British English vs American English

While there are many more varieties of English, American English and British English are the two varieties that are taught in most ESL/EFL programs. Generally, it is agreed that no one version is "correct" however, there are preferences in use. The three major differences between American and British English are:
* Pronunciation - differences in both vowel and consonants, as well as stress and intonation
* Vocabulary - differences in nouns and verbs, especially phrasal verb usage
* Spelling - differences are generally found in certain prefix and suffix forms

The most important rule of thumb is to try to be consistent in your usage. If you decide that you want to use American English spellings then be consistent in your spelling (i.e. The color of the orange is also its flavour - color is American spelling and flavour is British), this is of course not always easy - or possible. The following guide is meant to point out the principal differences between these two varieties of English.

The following British vs American words list focuses on words and phrases which could be misunderstood, cause confusion, embarrassment or are just plain funny. The English language evolves every day and cultural exchange is alive and well comparing British vs American words.

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US Word/Phrase UK Word/Phrase Category Notes on British vs American words
diaper nappy Baby Cloth diapers are commonly called terry nappies in the UK
baby carriage pram Baby Pram (from perambulator) is often used for any wheeled baby transport in UK
stroller pushchair or buggy Baby  
pacifier dummy, comforter Baby Also referred to as a binky or soother in some countries
crib, baby bed cot Baby Cot is more commonly a camp bed in the US.
table a motion table a motion Business In the US the motion has been postponed. In the UK the motion is ready to discuss now!
Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) Bankers’ Automated Clearing Services (BACS) Business There’s also CHAPS, EFTPOS, SWIFT, IBAN but they don’t work between the UK and US, Paypal does
pantyhose tights Clothing tights are thick pantyhose in the US
panties knickers Clothing Generally both refer to underwear for women
vest waistcoat Clothing  
undershirt vest Clothing also semmit in Scotland and Ireland
sweater jumper Clothing  
jumper pinafore dress Clothing  
cuffs turn-ups (trousers) Clothing Shirts and jackets may have cuffs in the UK, but not pants!
intimate apparel lingerie Clothing Lingerie sounds so much more romantic doesn’t it?
custom-made bespoke Clothing bespoke normally applies to fashion
raincoat mac, macintosh Clothing A Mac in the US in an Apple computer
windbreaker cagoule, windcheater Clothing  
bathing suit swimming costume Clothing mean wear swimming trunks in UK
fanny pack bum bag Confusing  
bum tramp Confusing  
ass donkey Confusing  
pants underwear Confusing pants can be trousers, jeans or slacks in the US
rubber eraser Confusing a rubber is a condom in the US
thongs flip-flops Confusing thongs are similar to g-strings in the UK
suspenders braces Confusing braces are used to hold up trousers in UK
garter belt suspenders Confusing suspenders do not hold up stockings in the US
fag cigarette Confusing offensive term for homosexuals in the US
hooters noses Confusing US slang for bosoms is UK slang for noses
pasties (nipple coverings) meat pies Confusing Cornish pasties are famous
purse handbag Confusing Women in the UK use purses to hold money, which they put in their handbag along with many other items
pitcher jug Drink Some UK pubs do sell beer in pitchers
beer lager Drink UK beer (IPA style) is typically flat and not chilled
soda fizzy drink Drink  
college, university Uni Education Uni, short for university
high school comprehensive school Education or secondary school, acadamy schools, grammer schools
elementary school primary school Education or infant school
principle head Education head teacher, headmaster, headmistress
resume CV Education CV short for Curriculum Vitae which is latin for “the course of life”
school quiz test Education quizzes are generally for fun in UK, tests tend to be more serious
recess break Education tea break, lunch break etc.
sophomore year second year Education Both countries have freshers/freshman first years
parentheses brackets Education Brackets () in calculus, otherwise brackets to hold up shelves
cut or skip class play truant Education  
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, GFCI Residual Current Device, RCD Electrical circuit breaker
popsicle ice lolly Food typically on a wooden or plastic stick
sucker lollipop Food sucker also means a fool in both countries
chips crisps Food  
fries chips Food fries are usually thin, chips are usally chunky
cotton candy candyfloss Food  
plastic wrap, Saran wrap, plastic film cling-film, food wrap Food  
oatmeal porridge or porridge oats Food  
cookies biscuits Food Cookies are also available in UK
biscuits crackers Food  
jelly jam Food  
jello jelly Food  
Zucchini Courgette Food [Brit says] Courgette from the french world
Eggplant Aubergine Food [Brit says] Courgette from the french world
Fava beans Broad beans Food  
Endive Chicory Food  
Cilantro Coriander Food  
Arugula Rocket, salad leaves Food  
Scallions Spring onions Food  
baking soda bicarbonate of soda Food bicarb
ground beef minced beef Food or just mince
sprinkles hundreds and thousands Food on cakes and trifles
frosting icing Food It’s sugar either way
takeout takeaway Food food to go or delivered
molasses treacle Food Sugar syrup
English muffins muffins Food Oddly you can’t buy English muffins in England. You can buy muffins but they are the more substantial 18th century ancestors from The Muffin Man nursery rhyme era and not the same at all. Think of English muffins as exclusively American muffins. In the UK try “Crumpets” instead. Toast them and top (don’t split them) with butter and savory or sweet toppings of your choice – and share your thoughts/toppings in the comments.
squash marrow Food and other gourds, but in UK we do have Butternut Squash.
rain boots, gumboots, rubber boots wellies, Wellington boots Footwear Wellington
sneakers trainers, plimsolls Footwear  
green thumb greenfingers Garden Skilled (or lucky) gardener
shedding (hair) moulting Hair  
bangs fringe (hair) Hair  
bobby pin hair grip Hair  
braid plait Hair  
flashlight torch Hardware  
faucet tap Hardware  
wrench spanner Hardware  
C clamp G clamp Hardware [Brit says] They look more like the letter G though don’t they?
vise grips Mole grips Hardware  
dumpster skip Hardware  
lightstick, billy truncheon Hardware police weapon
Kilroy Was Here Chad: Wot No… History

Kilroy was here but Chad was there first!

Chad and Kilroy graffiti emerged during World War II from an original British cartoon published in 1938. The British “Wot No” slogan followed by another word is still widely used today. The original “Wot No Sugar” slogan referred to food rationing during WWII. The origin of “Kilroy was here” is disputed but can be seen all over the world. Interestingly “Foo was here” is used in Australia and other names around the world include Smoe, Private Snoops, Clem and Sapo.

closet wardrobe Home depends on context
garbage can dustbin Home  
apartment flat Home  
do the dishes wash up Home  
wash up wash your hands Home  
zip code postcode Home  
package parcel Home In UK a package would be bigger than a flat envelope
first floor ground floor Hotels Very irritating
second floor first floor Hotels Still very irritating!
lobby foyer (of a building) Hotels  
front desk reception Hotels  
mononucleosis Glandular fever Illness  
laid off redundancy, made redundant Jobs Not good in either language.
RIF, RIF’d, pink slip P45 Jobs get your P45, means you’re fired!
silverware, flatware cutlery Kitchen knives, forks and spoons
stove cooker Kitchen or range
burner hob Kitchen  
broil grill Kitchen cook using direct heat from above
A stone (weight) 14 pounds Measures The british vs American words for some Imperial weights and measures are the same but are different amounts in each country, that’s crazy, the Metric System works best.
planter wart verruca Medical on feet
Acetaminophen Paracetamol Medicine One of those british vs American words that really should be standardized worldwide.
check cheque Money  
raise (salary) pay rise Money  
buck quid Money a buck is a dollar, a quid is a pound
traffic circle roundabout Motoring  
flat tire puncture Motoring equally annoying in either language
windshield windscreen Motoring  
highway, freeway, expressway motorway Motoring  
divided highway dual carriageway Motoring  
intersection crossroads Motoring  
beltway ring road Motoring typically around major towns and cities
overpass flyover Motoring  
guitar pick plectrum Music  
realtor estate agent Occupation  
Mortician Funeral director Occupation  
Tipp-Ex Wite-Out Office Both brand names for correction fluid
senior citizen OAP People Old Age Pensioner
making out snogging Personal Sings: “USA and UK sitting in a tree, K-i-s-s-i-n-g!” from the popular US children’s playground kissing song
mouth guard gum shield Personal  
booger bogey Personal  
cooties lurgi Personal “the dreaded lurgy”, the lurg etc, non specific illness
pads towels Personal Tampons gets the message across in both countries
yard garden Places  
downtown city or town centre Places  
sidewalk pavement Places Path is more commonly used today. A pavement was traditionally formed using “paving slabs”, they’re mostly asphalt these days
mall shopping centre Places Mall is also in common usage across the UK
main street high street Places  
gas station petrol station Places  
laundromat launderette Places Although the UK has launderettes they are not as common in the US
bar pub Places short for public house
boardwalk promenade Places typically at a seaside
pharmacist, drug store, pharmacy Chemist Places One of those british vs American words that really should be standardized worldwide.
liquor store off license Places for takeout/takeaway purchases
subway underground Places  
boardwalk promenade Places typically at a seaside
crosswalk zebra crossing, pedestrian crossing Places  
line queue Places wait in line, join the queue etc.
parking lot car park Places, Motoring  
parking garage multi-storey car park Places, Motoring  
spunk courage Rude  
semen spunk Rude  
fanny front bottom, vulva area Rude could cause offense in the UK
beaver pubic hair, front bottom area Rude In the 1988 movie The Naked Gun Frank (Leslie Nielsen) says “nice beaver” to Jane (Priscilla Presley):
nice beaver
butt arse Rude arse is ass or butt in the US
buns bread rolls, sticky buns Rude buns are not butt cheeks in the UK!
pecker courage, spirits Rude “keep your pecker up” means “keep your spirits up” in UK. It’s not slang for penis!
vajayjay vagina Rude  
shag (rug, dance) sexual intercourse Rude Use carefully!
sleep, nap kip Rude A kip house is a brothel in the US
expert boffin Science scientist, nerd, techy, engineer
Fall Autumn Seasons Fall, because the leaves fall. OK, so why not call Winter Cold because it’s cold?
lucky, fluky jammy Slang probably from early use of having expensive jam considered lucky
soccer football Sport Soccer was a british word which has declined in use except in the context of US soccer
football american football Sport John Cleese tries to explain:
soccer vs american football
sweatpants tracksuit bottoms, trackie bottoms Sport  
baseball rounders Sport broadly similar games but rounders uses a smaller bat swung with one arm, mostly played in schools.
track and field athletics Sports One of those british vs American words that really should be standardized worldwide.
counter-clockwise anti-clockwise Technology [Brit says] Why don’t you have counter-bacteria in the US do you?
cell phone mobile Technology  
call (telephone) ring Technology  
Kerosene Paraffin Technology  
Gasoline Petrol Technology  
two weeks fortnight Time  
tire tyre Transport  
trunk (of car) boot Transport  
hood bonnet Transport  
truck lorry Transport  
cab taxi Transport  
station wagon estate car Transport  
airplane aeroplane Transport  
railroad railway Transport  
travel trailer caravan, mobile home Transport  
RV, recreational vehicle camper van, motorhome Transport  
RV park caravan site, caravan park Transport  
mass transit public transport Transport  
vacation holiday Travel “staycation” is becoming a popular expression for a “holiday at home” in UK
vacationer holidaymaker Travel