Differences in British and American English


US and GB English

You probably know that Americans stand in lines while the British stand in queues. American cars have hoods and trunks while British cars have bonnets and boots. Americans ride in elevators, the British in lifts. American french fries are called chips in the U.K. and what Yanks call chips the Brits call crisps.

But when I stumbled upon the page below at OxfordDictionaries.com, I learned the list is a lot longer than I imagined. Whether you’ll be traveling to the United Kingdom in the near future, or if you are just curious, take a minute to click here and peruse. I’ve listed a few of my favorites below.

  • American: instant replay
  • British: action replay
  • American: advice columnist
  • British: agony aunt
  • American: aluminum
  • British: aluminium
  • American: tractor-trailer
  • British: articulated lorry
  • American: coveralls
  • British: boiler suit
  • American: cinder block
  • British: breeze block
  • American: cotton candy
  • British: candyfloss
  • American: median strip
  • British: central reservation
  • American: housing projects
  • British: council estate
  • American: checkers (the game)
  • British: draughts
  • American: pacifier
  • British: dummy
  • American: garden hose
  • British: hosepipe
  • American: jelly beans
  • British: jelly babies
  • American: paved road
  • British: metalled road
  • American: odometer
  • British: milometer
  • American: diaper
  • British: nappy
  • American: tic-tac-toe
  • British: naughts and crosses
  • American: gasoline
  • British: petrol
  • American: private school
  • British: public school
  • American: backsplash
  • British: splashback
  • American: subway
  • British: underground
Feel free to leave your comments below!

About the Author

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Kevin B
    Kevin B05-19-2015

    I’m a little confused by the inclusion of jelly beans and jelly babies, as they are both distinctly different sweets both popular in Britain. Jelly beans are shaped like beans, usually with a firm shell and jelly babies are shaped like children with a sugar-dusted coating.

  2. Cheryl Epp
    Cheryl Epp12-03-2012

    Not only are there differences in vocabulary, spelling and pronunciation also vary. For example, the wife of a prince is a prin-CESS, and the wife of a duke in duch-ESS. Red, white, and blue are colours, and you can pay for purchases with a cheque.

  3. Mary Brueggemann
    Mary Brueggemann11-26-2012

    I have a question that’s not totally related to this. One of my students informed me recently that in Britain, the rule is to place periods and commas outside quotation marks instead of insde them. Is that correct? I’m just curious. ­čÖé Thanks!

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko11-27-2012

      I’ll have to double-check on that Mary, but I know they don’t follow the same rigid rules we do regarding periods and commas. My understanding is that they allow context to determine where they go — like we do with question marks.

  4. Brian Wasko
    Brian Wasko11-22-2012

    That’s correct, John. I mistyped it. Thanks.

  5. John

    I believe it should be: “Americans ride in elevators, the British in lifts.” See http://oxforddictionaries.com/words/british-and-american-terms.


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