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English-English Dictionary

Here's a short dictionary of some of the more common differences in word usage between British English and American English, especially words that may be misunderstood. Other vocabulary differences will make you appear quaint, but the person to whom you are speaking will probably understand you.

British EnglishAmerican English
  
AlsationGerman Shepherd
acclimatiseacclimate
adoptnominate
advertad, advertisement
aerialantenna
air hostessflight attendant
anti-clockwisecounter-clockwise
assessoradjuster
athleticssports
aubergineeggplant
autunmfall
  
backflipflip flop
bad formbad manners
barristertrial lawyer
bathbathe
bathing costumeswimsuit
bedsitterstudio apartment
bespokecustom-made or made-to-order (usually clothing)
beetrootbeets
bellpushdoorbell
billcheck (restaurant payments), invoice
billiontrillion
bin linertrash bag
biroballpoint (pen)
biscuitcracker, cookie
blowertelephone
boffinscientist, slang for someone with complex/difficult skills and knowledge
bonnethood (of a car)
booksellerbookstore
bookshopbookstore
boot salegarage sale
boottrunk (of a car)
borstalreformatory
bowlerderby (hat)
box roomstorage room
bracessuspenders
bread binbread box
breakdown vantow truck
broochpin
budgerigarparakeet
bundlepackage
bunkingskipping class
bursaryfinancial aid, scholarship
buttered eggsscrambled eggs
  
c.v. (curriculum vitae)resume
call boxtelephone booth
came awaywent away, left
candidaturecandidacy
candyflosscotton candy
car smashcar crash
car-parkparking lot
carautomobile, auto, car
caravantrailer/camper/mobile home
cashierdishonorable discharge
casualtyhospital emergency room
cat mintcatnip
catsupketchup
centenarybill
centennialcheck
chatea
chamberslaw offices
cheese biscuitcracker
chemist shopdrug store, pharmacy
chequecheck
chicoryendive
child-minderbaby-sitter
chipsFrench fries
chitmemo or voucher
cinemamovies, movie theater
civil servantgovernment employee
climbervine, ivy
clocked inchecked in
closetconference room
coachbus
cock(erel)rooster
cold storefreezer
consultantdepartment head
cookerstove
coppercop, officer
cornet(ice-cream) cone
cottonthread
council househousing project
courgetteszucchini
coverinsurance
crispspotato chips
crossangry
cupboardcloset
curtainsdrapes
cushionpillow (couch)
custardpudding
cuttingclipping (e.g., from a newspaper)
  
dashtip, gratuity
diagonally oppositekitty corner
diarycalendar
dinner jackettux, tuxedo
dinner jackettuxedo
disorientateddisoriented
double bendS-curve
draughts (game)checkers
drawing pinthumb tack
drinkbeverage
driving wheelsteering wheel
dummybaby's pacifier
dungareesoveralls
dust bingarbage can, trash can
  
engaged (telephone)busy signal, line is busy
engagementappointment
estate agentrealtor, real estate agent
estate carstation wagon
extension leadextension cord (electric)
  
facia pocketglove compartment
factoragent
facultydepartment
fagscigarettes
fairy cakecup cake
fenmarsh
fill in, fill upcomplete, fill out
filmmovie
fir applepine cone
fitted carpetwall to wall carpeting (abbreviated w/w)
fitted outfurnished
fizzy drinksoda, pop
flagstaffflagpole
flashersturn signals
flatapartment
flexelectric cord
floatpetty cash
flyoveroverpass
flyscreenwindow screen
fondlehandle, touch
footballrugby, soccer
footwaysidewalk
fortnighttwo weeks
fountfont, typeface
franking machinepostage meter
free phonetoll free
fringebangs
frissonshiver
full agelegal age
full stopperiod
funeral parlourfuneral home
fusedburnt out
  
gangwayaisle
gaoljail
gear boxtransmission
gear levergear shift
geyserwater heater
ginnelalley
give wayyield
glassmirror
goggle-boxboob tube
good fewgood many, large number
grammar schoolhigh school
griffnews
ground floorfirst floor
gumglue or paste
gum bootsrubber boots
gardenyard
gotgotten
grillbroil
  
hair washshampoo
hairclipbarrette
handbagpurse
hard linesbad luck
headlampsheadlights
headmasterprincipal
health coverhealth insurance
held updelayed (held up means robbed in American)
hideleather
hire carrental car
holidayvacation
hooterhorn
hoovervacuum-cleaner, vacuum
  
ice lollyPopsicle
in-builtbuilt-in
infant's schoolkindergarten
intervalintermission
invalid chairwheel chair
ironmongerhardware store
  
jamjelly
jellyJell-O, jello, gelatin
jotternotebook
jugpitcher
juggernauttractor trailer, big rig
jumpersweater
  
key moneysecurity deposit
knickerspanties (women's underwear)
knock upwaken or rouse (means impregnate in American)
  
laddering my tightsa run in my stocking
ladybirdladybug
laginsulation
lead (dogs)leash
lead (electric)cord, wire
lending librarypublic library
life assurancelife insurance
lettingsapartments for rent
library ticketlibrary card
liftelevator
liquidationbankruptcy
loads liftfreight elevator
lollipop ladycrossing guard
long-case clockgrandfather clock
loose coversslipcovers
loobathroom
lorrytruck
  
m and rum and er, hem and haw
macintoshraincoat
mackraincoat
madinsane (means angry in American)
made redundantlaid off, furloughed
maize cobcorn on the cob
maizecorn
manualstick-shift
marrowsquash
matchgame
mathsmath
meanstingy
means testneed analysis
mendrepair
metalled roadpaved road
middaynoon
middengarbage dump
milliardbillion
mincehamburger
minced meatground beef
moggycat, kitty
monkey nutspeanuts
motor spiritsfuel, gas, gasoline
motorwayhighway
muesligranola
muslinslinens
  
nail varnishnail polish
nappies, nappydiapers, diaper
net curtainssheers
nose to tailbumper to bumper
notebill (money)
notecasewallet
noughts and crossestic-tac-toe
number platelicense plate
  
obliqueslash (punctuation)
on-costoverhead expense
open universityextension courses, distance education
outfitterclothing store
  
pack of cardsdeck of cards
packets (postal)packages
page (hotel)bell boy, bell hop
pantsunderwear
paper handkerchieftissue
pass outgraduate
patiencesolitaire
pavementsidewalk
peep-bopeek-a-boo
pegclothespin
perspexPlexiglas
petrolgas, gasoline
pickled cucumberspickles
picturesmovies
piece-tinlunch box
pisseddrunk
pleaderlawyer, attorney
poncepimp
pop roundcome by
porridgeoatmeal
postmail
post freepostpaid
postcodezip code
postoffice directorytelephone directory
power cutpower failure
preggerspregnant
press manjournalist, reporter
private addresshome address
professorconductor (orchestra)
programmeshow
proofedwaterproofed
pubbar, saloon
puntgamble (means kick or skip in American)
pursepocketbook
pushchairstroller, baby carriage
pylonutility pole
paraffinkerosene
pillar-boxmailbox
plaitbraid
pneumatic drilljackhammer
popsoda
power pointoutlet, socket
pram (perambulator)baby buggy, stroller
  
queueline
quitbehave
  
radiogramstereo
ramblewalk, stroll
ratetax
read outread aloud
reader's ticketlibrary card
ready, steady, go!ready, set, go!
recapretread
reckoning machinecash register
recorded deliveryreturn receipt requested, certified/registered mail
redundantlaid off
remouldretread
return ticketround-trip ticket
reverse chargecollect call
ring pulla can's tab
ring up, ringcall
roll neckturtle neck
roundsandwich
roundaboutrotary
roupauction
rubbereraser (means condom in American)
rubbish bintrash can
rubbishtrash, garbage
rugblanket
rungcalled, telephoned
running knotslip knot
rusticatedsuspended (punishment)
  
sales assistantsales clerk
saloon (vehicles)sedan
salt beefcorned beef
salt potsalt shaker
sandpitsandbox
schemeprogram
scentperfume
sconebiscuit
scrapebutter or margarine, thinly spread
scurfdandruff
self-drive carrental car
semi-detached houseduplex
service liftdumbwaiter
serviettenapkin
sherbetsorbet
shop gazingwindow shopping, browsing
shopstore
shopping trolleyshopping cart
side (billiards)english
sideboardbuffet
silencer (vehicles)muffler
silent numberunlisted number
single ticketone-way ticket
singletT-shirt
six-over-six20-20 vision
sixth formtwelfth grade, senior year in high school
skivingskipping class
sleeping carpullman car
slicespatula
slidebarrette (hair)
slipmen's underwear (means women's undergarments in American)
smartwell-dressed (means clever in American)
snowslipavalanche
soda (water)club soda
solicitorattorney, lawyer
spannerwrench
spatulatongue depressor
specialityspecialty
spiritsalcohol (liquor, brandy, whiskey)
spoolcassette, tape, reel, roll
squailstiddlywinks
squibfirecracker
stancetaxi stand
stockistretailer, store
stop latestay late
stop openstay open
strappingbandages
subjectcitizen
suction cleanervacuum cleaner
sugar soappaint remover
sun-filter creamsun-screen lotion
surgerydoctor's office (means operating room in American)
surnamelast name, family name
suspendersgarters
sweatersweatshirt
swederutabaga
sweet oilolive oil
sweeties, sweetscandy
swiss bundanish
swiss rolljelly roll
swotstudy hard, cram
  
table a proposaldiscuss a proposal (opposite of American meaning)
tabletspills, medicine
take a decisionmake a decision
take withtake out, to go (fast-food restaurant)
take-awaycarry-out (fast-food restaurant)
tapfaucet
tartanplaid
taxi ranktaxi stand
telephone kiosk/boxtelephone booth
telephonisttelephone operator
telly, teletelevision, TV (pronounced tee-vee)
tickcheck mark
tightspantyhose
timeous, timousearly, timely
tincan
tinkletelephone call (means urinate in American)
tissuekleenex (used generically)
to timeon time
toffeetaffy
toiletrestroom, washroom
toothfulsip
torchflashlight
totadd, calculate a total
touch woodknock on wood
tower blockskyscraper
town centredowntown
tradesmanstorekeeper
trainerssneakers
tramtrolley, streetcar
transferdecal
transporttransportation
treacle spongegingerbread
treaclemolasses
trolleyshopping cart
trouserspants
trunk calltoll call, long distance call
tube of candyroll of candy
tube stationsubway station
tunnytuna fish
turn offdischarge, fire
turn out a roomthoroughly clean a room
  
undergroundsubway
undertakermortician
unmade trackdirt road
  
vacuum flaskthermos bottle
vestT-shirt, undershirt
victuallerinnkeeper
  
waist coatvest
wall safefood cupboard or cabinet in the kitchen
wardrobecloset
water icesherbet
white coffeecoffee with cream
whole timefull time
wind cheaterwindbreaker
windscreenwindshield
wire woolsteel wool
  
zedthe letter zee (z)
zebra crossingcrosswalk, pedestrian crossing (ped xing)
zipzipper

Other English Differences

You may also encounter British English words which have a significantly different definition in American English. For example, in American English the noun "slip" is used to refer to women's undergarments, not men's underwear.

Try to avoid using any form of slang, since it is likely to be misunderstood or even be found offensive. Also avoid using the words "ass", "buns", "fag", "fanny", and "queer", which have pejorative meanings in American English.

The word "Asian" means a person of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Philippino, or Vietnamese origin in American English. (In British English it refers to people from Bangladesh, India, or Pakistan.) Likewise, the word "Indian" refers to an indigenous American in American English, not necessarily someone from India. The word "Indian" is somewhat ambiguous in American English, so the word "Native American" is preferred.

 

 
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