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Differences between American and British English - PT. 1

Published Monday, June 27, 2005

Did you know that the American English is different in some respect from that of the English spoken in Britain? You will find that some words used between these two countries differ in word, meaning, usage, spellings and pronunciation.

You might ask, why is it there is a difference in the English Language? Well, according to the South Western Handbook: This may be for several reasons: the constant influence of foreign languages and cultures on both the U.S. and Britain, the gradual erosion or evolution of pronunciation, and the influx of new terminology from the scientific and artistic communities.

This article will look on some of the different words that are used between these two countries that relay the same meaning. Part 2. will look at the spellings of some of the same words used by both countries.

You might be familiar with both the American and British English and even use them alternately daily without even thinking of it. The problem with this thought, is that living, working or studying in anyone of these countries will require you to follow their rule of use of the English language. Make sure in whichever country you are in ( or any other country that uses the British English) that you try to be consistent in your usage accordingly.

There are no correct version of using either the American and the British English Language. This is left up to preferences in use. You should also note that there are different variety of the English language other than just the American and British version. These two were selected because Britain is the mother tongue of the English language and American English has a strong international influence on the English Language due to its dominant political, economic (wealth), technological (mass media), population, its proportion of higher education in comparison to other countries and also its popular cultural language influence worldwide.

Note also that, although the list is placed in alphabetical order from A - Z , it is not a comprehensive listing of all words showing the differences between the America and Britain English.

American British
account bill/account
aisle gangway
AM radio Medium wave
apartment flat
apartment house block of flats

baby carriage pram
balcony (theater) gallery
band-aid elastoplast/plaster
baseboard skirting board
bathrobe dressing gown
bathtub bath
bill bank note
billfold wallet
billion thousand million
blacktop (asphalt) tarmac
booth (telephone) kiosk(telephone/
broil grill
buffet sideboard
bureau chest of drawers
business suit lounge suite

call collect reverse charges
can tin
candy sweets
candy store sweet shop/
carnival fair
checkers draughts
check room cloakroom
closet cupboard
closet(for hanging clothes) wardrobe
clothes pin clothes peg
collar button collar stud
conductor (train) guard
cookie biscuit
corn starch corn flour
cross-walk pelican crossing
cuffs (pants) turn-ups (trousers)
custom made bespoke/made
to measure

deck (cards) pack
desk clerk receptionist
detour diversion
diaper nappy
downtown centre
draft conscription
drapes curtains
dresser chest of drawers
druggist chemist
drugstore/pharmacy chemist's shop
dry goods store draper

eggplant aubergine
electric cord/wire flex
elevator lift
endive chicory
eraser rubber

faculty staff
fag or faggot homosexual
fall autumn
faucet tap
fender wing/mudguard
first balcony upper circle
first floor ground floor
flashlight torch/flashlight
floor lamp standard lamp
FM radio VHF
freeway/super highway motorway
freight truck goods truck
french fries chips
freshman (at university) 1st year
front desk (hotel) reception

garbage/trash rubbish
garbage can/ash can/ dustbin/bin
trash can
garter belt suspender belt
gas petrol
gas station filling station
gear shift gear lever
generator dynamo
German shepherd/ Alsatian
police dog
goose bumps goose pimples
grade class/form
ground wire earth wire/earth

hamburger bun bap
hamburger (meat) mince
hamburger beef burger
hardware store ironmonger
hood (car) bonnet
hope chest bottom drawer
hotdog bun bridge roll
housewares hardware
hutch Welsh dresser

incorporated (Inc) limited (Ltd)
intermission interval

jail gaol
janitor caretaker/porter
jello jelly
jelly roll Swiss roll
jump rope skipping rope
junior 3rd year (school)

kerosene paraffin
knickers plus-fours

laundromat launderette
lawyer/attorney solicitor
lease/rent let
legal holiday bank holiday
license plate number plate
line (n.) queue
line-up identification
liquor spirits
liquor store off licence/
wine merchant
living room sitting room/lounge/
living room
long distance trunk call
love seat settee
lumber room box room

M&Ms (candy) Smarties
mail (n.) post
mail box/mail drop pillar box
mailman postman
meat grinder mincer
Milky Way (candy) Mars Bar
molasses black treacle
monkey wrench spanner
mopboard skirting board
motorbike moped
motorcycle motorbike/
mountain oyster cooked testicles of
a sheep or bull
movie film
movie house/theater cinema
muffler (car) silencer
mutual fund unit trust

news dealer newsagent
notions haberdashery

odometer milometer
one way ticket single ticket
orchestra seats stalls
outlet/socket point/power point
overalls dungarees
overpass flyover

pacifier dummy
package parcel
panty hose/nylons tights
pants trousers
parking lot car park
pedestrian crossing zebra crossing
period full-stop
phonograph/record player gramophone/
record player
pitcher jug
pocket knife pen knife
popsicle iced lolly
pot holders/gloves oven gloves/
powdered sugar/ icing sugar
confectioner's sugar
precinct district
president (business) chairman
principal headmaster/
public school state school
purse/pocketbook handbag


raincoat mackintosh
raisin sultana
realtor estate agent
rear view mirror wing mirror
recess break(school)
restroom toilet/cloakroom/
public convenience
rhinestone diamante
roast joint(meat)
roller coaster big dipper
roomer lodger
round trip ticket return ticket
rubbing alcohol surgical spirit
run (for public office) stand
rutabaga/turnip swede

sack lunch packed lunch
sales clerk/sales girl shop assistant
schedule time-table
scotch tape sellotape
scratch pad scribbling pad/
second floor first floor
sedan saloon car
semester(school-2 in a year) term(3 in a year)
senior 4th year(school)
shade (window) blind
sheers/under drapes net curtains
sherbet ice/sorbet
shoestring bootlace/shoelace
shorts/jockey shorts briefs
shot (injection) jab
shredded (coconut) desiccated
sideburns sideboards
sidewalk pavement/footpath
sled sledge/toboggan
slingshot catapult smoked
sneakers/tennis shoes gym shoes/plimsolls/
tennis shoes
soccer football/soccer
soda cracker cream cracker
spool cotton reel
station wagon estate car
stop light/traffic signal/ traffic lights
stop signals
stove cooker
stroller pushchair
subway tube/underground
suspenders braces
sweater/pullover jumper/sweater/

tag label
take-out take-away
tea cart tea trolley
thumb tack drawing pin
tic-tac-toe noughts and crosses
time payment/ hire purchase
installment plan
traffic circle roundabout/island
trailer/camper/mobile home caravan
tramp/call girl/hooker/ prostitute/tart/
street walker whore

truck lorry
truck stop transport café
tube valve
two weeks fortnight

undershirt vest
underwear (washing) smalls

vacation holiday
vacuum cleaner hoover
VCR Video
vest waistcoat

wash cloth face flannel
wash up wash your hands
water heater(electric) immersion heater
water heater (gas) geyser
weather stripping draught excluder
white lima been butter bean
windbreaker windcheater
windshield windscreen
wire telegram

yard garden

zero nought
zip code postal code
zucchini courgette
Related articles:
English Idioms - English phrases and their meanings
Latin Abbreviations and their English meaning
Languages by Countries
Differences between American and British English - PT. 2

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At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...
At 6:08 AM, Blogger R. Edmondson said...
At 9:06 PM, Blogger junebee said...
At 5:37 PM, Blogger Mr. Outrageous Ebay Auctions said...
At 8:42 PM, Blogger R. Edmondson said...
At 4:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...
At 9:42 AM, Blogger JOLLY ROGER said...
At 1:35 PM, Anonymous pink poison said...
At 5:48 AM, Anonymous Reynold said...
At 3:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...
At 3:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...
At 1:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...
At 9:24 AM, Blogger bumbu pecel bali said...
At 5:25 PM, Anonymous cdc said...

Don't know where you got this list from but here are a couple of corrections.

"Biscuit" is the term used in Britain, and "cookie" is used in America. These two should be reversed on your chart.

Also the word "fag or faggot" is a British expression, not "homosexual" as you state. Again, you have them reversed.

Comments from A Brit who has lived in both countries.

Hello Anonymous : )

Thanks for your comment. The correction you pointed out for: "Biscuit" used in Britain, and "cookie" used in America is right. This was a mistake on my part and I appreciate it very much that you have identified this error.

The other terms “fag/faggot” is an expression used in Britain but not necessarily very frequent for the term “homosexual”. For example, “fag” can be use to mean cigarette in Britain. The term “faggot/fag” is more frequently used (as a slang) for homosexual in America. There will be no misinterpretation using the word in the U.S. This might even be a troublesome words for many Brits in the USA.

Note also that some terms will be used in both countries due to people moving from one country to the next bringing their cultural language influence but, you have to go with the one where it is more consistently used for a specific meaning of a term.

"Fag" is cigarette in British. At least it was a few years ago.

I found your blog while surfing at the BlogExplosion Blog Rocket page and just wanted to let you know I stopped by and enjoyed reading your blog.

Keep it up.


Outrageous Ebay Auctions Blog

Thank you:0)

I have to disagree with a lot of those.
As a Brit i think you will find that we understand a lot of American terms. Whereas if i said one of your supposedly British terms to an American, i would get a blank look.

We are much more cultured than you in MANY MANY ways.

Kind Regards

How do you do… the shops

Don’t come again

Everyone’s been to the shops, hold on, everyone’s been to the shops that isn’t currently the unfortunate offspring of Michael Jackson’s fish pond. Blanket, he sees no evil, yet feels some evil, that boy is an unwilling consumer of organics.

...more at lifestyleguides.blogspot.com

It's a mistake tryin to know all the diffrences whwn the american use english and vice-versa. Justi live with it. I'm portuguese, my country gave the language to Brazil and and they want to creat an offcial language.

one of my best bikes check out

As far as I'm aware, a business suit in British English is still a business suit or, simply, a suit. A lounge suite is a set of couch / sofa and armchairs, and seems to be a particularly Australian usage.

FM radio is FM (broadcast) radio - States, British, elsewhere.

VHF radio is a very high frequency (often handheld) radio, communicating to other VHF radios on the same frequency, what you might call a walkie-talkie.

They're not the same thing.

I do not know where your list came from but let me correct a couple more errors. A "faggot" in north England is a type of sausage, a zucchini is not an courgette, that is an eggplant, knickers, in England, is a term used for female underwear. Also, you state, "...Britain is the mother tongue of the English language." M&M's are not just Smarties they are named differently and in different packages and we get both in Canada, where I currently am, and in the U.K.

Where did you get your list of language differences from? Many are completely wrong. If you went to university to learn what you have expressed incorrectly, then that is a sad reflection on the education system where you attended. I will not address such ridiculous materials so please do not reply, just learn and put your thoughts down after really knowing what you are writing.

That's all. 'nuf sed. Plamuk aka travellingchef.

this is good post...

please can you visit here..




tengs very much...

No one says filling station it's called a petrol station and a bun can be called a cob or a bap,there are many mistakes

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