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: All | Category: Vocabulary | Topic: Varieties and Dialects

First Published: 15th Dec. 2018 | Last Edited: 26th May. 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

 

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
  • ECG/ EEG – EKG/ EEG
  • 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 UsingEnglish.com Ltd.

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