in British English)
- Sorbet – a powdered confection that sizzles slightly on the tongue – a type of frozen dessert, like ice cream but with little or no milk ("sorbet" in British English)
- Cutlery - Trophies won by sports teams - Things to eat ("cutlery" in British English)
- Sprouts – brussels sprouts – alfalfa sprouts
- Squash - a type of liquor that needs to be diluted with water to drink - a type of pumpkin-like vegetable (similar to a British "marrow")
- Public school: a school funded by the government ("public school" in American English): a school funded by the state (rather than the national government or more local setting)
- hit - hit the ball - miss (in baseball)
- Metro – pedestrian underpass – metro
- a practice - a doctor's office, like a clinic - an operating room
- Suspenders: stocking straps ("garters" in American English) - trouser straps ("suspenders" in British English)
- Sweets: small sugary snacks ("candy" in American English), desserts/sweets in general, such as B cake
- Tank top - sleeveless jersey - tank top
- The Times - The Times (en EE. UU. a menudo "The London Times" genannt) - The New York Times
- bother someone - annoy someone - irritate someone
- Tights - Nylon stockings ("pantyhose" in American English) - tight pants ("leggings" in English English) or pants and top of a piece ("unitard" in English English)
- Tosser - idiot - someone who likes to throw things, the opposite of "hoarder"
- Trailer: something that goes behind the car or bicycle, usually to carry extra luggage; similar but also small places where people can spend the night ("caravan" in British English)
- trolley: a type of road train ("tram" in British English)
- trooper - soldier in the army - state police officer
- tuition fee - tuition, particularly by a (private) tutor - money paid for study ("tuition fee" in British English)
- Underpass - an underground street, often under another street - a pedestrian tunnel under a street ("subway" in British English)
- vest - underwear worn under a shirt ("shirt" in American English) - part of a three-piece suit worn under a jacket ("vest" in British English)
- lavararse – lavararse – lavararse las manos (before dinner)
- White spirit: a type of alcohol used for cleaning, thinning paint, etc. ("turpentine" in American English): a type of moonshine for drinking
- Yankee – someone from the United States (usually abbreviated to "Yank") – someone from New England or the northeastern United States in general
Copyright © 2018 alex fall
Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com Ltd
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How to teach sense vocabularyKeep reading "
What are some words that have different meanings in British and American English? ›
- Purse. In American English, “purse” is a term used to describe a woman's handbag. ...
- Biscuit. Knowing the American and British meanings of this word could mean the difference between enjoying your restaurant order and being surprised by it. ...
- Football. ...
- Jumper. ...
- Fancy dress. ...
- Bird. ...
- Braces. ...
The most significant differences between British and American English are in their pronunciations, their vocabularies, and their spelling. There are grammatical differences, too, but these are less important and harder to describe, so we will pass over them for today.What are some examples of British and American vocabulary? ›
There are hundreds of everyday words that are different. For example, Brits call the front of a car the bonnet, while Americans call it the hood. Americans go on vacation, while Brits go on holidays, or hols. New Yorkers live in apartments; Londoners live in flats.What words do Americans spell different to British? ›
- be – “Will you be my friend?”
- and – “You and I will always be friends.”
- of – “Today is the first of November.”
- a – “I saw a bear today.”
- in – “She is in her room.”
- to – “Let's go to the park.”
- have – “I have a few questions.”
- too – “I like her too.”
- Bloke. “Bloke” would be the American English equivalent of “dude.” It means a "man."
- Lad. In the same vein as “bloke,” “lad” is used, however, for boys and younger men.
- Bonkers. ...
- Daft. ...
- To leg it. ...
- Trollied / Plastered. ...
- Quid. ...
In a SINGLE WORD, why is American English different from that spoken in England? -The vocabulary is different largely because settlers in America encountered many different experiences. The new continent contained physical features, such as large forests and mountains that had been given new names.What are the 850 words of basic English? ›
I , ice , idea , if , ill , important , impulse , in , increase , industry , ink , insect , instrument , insurance , interest , invention , iron , island . jelly , jewel , join , journey , judge , jump . keep , kettle , key , kick , kind , kiss , knee , knife , knot , knowledge .What are some common British phrases? ›
- Fancy a cuppa? meaning: “Would you like a cup of tea?” ...
- Alright? meaning: “Hey, how are you?” ...
- I'm knackered! meaning: “I'm tired.” ...
- Cheeky. meaning: playful; mischievous. ...
- I'm chuffed to bits! meaning I'm very pleased. ...
- Bloody. meaning: very. ...
- To bodge something. ...
- I'm pissed.
Synonyms for British Words Americans Don't Understand
- Fringe: Bangs. ...
- Jumper: Sweater.
- Trainer: Sneaker.
- Dummy: Pacifier.
- Plaster: Band-aid.
- Nappy: Diaper.
- Hole-in-the-Wall: ATM.
What are examples of British spellings? ›
The difference is most common for words ending -bre or -tre: British spellings calibre, centre, fibre, goitre, litre, lustre, manoeuvre, meagre, metre, mitre, nitre, ochre, reconnoitre, sabre, saltpetre, sepulchre, sombre, spectre, theatre (see exceptions) and titre all have -er in American spelling.How to convert American English to British English? ›
- Navigate to the Tools menu in the Word toolbar.
- Choose “Language” from the Tools menu.
- Choose “Set Language.” A dialogue box will appear on the screen.
- Select “British English” from the list of languages in the dialogue box.
- Click on “Default.”
- Confirm the action.
|1. the||21. at||41. there|
|2. of||22. be||42. use|
|3. and||23. this||43. an|
|4. a||24. have||44. each|
|5. to||25. from||45. which|
' Aye – It means yes.How do British say cool? ›
Dynamite/Wicked. Dynamite is used for awesome and cool. Wicked too is used to convey the same meaning.Why is American English different from British English in the first place? ›
American spelling was invented as a form of protest
Webster wanted American spelling to not only be more straightforward but different from UK spelling, as a way of America showing its independence from the former British rule.
The first is isolation; early colonists had only sporadic contact with the mother country. The second is exposure to other languages, and the colonists came into contact with Native American languages, mariners' Indian English pidgin and other settlers, who spoke Dutch, Swedish, French and Spanish.Is British English more difficult than American English? ›
However, there is no scientifically precise answer to this question. Some find American English, others British English difficult and incomprehensible. It is impossible to say which variety is more difficult than the other. This is purely a matter of perception for someone who is learning English.What are the 50 new words? ›
- automagically adv. Automatically in a way that seems magical.
- bargainous adj. Costing less than expected.
- big media n. Primary mass communication sources, e.g., TV and the press.
- bromance n. Close platonic male friendship.
- buzzkill n. ...
- carbon credit n. ...
- carbon offsetting n. ...
- catastrophize v.
What are the 30 new words? ›
|New Words to Use||Meanings|
|Acquiesce||accept something reluctantly but without protest|
|Align||place or arrange things in a straight line|
|Amend||make minor changes in a text in order to make it fairer|
Homonyms, or multiple–meaning words, are words that have the same spelling and usually sound alike but have different meanings (e.g. Bark– dog bark, tree bark).What words do British people say that Americans don t? ›
- “They lost the plot.” ...
- “I haven't seen that in donkey's years.” ...
- “Quit your whinging!” ...
- “He's such a chav.” ...
- “You've thrown a spanner in the works.” ...
- “Let's have a chin-wag.” ...
- “I'm chuffed to bits.” ...
- “That's manky.”
A synonym is a word or phrase with a meaning that is the same as, or very similar to, another word or phrase. Terrible and awful are synonyms because they have the same meaning. Can you do better today than you did on yesterday's exercise? 1 - A synonym of tired is: delighted.