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 English

American English

Alsation German Shepherd
acclimatise acclimate
adopt nominate
advert ad, advertisement
aerial antenna
air hostess flight attendant
anti-clockwise counter-clockwise
assessor adjuster
athletics sports
aubergine eggplant
autunm fall
backflip flip flop
bad form bad manners
barrister trial lawyer
bath bathe
bathing costume swimsuit
bedsitter studio apartment
bespoke custom-made or made-to-order (usually clothing)
beetroot beets
bellpush doorbell
bill check (restaurant payments), invoice
billion trillion
bin liner trash bag
biro ballpoint (pen)
biscuit cracker, cookie
blower telephone
boffin scientist, slang for someone with complex/difficult skills and knowledge
bonnet hood (of a car)
bookseller bookstore
bookshop bookstore
boot sale garage sale
boot trunk (of a car)
borstal reformatory
bowler derby (hat)
box room storage room
braces suspenders
bread bin bread box
breakdown van tow truck
brooch pin
budgerigar parakeet
bundle package
bunking skipping class
bursary financial aid, scholarship
buttered eggs scrambled eggs
c.v. (curriculum vitae) resume
call box telephone booth
came away went away, left
candidature candidacy
candyfloss cotton candy
car smash car crash
car-park parking lot
car automobile, auto, car
caravan trailer/camper/mobile home
cashier dishonorable discharge
casualty hospital emergency room
cat mint catnip
catsup ketchup
centenary bill
centennial check
cha tea
chambers law offices
cheese biscuit cracker
chemist shop drug store, pharmacy
cheque check
chicory endive
child-minder baby-sitter
chips French fries
chit memo or voucher
cinema movies, movie theater
civil servant government employee
climber vine, ivy
clocked in checked in
closet conference room
coach bus
cock(erel) rooster
cold store freezer
consultant department head
cooker stove
copper cop, officer
cornet (ice-cream) cone
cotton thread
council house housing project
courgettes zucchini
cover insurance
crisps potato chips
cross angry
cupboard closet
curtains drapes
cushion pillow (couch)
custard pudding
cutting clipping (e.g., from a newspaper)
dash tip, gratuity
diagonally opposite kitty corner
diary calendar
dinner jacket tux, tuxedo
dinner jacket tuxedo
disorientated disoriented
double bend S-curve
draughts (game) checkers
drawing pin thumb tack
drink beverage
driving wheel steering wheel
dummy baby’s pacifier
dungarees overalls
dust bin garbage can, trash can
engaged (telephone) busy signal, line is busy
engagement appointment
estate agent realtor, real estate agent
estate car station wagon
extension lead extension cord (electric)
facia pocket glove compartment
factor agent
faculty department
fags cigarettes
fairy cake cup cake
fen marsh
fill in, fill up complete, fill out
film movie
fir apple pine cone
fitted carpet wall to wall carpeting (abbreviated w/w)
fitted out furnished
fizzy drink soda, pop
flagstaff flagpole
flashers turn signals
flat apartment
flex electric cord
float petty cash
flyover overpass
flyscreen window screen
fondle handle, touch
football rugby, soccer
footway sidewalk
fortnight two weeks
fount font, typeface
franking machine postage meter
free phone toll free
fringe bangs
frisson shiver
full age legal age
full stop period
funeral parlour funeral home
fused burnt out
gangway aisle
gaol jail
gear box transmission
gear lever gear shift
geyser water heater
ginnel alley
give way yield
glass mirror
goggle-box boob tube
good few good many, large number
grammar school high school
griff news
ground floor first floor
gum glue or paste
gum boots rubber boots
garden yard
got gotten
grill broil
hair wash shampoo
hairclip barrette
handbag purse
hard lines bad luck
headlamps headlights
headmaster principal
health cover health insurance
held up delayed (held up means robbed in American)
hide leather
hire car rental car
holiday vacation
hooter horn
hoover vacuum-cleaner, vacuum
ice lolly Popsicle
in-built built-in
infant’s school kindergarten
interval intermission
invalid chair wheel chair
ironmonger hardware store
jam jelly
jelly Jell-O, jello, gelatin
jotter notebook
jug pitcher
juggernaut tractor trailer, big rig
jumper sweater
key money security deposit
knickers panties (women’s underwear)
knock up waken or rouse (means impregnate in American)
laddering my tights a run in my stocking
ladybird ladybug
lag insulation
lead (dogs) leash
lead (electric) cord, wire
lending library public library
life assurance life insurance
lettings apartments for rent
library ticket library card
lift elevator
liquidation bankruptcy
loads lift freight elevator
lollipop lady crossing guard
long-case clock grandfather clock
loose covers slipcovers
loo bathroom
lorry truck
m and r um and er, hem and haw
macintosh raincoat
mack raincoat
mad insane (means angry in American)
made redundant laid off, furloughed
maize cob corn on the cob
maize corn
manual stick-shift
marrow squash
match game
maths math
mean stingy
means test need analysis
mend repair
metalled road paved road
midday noon
midden garbage dump
milliard billion
mince hamburger
minced meat ground beef
moggy cat, kitty
monkey nuts peanuts
motor spirits fuel, gas, gasoline
motorway highway
muesli granola
muslins linens
nail varnish nail polish
nappies, nappy diapers, diaper
net curtains sheers
nose to tail bumper to bumper
note bill (money)
notecase wallet
noughts and crosses tic-tac-toe
number plate license plate
oblique slash (punctuation)
on-cost overhead expense
open university extension courses, distance education
outfitter clothing store
pack of cards deck of cards
packets (postal) packages
page (hotel) bell boy, bell hop
pants underwear
paper handkerchief tissue
pass out graduate
patience solitaire
pavement sidewalk
peep-bo peek-a-boo
peg clothespin
perspex Plexiglas
petrol gas, gasoline
pickled cucumbers pickles
pictures movies
piece-tin lunch box
pissed drunk
pleader lawyer, attorney
ponce pimp
pop round come by
porridge oatmeal
post mail
post free postpaid
postcode zip code
postoffice directory telephone directory
power cut power failure
preggers pregnant
press man journalist, reporter
private address home address
professor conductor (orchestra)
programme show
proofed waterproofed
pub bar, saloon
punt gamble (means kick or skip in American)
purse pocketbook
pushchair stroller, baby carriage
pylon utility pole
paraffin kerosene
pillar-box mailbox
plait braid
pneumatic drill jackhammer
pop soda
power point outlet, socket
pram (perambulator) baby buggy, stroller
queue line
quit behave
radiogram stereo
ramble walk, stroll
rate tax
read out read aloud
reader’s ticket library card
ready, steady, go! ready, set, go!
recap retread
reckoning machine cash register
recorded delivery return receipt requested, certified/registered mail
redundant laid off
remould retread
return ticket round-trip ticket
reverse charge collect call
ring pull a can’s tab
ring up, ring call
roll neck turtle neck
round sandwich
roundabout rotary
roup auction
rubber eraser (means condom in American)
rubbish bin trash can
rubbish trash, garbage
rug blanket
rung called, telephoned
running knot slip knot
rusticated suspended (punishment)
sales assistant sales clerk
saloon (vehicles) sedan
salt beef corned beef
salt pot salt shaker
sandpit sandbox
scheme program
scent perfume
scone biscuit
scrape butter or margarine, thinly spread
scurf dandruff
self-drive car rental car
semi-detached house duplex
service lift dumbwaiter
serviette napkin
sherbet sorbet
shop gazing window shopping, browsing
shop store
shopping trolley shopping cart
side (billiards) english
sideboard buffet
silencer (vehicles) muffler
silent number unlisted number
single ticket one-way ticket
singlet T-shirt
six-over-six 20-20 vision
sixth form twelfth grade, senior year in high school
skiving skipping class
sleeping car pullman car
slice spatula
slide barrette (hair)
slip men’s underwear (means women’s undergarments in American)
smart well-dressed (means clever in American)
snowslip avalanche
soda (water) club soda
solicitor attorney, lawyer
spanner wrench
spatula tongue depressor
speciality specialty
spirits alcohol (liquor, brandy, whiskey)
spool cassette, tape, reel, roll
squails tiddlywinks
squib firecracker
stance taxi stand
stockist retailer, store
stop late stay late
stop open stay open
strapping bandages
subject citizen
suction cleaner vacuum cleaner
sugar soap paint remover
sun-filter cream sun-screen lotion
surgery doctor’s office (means operating room in American)
surname last name, family name
suspenders garters
sweater sweatshirt
swede rutabaga
sweet oil olive oil
sweeties, sweets candy
swiss bun danish
swiss roll jelly roll
swot study hard, cram
table a proposal discuss a proposal (opposite of American meaning)
tablets pills, medicine
take a decision make a decision
take with take out, to go (fast-food restaurant)
take-away carry-out (fast-food restaurant)
tap faucet
tartan plaid
taxi rank taxi stand
telephone kiosk/box telephone booth
telephonist telephone operator
telly, tele television, TV (pronounced tee-vee)
tick check mark
tights pantyhose
timeous, timous early, timely
tin can
tinkle telephone call (means urinate in American)
tissue kleenex (used generically)
to time on time
toffee taffy
toilet restroom, washroom
toothful sip
torch flashlight
tot add, calculate a total
touch wood knock on wood
tower block skyscraper
town centre downtown
tradesman storekeeper
trainers sneakers
tram trolley, streetcar
transfer decal
transport transportation
treacle sponge gingerbread
treacle molasses
trolley shopping cart
trousers pants
trunk call toll call, long distance call
tube of candy roll of candy
tube station subway station
tunny tuna fish
turn off discharge, fire
turn out a room thoroughly clean a room
underground subway
undertaker mortician
unmade track dirt road
vacuum flask thermos bottle
vest T-shirt, undershirt
victualler innkeeper
waist coat vest
wall safe food cupboard or cabinet in the kitchen
wardrobe closet
water ice sherbet
white coffee coffee with cream
whole time full time
wind cheater windbreaker
windscreen windshield
wire wool steel wool
zed the letter zee (z)
zebra crossing crosswalk, pedestrian crossing (ped xing)
zip zipper

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.