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Difference between British and American words, different words for the same objects and different meanings for the same words.

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Part 1

Since setting up this site I have become more aware of
the differences in language between the U.K. and the U.S.A. whether it be different
meanings for the same word or different words for the same thing, so thought it may be fun
to start a page listing some of these differences. 

This page has now been online
for several years and I had no idea how much interest it would
provoke.  I now have a file full of comments, views and
definitions.  My big problem is how to present all this information in
a way which is useful, informative and entertaining.  This is still a
work in progress.

Another thing which has become
apparent is the fact that there are no definitive answers;  not only do
different counties/states use different terminology but there appears to be
differences between generations as well.  All this makes it very
difficult to produce information with which everyone agrees.

What has become very evident over the years is just how much language is merging between all the various countries. Here in the UK we have adopted many, many “Americanisms” into everyday language and, I believe, some British terms are now used in the USA. This is probably due to travel and the wide exchange of TV programmes etc. 

I think this exchange of TV programmes may also be the cause of a lot of misconceptions. Many people contacting me see to think we still use the type of language which they hear on programmes such as Upstairs, Downstairs, Pride and Prejudice etc., which, of course, is not the case. Then, of course, there are programmes like Eastenders which is set in the East End of London and the language used is from that area (minus all the swearing of course) but people from other parts of the UK not only sound very different but use completely phrases and terms. 

In short this is a very complex subject.

At the foot of this page you
will find just one example of reaction received from one visitor who was
very keen for me to put the matter straight.




wpe48.jpg (5848 bytes)

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CV (curriculum vitae)Resume


In the US we
do say “CV”/”curriculum vitae” as well as
“resume,” but it has a different meaning. 

In American
usage, resume condenses all one’s accomplishments into one page, whereas
a CV is a complete account that can be many pages long.



Linda Rice kindly  points out that “biscuits” in America
are unsweetened dinner or breakfast pastries.

Bun (a sweet individual cake, sometimes
with dried fruit)
Muffin (nearest example I think!!!)

Wouldn’t it be a
cupcake rather than a muffin?


Muffin is
correct. A cupcake is like a miniature cake often with frosting. I
believe the same cooking mold can be used.

Simon Slade

Roll or BapBun

Courtesy of LInda Rice

Bottom/Bum/ (slang)/Posterior/BacksideGlutes
Linda also sent in this one.

Apparently usually used in ‘gyms’

Butt, Backside or Derriere

Submitted by Michelle McLane


Submitted by Maxine Dorot

FlagpoleFlagstaff *   

Both Linda Rice and “Rob” have contacted me saying they
had never heard this expression in the U.S.A. – sorry.

I have now been informed that both words are
used in America.  Apparently Flagstaff, AR gets its name from a rather prominent
flagpole/flagstaff that was erected there years ago.

Thanks to William Hitch for this

Silencer (on motor vehicle)Muffler*
         *Both suggested by John Stevens

Apparently another debatable one!!!


again both Linda and Rob pointed out this is usually known as a movie theater not


has made the comment that the word “movie” is still used generally, but
critics favour (favor) “film”.  He makes the observation that this may be
so they are not laughed at in Cannes!

and “film” are definitely both used in the US. In my mind
“movie” suggests Hollywood and “film” suggests
art-house, but it’s not hard-and-fast, and I like to use the two words
interchangeably to combat snobbery.


Swede (or yellow turnip)Rutabaga



To be technical, wardrobes are
stand alone and not built into the room, whereas a closet is built
into the room. At least in the US


This made me
think and actually here in the UK a free standing piece of furniture in
a bedroom is called a “wardrobe” but we tend to say
“built-in wardrobe” or even “cupboard” when it is
built into the room.

In the Southern part of the
US, the word “chiffarobe” or “chifforobe” is still
often used instead of wardrobe.  

It was used in “To Kill
a Mockingbird” and in Flannery O’Conner novels. My grandmother
always referred to her standing wardrobe furniture as a chiffarobe. The
closet was a built-in space. 

Scott Colombo

ClassGrade (pre-college schools)

(high schools (sometimes);  colleges (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior)

Thanks again to William Hitch


Most of the above were contributed by Swami Narasimhan for which we are
most grateful.

Toilet or Lavatory

Loo or Bog (slang)*

English often call the toilet the LOO or, an even more
“slangy” term is the BOG.

Both of these are used, loo
being the most common. I came across a lot of trouble in America when
asking directions to the loo.



Restroom (or John I believe)

Apparently “Bathroom” is more commonly used (thanks to Dr. 
Bren Ewen for this.)

William Hitch advises all the following can be heard in the USA
“toilet, lavatory, john, restroom, washroom, latrine (army), head (navy), bathroom,
mens’/ladies’ room, outhouse (old country) and crapper (slang) – Sorry!

We Brits find this very strange “why disguise
what the room is used for?

You certainly wouldn’t want to “Rest” in British


you say you live in a flat to an American, they are likely to ask “a flat what?”

In the US: an apartment can mean
either a complex with areas of living for rent or the rented area of
living itself. But as far as I know, almost everyone would say
“Want to go up to my flat?” or “I have a flat two
blocks from here.”

It’s possible that rural
Americans haven’t heard the term, though I think it’s pretty

To be more specific, a flat
would imply a standard apartment. A studio is a very specific way of
saying a tiny apartment and a penthouse is one on the top floor and is
of better quality (usually luxurious [at least in comparison]).


have to correct that and say that “flat” doesn’t mean
apartment in the U.S., ever, and we wouldn’t say that. We might say
come up to my “place” or “apartment” or even
“pad” (this usage is from the 70s and would be sort of
retro). “Flat” is definitely a British term (even in Canada,
which is where I’m living now, and Canada/US/UK English is a whole
other thing…).



We don’t call a ‘gas station’ a
‘garage’ we call it a ‘petrol station’ as that is what it sells, we also
call a garage a garage.

Paul Hedges


The term ‘garage’ can refer to
several different things in the UK.

It is the place where vehicles are


where vehicles are


where petrol etc. can be

Years ago most garages that served
fuel also carried out repairs but that has now changed with many only
selling fuel, accessories and refreshments.  In view of this the
term ‘petrol station’ is also used.


Gas Station.

A “garage” in America is where you park your car at night.





this one is really confusing!  in the U.K. the word ‘pants’ is only used for
“underpants” hence, when an American says he is going to put on a fresh pair of
pants before going out, it cracks us up.

“Pants” is now being used by our younger generation as a
word to describe something they don’t like.  e.g. The film was ‘pants’!.


confusing one.  In the U.K. braces are two pieces of wide elastic which fix to the
top of trousers, over the shoulder and then back onto the top of the trousers, thus
holding them up.


It is also a term used in order to straighten
teeth (in both countries I



Suspenders are what ladies’ use to hold up stockings, although this
term was also used for the contraptions men used to use to hold up their socks (so I am

As a Yorkshireman if you can borrow his ‘suspenders’
and see what happens!

Suspenders in the US can mean what
is already listed as well as the meaning in England, to hold up pants.


The word suspenders in the
US almost always refers to those stretch bands that hook from back to
front used to hold up men’s trousers.  A woman’s stockings (before
pantyhose) were held up by elastic garters or a garter belt.

Valencia Scott Colombo 

the above ‘quips’ (in red) were kindly contributed by Nik Shearer – there is more of his
humour (humor) at the bottom of this page.

Clothes PegClothes Pin
Bicarbonate of SodaBaking Soda
Minced beefGround beef
RoundaboutRotary *

I think that’s only
used in New England (where I grew up); most of the US says
“traffic circle.


I’m pretty
sure the part about roundabouts/rotaries/traffic circles is wrong. I
live in Indiana, and I have never, ever heard anything other than


Perambulator (or Pram)Carriage*




If you say CHIPS in Britain people think of quite large bits of
cooked potato in the US they are STEAK FRIES (as you get large ones with meat), whereas
the type of fries you get in McDonalds are called fries OR chips. Being a Scotsman i would
dare call those nonsense little bits of potato ‘chips’.

Nik Shearer point this one out.

CrispsPotato Chips

Another from Nik

All sent in by Debbie – thanks.
Boot (car)Trunk
Bonnet (car)Hood
PetrolGas **

It has been pointed out by
J. Bunce, that this is an abbreviation of the
word “gasoline” – a word previously used for fuel.

Gas in the U.K. and apparently Australia is an
air like substance which fills any available space.  Some gases can be bottled and
used for such things as cooking.

Gas can also be used to mean idle chatter.

I am told “gas” means “funny” in

Thanks to Effie Makris for
these observations


I’ve also heard the word
“gas” used to mean “funny.” It’s not unique to
Ireland. I do remember watching old movies using the term – usually as
a noun. “That story was a gas.” It’s not in common use now.
However, some people think passing gas is funny.


does refer to the third state of matter as well as to gasoline in the


Moulting  (e.g. animal losing hair)Shedding
Sent in by Tamara Davis


For other examples Part 2 ,Part 3 and
Part 4
and here!

Kristina Hackenburg
has written as follow
s –

Wow where are you getting your info? 

Bun– in the US we have cinnamon buns and sticky buns that are sweet too.

Bottom/bum– we most def don’t use the word glutes unless we are working out or at a doctors
office  its a technical term. we say ass, butt, backside, rear end, and we do say
bum- its not a word we say alot but its an english word that came here but one of the most common words that people say in music and songs in america is BOOTY. 

Ive never heard the word flagstaff, just

we DEFINITELY don’t use the word
shoestring– we ALWAYS say
laces, or shoelaces, and we have heard of the word shoestring, its not odd, but no one says it.

I HAVE never heard of the word movie-house. its
movie theater why do you think all american commericals end or begin with the
phrase – coming soon to a theatre near you. now if we said we went to the theatre, we would mean like,
broadway, not a movie.. and another very common use is just movies.. we went to the movies. we were at the movies. 

As for movie and film. in school i would say film, to a friend i would say movie. do you want to watch this movie- is much more common then do you want to watch this film.. but say, an award for best new film- would not sound odd at all. 

class/grade– we say class of 2001, highschool class of 1994, or kindergarden class of 2000. we say what class do you have next referring to a specific subject (like biology).. and we say get to class, (if you are late for school), pick your classes (When in college) and also always, senior class, junior class, sophmore class and the whole freshman class.. now we always say 1st grade- 12th grade too for school before college. and when you get to high school you are a freshman in high school,. sophmore in
highschool, junior, senior etc. but we use those terms for college too. 

also, when saying toilet– sometimes because we teach children to say “little girls room, or little boys room- sometimes in joking, teenagers or adults might say
“ive just got to hit the little boys room real fast” 

oh and we park in the driveway, and we drive on the

trousers/pants– okay, we say pants as in anything that is a full length bottom.. but most commonly americans where denim, and we just call them jeans, and if they aren’t jeans, we call them by what they are- khakis, sweat pants, and if they are anything else we will say dress pants, work pants, depending on what we use them for.. dress pants are worn to church, or somewhere nice, work pants (if you are a painter) refer to pants you already ruined, but if you are a lawyer (work pants are dress pants). we dont say trousers.. if we did, i would assume they are khakis. oh and a side note: to pants someone (verb) is to pull there pants down in public. 

braces/suspenders.. suspenders in the us are not for socks, or stockings, women use garter belts for that with little straps that attach.. but suspenders attach at the belt loop on the outside of slacks/pants/trousers and are held up by your shoulders then attach on the back of your trousers on the belt loops.
Braces are for teeth. 

side walk/pavement – in the US we use either. my mother has yelled plenty at me when i was a child saying “get on the pavement, get out of the street”

chips/ chips are hard and packaged in bags they aren’t served fresh those are fries. the bigger fries are called steak fries, then we have french fries (which is a common term for any) that are regular sized and then curly fries that come in curly cues. 

ground floor/first floor– we always say ground floor for the one that is the lowest (usually underground)(but not to be mistaken with the basement) the term ground floor is only used in big buildings, like hospitals that have floors underground that are used not for storage. and first floor for the floor that is the first floor above ground.

dummy/pacifier.. we would never say dummy, unless we were referring to someone dumb, and we would never never be allowed to say dummy tit, because its offensive in america to say tit. pacifier is used, and
binky, or bink. binky more commonly to other adults, but adults will say to children
“wheres your bink?” 

we say angry just as much as we say

tights/ panty hose.. ahh this is complicated.. okay tights are thicker that pantyhose, pantyhose are see through, pantyhose are also known as stockings, and tights are also known as stretch pants (but the word stretch pants is frowned apon because its like an old lady thing to say), all are also known as leggings, now if they go to the knee and no higher they are known as knee highs, and if they go to the thigh, they are thigh highs, and if they go above the stomach they are called control tops. 

we say taxi just as much as we say

we say shops as in smaller stores

time tables are what we call multipication “do you know your timetables

estate agent– is called a
realator or
real estate agent

we say jam just as much as we say

we will never call jello jelly

a garden grows vegetables or flowers, a
yard is just grass

we say plug for outlet too. and
socket. we never say power point. 

Jacob Kuntzman
comments that ‘If you say “power point” in America, people will
think you are talking about the presentation software by Microsoft.’

pub isnt uncommon in the names of bars here. but we dont say we are going to the pub

solicitors in the us are people who come door to door to sell things. and there are tons of people with stores that say “no solicitors” on the fronts

surgery is what you get when they cut you open. not where you go to get it done

a tap is what you put in a keg of beer

gravy is a brown sauce used on turkey, but many italian americans still refer to gravy as tomato sauce, and all the generations after them still use it


Kim writes as follows:_

It mentions that roundabouts
are rare in America. I can count at least five within ten minutes from
my house in New Jersey. They aren’t at all rare. I’ve driven to Canada
quite a few times and also all over the East coast and LA area in
California. Roundabouts, or circles as they call it in my area, can be
found all over the continent as far as I know. Also, “in a
roundabout way” is a phrase I use and have heard used all my

Pavement could mean
anything paved, depending on the context.

Tap and faucet are
synonymous here. For example, one wouldn’t say faucet water, but tap

Pissed off is used the
same, to be “pissed” means to be drunk but is sometimes a
shortened way of saying pissed off.

Git, probably from movies
and books, has become a word not totally rare. I’m an Anglophile at
heart, but I’ve heard classmates call someone else a git before. It
could also be “get out” if you have a lazy way of speaking.

Bum, derriere, backside,
rear-end, bottom, butt, buttocks, and tush are the most common word to
refer to the gluteus maximus. Bum could also be slang for someone
homeless or lazy. A tramp is used for a woman who… doesn’t respect
her body – usually a street walker/hooker/”skank”, etc.

I’ve never heard anyone refer to
a flagpole as a flagstaff except in old (as in over 200
years) literature.

The same goes for shoelaces.
(Except for the old literature part)

I prefer the word film, but movies
is more commonly used. Film is more likely to refer to a work of art,
whether it be “arty” or not.

Mailmen could also be
referred to as a postal worker.

Porridge and oatmeal are
the same but porridge could also be a similar substance.

It’s never movie-house.
I’ve never heard that. Cinema is less common, but used.

A lounge means the same
as a living room, but a living room is not the same as a lounge. A
lounge could be anywhere, but a living room is found only in a home.

We do say waistcoat for
certain types of vests.

A cafeteria could also be
called a canteen or cafe.

To be “sacked
is the most common way of saying fired that I know of.

Plug and socket are
synonomous with outlet.

Dustbins are any bins you
can dispose something in, but trashcans are larger and sturdier.

Old ladies say pantyhose.
Most people would call thin tights stockings and if they aren’t
see-through, tights.

The underground can refer
to where the subway train is located. As in, you’d go to the
underground to catch the subway.

Fall is not the proper
term we use. That’s more just for little kids, but at least half of
the country says fall for autumn.

The ground floor is
located on the ground. The first floor could be the second floor or
the ground floor, depending on what the building is. Most hotels,
hospitals, and large buildings call the floor on the ground the ground
floor or lobby – the button in the elevator/lift would be a G or an L.

Most people say taxi. I
think certain regions say cab, but it’s not very popular. Although,
there would not be any confusion if one did say “I’m catching a

Yes, mad means angry. But
if I wrote a paper for English and put “mad” instead of
“angry”, my teacher would be “mad”. Mad can also
mean insane or “very”. Example of very: I’m mad thirsty.
Only teenage boys say that, however.

I’ve never heard of a fall hair
piece. I’m guessing it’s a completely obsolete meaning.

We have jam, jelly, and
. Jam is thicker than jelly, and preserves are the same
as the ones everywhere else.

If someone is ill, they’d
say they’re sick. But ill would be more proper.

A queue would be where
people line up to wait for something. A line would be a line as in a
straight angle or where people stand. Line is just used most often.

subject has created a great deal of interest and input from visitors. 
For ease of use these have been split into several different pages

Differences between
British and American English

Different meanings
for American and British words.

a second list of
and phrases which have different meanings

Then there are all the
suggestions of language differences (2
3 and 4) which have been sent in by visitors which
are shown on three more pages.