British and American word differences
British and American flags respectively / Stock photo

British and American word differences

In the last few weeks, we’ve spoken about English accents, like the Irish accent or the Australian accent. But accents aside, there are a number of differences between English words according to where you live. The two most notable ones are British English and US English.

Depending whether you were born in the UK or the USA meant that you learned a different type of English, in terms of spelling and grammar.

For example, if you’re American and you decide to use a British cookbook, it’s not often easy to understand all the words for different foods.

Aubergine in British English is Eggplant in American English. You even have to deal with cups and ounces as opposed to the easier metric system of kilograms and grams. It’s typical to read a “cup of flour” in a US cookbook, but people in the UK are confused by that kind of terminology. What is a cup? There are so many different cup sizes. What’s it based on? Well, I’ll leave that for another post…

A cup is exactly 236.6g

Take the prepositions, to and for, that have subtle usage differences in both the UK and the USA. Also, we find little differences in spelling with two letters in particular: S and Z; for example, recognize in British English and recognise in US English.

Most of the time foreign students learn both variants of English (as we’ll call them that for now) to acquire the maximum vocabulary benefit no matter where they are in the world. Although at times it’s difficult to identify these subtleties in the English language.

Below is a non-exhaustive table of British English (and Irish English) words and their American English equivalents.

British EnglishUS English
Baggage reclaimBaggage claim
BonnetHood
Botanic gardenBotanical garden
ColourColor
ConservesPreserves
Drink drivingDrunk driving
Dumper truckDump truck
FlatApartment
HolidayVacation
LicenceLicense
DefenceDefense
MobileCell
PorridgeCooked oatmeal
PyjamasPajamas
To rentFor rent
Underground or TubeSubway

Find other examples of US / UK English through the links below.