Big list of British and American vocabulary by topic

Summary: Nearly 900 different UK and US meanings and expressions on food, travel, places, people, law and order, education, medicine, STEM subjects, business, sports and games, multi-word verbs, idioms, office vocab, the arts and media, nature, and politics.

By: | Audience: Teachers | Category: Learning English | Topic: Varieties and Dialects

First Published: 15th Dec. 2018 | Last Edited: 25th Jan. 2019

This list explains nearly 900 British and American vocab differences, arranged by topic with the most important categories top, and the most useful/ most important examples top of each section. All explanations of meanings and alternative expressions are given British and then American.


British and American food, cooking and restaurant vocabulary

Food words which have different meanings in British and American English

chips – thick-cut hot fried potato, as in “fish and chips” (“French fries” or “fries” in American English) – thin, crispy snacks eaten cold from a bag, as in “potato chips” and “nacho chips” (“crisps” in British English)

cider – an alcoholic drink that is similar to beer but made from apples (“hard cider” in American English) – a soft drink made from apples

entrée – the first course/ starter – the main course

bill – what you get at the end of your meal in a restaurant that says how much you should pay (“the check” in American English) – paper money, as in “a five dollar bill” (“banknote” or “note” in British English)

sweets – small sugary snacks (“candy” in American English) – dessert/ sweet things generally, such as cakes

grill – cook under heat (“broil” in American English) – cook on a hotplate/ barbecue

pudding – dessert generally, or a hot, heavy dessert similar to Xmas pudding – a kind of custard dessert, similar to crème caramel

jelly – a wobbly dessert, as in “jelly and ice cream” (“Jell-O” in American English) – a kind of jam without solid lumps of fruit in it (as in “peanut butter and jelly sandwich”)

sherbet – a powdered sweet which fizzes a little on your tongue – a type of frozen dessert, like ice cream but with less or no milk (“sorbet” in British English)

wash up – do the dishes – wash your hands (before dinner)

biscuit – as in “chocolate biscuit” (“cookie” in American English) – a kind of savoury scone (as in “chicken and biscuits”)

squash – a kind of cordial that needs to be watered down to be drunk – a kind of vegetable similar to a pumpkin (similar to a British “marrow”)

cooker – stove/ range – cook

corn(field) – wheat – maize (usually called “sweetcorn” in British English)

sprouts – Brussels sprouts – alfalfa sprouts

faggot – a kind of meatball – a non-PC insult for homosexuals

flapjack – a sweet snack mainly made of oats (“granola bar” in American English) – pancake

hamper – a large basket for food, as in “picnic hamper” – a laundry basket


Different words for food and drink in British and American English

crisps – chips

chips – (French) fries

maize/ sweetcorn – corn

green peppers/ red peppers/ yellow peppers – bell peppers

sweets – candy

the bill – the check

take away – take out

waiter/ waitress – server

pudding/ sweet/ dessert – dessert

grill – broil

fizzy drink – soda/ pop

wash up/ do the dishes – do the dishes

wash your hands – wash up

washing up liquid – dishwashing liquid

saucepan – pot

frying pan – fry pan/ skillet

tin/ can – can

starter – appetizer

cooker/ stove – range/ stove

cook – cooker

aubergine – eggplant

courgette – zucchini

mashed potato – mash potato

skimmed milk – skim milk

coriander – cilantro

mince – chopped beef

barbecue – grill

tomato sauce/ tomato ketchup – tomato ketchup

rocket – arugula

off license – liquor store

cutlery – silverware/ flatware

ice lolly – popsicle/ ice pop

jelly – Jell-O

cling film – Saran wrap

porridge – oatmeal

jug – pitcher

crockery - tableware

spring onion – scallion/ green onion

kettle – tea kettle

sorbet – sherbet

neat (drink) – straight

single cream – half and half

French bean – string bean

(greasy) caff – diner

(doner) kebab – gyro

jacket potato – baked potato

fairy cake – cupcake

lay the table – set the table

buffet car – dining car

banger/ sausage – link/ sausage

hob – cooktop/ burner

beetroot – beet

broad bean – fava bean

candyfloss – cotton candy

double cream – heavy cream

potato peeler – vegetable peeler

joint – pot roast

mange tout – snow peas

swede/ neep – rutabaga

Swiss roll – jelly roll

fish fingers – fish sticks

scone – biscuit

food processor – Cuisinart

chewy sweets – taffy

kipper – smoked herring

tea towel – dish towel

ready salted crisps – salted crisps

corn flour – corn starch

(peach) stone – (peach) pit

salt cellar – salt shaker

liquorice – licorice

sultana – yellow raisin

icing sugar – powdered sugar/ confectioner’s sugar

treacle – molasses

(baby’s) beaker – sippy cup

tea cosy – tea cozy

fig rolls – Fig Newtons

icing – frosting

self-raising flour – self-rising flour

greaseproof paper – wax paper

boiled sweet – hard candy

caster sugar – superfine sugar

liquidiser – blender

profiterole – cream puff

glace fruits – candied fruits

hundreds and thousands – sprinkles


British and American transport and travel vocabulary

Transport words with different meanings in British and American English

gas – natural gas – gasoline

hood – the top of a convertible car – the cover of the engine (“bonnet” in British English)

trailer – something that goes behind car or bicycle, usually to carry extra luggage – similar, but also including small places where people can stay (“caravan” in British English)

trolley – shopping trolley – a kind of train in the street (“tram” in British English)

rider – a person riding a bicycle, motorbike, horse, etc – a person travelling on a train, bus, etc (“passenger” in British English)

pavement – the part by the side of the road where people walk (“sidewalk” in American English) – the material that makes a road


Different transport words in British and American English

the underground/ the Tube – subway

return (ticket) – round trip

single (ticket) – one-way (ticket)

car park – parking lot

platform 5 – track 5

coach – highway bus/ Greyhound bus

(train) timetable – schedule

economy (class) – coach (class)

crossroads – intersection

motorway – highway/ freeway

hand luggage – carry-on baggage

lorry – truck

aeroplane/ plane – airplane/ plane

petrol station/ garage – gas station/ fuel filling station

petrol – gas(oline)

zebra crossing/ pedestrian crossing – crosswalk

tram – streetcar/ trolley

season ticket – commuter ticket

accelerator (pedal) – gas pedal/ the gas

ticket barrier – turnstile

tailback/ traffic jam – gridlock/ backup/ traffic jam

public transport – public transportation/ public transit

passenger – rider

bonnet – hood

gearbox – transmission

diversion – detour

hand brake – parking brake

to reverse – to back up

indicator – blinker/ turn signal

roundabout – traffic circle

boot – trunk

puncture/ flat tyre – a flat

(train) carriage – (train) coach

overtake – pass

(overland) railway station/ train station – railroad station/ train station

buffet (car) – dining car

railway – railroad

toll road - turnpike

number plate – license plate

bumper – fender

ring road – beltway, freeway/highway loop

pavement – sidewalk

windscreen (wipers) – windshield (wipers)

give someone a lift – give someone a ride

level crossing –grade crossing

car journey/ drive – road trip

four-wheel drive – Jeep

baby seat – car safety seat

gear lever – gear shift

tyre – tire

motorbike/ motorcycle – motorcycle

articulated lorry – trailer truck/ semi

car/ motorcar – car/ automobile

give way – yield

Dormobile/ campervan – RV/ recreational vehicle

demister – defroster

wing – fender

hood – convertible top

slip-road – on-ramp/ off-ramp

lay-by – truck stop/ rest area

caravan – trailer

(train) guards – conductors

saloon – sedan

exhaust pipe – tailpipe

silencer – muffler

goods train – freight train

wagon – freight car

fire engine – fire truck

juggernaut – 18-wheeler

flyover – overpass

road surface – pavement, blacktop

main line – trunk line

estate (car) – (station) wagon

stabilisers – training wheels

dustcart – garbage truck

(engine/ train) driver – engineer

transport café – truck stop

AA (Automobile Association) – AAA

dip switch – dimmer switch

lollipop man/lady – crossing guard

sleeping policeman/ speed bump – speed bump

central reservation – median

points –switch

sleeper – railroad tie


British and American house and home vocabulary

House and home vocabulary with different meanings in British and American English

first floor – the first floor above the ground (upstairs from the ground floor, “second floor” in American English) – the floor at ground level (“ground floor” in British English)

wash up – do the dishes – wash your hands

cot – a baby’s bed (“crib” in American English) – a foldable extra bed (like a camp bed)

dormitory – a room for more many people, often with bunk beds, for example in a boarding school – a place where university students live (“halls” or “student halls” in British English)

cooker – stove in the kitchen for cooking (“range” in American English) – a person who cooks (“cook” in British English)

semi – semi-detached house (“duplex” in American English) – semi-trailer truck (“articulated lorry” in British English)

hamper – picnic basket – laundry basket

homely – cosy – ugly (person)


Different house and home words in British and American English

flat/ apartment – apartment/ condo/ condominium

block of flats – apartment building

wardrobe – closet

bin – trashcan/ garbage can

rubbish – garbage/ trash

socket – (electrical) outlet

garden – yard

two storeys – two floors

tap – faucet

armchair – easy chair/ armchair

student halls/ halls – dorm/ dormitory

curtains – drapes

washing machine – washer

accommodation – accommodations

mortgage – home loan

cooker/ stove – stove/ range

toilet/ loo/ the little boys’ room/ lavatory/ lav/ bog – bathroom/ restroom

electric razor – electric shaver

aerial – antenna

chest of drawers – bureau/ dresser

hoover/ Hoover/ vacuum cleaner – vacuum cleaner

washing up liquid – dishwashing liquid

clothes peg – clothes pin

property – real estate

terraced house – row house/ townhouse

semi/ semi-detached house – duplex

hob – burner/ cooktop

lay the table – set the table

duvet – comforter

kettle – tea kettle

bleach – Clorox

tumble dryer – dryer

bathroom scales – scale

food processor – Cuisinart

Brillo Pad – scouring pad

skip – Dumpster

cuddly toy – stuffed animal

kitchen roll – paper towel

scatter cushion/ throw cushion – scatter pillow/ throw pillow

reclining chair – La-Z-Boy

flannel – facecloth/ washcloth

furnace – boiler

washing up bowl – dishpan

bin liner – trash bag

paraffin – kerosene

cot – crib

camp bed – cot

dummy – pacifier

pram – baby carriage

tea towel – dish towel

garden path – front walk

earth – ground

throw cushion – throw pillow

pushchair – stroller

laundry basket – hamper

garage sale – yard sale

fittings – fixtures

greaseproof paper – wax paper

scrubbing brush – scrub brush

changing mat – changing pad

homely – homey

secateurs – pruners/ clippers

skirting board – baseboard

underlay – carpet pad


British and American describing places vocabulary

Vocabulary for describing places with different meanings in British and American English

surgery – a doctor’s office, like a clinic – an operating theatre

first floor – the first floor above the ground (“second floor” in American English) – the lowest floor (“ground floor” in British English)

subway – a pedestrian underpass – underground railway

bathroom – the place with a bath or shower – the place with a toilet

underpass – a street underground, often under another street – a tunnel for pedestrians under a street (“subway” in British English)

campsite – an area for people to camp in (“campground” in American English) – a place for a single tent (“pitch” in British English)

outside lane – the lane nearest the opposite side of the road, often used by faster cars (“inside lane” in American English) – the lane near the edge of the street, often used by slower vehicles (“inside lane” in British English)

pylon – electricity pylon (“transmission tower/ mast” in American English) – traffic cone

rail depot – a place where trains are parked – a rail terminal

mortuary – a place where dead bodies are stored (“morgue” in American English) – a funeral home

semi – semi-detached house – a kind of truck

saloon – part of a pub – a Western-style bar

Different describing places vocabulary in British and American English

toilet/ loo/ lavatory/ lav – bathroom/ restroom

first floor – second floor

ground floor – first floor

shop – store

cinema – (movie) theater

subway – underpass

underground (railway)/ the Tube – subway

(hotel) reception – front desk

primary school – elementary school

secondary school – (junior) high school

lift – elevator

block of flats – apartment building

city centre/ town centre – downtown

chemist’s – pharmacy/ drugstore

(student) halls/ halls of residence – dorm

junction – intersection

platform…, as in “platform two” – track…, as in “track two”

garden – yard

petrol station/ garage – gas station

car park – parking lot

surgery – doctor’s office

motorway – highway/ freeway

high street – main street

pedestrian crossing/ zebra crossing – crosswalk

estate agent – realtor

queue – line

roundabout – traffic circle/ rotary

off license – liquor store

pavement – sidewalk

ticket barrier – turnstile

postcode – zip code

traffic lights – traffic signals/ stoplights

railway – railroad

the countryside – the country

council estate – project

council house – public housing

accommodation – accommodations

town hall – city hall

till – cash register

(tele)phone box – phone booth

newsagent(‘s) – newsstand

cloakroom – checkroom/ coatroom

barber’s – barbershop

laundrette – laundromat

football pitch – soccer field

letter box – mail box

path – trail

billboard – hoarding

ring road – beltway/ freeway/ highway loop

lost property (office) – lost and found

Tannoy – PA/ public address system

semi/ semi-detached house – duplex

terraced house – townhouse

crèche – day care/ nursery

toll road – turnpike

A&E/ accident and emergency/ casualty – ER/ emergency room

wooden floor – wood floor

Portakabin – portable building

charity shop/ secondhand shop – thrift store

sweet shop – candy store

DIY shop – home improvement store

ironmongers – hardware shop

campsite – campground

(greasy) caff – diner

inside lane – outside lane

outside lane – inside lane

flyover – overpass

funfair – carnival

merry-go-round/ roundabout – carousel

multi-storey car park – parking garage

scrapyard – junkyard

skip – Dumpster

traffic cone – pylon

diagonally opposite – cater cornered

electricity pylon – mast/ transmission tower

mortuary – morgue

bumper car – dodgem

pigsty – pigpen

(hunting) hide – (duck/ hunting/ deer) blind


British and American clothes and accessories vocabulary

Appearance vocabulary with different meanings in British and American English

pants – underpants – long pants (“trousers” in British English)

purse – a small and/ or woman’s wallet – a handbag or shoulder bag

vest – underwear worn under your shirt (“undershirt” in American English) – part of a three-piece suit, worn under your jacket (“waistcoat” in British English)

jumper – sweater/ pullover – a kind of knitted dress

tights – nylons (“pantyhose” in American English) – skin-tight trousers (“leggings” in British English) or one-piece trousers and top (“unitard” in British English)

suspenders – straps to hold up stockings (“garters” in American English) – straps to hold up trousers (“braces” in British English)

tank top – sweater without sleeves – sleeveless T shirt

fancy dress – dressing up in a costume, e.g. for Halloween – formal wear such as a ball gown

nappy – kind of underpants for babies (“diaper” in British English) – an insulting word about Afro hair

boob tube – a strapless top (“tube top” in American English) – the television


Different appearance words in British and American English

trousers – pants

pants – underpants

tie – necktie

jeans – Levi’s

handbag - purse

trainers – sneakers

(sports) kit – uniform

swimming costume – bathing suit

vest – undershirt

tights – pantyhose

tracksuit – sweats

zip – zipper

wallet – billfold/ wallet

shoelace – shoestring

mac/ macintosh – raincoat

Y-fronts/ briefs/ (under)pants – jockey shorts/ jockey briefs/ pants

blazer – sports jacket/ sports coat

waistcoat – vest

wellington boots/ wellingtons/ wellies – galoshes/ rain boots/ rubber boots/ billy boots/ gum boots

woolly hat – ski hat

knickers – panties

bum bag – fanny pack

plimsolls – gym shoes

dressing gown/ bathrobe – (bath)robe

nappy – diaper

polo neck – turtle neck

cardigan – cardigan sweater

trouser suit – pant suit

suspenders – garters

braces – suspenders

brooch – pin

hair pin – bobby pin

rubber gloves – latex gloves

sleeveless top – sleeveless shirt

baby grow – blanket sleeper/ onesie

dungarees – overalls

ladder in your tights – run in your pantyhose

cagoule/ kagoul – Windbreaker

bowler hat – derby

long johns – long underwear

boob tube – tube top

turn-ups – cuffs


British and American clothes and accessories vocabulary

See also the clothes and accessories list above. 

Describing people words with different meanings in British and American English

mean – miserly/ the opposite of generous – unkind/ nasty

mad – crazy – angry

roommate – someone sharing the same bedroom – someone sharing the same house/ apartment (“housemate” or “flatmate” in British English)

athlete – someone who does track and field events – a sportsman

cooker – stove in the kitchen, used for cooking – someone who cooks (“cook” in British English)

nervy – nervous/ jumpy – cheeky

pissed – drunk – annoyed (“pissed off” in British English)

Yankee – someone from the United States (usually shortened to “Yank”) – someone from New England or the North-eastern United States more generally

fag – cigarette – a very non-PC insult for a homosexual

faggot – a kind of meatball – bad insult for a homosexual

bum – bottom/ rear end/ buttocks – homeless person/ tramp

(British) Asian/ Asian (American) – someone whose family comes from South Asia – someone whose family comes from East Asia

fanny – vagina/ vulva – buttocks (as in “fanny pack”)

hooker – a position in rugby – slang for a prostitute

tosser – idiot/ wanker – someone who likes to throw things away, the opposite of “hoarder”

jock – slang for a Scotsman – slang for an athlete

cracker – Xmas cracker – yokel

DC – detective constable – District of Columbia

trooper – private in the army – state police officer

go potty – go crazy – go to toilet (for a baby)

homely – cosy (place) – plain or ugly


Different words for describing people in British and American English

cook – cooker

shop assistant – (sales) clerk

fresher/ first year student – freshman

waiter/ waitress – server

receptionist – desk clerk

mum – mom

housemate/ flatmate – roommate

solicitor/ barrister – attorney

chemist/ pharmacist – druggist/ pharmacist

estate agent – real estate agent/ realtor

sportsman – athlete

police constable/ PC/ bobby – patrolman

postman – mailman

shopkeeper – storekeeper

lorry driver – teamster/ truckdriver

OAP/ pensioner/ senior citizen – senior

landlord/ landlady/ barman – bar tender

newsreader – news anchor

mate – buddy

parting – part

fringe – bangs

caretaker – janitor

bloke/ chap – guy

arse – ass

lodger – roomer

hard man – tough guy

bum – butt

Father Christmas – Santa/ Santa Claus

girl guide – girl scout

docker/ dockworker – longshoreman

undertaker – mortician

whingeing – whining

pet hate – pet peeve

bird – chick/ broad

dustbin man – garbage collector

supply teacher – substitute teacher

gooseberry – third wheel

prison governor – prison warden

green fingers – green thumbs

chav – white trash

mason/ stonemason – stoneworker

dogsbody – gofer

bogey – booger

anorak/ trainspotter – geek/ nerd/ dweeb

knackered – beat

yob – hood

Joe Bloggs – John Blow

tout – scalper


British and American education vocabulary

Education vocabulary with different meanings in British and American English

public school – an old and usually high status private school (historically, the first schools which were open to the paying public) – a school funded by the (local and/ or national) government (“state school” in British English)

state school – a school funded by the government (“public school” in American English) – a school funded by the state (rather than the national government or a more local area)

professor – the very top members of the academic staff of a university – all lecturers at a university

tuition – teaching, especially by a (private) tutor – money paid to study (“tuition fees” in British English)

semester – half an academic year – between a quarter and a half of an academic year, depending on how the academic year is split (“term” in British English)

to graduate – successfully finish a university first degree/ bachelor’s degree – successfully finish any academic level, e.g. “graduate from high school” (“finish” in British English)

faculty – the largest organisation of a university, often consisting of several departments – professors and similar staff (“academic staff” in British English)

prep school – a private school that prepares students to secondary school – a private school that prepares students for university


Different education words in British and American English

homework – assignment

revise/ revision – review

primary school – elementary school

secondary school – (junior) high school

sixth form (college) – (senior) high school

(student) halls – dorms

tick – check

state school – public school

postgraduate studies – grad school

postgrad/ postgraduate student – grad student

humanities – liberal arts

tutor – homeroom teacher

uni – school/ college

A levels – high school leaving certificate

class/ form – grade

fresher/ first year student – freshman

second year student – sophomore

third year student – junior

final year student – senior

head teacher – principal

take an exam/ sit an exam

marking – grading

marks – grades

blackboard – chalkboard

maths – math

academic staff – faculty

tuition fees – tuition

enrol on a course – enroll in a course

sports day – field day

supply teacher – sub/ substitute teacher

reader – associate professor

crèche – day care/ day nursery

staff room – teacher’s lounge

mark a test – check a test

caretaker – janitor

break time/ playtime – recess

Oxbridge – Ivy League

open day/ open evening – open house

school dinner – hot lunch

skive – play hooky


British and American English legal English list

Note that because the legal systems are different, many of the synonyms below are only approximate.

Legal expressions with different meanings in British and American English

casualty – someone who has been injured (as in “casualty department”) – someone who has been killed (as in “casualty figures”)

solicitor – lawyer (who traditionally gives advice to clients, with a “barrister” representing them in court) – chief law officer in a town or government department

(legal) brief – documents given to a barrister about what to do in court – documents given to a court to show the arguments of one side

DC – Detective Constable (as in “DC Smith”) – District of Columbia (as in “Washington DC”)

first degree – first degree burn – first degree murder

constable – police officer – official who serves summonses (“bailiff” or “sheriff’s officer” in British English)

mortuary – place where dead bodies are stored (“morgue” in American English) – funeral home/ funeral parlour

(police) commissioner – professional head of the police (“chief of police” in American English) – person in charge of supervising the police force

appropriation – misappropriating money – dispensing money


Different legal words in British and American English

murder – homicide

theft – larceny

PC/ bobby – patrolman

manslaughter/ culpable homicide – second degree murder

solicitor – (corporate/ transactional) attorney

barrister – attorney/ litigator

driving license – driver’s license

police car/ panda car – patrol car/ police cruiser

serious crime – felony

magistrates’ courts/ county courts – district court/ circuit court/ state courts

court of appeal – court of appeal/ appellate court

public prosecutor – DA/ district attorney

CPS/ Crown Prosecution Service – DA’s office

minor crime – misdemeanor

claimant/ pursuer – plaintiff

company law – corporate law

employment law – labor law

competition law – antitrust law

crown court – district court

defence – defense

traffic warden – parking enforcement officer

traffic cop – highway patrolman

drink driving – drunk driving

prison warden – prison governor

truncheon – nightstick/ billy club

the Crown – the State (versus…)

gaol/ the nick/ the slammer/ jail – the can/ the cooler/ the joint/ the pen/ penitentiary/ pokey/ jail

mortuary – morgue

witness box – witness stand

GBH/ grievous bodily harm – aggravated battery/ felony assault

tribunal – arbitration

grass – stool pigeon/ snitch

allow a lower court’s decision – affirm a lower court’s decision

dismiss a lower court’s decision – reverse a lower court’s decision

police commissioner – chief of police

paddy wagon – Black Maria

tout – scalp

right of access – visiting rights

called to the bar – admitted to the bar

articles of association – bylaws

flick knife – switchblade

clerk to the court – clerk of the court/ clerk of court


British and American English medical vocabulary

Different meanings of medical words in British and American English

surgery – doctor’s office – operating theatre

casualty – someone who has been injured (as in “casualty department”) – someone who has been killed (as in “casualty figures”)

mortuary – place for dead bodies (“morgue” in the US) – funeral home/ funeral parlour

medic – doctor/ internist – EMT/ paramedic/ military corpsman


Different medical words in British and American English

Ones which only vary by spelling are bottom

surgery – doctor’s office

chemist’s – pharmacy

(sticky) plaster/ Elastoplast – Band Aid

paracetamol – acetaminophen/ Tylenol

jab – shot

tablets – pills

A&E/ accident and emergency/ casualty (department) – ER/ emergency room

GP/ general practitioner – primary care practitioner

operation – surgery

cotton buds – Q tips

cotton wool – cotton balls

mouth to mouth (resuscitation) – rescue breathing

operating theatre – operating room/ OR

in theatre – in the OR

plaster cast – cast

nappy – diaper

speciality – specialty

antenatal – prenatal

Mr… for surgeons – Dr… for surgeons

sister – charge nurse

mortuary – morgue

anaesthetist – anesthesiologist

anaesthetics – anesthesiology.

(ophthalmic) optician – optometrist

emergency trolley – crash cart

foundation year – internship

appendectomy – appendicectomy

oesophagus – esophagus

CTG – fetal non-stress test

observations – vitals


BM test – blood sugar test

Zimmer frame – walker

hb – hbg

anaemia – anemia

caesarean – cesarean

diarrhoea – diarrhea

gynaecology – gynecology

haemoglobin – hemoglobin

haemorrhage – hemorrhage

leukaemia – leukemia

orthopaedic – orthopedic

oestrogen – estrogen

paediatric – pediatric

intervertebral disc – intervertebral disk

oedema – edema

oesophagus – esophagus


British and American engineering vocabulary list

See also the transport and telephone sections.

Engineering words with different meanings in British and American English

gas – natural gas – gasoline (“petrol” in British English)

pavement – the part you walk on next to the road (“sidewalk” in US) – the road surface

white spirit – a kind of alcohol used for cleaning, as a paint thinner, etc (“turpentine” in American English) – a kind of illegally distilled alcohol for drinking


Different engineering words in British and American English

(electrical) socket – (electrical) outlet

spanner – wrench

petrol – gas/ gasoline

aerial – antenna

bin – trashcan/ garbage can

(safety) goggles – safety glasses

hard hat – bump cap

rubbish – garbage/ trash

lift – elevator

(service) engineer – (service) technician

anti-clockwise – counter-clockwise

earth – ground

maths – math

nought/ oh (as in “nought point oh five”) – zero (as in “zero point zero five”)

aluminium – aluminum

rubber gloves – latex gloves

tap – faucet

(electric) torch – flashlight

paraffin – kerosene

ironmonger – hardware store

dustcart – garbage truck

set square – triangle

JCB – excavator

hoover – vacuum cleaner

skip – Dumpster

fire engine – fire truck

fire brigade – fire department

loudhailer – bullhorn

Stanley knife – utility knife

polythene – polyethylene

sulphur – sulfur

Perspex – plexiglass

(electricity) pylon – transmission tower/ mast

tarmac – asphalt/ blacktop

Portakabin – portable building

white spirit – paint thinner/ turpentine

trapezium – trapezoid

trapezoid – trapezium

snowplough – snowplow

Heath Robinson contraption – Rube Goldberg machine


British and American business, finance and money vocabulary

Business vocabulary with different meanings in British and American English

penny – a hundredth of a pound – a cent


Different business words in British and American English

CV/ curriculum vitae – résumé

shareholder – stockholder

Ltd/ PLC – Inc./ Corp.

company – corporation

cash machine/ cashpoint – ATM

mortgage – home loan

AGM/ annual general meeting – shareholders meeting

(trade) union – (labor) union

diary – appointment book

fill in a form – fill out a form

(pound) note – (dollar) bill

discount – concession

bank holiday – national holiday/ public holiday

summer holiday – summer vacation

from Monday to Friday – Monday through Friday

turnover – revenue/ gross sales

building society – savings and loan (association)

current account – checking account

property – real estate

expiry date – expiration date

national insurance number/ NI number – social security number

estate agent – real estate agent

travellers’ cheque – traveler’s check

(five) quid – (five) bucks

base rate – prime rate

cheque book – check book

The City – Wall Street

to table – to put something forward for discussion – to leave to discuss until later

hire purchase – installment plan

the till – cash register

third-party insurance – liability insurance

repossession – foreclosure

rates – municipal property taxes

rota – roster

ordinary share/ equity share – common stock

articles of association – bylaws

memorandum of association – certificate of incorporation/ articles of incorporation

bridging loan – bridge loan

barometer stock – bellwether stock

flog – hock


British and American sports and games vocabulary

Sports and games vocabulary with different meanings in British and American English

football – footie/ soccer – American football

athletics – running, jumping and throwing sports such as sprinting (“track and field” in American English) – sports generally

athlete – someone doing track and field sports – sportsmen generally

hockey – field hockey, played on grass – ice hockey

strike – hit the ball – miss (in baseball)

gym – gymnasium, the place where sports are done, including in school – gym class (“PE class” in British English)

silverware – trophies won by sports teams – things you eat with (“cutlery” in British English)


Different sports and games words in British and American English

football/ footie/ soccer – soccer

American football – football

(sports) kit – (sports) uniform

(football) pitch – (soccer) field

trainers – sneakers

plimsolls – gym shoes

tracksuit – sweats

swimming costume – bathing suit

PE/ physical education – physical ed/ physical education

athletics – track and field

sportsman – athlete

ice hockey – hockey

hockey – field hockey

nil – zero

pack of cards – deck of cards

horse riding – horseback riding

draughts – checkers

abseil/ abseiling – rappel

touchline – sideline

noughts and crosses – tick-tac-toe

anti-clockwise – counter-clockwise

tout – scalper

potholing – caving/ spelunking

patience – solitaire

Scalextric – slot cars

box – protective cup

catapult – slingshot

snakes and ladders – chutes and ladders

duck (meaning zero, especially in cricket) – goose egg


British and American phrasal verbs and idioms

Phrasal verbs and idioms with different meanings in British and American English

tick someone off – tell someone off – irritate someone

knock up – get pregnant – wake someone up by knocking on their door

blow off – fart – blow someone off (similar to “stand someone up” in British English)


Different phrasal verbs in British and American English

take away – take out (food)

put someone through – connect someone/ transfer someone’s call

wash up/ do the dishes – do the dishes

queue up – line up/ wait in line

get on (well) with someone – get along with someone

fill in a form – fill out a form

pass away (meaning die) – pass

clear your desk/ put your books away – clear off your desk

pissed off – pissed (meaning annoyed)

give over – give me a break

come round – come over

cock up – screw up

knocked up – pregnant – woken up by banging on the door

pull – pick up

get off with – make out

take the piss – screw around

clued up – clued in

rained off – rained out


Different idioms in British and American English

take something with a pinch of salt – take something with a grain of salt

a new lease of life – a new lease on life

blow your own trumpet – blow your own horn

sweep something under the carpet – sweep something under the rug

touch wood – knock on wood

flogging a dead horse – beating a dead horse

you can’t see the wood for the trees – you can’t see the forest for the trees

a drop in the ocean – a drop in the bucket

I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole – I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole


Brand names in British and American English

Different brand names in British and American English

Ones without capital letters are not brand names, and so are often used in both British and American English

Sellotape – Scotch Tape

Biro – ballpoint pen

jeans – Levi’s

to photocopy – to Xerox

tissue – Kleenex

(sticky) plaster/ Elastoplast – Band Aid

Hoover/ vacuum cleaner – vacuum cleaner

coach – Greyhound bus/ highway bus

ice lolly – Popsicle

four wheel drive – Jeep

permanent marker – Sharpie/ Magic Marker

clingfilm – Saran Wrap

Tippex – White Out/ Liquid Paper

cotton buds – Q Tips

laundrette – Laundromat

jelly – Jell-O

estate agent – real estate agent/ Realtor

briefs – Jockey Shorts

paracetamol – Tylenol

bleach – Clorox

food processor – Cuisinart

Tannoy – PA/ public address system

Dormobile/ campervan – RV/ recreational vehicle

JCB – excavator

Perspex – plexiglass

Portakabin – portable building

Brillo Pad – scouring pad

skip – Dumpster

cagoule/ kagoul – Windbreaker

Stanley knife – utility knife

Scalextric – slot cars

Zimmer frame – walker

fig rolls – Fig Newtons

reclining chair – La-Z-Boy

Airfix – (plastic) scale models


British and American telephoning vocabulary

Ones near the bottom are for dictating on the phone rather than actual telephone vocabulary.

mobile (phone) (number) – cell(phone) (number)

text – SMS

engaged (tone) – busy (signal)

put someone through – connect someone/ transfer someone’s call

give some a ring/ give some a call – give someone a call

reverse the charges – a collect call

phone box – phone booth (= public phone)

hash (key) – pound (key)

freephone (number) – toll-free (number)

directory enquiries – directory assistance

oh – zero

nine nine nine – nine one one (= emergency phone number)

oh eight nine eight number – nine hundred number or one-nine hundred number (= premium rate phone number)

zed – zee (= Z)

postcode – zip code

full stop – period

brackets/ round brackets – parentheses

square brackets – brackets


British and American office and stationery vocabulary

Office and stationery vocabulary with different meanings in British and American English

a rubber – an eraser – a condom


Different office and stationery vocabulary in British and American English

Sellotape – Scotch tape

rubber/ eraser – eraser

photocopier – copy machine

to photocopy – to Xerox

Biro – ballpoint pen

noticeboard – bulletin board

Tippex – Whiteout/ Liquid Paper

diary – appointment book/ datebook

automatic pencil – mechanical pencil

whiteboard pen – dry erase marker

permanent marker – Sharpie/ Magic Marker

drawing pin – thumbtack

set square – triangle


British and American arts and media vocabulary

British and American arts and media vocabulary with different meanings

pantomime – a kind of play/ musical, that is often based on fairy tales and played at Xmas (often shortened to “panto”) – a performance without speech (“mime” in British English)

The Times – The Times (often called “The London Times” or “The Times of London” in the US) – The New York Times

prom – music performance, as in “The Proms” – dance/ ball, especially at schools


Different British and American arts and media vocabulary

film – movie

(television) series – serial

series two – season two

indie (music) – alternative

chat show – talk show

18 (certificate) – R (rated)

news cuttings – news clippings

telly/ TV – boob tube/ TV

discount – concession

interval – intermission

music hall – vaudeville


British and American nature vocabulary list

See food and drink above for fruit and vegetables

Nature words with different meanings in British and American English

robin – a small bird with a red breast – a medium-sized bird with a red breast

buzzard – a medium-sized hawk – a kind of vulture


Different nature words in British and American English

guide dog – seeing eye dog

Alsatian – German shepherd

ladybird – ladybug

cock – rooster

zebra (with an “e” sound, as in “pet”) – zebra (with a “ee” sound, as in “bee”)

garden – yard

tit – chickadee/ titmouse

pigsty – pigpen


British and American political vocabulary list

by-law – ordinance

The Commonwealth – an association of mainly ex-British colonies/ the period after between the death of King Charles I in 1649 to the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 – a way of referring to American states and territories such as Puerto Rico


Miscellaneous British and American vocabulary

Other different words in British and American English

tissue – Kleenex

carrier bag/ plastic bag – shopping bag

to post something – to mail something

jump the queue – cut the line

pushchair/ buggy – buggy/ stroller

dummy – pacifier

jumble sale – rummage sale

pram – baby carriage

tall story – tall tale

swear word – curse (word)

sanitary towel – sanitary napkin

snigger – snicker

snog – neck

raspberry – Bronx cheer

shag – screw

lucky dip – grab bag

Copyright © 2018

Written by Alex Case for Ltd.

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