The BG-Map
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.

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Part 1
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

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

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

wing                     fender

wing mirror              side mirror,
                         side-view mirror

zebra crossing           crosswalk

Part 1
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

defroster                window heater

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

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

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
Part 2
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

porridge                 oatmeal

pudding                  dessert

rocket                   arugula

sweet                    dessert

tinned                   canned
Part 2
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

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

zucchini                 courgettes
zucchini squash
Part 3
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

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

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

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

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

(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

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

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
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

underground              subway

upmarket                 upscale

valve                    vacuum tube

vest                     undershirt

walking frame            walker (device to assist
                         the elderly)

washing up               doing the dishes

waistcoat                vest
Part 3
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 

"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

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

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,

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

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


A few notes by Malcolm Manners, who teaches at the Horticultural Science Department of Florida Southern College.
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.

A few notes by Crinan Alexander, The Royal Botanical Garden, Edinburgh:
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.

Additional notes by Michael Wardle of Australia:
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.

Notes on Barrister vs. Solicitor by Mitchell A. Leitman of Canada:
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)

Comments by Tim Diggins, London
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)

Comments by Australian, Stephen Draper
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.

Notes on Silverware/Cutlery

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.

A Note on Collective Nouns by Mark Glicksman:
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 Busch

I 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.

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