English (British) - American Dictionary
Compiled by Mark Glicksman
with the Assistance of Crinan Alexander, The Royal Botanical Garden, Edinburgh and Malcolm Manners, Horticultural Science Department of Florida Southern College
And with Additional Suggestions by Iona Dawson (IULM University, Milan), Lowell Whitney, Ron Peeples, Jim Blacker, Lauralyn Pilakowski, Michael Wardle, Shimona Carvalho, R W K Gardiner, Elazar Sheffer, Linn Barringer, Mitchell A. Leitman, Caroline Andrews, Nick Wagg, Michael C. Berch, Tim Diggins, Ed Kendall, Keir Shiels, John Berrie, Stephen Draper, "Jennifer", Olive DePonte, Stephen J Cuzzone, Benedict Walmisley, Kevin A. Dougherty, Russ Campion, Richard Erickson, Roy Davis, Linda B., Giancarlo Mariot, Angela Ferguson and Shannon Busch
In compiling this list, I have tried to avoid slang terms, which certainly could fill up an entire website on their own. I've also omitted simple differences in spelling between U.S. and U.K. versions of the same words, e.g. color and colour.
UK-US - Cars and Driving:
UK US aerial antenna ("aerial" used regionally in the past but has faded from use) articulated lorry tractor-trailer bonnet hood boot trunk car park parking lot cats eyes reflectors (embedded in road) central reservation median demister defroster defogger dipped lights low beams diversion detour drink-driving drunk driving driving licence driver's license dual carriageway divided highway dumper truck dump truck estate car station wagon flat battery dead battery flyover overpass gear box transmission gear lever gear shift give way yield glove box glove compartment hire car rental car indicators turn signals jump leads jumper cables lorry truck main beams high beams (or full beams) metalled road paved road motorway freeway (Western U.S.) expressway (Eastern U.S.) Interstate See Notes number plate license plate petrol gasoline gas recovery towing ring road beltway (Eastern U.S.) (or orbital) roundabout circle rotary (New England) Interestingly, the terms roundabout, traffic circle and rotary are all used in the US state of Iowa to denote different types of circular road arrangements. saloon car sedan silencer muffler slip road entrance or exit ramp straight straightaway (as at a race track) top up fill up top off See Notes transmission power train transmission shaft drive shaft tyre tire unmade road dirt road, unpaved road verge shoulder (of road) windscreen windshield window heater defroster defogger wing fender wing mirror side mirror, side-view mirror zebra crossing crosswalk
US-UK - Cars and Driving:
US UK antenna aerial beltway (Eastern U.S.) ring road (or orbital) circle, traffic circle roundabout crosswalk zebra crossing defogger window heater demister defroster window heater demister dead battery flat battery detour (noun) diversion dirt road unmade road divided highway dual carriageway drive shaft transmission shaft driver's license driving licence drunk driving drink-driving dump truck dumper truck expressway motorway (Eastern U.S.) fender wing fill up top up See Notes four lane road dual carriageway freeway (Western U.S.) motorway See Notes gas petrol gasoline gear shift gear lever glove compartment glove box high beams main beams (or full beams) hood bonnet Interstate motorway jumper cables jump leads license plate number plate low beams dipped lights median central reservation muffler silencer overpass flyover parking lot car park paved road metalled road power train transmission ramp (entrance or slip road exit) reflectors cats eyes (embedded in road) rental car hire car rotary (New England) roundabout sedan saloon car shoulder (of road) verge side mirror, wing mirror side-view mirror station wagon estate car straightaway straight (as at a race track) top off top up towing recovery tractor-trailer articulated lorry transmission gear box truck lorry trunk boot tire tyre turn signals indicators unpaved road unmade road yield give way windshield windscreen
UK-US - Food:
UK US aubergine eggplant biscuit cookie candy floss cotton candy chips french fries conserves preserves cornflour cornstarch courgettes zucchini zucchini squash crisps potato chips fish fingers fish sticks jacket potato baked potato jam jelly jelly jello mince ground meat hamburger porridge oatmeal pudding dessert rocket arugula sweet dessert tinned canned
US-UK - Food:
US UK appetizers starters arugula rocket baked potato baked potato jacket potato canned (in metal) tinned cookie biscuit cornstarch cornflour cotton candy candy floss dessert dessert sweet pudding eggplant aubergine fish sticks fish fingers french fries chips ground meat mince hamburger mince jello jelly jelly jam oatmeal porridge potato chips crisps preserves preserves conserves zucchini courgettes zucchini squash
UK-US - Others:
UK US aerial antenna aluminium aluminum antenatal prenatal anticlockwise counterclockwise at hand (meaning to hand readily available) autumn fall ("autumn" is used, but only in formal or poetic language) baggage reclaim baggage claim (airport) bicentenary bicentennial bill check (restaurant) See Notes bin liner trash bag bookings reservations (verb - to book) (verb - to reserve as in restaurant, hotel) botanic garden botanical garden braces suspenders cashback (noun) rebate, cash back charity non-profit organization not-for-profit cheap inexpensive (not necessarily in a negative light) chemists pharmacy, drug store cinema movie theater, theater "clued up" "clued in" coach bus coach (railway) car (railroad) "come to that" "for that matter" cot crib (for a baby) cutlery silverware See Note cuttings clippings (as in news clippings) despatch shipping (as in shipping department) DIY do it yourself dodgy tricky, chancy downmarket downscale dummy pacifier dustbin trash can (see Australian Variants) engaged (as in telephone)busy fee (for schooling) tuition fit (verb) equip, fit out fittings fixtures fix (verb - as in set "fix a date") flat apartment football soccer freephone toll-free freepost business reply mail (no stamp needed) frock dress (noun) full stop (punctuation) period gents men's room headmaster principal hide (noun) blind (noun - as in duck blind) hire (hire a car) rent (rent a car) hob stove, stovetop holiday vacation homely homey (pleasant) (In the U.S., "homely" describes a person as plain or unattractive) hoover (noun and verb) vacuum (noun and verb) vacuum cleaner (noun) ill sick "in future" "from now on" See Diggins' Notes in hospital in the hospital See Notes "join the train" "get on the train" jumper sweater licence license (noun) license license (verb) lie in sleep in lift elevator laundrette laundromat lorry truck marquee tent See Notes maths math mobile (phone) cell (phone) momentarily for a short time (but not "in a second") mum mom nappies diapers nil nothing, zero note bill (currency) See Notes on stream on line open day open house pitch (for playing field sports) polo neck, roll neck turtle neck post mail See Notes pram baby carriage push chair stroller (baby) queue line (noun as in "bus queue" verb as in "queue up") railway railroad read (verb - "read a study subject in college") See Diggins' Notes redundancy (verb "to layoff (verb - "to lay off") make redundant") removal (as in removal moving van) reserved to (as used reserved for in Diggins' Note) return round trip (as in round trip ticket) reverse charge call collect call rise (noun - in salary) raise rubber eraser (in U.S., rubber is slang for condom) rubbish bin trash can rucksack backpack sack (verb - from fire employment) secateurs pruners or clippers shoddy cheap shopping trolley shopping cart sport sports solicitor lawyer attorney See Notes See Additional Notes See A Canadian Perspective See Diggins' Notes "sorry" "excuse me", "pardon me" spanner wrench (noun) stand (for election) run (for election) starters appetizers straight away right away (meaning "immediately) suspenders garter swear word curse word subway underpass tap faucet tariffs rates, prices tarmac asphalt (tarmac is used in U.S. only in airport context) tea towel dish towel dish cloth See Notes telephone box telephone booth tender (noun or verb) bid (as in bid for a building contract) to hand (meaning at hand readily available) to let for rent to trade (as in "a by trade toilet restroom torch flashlight trainers sneakers treble triple transport (noun) transportation trousers pants trolley cart tube subway tucked up (as in "The tucked in baby was tucked up for the night.") tuition for (noun as study of in "tuition for the flute") underground subway upmarket upscale valve vacuum tube vest undershirt walking frame walker (device to assist the elderly) washing up doing the dishes waistcoat vest
US-UK - Others:
US UK aluminum aluminium antenna aerial apartment flat asphalt tarmac attorney solicitor See Notes See Diggins' Notes baby carriage pram backpack rucksack baggage claim (airport) baggage reclaim bicentennial bicentenary bid (as in bid for a tender (noun or verb) bill (as in currency) note See Notes blind (noun - as in hide duck blind) botanical garden botanic garden business reply mail freepost (no stamp needed) busy (as in telephone) engaged by trade (as in "a to trade carpenter by trade") bus coach car (railroad) coach (railway) cart (noun as in a trolley shopping cart) cell (phone) mobile (phone) cheap shoddy check (in a restaurant) bill See Notes clippings (as in news cuttings clippings) "clued in" "clued up" collect call reverse charge call counterclockwise anticlockwise crib (for a baby) cot curse word swear word diapers nappies dish cloth, dish towel tea towel See Notes doing the dishes washing up downscale downmarket dress (noun) frock drug store chemists elevator lift equip, fit out (verb) fit eraser rubber "excuse me" "sorry" fall autumn faucet tap field (for playing pitch sports) fire sack (verb - from employment) fixtures fittings (as in plumbing) flashlight torch for rent to let "for that matter" "come to that" "from now on" "in future" See Diggins' Notes garter suspenders "get on the train" "join the train" homey (pleasant) homely (In the U.S., "homely" describes a person as plain or unattractive) in the hospital in hospital See Notes inexpensive cheap (not necessarily in a negative light) layoff redundancy (verb - "to (verb - "to lay off") make redundant") laundromat laundrette lawyer solicitor See Notes See Additional Notes See A Canadian Perspective See Diggins' Notes license (noun and verb) licence (noun) license (verb) line queue (noun as in "bus line" and verb as in "line up") mail post math maths men's room gents mom mum movie theater cinema moving removal (as in moving van) nothing nil non-profit organization charity on line on stream (as in "forthcoming") open house open day pacifier dummy pants trousers "pardon me" "sorry" period (punctuation) full stop pharmacy chemists prenatal antenatal principal headmaster (school) pruners secateurs (or clippers) railroad railway raise (in salary) rise range (see "Stove") rates, prices tariffs rebate (noun) cashback rent (rent a car) hire (hire a car) reservations bookings (verb - to reserve (verb - to book) as in restaurant, hotel) reserved for reserved to (as used in Diggins' Note) restroom toilet right away straight away (meaning immediately) round trip return (return ticket) (as in round trip ticket) run (for election) stand (for election) set (verb - as in fix "set a date") shipping (as in despatch shipping department) shopping cart shopping trolley sick ill silverware cutlery See Note sleep in lie in sneakers trainers soccer football sports sport stove, stovetop hob stroller (baby) push chair study read (verb - as in "study a subject in college") See Diggins' Notes study of tuition for (noun as in "study of the flute") subway tube underground suspenders braces sweater jumper telephone booth telephone box tent marquee See Notes toll-free freephone transportation transport (noun) trash bag bin liner trash can dustbin (see Australian Variants) tricky (chancy) dodgy triple treble trash can rubbish bin truck lorry tucked in (as in "The tucked up baby was tucked in for the night.") tuition fee turtle neck polo neck, roll neck underpass subway undershirt vest upscale upmarket vacation holiday vacuum (noun and verb) hoover vacuum cleaner(noun) vacuum tube valve vest waistcoat walker (device to walking frame assist the elderly) wrench (noun) spanner zero nil
You mentioned motorway being equivalent to freeway or interstate. Note that "freeway" is a Western (mostly California) term, which sounds as foreign to a Floridian as does motorway.
top up vs. fill up -- we do "top off" our gas (petrol) tanks, after filling up, i.e., after the pump valve clicks off, one "tops off" the tank to the nearest 5 or 10 cents.
bill vs. check (in a restaurant) -- in the Southeast, we tend to say "bill"
While we do call a dollar a "bill" rather than a "note", all U.S. currency has the words "Federal Reserve Note" printed on it.
If one borrows money from a bank, one "takes out a note."
How does a barrister differ from a solicitor? They're all lawyers here.
I've never got (sic!) very clear on how our usage of "post" vs. "mail" compares, but we seem to reverse meanings in at least some cases.
In the U.S., a mailman or mail carrier carries the mail, while working for the Post Office. He is a "postal worker." He puts the "mail" in one's mail box. The large receptacles outside the post office or on a street corner, where one mails a letter, are called drop boxes.
You listed tea towel vs. dish cloth and dish towel. That's also a regional thing. In Pennsylvania, where my family is (not "are") from, one washes dishes with a dish cloth, then dries them with a tea towel. In Florida, we wash with a dish rag and dry with a dish towel. I don't know of a site in the US where dishes are dried with a dish cloth.
Have you read "The Mother Tongue -- English and How it Got that Way", by Bill Bryson? I think it was originally published in Britain. It's a fascinating look at exactly this subject. Another favorite (without the "u") book is "Brit Think -- Ameri-Think". It also has sections on difference in language, "correct" vs. "horrible" things to name a child (one will meet many boys named "Randy" in the U.S., but never a Crinan and seldom a Malcolm. It also looks at our national psyche -- what makes us "tick." It is quite insulting to both sides, but an embarrassing lot of truth among the insults.
I thought of another area of differing speech: our use of prepositions and articles with certain nouns. I believe you are "at" school or university, are you not? We are "in" school or "in" or "at" THE university.
You are in hospital; We are in THE hospital.
We only use 'marquee' for the large solid tents used for entertaining large numbers of people at weddings etc. Otherwise we say 'tent'.
To us a van is usually a (commercial) vehicle without any side windows to the rear of the front seats, though people sometimes loosely call estate cars (shooting brakes) vans. Minibus and minivan are both used to mean vehicles in which say 12-18 people can be transported, as distinct from a coach which takes larger numbers.
There seems to be some confusion between the meaning of the terms "barrister" and "solicitor". I am an Australian, an I deal regularly with those from the United States and the United Kingdom, so I believe I have some insight into the differences between US and UK English.
My understanding of the term barrister is that a barrister is qualified and registered to represent a client in a court room, while a solicitor is not; a solicitor is merely able to give legal advice. This may be similar to the American distinction between "attorney" and "lawyer", however the distinction is greater.
I hope this clarifies the use of and difference between these terms.
(submitted April 24, 2002)
Editior's Note: In the US, attorney and lawyer are synonyms - attorney is considered a bit more formal language, and lawyer a bit more colloquial.
For your information, I am a Canadian barrister and solicitor. In Canada, we merged the two professions a very long time ago. In England and Wales (not necessarily all of the UK, as Scotland and Northern Ireland have different legal systems) and other countries in the commonwealth, barristers and solicitors are two different types of lawyers. In England and Wales solicitor is a lawyer who has limited rights of audience in the courts. His or her role is primarily that of first instance, a client who has a legal matter, be it litigation, corporate commercial, criminal, etc., goes to their solicitor. Should the legal mater require pleading in a superior court, the solicitor engages a barrister on the client's behalf. One cannot retain a barrister directly.
In Canada, a lawyer can wear different hats. If I draw up a will for a client, I do so as their solicitor. If I appear in the Superior Court (where I am required to don a robe), I do so as my client's barrister.
I hope this clears up the matter of attorney vs.. solicitor/barrister. Or at least from the latter perspective.
(submitted January 29, 2004)
A note about in future vs in the future....
There is a great subtle differences between UK and US usages of the definite article, and I am not totally reliable as I have moved backwards and forwards between the UK and the US every few years until I was twenty. I would however recommend the US equivalent of the UK "in future" as being "from now on", whereas "in the future" in the UK always means the speculative future of science fiction. "In future everyone we come to school on time or there will be trouble", "In the future, everyone will come to school on jet-propelled backpacks".
A further note on articles. Someone (reference lost) once remarked that if Jane Austen had been writing her novels as an American (particularly in the South), she would have written "The Pride and The Prejudice", but I think this was half jest.
One more note on the difference between barrister and solicitor in the UK. I believe that what has been said on these pages is more historical - while people still tend to train and to practice either as barristers (in court) or solicitors (in offices), I believe the legal distinction between them has been removed
One great thing missing from your list are the complicated equivalences for educational study. You talk about "read" (as in "He read English at Hull" (meaning "He studied English at Hull") - but also US "school" - what school did you go to - in the UK, more likely to say, where did you study, or what university did you go to (or use of the word "uni" which tends to be reserved to undergraduates). "college" (UK) tends to mean "sixth form college" (ie. a school limited to 16-18 year olds, largely preparing people), although at "collegiate" universities, does also mean "university". The word "graduate" in the UK means someone who has graduated with an undergraduate degree, whereas in the US, it tends to mean "someone undertaking "graduate" study, masters or PhD (which is called "postgraduate study" in the UK. I believe that postgraduate (US) means "postdoctoral" (UK).
Let's just not get started with "public school"
Tim Diggins, London (submitted March 22, 2005)
The homepage is great it would be even better if you added Australian English and New Zealand English and maybe Canadian English.
I am Australian and some of the words we use in Australia can be a mixture of American English and British English ie ,rubbish truck, garbage truck, tip truck, garbage can, garbage tin, rubbish bin,dustbin, otto bin wheelie bin. So you can see in Australia many other variants have evolved.
Editor's Reply: I'm afraid I wouldn't have time to maintain more variants of English on my page. But your comments are well stated and interesting.
A Note by Linda B: I live in Canada, so we use a lot of "Britishisms" in our English. USAians use the term "silverware" to mean "cutlery". It could be made of any material. It doesn't have to be silver. They never use the word "cutlery". I'm not sure of exactly what Brits mean by silverware, but in Canada, it has to be made of silver, at least be silver plated.
Editor's Note: People in the U.S. do sometimes use "cutlery", but it almost always refers to knives only.
A Note by Angela Ferguson: I do have a note about the use of the word "cutlery", though. I am from the Southeastern United States, and have heard the terms "cutlery", "silverware" and "flatware" all used interchangeably to mean the utensils with which we eat. We say "silver" (as in, "Let's get out the silver for tonight's dinner"), when we mean cutlery made specifically of silver, and "silverware" can be made of any material, including plastic.
An easily recognizable difference between US and UK English is in the handling of collective nouns. Collective nouns represent groups of persons (or animals) in a written form that is appears to be singular but is not - for example: committee, faculty, family or audience. In the US, a collective noun is always coupled with a verb in the singular form, but in the UK the opposite is often true. For example: "The committee was debating the proposal." (US) or "The committee were debating the proposal." (UK) This can be especially jarring to American ears.
Comment from Shannon BuschI think the reason for the confusion is that the US committee is singular (albeit a collective singular) whereas the UK committee is short for committee members, therefore a plural.
E-Mail your comments and suggestions for words to add to this list to firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2023 Glicksman Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.