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British vs American Vocabulary

Here are some of the main differences in vocabulary between British and American English. This page is intended as a guide only. Bear in mind that there can be differences in the choice of specific terms depending on dialect and region within both the USA and the UK.

Given the number of places around the world that English is spoken, differences are bound to emerge. Despite how much the USA and UK have in common, there are enough differences between their two versions of the English language that someone may not always understand exactly what someone from the other country is saying. Not only are there 160 distinct dialects of the English language, but there’s also different spelling and even words, used to describe one or other thing. Fortunately, the US State Department has created a series of these useful graphics to help clear things up between the British English Vs. American English usage. 

Did you know, that the difference between spelling words like American color and British colour, or humor and humour, comes from the Brits adopting, their now called British words, from Old French language? When it came to America later, the spelling was simplified. And so is with many other American English and British English differences, as the adaptation of grammar took its part. 

The US and the UK’s imperial histories and modern influence over the world have changed the English wording forever. Because it was exported to countries all over the world, it has been forced to accept different variations of the same language, the most known one to be the British Vs. American.

Even if you’re a native speaker of UK or US English, there’s a good chance you’ll learn something new here. Check the brilliant graphs about British Vs. American English language differences below.

British EnglishAmerican English
A
acceleratorgas pedal, accelerator
aerial (TV, radio)antenna, aerial
AlsatianGerman shepherd
American IndianNative American
anorakjacket, parka
at the weekendon the weekend 
aubergineeggplant
B
bank holidaynational holiday, federal holiday
barrister, solicitorlawyer, attorney
base rateprime rate
to bathto bathe
beetrootbeet
billcheck
bin, dustbingarbage can/trash can 
biroball-point pen
biscuitcookie
bonnethood
boottrunk
bracessuspenders
(round) bracketsparentheses
C
candy flosscotton candy
car parkparking lot
caravantrailer
caretakerjanitor
cataloguecatalog
centrecenter
chemist’s shopdrugstore, pharmacy
chipsFrench fries
city centredowntown, city center
cloakroomcheckroom, coatroom
clothes pegclothespin
colourcolor
cookerstove
(bathing) costumeswimsuit
cosycozy
cot (Baby)crib
cotton woolcotton ball 
courgettezucchini
crispspotato chips
crossroadscrossroad (in the country)
intersection (town and country)
curriculum vitae (CV)résumé
curriculum vitae
D
dinner jackettux, tuxedo
directory enquiriesdirectory assistance
diversiondetour
double creamheavy cream
draughtdraft
draughtscheckers
drawing pinthumbtack 
dressing gown(bath) robe
drink drivingdrunk driving
driving licencedriver’s license
dummypacifier
duvetcomforter
E
earth wireground wire
engagedbusy
enquiryinquiry
everywhereeveryplace, everywhere
expiry dateexpiration date
F
fancy dresscostumes
Father ChristmasSanta Claus
favouritefavorite
to fill into fill out
filmfilm, movie
fire brigadefire department
first floorsecond floor
fish-fingersfish-sticks
flannelface cloth, wash cloth
flatapartment
(flat: apartment with a single floor)
flavourflavor
footballsoccer
fortnighttwo weeks
fringebangs
from Monday to Fridayfrom Monday to Friday
from Monday through Friday (Friday included)
full stopperiod
G
gardenyard
gear levergear shift
GentsMen’s Room
goods trainfreight train
ground floorfirst floor, ground floor (in public buildings)
H
harbourharbor
headmaster, headteacherprincipal
to hireto rent
hire purchaseinstallment plan
hockeyfield hockey
holidayvacation
hoovervacuum cleaner
humourhumor
I
icing sugarpowdered sugar
indicatorblinker, turn signal
inverted commas, quotation marksquotation marks
J
jacket potatobaked potato
jewelleryjewelery
Joe BloggsJoe Blow
jumble saleyard sale
jumpersweater
K
kilometrekilometer
L
ladybirdladybug
to lay the tableto set the table
letterbox, postboxmailbox
liftelevator
litreliter
lorrytruck
lost propertylost and found
M
mackintoshraincoat
managing directorCEO (chief executive officer)
mashed potatomashed potatoes
matchgame
mathsmath
mobile (phone)cellphone
motorbikemotorcycle
motorwayfreeway, highway, expressway, interstate
mummom
British EnglishAmerican English
N
nappydiaper
national insurance numbersocial security number
neighbourneighbor
notebill
notice boardbulletin board
number platelicense plate
P
a pack of cardsa deck of cards
a packet of cigarettesa pack of cigarettes
pantsunderpants
paraffinkerosene/kerosine
pavementsidewalk
pedestrian crossingcrosswalk
pepperbell pepper
petrolgas
phone boxphone booth
planeairplane
polo neckturtle neck
postmail
post codezip code
postmanmailman
pram, pushchairbaby carriage, baby buggy, stoller
prawnshrimp
primary schoolelementary school
grade school
programmeprogram
Q
to queueto line up
quidbuck
R
railwayrailroad
receptionfront desk
to ringto call
road waypavement
roundabouttraffic circle, rotary
rucksackbackpack
rubbereraser
rubbishgarbage
S
sharestock
shopstore
shop assistantsales clerk
sicknauseated
single ticketone-way ticket
Sorry.Excuse me.
spannerwrench
sports dayfields day
public schoolprivate school
stockinventory
subwayunderpass
sultanaraisin
sweet shopcandy store
T
tapfaucet
taxicab
termsemester
theatretheater
timetableschedule
tincan
toilet, loobathroom, rest room
town centredowntown, city center 
torchflashlight
trainerssneakers
tramstreetcar
travelledtraveled
trolleycart
trouserspants
tyretire
U
underground, tubesubway
underlaycarpet pad
undertakermortician
V
vestundershirt
W
waistcoatvest
walletbillfold
wardrobecloset
to washwash up
wingfender
Y
yeargrade
Z
zebra crossingcrosswalk
zipzipper

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