American English to British English Vocabulary

UK and USA Flags
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While pronunciation, grammar, and spelling are among the many differences between American and British English, perhaps the most difficult to navigate is the difference in American and British vocabulary and word choice. 

American and British Vocabulary and Word Choice

Many students are confused about word differences between American and British English. Generally speaking, it's true that most Americans will understand British English speakers and vice versa despite the many differences. As your English becomes more advanced, however, it becomes more important to decide which form of English you prefer. Once you've decided, try to stick to one form or the other in all aspects including pronunciation differences: General American or Received Pronunciation. This consistency is key to clear English communication.

The following list provides common American English vocabulary and word choices and their British English equivalents arranged in alphabetical order. Which words are already most familiar to you?

American English

British English

antenna aerial
mad angry
anyplace anywhere
fall autumn
bill bank note
attorney barrister, solicitor
cookie biscuit
hood bonnet
trunk boot
suspenders braces
janitor caretaker
drug store chemist's
french fries chips
the movies the cinema
rubber condom
patrolman constable
stove cooker
wheat corn, wheat
crib cot
thread cotton
wreck crash
intersection crossroads
drapes curtains
checkers draughts
thumbtack drawing pin
divided highway dual carriageway
pacifier dummy
trashcan dustbin, rubbish-bin
garbage can dustbin, rubbish-bin
garbage collector dustman
generator dynamo
motor engine
engineer engine driver
movie film
apartment flat
overpass flyover
yard garden
gear-shift gear-lever
alumnus graduate
boiler grill
first floor ground floor
rubbers gumshoes, wellington boots
sneakers gym shoes, tennis-shoes
purse handbag
billboard hoarding
vacation holiday
vacuum cleaner hoover
sick ill
intermission interval
sweater jersey, jumper, pullover, sweater
pitcher jug
elevator lift
truck lorry
baggage luggage
raincoat mackintosh, raincoat
crazy mad
highway main road
corn maize
math maths
stingy mean
freeway motorway
diaper nappy
vicious, mean nasty
noplace nowhere
private hospital nursing home
optometrist optician
liquor store off-license
kerosene paraffin
sidewalk pavement
peek peep
gasoline petrol
mail post
mailbox postbox
mailman, mail carrier postman
potato chips potato crisps
baby carriage pram
bar pub
restroom public toilet
blow-out puncture
stroller push-chair
line queue
railroad railway
railway car railway carriage
spool of thread reel of cotton
round trip return (ticket)
call collect reverse charges
raise rise (in salary)
pavement road surface
traffic circle roundabout
eraser rubber
garbage, trash rubbish
sedan saloon (car)
Scotch tape sellotape
store shop
muffler silencer
one-way single (ticket)
someplace somewhere
wrench spanner
faculty staff (of a university)
oil pan sump
dessert sweet
candy sweets
faucet tap
spigot tap (outdoors)
cab taxi
dish-towel tea-towel
semester term
pantyhose tights
schedule timetable
can tin
turnpike toll motorway
flashlight torch
hobo tramp
pants trousers
cuffs turn-ups
subway underground railway
shorts underpants
shoulder (of road) verge (of road)
vest waistcoat
closet wardrobe
wash up wash your hands
windshield windscreen
fender wing
zipper zip

Now, test your knowledge with the two quizzes below.

American to British English Vocabulary Quiz

Replace the American English word in italics with a British English word. 

  1. I'd like to hang the drapes tonight. Do you have time?
  2. We took the elevator to the 10th floor.
  3. Would you like to see a movie tonight?
  4. Have you seen Tim's new apartment yet? It's very nice.
  5. Run down to the drug store and buy some aspirin, please. 
  6. Let's go to the bar and get a drink.
  7. I'll take the garbage out before I leave tomorrow morning.
  8. Take the second exit at the traffic circle.
  9. Let's get have some potato chips with lunch. 
  10. Could you hand me the flashlight so I can take a look in the closet?
  11. Peter wore a pair of slim fitting pants to the party.
  12. She opened the tap and watered the garden.
  13. Have you ever worn a vest with a suit?
  14. I'll pick up the mail on the way home from work.
  15. Could you buy me a pair of pantyhose at the mall?

Answers

  1. curtains
  2. lift
  3. film
  4. flat
  5. chemist's
  6. pub
  7. rubbish
  8. roundabout
  9. crisps
  10. torch
  11. trousers
  12. spigot 
  13. waistcoat
  14. post
  15. tights

British to American English Vocabulary Quiz

Replace the British word in italics with an American English word.

  1. We need to find a public toilet soon.
  2. Let's get the pram and take a walk with Jennifer. 
  3. I'm afraid I had a puncture and had to get it fixed.
  4. Could you bring in that tin of tuna over there?
  5. He puts his trousers on like any other person.
  6. She's very mean with her money. Don't ask her for any help.
  7. I generally don't wear a suit with a waistcoat.
  8. We should ask a constable for help.
  9. Let's go to the off-license and get some whiskey. 
  10. Get on queue and I'll get us something to eat.
  11. Grab a tea-towel and clean that up.
  12. Look at the schedule and see when the train leaves.
  13. The car has a dent in the wing.
  14. Choose a sweater from the wardrobe and let's get going.
  15. The lights have gone out, and we'll need a torch.

Answers

  1. restroom
  2. baby carriage
  3. blow-out
  4. can
  5. pants
  6. stingy
  7. vest
  8. patrolman
  9. liquor store
  10. line
  11. dish-towel
  12. time table
  13. fender
  14. closet 
  15. flashlight