Language

British vs. American English Words: 301 Differences You Didn’t Know

scattered words

Despite their shared roots, British English and American English have evolved over time to become two distinct dialects of the English language. This is evident in the many differences in vocabulary, spelling, and pronunciation between the two.

In this article, we explore a whopping 301 differences between the British and American English language and their vocabulary.

British vs. American English Word Themes

Here are a few common themes that emerge when comparing British and American English words:

  • American English tends to be more informal and simplified than British English: For example, Americans often use the word “pants” to refer to both trousers and underwear, while Britons use the words “trousers” and “underwear”, respectively. Additionally, Americans often use contractions such as “can’t” and “won’t”, while Britons are more likely to use the full forms “cannot” and “will not”.
  • American English has adopted many words from other languages, while British English has retained more of its original vocabulary: For example, the American word “cookie” is derived from the Dutch word “koekje”, while the British word “biscuit” is derived from the Old French word “bescuit”.
  • American English has a tendency to shorten words, while British English is more likely to retain the full form: For example, Americans often use the word “beet” to refer to the dark purple vegetable, while Britons use the full term “beetroot”.

List of Differences Between British and American English Words

Here are 301 differences between British and American words, spanning across food and drink, clothing, household items, and much more.

British EnglishAmerican English
A
a full stopa period
aerialantenna
alsatiangerman shepherd
american indiannative american
an exclamation markan exclamation point
angrymad
anti-clockwisecounter-clockwise
anywhereanyplace
appetiserstarter
articulated lorrytrailer truck
aubergineeggplant
autumnautumn, fall
B
bangersausage
bank holidaynational holiday
curriculum vitae, CVresume
barristerattorney
base rateprime interest rate
bathing costumeswimsuit
beetrootbeet
billcheck
bin, dustbin, rubbish bingarbage can, trash can
biroballpoint pen
biscuitcookie
block of flatsapartment building
bonnet (car)hood
bonnet (clothing)hat
boottrunk
bottombackside
bracessuspenders
bum bagfanny pack
C
candyflosscotton candy
car boot saleyard sale
car parkparking lot
caravantrailer
caretakerjanitor
cashierteller
cataloguecatalog
chapguy
chemistdrugstore
chest of drawersdresser, chest of drawers, bureau
chipsfries, french fries
cinemamovie theater
cling filmplastic wrap
cloakroomcheckroom
clothes pegclothespin
coffincoffin, casket
condomrubber
constablepatrolman
cookerstove
corn, wheatwheat
cotcrib
cottonthread
cotton woolcotton ball
courgettezucchini
crashwreck
crispspotato chips
crossroadsintersection; crossroads (rural)
cupboardcupboard (in the kitchen); closet (for clothes etc.)
curly bracketscurly braces
cupboard (in the kitchen); closet (for clothes etc)resume
curtainsdrapes
D
dearexpensive
dinner jacket, blazertuxedo
directory enquiriesdirectory assistance
diversiondetour
doll’s housedollhouse
double creamheavy cream
draughtdraft
draughtscheckers
drawtie
drawing-pinthumbtack
dressing gownrobe, bathrobe
drink-drivingdrunk driving
driving licencedriver’s license
dual carriagewaydivided highway
dummy (for baby)pacifier
dustmangarbage collector
duvetcomforter
dynamogenerator
E
earth wireground wire
engagedbusy
engineengine, motor
enquiryinquiry
estate agentreal estate agent
estate carstation wagon
everywhereall over the place
expiry dateexpiration date
F
fancy dress costumehalloween costume
father christmassanta claus
filmfilm, movie
fire brigadefire department
first floorsecond floor
fish-fingersfish-sticks
fizzy drinksoda pop
flannelwashcloth
flatapartment, flat, studio
flyoveroverpass
footballsoccer
fortnighttwo weeks
fringebangs
from monday to fridayfrom monday to friday, from monday through friday (friday included)
full stopperiod (punctuation)
G
gardenyard
gear levergear shift
gearbox (car)transmission
gentsmen’s room
girl guidegirl scout
girl, lassgirl
graduatealumnus
grillboiler
ground floorground/first floor
gumshoes, wellington boots, welliesrubbers, rain boots
H
hairpinbarrette
handbaghandbag, purse, shoulder bag
headmaster, headteacherprincipal
henchripped
high streetmain street
hire purchaseinstallment plan
hoardingbillboard
hockeyfield hockey
holidayvacation
hood (car)convertible top
hoovervacuum cleaner
hundreds and thousandssprinkles (for ice cream)
I
ice lollypopsicle
icing sugarpowdered sugar
illsick
indicatorturn signal (on a car)
intervalintermission
inverted commas, quotation marksquotation marks
invigilateproctor
J
jacket potatobaked potato
jamjam, preserves
joe bloggsjoe blow
jugjug, pitcher
juggernaut18-wheeler
jumpersweater
junior school, primary schoolelementary school
K
kituniform
L
ladybirdladybug
liftelevator
lollypop man/womancrossing guard
loo, bathroombathroom, restroom
lorrytruck, semi, tractor
lost propertylost and found
luggagebaggage
M
mackintosh, raincoatraincoat
madcrazy, insane
main roadhighway
maizecorn
managing directorceo
mashed potato, mashmashed potatoes
matchgame
matebuddy
mathsmath
meanstingy
mobile phonecell phone
motorbikemotorcycle
motorwayfreeway, expressway
mum, mummymom, mommy, ma
N
nappydiaper
nastyvicious, mean
national insurance numbersocial security number
naughts and crossestic-tack-toe
nil (sport)nothing, zero
notice boardbulletin board
nought, zerozero
nowherenoplace
number platelicense plate
nursing homeprivate hospital
O
off-licenseliquor store
opticianoptometrist
oven gloveoven mitt
P
pack of cardsdeck of cards
packed lunchsack lunch
packet of cigarettespack of cigarettes
pants, underpantsunderpants, drawers
paracetamolacetaminophen
paraffinkerosene
parcelpackage
partingpart (in hair)
pavementsidewalk
pay risepay raise
peckishhungry
pedestrian crossingcrosswalk
peeppeek
pepperbellbell pepper
pet hatepet peeve
petrolgas, gasoline
phone boxphone booth
pitchfield
plane, aeroplaneairplane
plasterband-aid
pocket moneyallowance
policemanpolice officer
polo neckturtleneck
postmail
postboxmailbox
postcode, postal codezip code
postmanmailman, mail carrier, letter carrier
pram, pushchairbaby carriage, baby buggy, stroller
prawnsshrimp
pubbar
public toiletrest room, public bathroom
punctureblow-out
Q
queueline
quidbuck
R
railwayrailroad
railway carriagerailway car
receptionfront desk
receptionistsecretary
reel of cottonspool of thread
return ticketround-trip ticket
reverse chargecollect call
ring roadbeltway, freeway/highway loop
road surfacepavement, blacktop
rocketarugula
round bracketsparentheses
roundabouttraffic circle, roundabout
rubbereraser
rubbishgarbage, trash
rucksackbackpack
runner beanstring bean
S
saloon (car)sedan
sandpitsandbox
self-cateringno meals included
sellotapescotch tape
sharestock
shopshop, store
shop assistantssales clerks
shopping trolleysshopping cart
sicknauseated
silencer (car)muffler
single ticketone-way ticket
skipping ropejump rope
sledgessled
snakes and ladderschutes and ladders
soft toystuffed animal
solicitorlawyer, attorney
somewheresomeplace
sorryexcuse me
spannerwrench
sports dayfield day
spotpimple
square bracketsbrackets
staff (of a university)faculty
state schoolpublic school
stockinventory
subwayunderpass
sultanaraisin
sumpoil pan
sweetdessert
sweet shopcandy store
sweetscandy
T
takeawaytakeout (food)
tapfaucet
tap (outdoors)spigot
taxitaxi, taxi cab
tea toweldish towel
tellytv (television)
termsemester
the cinemathe movies
the ploughthe big dipper
third-party insuranceliability insurance
tightspantyhose
timetableschedule
tincan
tippexwhite out
to bathto bathe
to fill into fill out
to hireto rent
to lay the tableto set the table
to queueto line up
to ringto call
to washto wash up
toll motorwaytoll road, turnpike
torchflashlight
town centre, city centredowntown, city center
trainerssneakers
tramstreetcar
tramphobo
treaclemolasses
trouserspants, trousers
tube (train)subway
turn-upscuffs
U
underlaycarpet pad
underpantsshorts
undertakermortician
V
verge (of road)shoulder (of road)
vestundershirt
W
waistcoatvest
walletwallet, billfold
wardrobecloset
wash your handswash up
whiskywhisky/whiskey
windscreenwindshield
wingfender
Y
yeargrade
Z
zebra crossingcross walk
zedzee
zipzipper

Why are British English Words Different from American English Words?

The history of the English language is complex and fascinating. The differences between British and American English can be traced back to a number of factors, including:

  • The geographical separation of the two countries: After the American Revolution, the United States began to develop its own unique culture and identity, which was reflected in its language.
  • The influence of other languages: The United States has a much more diverse population than the United Kingdom, and this has led to the adoption of many words from other languages, such as Spanish, French, and German.
  • The rise of mass media: In the 20th century, the rise of mass media such as radio, television, and the internet helped to standardise American English and spread it around the world.

Final Thoughts from UK vs. USA

Despite their differences, British English and American English are both vibrant and evolving languages. Both dialects have their own unique charm and character, and both are used by millions of people around the world.

If you’ve found this article on the word differences between the UK and the US, check out our article on the differences between British and American spellings.

Related Posts
8 Differences Between British vs. American English Spelling
scrambled letters for spelling

Learn the differences between British and American English spelling, with helpful tables and examples. Whether you're a writer, expat, or Read more

Degree Celsius (ºC) to Fahrenheit (ºF): Temperature Conversion Calculator [With Formula & Chart]
degree celsius temperature

A quick and easy temperature conversion calculator, converting Degree Celsius (ºC) to Fahrenheit (ºF) and vise versa. Along with a Read more