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English language varieties

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(Words used: AmE almost never uses "public holiday" in normal conversation. Also, what BrE calls "gas" (energy) is often "natural gas" in AmE.)
(Words used: AmE equivalent of BrE "circus" is "traffic circle".)
Line 57: Line 57:
** In AmE, a circus pertains to a group of performers that do amazing stunts, usually with animals
** In AmE, a circus pertains to a group of performers that do amazing stunts, usually with animals
** In BrE, this word pretty much refers to an intersection in the shape of a circular road in a city
** In BrE, this word pretty much refers to an intersection in the shape of a circular road in a city (AmE: "traffic circle")
*closet - cupboard (room)
*closet - cupboard (room)
* construction zone (road) – roadworks
* construction zone (road) – roadworks

Revision as of 16:27, 6 November 2012

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    This article is a travel topic

In the United States, United Kingdom and most of their former territories, English is the main language. However, there are some significant differences in spelling and word usage among British and American english. This article aims to provide a list of some of these differences that may be useful to travellers.

Usage by countries

British English is primarily used in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Pakistan. American English on the other hand is used in the United States and Philippines. Canada uses a mixture of British english (primarily for spelling ) and American english (primarily for vocabulary).

However in countries outside the United States and United Kingdom that use either American or British English, there are slight or minor variations that are particular to that country.


American - British

  • airplane - aeroplane
  • analog - analogue
  • armor - armour
  • center - centre
  • check - cheque
  • color - colour
  • dispatch - despatch
  • gram - gramme
  • license - licence
  • liter - litre
  • meter - metre
  • inquire - enquire
  • offense - offence
  • practice - practise
  • program - programme
  • theater - theatre
    • The American live theatrical community generally uses "theatre" to describe its art form.
  • tire - tyre

Words used

American - British

  • anesthesiologist – anaesthetist
    • In AmE, "anesthetist" often refers to a nurse who is specially trained to administer anesthesia under a doctor's supervision.
  • apartment – flat
    • The word "apartment" is used in BrE, but specifically for rented luxury housing units in larger or historic buildings.
  • Asian (people) – East Asian; (less often) Oriental; or a nationality-based term; in the UK census, the term is "Chinese or Other".
  • ass/buttocks/fanny - Bum/bottom/arse
  • athletics
    • American: Generic term for sport. By extension, "athlete" refers to any sportsperson.
    • British: Sport consisting of track and field, cross country running, road running, and race walking. An "athlete" is a person who participates in this specific sport.
  • ATM - Cash point/cash machine/Hole-in-the-wall
  • attorney/lawyer - barrister (or advocate in Scotland)/solicitor (UK-wide)
    • The AmE terms "attorney" and "lawyer" are interchangeable, but the corresponding BrE terms are not. The legal professions in the two countries are fundamentally different. In the UK, clients generally deal directly with solicitors, who provide legal advice and can represent their clients in lower courts. Barristers, titled advocates in Scotland, are specifically trained in trial advocacy, and are usually hired by solicitors to appear in higher courts, draft pleadings, and provide more specific advice on a given case. Historically, only barristers/advocates could appear before all courts; today, solicitors who receive additional special training can appear in the same courts as solicitor advocates. By contrast, the U.S. has a "fused" legal profession; the functions that are divided between two different classes of professionals in the UK are all part of a single profession in the U.S.
  • bangs (hair arrangement) – fringe
  • bill (money) - bank note
  • biweekly - fortnightly
    • a fortnight is a period of two weeks
  • call (verb form) - ring
  • carry-on bag - hand luggage
  • cash register - till
  • cell phone - mobile phone
  • check (in a restaurant) - bill
  • chips (snack food) - crisps
  • circus
    • In AmE, a circus pertains to a group of performers that do amazing stunts, usually with animals
    • In BrE, this word pretty much refers to an intersection in the shape of a circular road in a city (AmE: "traffic circle")
  • closet - cupboard (room)
  • construction zone (road) – roadworks
  • cookies - biscuits
  • cot – camp bed
  • counter-clockwise - anti-clockwise
  • course (post-secondary education) – module
    • In BrE, the word "course" in this context refers to the entire program of study leading to a degree.
  • crib (infant bed) – cot
  • day care – crèche
    • In AmE, "crèche" refers to a nativity scene (i.e., relating to the birth of Jesus).
  • diaper - nappy
  • driver's license - driving licence
  • drug store - pharmacy/chemist ("pharmacy" is also widely used in AmE)
  • drunk driving – drink driving
    • The associated legal terms are also different—AmE DUI/DWI (driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated); BrE DIC (drunk in charge of a motor vehicle) or "driving with excess alcohol".
  • eggplant - aubergine
  • elevator - lift
  • expressway or freeway - motorway
  • fall (season) - autumn
  • fanny pack – bum bag
    • In BrE, "fanny" is obscene slang for the vagina.
  • fender (of a car) - wing
  • field (sports) – pitch
  • first name - Christian name/given name
    • The term "Christian name" is now rarely used in BrE.
  • flashlight - torch
  • football - gridiron football, not soccer
  • fries - chips
  • garter – suspenders
  • gas (intestinal) – wind
  • gasoline - petrol
    • in British english, "gas" is used to refer to energy used to power buildings and other infrastructure (AmE: "natural gas" when necessary to distinguish from "gas" as a short term for gasoline).
  • hockey
    • American: ice hockey; British: field hockey
    • Some people with personal connections to one of these two sports will call that sport "hockey", regardless of their country of origin.
  • hood (of a car) – bonnet
    • In BrE, "hood" as an automotive term refers to the top of a convertible.
  • (public) holiday – bank holiday
    • See also "vacation".
    • In AmE, "the holidays" is often used to describe the entire period between Thanksgiving (late November) and New Year's Day.
  • Jell-O - jelly
  • jelly - jam
  • jumper (dress) – pinafore/pinafore dress
  • last name - surname
  • lemonade
    • AmE: non-carbonated drink made from lemon juice, sugar, and water (UK: "traditional lemonade")
    • BrE: clear, carbonated, lemon-flavored drink
  • leverage (finance) – gearing
  • line - queue
  • liquor store - off licence/off sales
  • mail - post
    • ironically, the central postal authorities in the US and UK use the terms of their counterparts in their names; i.e. US: United States Postal Service; UK: Royal Mail.
  • median (road) – central reservation
    • Note that in the New Orleans area, this feature is called "neutral ground".
  • mom – mum
  • movie theatre - cinema
  • muffler (of a motor vehicle) – silencer
    • In AmE, "silencer" typically refers to a firearm accessory, also known as a suppressor.
  • napkin - serviette (now largely obsolete in BrE; "napkin" is now used in the UK as well)
  • overpass – flyover
  • pacifier - dummytit
  • pants - trousers
    • in most dialects of BrE, "pants" refers to underwear. However, many dialects in Northern England agree with the AmE usage for "pants".
  • pass gas (slang: fart) – break wind
  • pavement - road surface
  • period (punctuation) – full stop
  • physician – doctor/medical practitioner
    • In the UK, a "physician" is a specialist in internal medicine or one of its many sub-specialties. The term specifically excludes surgeons of all types.
    • "Doctor" is also widely used in AmE as a generic term for medical practitioners of all types.
  • prepaid - pay as you go
  • professor
    • AmE – refers to academic staff of all ranks, with typical progression of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and (Full) Professor.
    • BrE – the highest academic rank, largely equivalent to the American (Full) Professor.
  • pump (women's shoe) - court shoe
    • Some Americans use "court shoe" as a catch-all term for athletic shoes designed for indoor court sports.
  • push cart - trolley
  • ramp (highway exit) – slip road
    • In AmE, a "slip road" is a term for a street alongside a main highway to allow access to local businesses, sometimes also called a "frontage road" or, in both AmE and BrE, a "service road".
  • restroom/bathroom/lavatory - toilet/loo
    • However, Americans use 'toilet paper' to refer to the British term 'loo roll'.
    • in BrE, a bathroom is where you take a bath or shower. A restroom is a place for office staff to take breaks (AmE: "break room").
    • in AmE, a lavatory is used to refer to a restroom in a form of transportation
  • revenue - turnover (in finance)
  • review (exam preparation) – revise
  • round-trip (ticket) - return
  • run (for elective office) – stand
  • sedan (car) – saloon
  • shot (inoculation) – jab
  • sidewalk - pavement
  • sneakers/athletic shoes - trainers
  • soccer - (association) football
    • The term "soccer" originated in BrE, but is now often incorrectly viewed in the UK as an Americanism.
  • soda/pop/Coke - soft drink/pop
    • AmE has no universal term for this type of beverage. Each of the listed terms is standard in at least some regions, with the most widely used terms being "soda" and "pop". "Coke" is the generic term for carbonated beverages in the Southeastern US.
  • (television) season - series
    • in AmE, the word 'series' refers to the entire run of a television show.
  • South Asian (people) – Asian
  • station wagon – estate car
  • stroller - pushchair (for babies)
  • student
    • AmE – person of any age studying at any educational institution
    • BrE – person studying at a post-secondary institution; young people at primary or secondary schools are typically "pupils"
  • subway - underground train / tube (colloquially)
  • subdivision – housing estate
  • suspenders – braces
  • sweater – jumper
  • table (verb)
    • In BrE it means to put a motion up for consideration; in AmE it means to remove the motion from consideration.
  • trash/garbage - rubbish/litter
  • truck - lorry
  • trunk (of a car) - boot
  • tube top – boob tube
    • In AmE, "boob tube" is a slang term for a television.
  • tuition
    • AmE – money paid to receive an education at any educational institution (BrE: "tuition fees")
    • BrE – educational content transferred from teacher to student at a university
  • (pedestrian) underpass - subway
  • vacation – holiday
  • wrench (tool) – spanner
    • In BrE, "wrench" in this sense is usually used in combination, such as "torque wrench".
  • zucchini - courgette