|“||The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language.||”|
—attributed to George Bernard Shaw
English is the main language in many places, an important language in others, and spoken as a second language in most of the rest of the world. However, there are some significant differences in pronunciation, spelling and word usage around the world. This article aims to provide a list of some of these differences that may be useful to travellers.
- English has many variations around the world, and even within the same country. We have tried to cover the main differences that travellers will regularly encounter in making practical arrangements, and terms which are likely to cause confusion in typical conversations. As this is a topic which could easily grow to be hundreds of pages long, contributors are requested to discuss additions on the talk page before making changes.
The clearest distinction is between what can be loosely called the British (or "Commonwealth", abbreviated "UK" in this guide) and American (abbreviated "U.S." in this guide) varieties of English.
- Many former British colonies (not all of them Commonwealth members) generally follow British rather than American usage: Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other former British possessions in Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and current and former British possessions in the Caribbean and Oceania.
- A few areas are heavily influenced by the U.S. and generally follow American usage, including the Philippines, Liberia, Israel, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, the Arab states of the Gulf (except the UAE), parts of Latin America and current and former American possessions in the Caribbean and Oceania.
- The European Union has mandated British English (not literally "British", but rather the variety of English used in Cyprus, Ireland, Malta, and the UK) as an official language of the EU, and it is generally standard British English that is taught as a foreign language in European schools, though American cultural influence is strong in Europe as well. Some American terms may be better known than their British counterparts (e.g., "truck" vs. "lorry", or "fries" vs. "chips"), and some language schools in Europe recruit American and Canadian English teachers. In general there is a trend to move from British spelling and pronunciation towards American spelling and pronunciation, especially among young people, which is fueled in no small part by the increasing availability of American media in the original version.
- English speakers without a British background and people in areas without a history of direct colonial or military influence by English-speaking nations are often more familiar with American usage because of the popularity of U.S. films, TV series, music, and spell-checkers. In particular, due to the global economic and military dominance of the U.S., outside the Commonwealth and the European Union, it is usually American English that is taught as a foreign language in schools.
- Canada mostly follows British spelling conventions ("labour", not "labor") but mostly follows American vocabulary choices ("elevator", not "lift") and pronunciation. The most common Canadian accent is very close to a Midwestern U.S. accent.
- Due to the worldwide popularity of Hollywood films and American pop culture, speakers of British English are more likely to understand American English terms than vice versa.
- International organisations that both the U.S. and UK are members of (such as the United Nations) typically follow British usage as homage to the "senior" variety of English.
Some exceptions to the purely dichotomous treatment of English are noted in comments in the tables below, but this guide is meant to be a practical aid for travellers, not an exhaustive compendium of English usages.
Noah Webster, compiler of the first major dictionary of American English in the early 19th century, made a number of simplifications in the spelling. Some of these are now standard in American English varieties, but generally not used in others.
See Wikivoyage:Spelling for discussion of which variants to use in articles.
British English doubles the final consonant in some words when adding an ending, for example in "traveller". American English usually spells it "traveler".
American English drops the "U" in "-our" endings:
|labor||labour||In Australia, "labour" is used in most contexts, but one of the country's political parties is the Australian Labor Party.|
However, the word "glamour" is always spelled with the "U".
Words borrowed from French keep the French "-re" ending in British English, but get changed to the more phonetic "-er" in American English:
|meter||metre||As a unit of length|
All dialects use "meter" for a measuring instrument.
British English changes a "C" to an "S" to distinguish a noun from a verb. James Bond has a "licence" to kill, and was "licensed" after qualifying as a spy. The American form always uses the "S" in most such pairs, but always has a "C" in "practice". In a few cases, such as "advice"/"advise", the distinction is retained in all varieties of English.
American English uses an "S" in some words, while British English uses a "C".
The adjective forms, "defensive" and "offensive", are always spelled with an "S".
American English changes the "S" to a more phonetic "Z" in some "-ise" and "-yse" endings:
|analyze||analyse||But the noun form "analysis" is always spelled with an "S"|
Canadian English generally follows British spelling conventions for the cases mentioned above.
In some words with Greek or Latin roots, mainly medical and scientific terms, British English retains "ae" and "oe" (these days rarely written as ligatures "æ" and "œ" since those don't appear on English keyboards), while American English usually simplifies both to just an "e".
American English drops the silent "-ue" letters from some words with a "-gue" ending:
When adding a suffix for some words ending with a silent "E", American English sometimes drops the "E" while British English retains the "E":
Some words, such as "bathing" and "usable" drop the "E" everywhere, while some others, such as "dyeing" and "changeable" retain the "E" everywhere.
Some words have silent letters dropped in American English or are just spelled differently:
|check||cheque||As a form of payment|
The verb "to check" and its related noun are always spelled "check".
|curb||kerb||As the raised edge of a street|
The verb "to curb" (as in "to restrain") and its related noun are always spelled "curb".
|draft||draught / draft||UK retains separate words (with multiple meanings for each); U.S. simplifies both to "draft".|
|program||programme||UK uses "program" only in the context of a "computer program". Australia and Canada use the word "program" to refer to TV or radio shows.|
|story||storey||As a floor or level of a building|
"Story" as in "tale" or "sequence of events" always lacks an "E".
|tire||tyre||As a ring of rubber around a wheel|
The verb "to tire" is always spelled with an "I".
|ton||tonne||As the metric unit of weight, equivalent to 1,000 kg.|
The imperial ton and U.S. ton (see Weights and measures below) are always spelled "ton".
|whiskey||whisky||The U.S. and Ireland usually use the spelling "whiskey", while other countries use "whisky", but this is not universal; at least a few American distilleries call their product "whisky".|
For some reason, this spelling difference raises a disproportionate amount of ire among readers.
And a few words are both pronounced and spelled differently:
|aluminum||aluminium||The UK "aluminium" spelling is the international scientific preference, to match other -ium elements.|
|filet (fih-LEY)||fillet (FILL-it)||Meat or fish; in engineering it's always "fillet".|
|inquiry, to inquire||enquiry, to enquire||To ask for information|
An official investigation is always called an "inquiry".
Canadian usage tends to be mixed in the last two categories, with British spelling being followed for words such as "cheque", "storey", "enquiry" and sometimes "programme", but American spelling being followed for words such as "aluminum" and "tire".
Incidentally, punctuation usage differs slightly as well, but doesn't follow the same division between British and American English. Quotations are marked by double quotation marks (“…”) in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, while single quotation marks (‘…’) are used in the UK and South Africa.
There are some minor differences in grammar and usage, which may be interesting if you are studying or teaching English; however, they are almost never a cause for confusion.
Some verbs take different forms in different varieties of English.
For past forms of some verbs, the older irregular spellings are more common in British English but the regular "-ed" forms predominate in American English. The verbs "dive" and "sneak", however, have the opposite pattern.
|learned||learnt||The adjective in "a learned man", pronounced with two syllables, is spelled the same in all dialects.|
Some verbs retain the older form in all dialects, for example "slept" and "wept".
The past participle form "gotten" is still common in American English but in British English it has almost entirely vanished; the participle is just "got".
|“||You like po-tay-to and I like po-tah-to
You like to-may-to and I like to-mah-to
—lyrics from the song "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"
Educated people from almost anywhere in the English-speaking world can talk to each other without difficulty. Consider an international crew on an oil rig somewhere. The engineers and managers would almost certainly be able to talk to each other without any real problems, whether they studied in Edinburgh or Edmonton. However, two working guys from the same two countries — say working class Glasgow and a Newfoundland fishing village — would be quite likely to find communication a bit difficult due to stronger regional accents and use of dialectical words.
An important difference in English dialects is whether "R" is pronounced after a vowel. Words such as "fork", "word" or "mother" are quite different in the two types, though everyone pronounces the "R" in other contexts, for example in "rabbit" or "area". Linguists call dialects with the "R" rhotic and those without non-rhotic.
- Dialects with the "R": Some parts of western and northern England, Scotland, Ireland, some parts of southern New Zealand, the Philippines, Canada, most of the U.S.
- Dialects without "R": Most of England, Wales, Australia, most of New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, parts of New England, parts of the Southern U.S., some New York City-area accents, and African American Vernacular English (used by many African Americans interchangeably with the standard dialect of their region).
People not familiar with dialects other than their own sometimes lump all "R"-less dialects together, as when an American takes a New Zealand accent for British, and others make the opposite error, like an Englishwoman taking a Canadian accent for American.
Another noticeable difference is the "A" sound in words such as "bath", "laugh", "grass" and "chance"; many dialects pronounce them with the "short A" as in "trap", but southern England, South Africa, New Zealand, some parts of Boston and some parts of Australia pronounce them with the "long A" or "broad A" as in "palm".
In some cases, such as in the word "herb", the initial letter "H" is pronounced in British English, but usually silent in American English.
Certain words are pronounced very differently:
|advertisement||AD-ver-tighz-muhnt||uhd-VER-tihs-muhnt||The shortened forms also differ: US "ad" vs. UK "advert".|
|basil||BAY-zuhl||BA-zuhl||Canada follows British pronunciation.|
|data||DAY-tuh / DAT-uh||DAY-tuh||Australia: DAH-tuh|
|garage||guh-RAHZH||GA-rahj or GA-rihj||sometimes in Canada as : "graj" (one syllable)|
|privacy||PRY-vuh-see||PRIH-vuh-see||Australia and Singapore follow American pronunciation.|
|route||rhymes with "shout" or "shoot"||rhymes with "shoot"||Many places pronounce the networking device called a "router" to rhyme with "shouter", even if they may otherwise follow the British pronunciation of "route".|
|schedule||SKE-jool||SHED-yool||Australia and Singapore follow American pronunciation.|
|valet||val-AY||val-ay or VAL-it||Australia and Singapore follow American pronunciation.|
|Z (letter)||zee||zed||In some parts of Scotland, you'll occasionally hear it called "izzard". |
Canada follows British pronunciation.
Sometimes two places whose names share the same spelling can be pronounced rather differently. For instance, the city of Berkeley in England is pronounced BARK-lee but the corresponding city in California is pronounced BURK-lee. Birmingham in England is pronounced with a silent H and unstressed ending (BUR-ming-um), while Birmingham, Alabama has a pronounced H and stressed ending (BUR-ming-HAM). "Houston" is pronounced HOO-stun if it's the village outside Glasgow, HOW-stun if it's the street in New York City, and HYOO-stun if it's the city in Texas. Conversely, two places with rather different spellings can sometimes share the same pronunciation. For instance, an American's pronunciation of Oakland and a New Zealander's pronunciation of Auckland are so similar that there have been cases of airline passengers ending up on the wrong side of the Pacific Ocean.
|“||The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.||”|
All dialects of English include words borrowed from other languages, and many of those such as "bungalow" (Hindi), "robot" (Czech), "canoe" (Carib) or "typhoon" (Chinese) are now standard in all dialects. However, many dialects also include loanwords that are non-standard. Canadians use more terms of French origin than other dialects and are more likely to pronounce them as French speakers do, New Zealanders occasionally mix Māori terms into their English, Indian English has Hindi or Urdu words, and so on.
Non-native English speakers may on occasion use false friends, words that make sense in their other language but have a different meaning in English; one example is that French librairie means bookstore, not library. The reverse case of loanwords being used in a meaning closer to the language of origin is also common. In some cases, particularly when pseudo-English words like "Handy" (German for mobile phone) are used, confusion may arise.
|bus||bus / coach||UK distinguishes between local "buses" (such as city buses or school buses) and long-distance "coaches" (such as National Express or Greyhound). In the U.S. "bus" is generally used for all of these.|
|car (rail travel)||carriage / coach|
|carry-on bag||hand luggage|
|coach [class] / economy class||standard class / economy class||The lowest class of seating on a plane or train.|
|crosswalk||pedestrian crossing / zebra crossing||UK "zebra crossing" refers exclusively to uncontrolled crossings with striped road markings and Belisha beacons (flashing amber/orange lights atop black-and-white poles), as seen on The Beatles' Abbey Road album cover.|
|downtown||city centre||In some places, may be called the "CBD" (short for Central Business District) or just the "city".|
|first class||business class||When referring to seating on short-haul or domestic flights. U.S. "business class" refers primarily to international long-haul business class with lie-flat seats; UK "first class" refers to a class more expensive and luxurious than business class. |
All other countries follow British usage.
|first floor||ground floor||UK "first floor" means "first above the ground floor", which is called the "second floor" in the U.S. Hotels tend to label floors like "lobby", "mezzanine", "pool", etc., which may or may not be counted in place of numbered floors.|
|flight attendant||air host[ess]||Singapore/Malaysia: "air steward[ess]"|
"Stewardess" was used in the U.S. up to the 1980s, but today is considered outdated and arguably sexist.
|main street||high street||A primary road lined with shops in the central commercial district.|
|overhead compartment / overhead bin||overhead locker|
|[pedestrian] underpass||subway||As a pedestrian tunnel under a busy road or railroad. Singapore follows U.S. usage.|
|round-trip (ticket)||return||U.S. "return" refers to just the return leg itself.|
|sidewalk||pavement||Australia: "footpath". In North America "pavement" is a mass noun referring to the substance (usually asphalt) used to cover a surface (usually a road, but also parking lots, etc.).|
|streetcar / trolley||tram||U.S. "streetcar" is always in mixed traffic (and often a rather short line) whereas many trams have dedicated rights of way and would likely be labeled "light rail" in the U.S.|
|subway / metro / local acronyms||underground / metro||"Metro" is the most commonly used term for similar systems internationally, and is used in places like Montreal, Washington, D.C. and Newcastle upon Tyne.|
The London Underground is colloquially known as "the Tube", while Glasgow's is called a "subway".
In many cities, the local public transit system has a more or less well known acronym often ending in TA (transit authority) or RT (rapid transit/rail transit), as in BART in the Bay Area.
In Singapore, the term "MRT" is used.
For historical reasons, cars and roads have developed a lot of differing terminology between American and British English.
For terms related to motor vehicles, Canadian English uses American terminology and spelling extensively, as the Canadian and American auto industries have always had close links.
|blinker / turn signal||indicator / signal|
|boot||wheel clamp||Also the related verb "to boot" (U.S.) vs "to clamp" (UK).|
|carpool||car sharing||South Africa: "lift scheme"|
|carsharing||car club||As in self-service short-term (often hourly) car rentals.|
|coupe (pronounced KOOP) / 2-door||coupé (pronounced koo-PAY or KOO-pay) / 2-door|
|divided highway||dual carriageway|
|drunk driving / DUI / DWI||drink-driving||U.S. "DUI" and "DWI" are acronyms for "driving under the influence" and "driving while intoxicated", respectively. In colloquial speech all three of the listed terms are synonymous, but in legal uses the specific terminology and definition of "DUI" and/or "DWI" vary from state to state.|
|gas / gasoline||petrol||UK "gas" refers to liquified petroleum gas (LPG).|
|gas station||filling station / petrol station||Singapore: "petrol kiosk". Canada: also "gas bar".|
U.S.: the gas station's pumps are on concrete pads known as "islands"; UK: the filling station's petrol pumps are in the "forecourt".
|hood (of a car)||bonnet|
|minivan||people carrier||Australia and New Zealand follow U.S. usage. Singapore: "minibus / minivan"|
|overpass||flyover||U.S. "flyover" generally refers to not just an overpass but a complex interchange with ramps.|
|parking lot||[open-air] car park||Singapore "parking lot" refers to a parking space.|
|parking garage / parking deck / parking ramp||[multi-storey] car park||South Africa and Canada: "parkade". New Zealand: "parking building".|
|to pass||to overtake||New Zealand distinguishes between "passing" in traffic lanes on your side of the road, and "overtaking" by moving into the lane with oncoming traffic.|
|pavement||road surface / tarmac||Australia: "bitumen" is sometimes used instead. U.S. "tarmac" commonly refers to airport surfaces where airplanes move.|
|pickup [truck]||no particular usage; see notes||South Africa: "bakkie". Australia and New Zealand: "ute" (pronounced yoot) is either a pickup truck, or a coupé pickup (similar to the Chevrolet El Camino). Pickup trucks are extremely uncommon in the UK, and don't have a specific name. Singapore follows U.S. usage.|
|to rent||to hire||Australia and New Zealand use both terms interchangeably. Singapore follows U.S. usage. Also U.S. "rental car" vs UK "hire car".|
U.S. "to hire (a vehicle)" is used only in the sense of vehicles that come with a driver, such as taxis, limousines, etc.
|sedan / 4-door||saloon / 4-door||Australia and New Zealand follow U.S. usage.|
|[service] shop / repair shop / mechanic||garage||New Zealand and Singapore follow U.S. usage. In Australia, a "service station" or "servo" is a petrol station that may or may not also include repair facilities.|
|side view mirror||wing mirror|
|speed bump||speed bump / hump / sleeping policeman||New Zealand: "speed bump" (long) or "judder bar" (short)|
|[station] wagon||estate car||Australia, New Zealand and Singapore follow U.S. usage.|
|stick / stick shift / manual (transmission)||manual||Also sometimes called "standard", even in the U.S. and other countries where the vast majority of cars have automatic transmissions.|
|truck||lorry||U.S. term has multiple meanings; see notes below. UK road signs refer to "HGVs" (which stands for "Heavy Goods Vehicles"). Australia and New Zealand follow U.S. usage, though really long trucks in Australia are also known as "road trains". Singapore distinguishes between smaller "lorries" and larger "trucks".|
|trunk (of a car)||boot|
|undivided highway||single carriageway|
- roundabout: The term "roundabout" is standard everywhere, but Massachusetts uses "rotary". New York State distinguishes roundabouts from "traffic circles", which are usually larger in size and where traffic rules regarding right-of-way, etc., are somewhat different.
- service station:
- U.S. — a filling station attached to a repair garage
- UK — motorway service area, a service centre or rest area
- Australia — a service station or "servo" is any fuel station.
- truck: U.S. "truck" can refer to several different vehicles:
- A pickup truck
- An SUV (sport utility vehicle), known elsewhere as an "off-road vehicle", "4x4" / "four-by-four", or by brand names like "Jeep" or "Land Rover"; sometimes marketed as a "crossover" for light-duty vehicles with no off-road capability
- A heavy-duty vehicle for moving cargo (includes articulated semi-trailers [UK: "lorry"] and box/straight trucks) or specialized jobs (fire trucks, tow trucks, garbage trucks, etc.)
- In casual conversation, "truck" is more likely to refer to a pickup, but could also refer to an SUV.
- freeway, motorway, etc.:
- The technical term for this type of road is a controlled-access highway, though this is rarely if ever used in everyday speech.
- U.S. — Can be called a "highway", "freeway" or "expressway". While there may be technical legal distinctions between the terms depending on state, they are largely synonymous in everyday speech. "Interstate" is the name of a specific U.S. highway system, not a general term for any freeway or numbered road. "Turnpike" is a somewhat old-fashioned term still used in some states to refer specifically to expressways where tolls are charged, though you'll also occasionally see the word (and its shortened form "pike") fossilized in the proper names of ordinary roads that once levied tolls on travellers.
- UK — Known as a "motorway". Some specific motorways use the term "expressway" in their name, e.g. M6 Toll Midland Expressway. "Highway" refers to all publicly-owned roads of any size.
- Australia — "Motorway" is prevalent in New South Wales and Queensland, while "freeway" is the prevalent term everywhere else. "Expressway" is also used in South Australia.
- Canada — Commonly known as a "highway" or "expressway". "Autoroute" is used in Quebec (in English and in French).
- New Zealand — Both "expressway" and "motorway" are used.
- Singapore, Hong Kong — Known as an "expressway".
- Malaysia — May be called a "highway" or "expressway" in English. On road signs, the Malay term "lebuhraya" is used.
- Outside North America, the term "highway" is often used to refer to any major sealed public road.
See and do
For sports, the International Olympic Committee and most international sports federations follow British usage.
|bumper cars||dodgems||Singapore and India follow U.S. usage. Both terms are used in Australia and New Zealand.|
|checkers||draughts||The strategy board game played on a checkered (UK: "chequered") board.|
|football||American football||Multiple meanings; see notes below.|
|soccer||football||Multiple meanings; see notes below.|
|hockey||ice hockey||The game played on ice, the national sport in Canada.|
|field hockey||hockey||The game played on grass or artificial turf, popular in India and Pakistan.|
|tie||draw||When referring to matches where a winner cannot be determined. Several sports may have their own special words for different game results without a winner. Cricket uses both "tie" and "draw" with mutually exclusive meanings.|
|track and field||athletics||U.S. "athletics" more often refers to sports in general.|
UK "track and field" refers only to events that take place at the stadium (i.e. excluding road-based and cross-country events); U.S. "track and field" may also exclude cross-country depending on the area you are in.
|movie theater / cinema||cinema||In the UK, "going to the pictures" can also mean a trip to the movies.|
- football refers to the most common game in the respective country.
- In the UK, that would be association football. Although "soccer" was originally an Oxfordian word formed from association football, much like "rugger" was formed from rugby football, most Brits today insist that "football" is the one true name for this sport.
- In Australia, the usage varies by region; "football" or the slang term "footy" refers to rugby league in the states of New South Wales and Queensland, but refers to Australian rules football everywhere else.
- In the U.S., American football is meant when referring to "football" unqualified. Other countries may know it better as "gridiron football", of which American football is one variety; in North America, "gridiron" refers to the field itself.
- In Canada "football" refers to either the Canadian or the American variety of gridiron football (very similar to each other).
- In Ireland, "football" may refer to association football, Gaelic football, or sometimes rugby union. National media typically avoid confusion by not using "football" by itself to refer to any sport, respectively using "soccer", "Gaelic football", and "rugby" to refer to the three aforementioned sports.
- In New Zealand, "football" historically referred to rugby union, but since 2005 this has dramatically changed, with "football" now referring almost exclusively to association football.
- In South Africa, "football" would most often refer to association football. However, the word is rarely used outside of official contexts (such as the name of the national governing body for the sport, the South African Football Association). All cultural groups in the country, when speaking English, refer to the sport as "soccer"; this is reflected in national media usage.
- In Singapore and Malaysia, "football" refers to soccer, though the term "soccer" is also widely used and understood.
- The unqualified word rugby usually refers to rugby union, but refers to rugby league in the north of England.
- Although "football" refers to rugby league in the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales, the word "rugby" always refers to rugby union throughout the whole of Australia.
- When describing matches between two teams, the home team is typically stated first in the UK (e.g. "Manchester United vs Liverpool" means Manchester United hosting Liverpool), while it is typically stated second in the U.S. (e.g. "L.A. Lakers vs (or "@") Chicago Bulls" means L.A. Lakers visiting the Chicago Bulls).
- The strategy board game called Go in Japanese is known as such by most English speakers worldwide, but is known by its Chinese name weiqi in Singapore and Malaysia.
|swimsuit / bathing suit||swimming costume (female) / swimming trunks (male)||Australian usage differs by region (eg. "cozzie" in Sydney, "tog" in Melbourne, elsewhere you might hear "swimmer" or "bather").|
|bill (money)||note||"Note" is short for "banknote", which is the official term used in all English-speaking countries|
|cash register||till||U.S. "till" refers specifically to a money drawer, such as that of a cash register or a bank teller's station.|
|checking account||current account||Depending on location, may also be spelled "chequing account" or called a "cheque account". Canadian banks offer "chequing accounts" to individuals but "current accounts" to businesses.|
|fanny pack||bum bag||UK "fanny" is obscene slang for female genitalia.|
Singapore: "waist pouch" or just "pouch"
|line (of people waiting)||queue||People in the New York City area stand "on line"; elsewhere in the U.S. they stand "in line". U.S. uses "queue" only as an abstract concept (e.g. "job queue" for a printer).|
|mall||shopping centre||U.S. "shopping center" usually refers to a complex of retail stores without interior corridors, though this can vary regionally and can also be called a "strip mall", "mini-mall", or "plaza".|
|pants||trousers||UK "pants" refers to underwear. Australia, New Zealand and Singapore use both terms interchangeably.|
|panties||knickers||Australia and New Zealand use both terms interchangeably. Singapore follows U.S. usage.|
|pump (women's shoe)||court shoe|
|shopping cart||[shopping] trolley||In New Zealand you'll also hear "trundler". In the U.S. "shopping cart" is widespread, but you may also hear "buggy" in the South and in the older generations of the Midwest and "shopping carriage" in southern New England. U.S. "trolley" may refer to a streetcar or a bus built to outwardly resemble an old style streetcar.|
|sneakers / athletic shoes / tennis shoes||trainers||Singapore: "track shoes"; Philippines: "rubber shoes"|
|sweater||jumper||UK may also use "tank top" to refer to a sleeveless jumper (U.S. "sweater vest")|
|tank top||vest / singlet|
|tuxedo||dinner jacket / dinner suit||"Dinner jacket" can be abbreviated to "DJ", and "tuxedo" can be shortened to just "tux".|
- ATM, which stands for "automated teller machine", is the standard word in all English-speaking countries except the UK.
- UK — "cash point / cash machine / hole-in-the-wall". Unrelatedly, U.S. "hole-in-the-wall" means a place lacking ambience that sells cheap (but not necessarily bad) food.
- U.S. Midwest — Some areas also use "TYME machine" (an acronym for "Take Your Money Everywhere", the brand name of a former regional interbank network).
- Flip-flops go by various local names: Australia: "thongs"; New Zealand: "jandals" (short for "Japanese sandals"); South Africa: "slops"; Hawaii: "slippa" (the local pronunciation of "slippers"); Philippines/Singapore: "slippers". They're also just called "sandals", but this term can cause confusion since there are various other types of sandals.
- Senior [citizen] is a fairly universal term for elderly people, who are typically retired and on a fixed income, and consequently extended discounts at many restaurants and attractions.
- UK, Ireland, Australia — "OAP" (which stands for "old age pensioner") is also used
|appetizer / starter||starter||Australia: "entrée". In Commonwealth countries except Canada, an "appetiser" refers to an even smaller dish consumed before the starter, which may also be called one of three French-derived terms: amuse-bouche, hors d'œuvre or canapé.|
|arugula||rocket / roquette|
|to broil / to grill||to grill||Broiling means the heat source is above the food; grilling means the heat source is below the food. UK does not make the distinction between the two.|
|candy||sweets||Australia/New Zealand: "lollies"|
|check (restaurant)||bill||Canada follows British usage.|
|chips||crisps||See notes below.|
|cookies||biscuits||Britain distinguishes hard "biscuits" from soft "cookies". U.S. "biscuit" is similar to a savory scone.|
|corn||maize||See notes below. Southern Africa: "mealie"|
|corned beef||salt beef||UK "corned beef" refers to "bully beef". Australia/New Zealand follow U.S. usage.|
|cotton candy||candy floss||Australia: "fairy floss"|
|dessert||dessert / pudding / sweet||U.S. "pudding" without qualification usually means the same as UK "custard" or "blancmange".|
|eggplant||aubergine||India/Singapore/Malaysia: "brinjal". Australia follows U.S. usage.|
|entrée / main course||main course||In English-speaking areas outside the U.S, "entrée" would generally be understood to be a synonym of "starter".|
|[French] fries||chips||See notes below.|
|grocery store / supermarket||supermarket|
|ground beef / hamburger [meat]||minced beef / beef mince|
|Jell-O||jelly||"Jell-O" is a trademarked brand of gelatin desserts, although the term is widely used generically in the U.S. and Canada.|
|jelly||jam||U.S. "jam" contains fruit flesh and "jelly" is filtered to just the thickened juice, with pectin (and often sugar, etc.) added.|
|ketchup / catsup||tomato sauce / ketchup||Usage may vary. "Tomato sauce" is more common in Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa. Wales, Scotland, and parts of England may use "red sauce". Depending on context, "tomato sauce" can also mean Italian sauces (e.g. Neapolitan, marinara). The spelling "catsup", while still occasionally seen in the U.S., is becoming increasingly uncommon.|
|napkin||serviette||UK distinguishes paper "serviettes" from cloth "napkins". Canada uses both terms interchangeably.|
|pickle||gherkin||U.S. "pickle" refers to a pickled cucumber, unless otherwise specified (e.g., pickled tomatoes, pickled peppers).|
UK "pickle" is a broad term that refers to any pickled vegetable, plus several kinds of preserve.
|scallion / green onion||spring onion||Ireland: "scallion". Wales also uses "gibbon". Australia and the New Orleans area: "shallot", and a true shallot is called "French shallot".|
|shrimp||prawn||In British, Canadian, New Zealand and Singaporean usage, a "shrimp" is typically much smaller than a "prawn", while Australian English does not use the term "shrimp" at all.|
|takeout / carryout / to go||takeaway|
|zucchini||courgette||Australia follows U.S. usage. New Zealand uses both terms interchangeably.|
- While breakfast, lunch and dinner refer to the morning, midday and evening meals respectively in most countries, parts of the UK refer to the midday meal as "dinner", and to the evening meal as "supper" or "high tea". Outside the UK, "supper" may be another name for the evening meal, or may be a small late-night meal after dinner.
- bacon — In English-speaking countries, the term refers to a type of cured pork product usually served in slices. However, countries differ on the meaning of the unqualified word:
- U.S., Canada — "Bacon" by itself refers to a product prepared from the pork belly. In the UK and Ireland, this product is called "side bacon" or "streaky bacon", with the latter term coming from the streaks of fat across the strips of meat.
- UK, Ireland — The unqualified term "bacon" refers to a different and much leaner product taken mainly from the loin, sometimes including part of the belly. North America calls this product "back bacon". In the U.S. only, "Canadian bacon" refers to a form of back bacon that is cut from the lean eye of the loin and sold ready to eat. In parts of Canada (mainly southern Ontario), a form of back bacon rolled in cornmeal known as "peameal bacon" (from the former use of dried peas as a coating) is popular.
- Australia — Standard "bacon" is something of a cross between the above types, being prepared mainly from the belly, with a piece of loin attached.
- chips / crisps / fries:
- UK — "chips" refers almost exclusively to deep fried, elongated strips of potatoes; crispy, thin slices of potatoes are referred to as "crisps".
- U.S., Canada — "chips" refers almost exclusively to crispy, thin slices of potatoes, while deep fried elongated strips of potatoes are referred to as "fries" or "French fries". However, the British dish "fish and chips" is still referred to as such, and in Canada, "chip trucks" sell French fries.
- Australia, New Zealand — Both the aforementioned fried-potato dishes are referred to as "chips"; the meaning is generally inferred from context.
- Some Commonwealth nations use "fries" for the thinner style as typically found at McDonald's and "chips" for the thicker style as typically found in fish and chips.
- coriander: In the UK, refers to both the seeds and leaves of Coriandrum sativum. In North America, "coriander" refers only to the seeds; the leaves are called "cilantro".
- North America, Australia, New Zealand — A cereal that grows on tall stalks, with the edible grains (most often yellow or white, though other colors exist) forming "ears" growing from the stalk. This plant and its grain are called "maize" in the UK and Ireland, and by botanists worldwide (at least within a scientific context).
- England and Wales — "Corn" can refer to any cereal, but most often to wheat.
- Scotland and Ireland — Similar to England and Wales, except that the most common reference is to oats.
- However, in culinary contexts, "corn" with an additional word (e.g. "popcorn", "sweet corn", or "corn flakes") always refers to maize, even in the UK and Ireland.
- UK, Ireland, Australia — refers exclusively to true yams, a usually white-fleshed root vegetable.
- North America — may also be used to refer to the orange-fleshed sweet potato.
- New Zealand — refers to oca, a small, usually red-skinned root vegetable. Sweet potatoes are sold under their Māori name, kūmara.
- Malaysia, Singapore — refers to taro, a small white- or slightly purple-fleshed root vegetable.
- The Chinese dish known as hot pot in most of the English-speaking world is known as steamboat in Singapore and Malaysia.
|apple juice / [apple] cider||apple juice||U.S. "apple juice" is filtered and "cider" is unfiltered (and both are non-alcoholic).|
|hard cider||cider||In a U.S. bar, "cider" by itself would be assumed to mean hard cider, but elsewhere would usually be taken to mean unfiltered apple juice|
|liquor store / package store||off licence||Australia/New Zealand: "bottle shop".|
In places with a government-owned alcohol monopoly, often known by the name of that agency ("ABC store" or just "state store" in some U.S. states, "LCBO" in Ontario, "SAQ" in Quebec, etc.).
In Canada, "off licence" means selling unopened bottles over the counter at a hotel, bar, or restaurant and is legal in only a few provinces.
|lemon-lime soda (e.g. Sprite, 7-UP)||lemonade|
|lemonade (squeezed lemons and sugar)||traditional lemonade / still lemonade|
|pop / soda / coke||fizzy drink / soft drink||See notes below.|
- pop, etc.
- U.S., Canada:
- In the U.S., "pop" is used in Western New York, western Pennsylvania, most of the Midwest, the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest, and most of Alaska. It is also the preferred term throughout most of English-speaking Canada.
- "Soda" is used in New England, the coastal Mid-Atlantic, California, most of the Southwest, eastern Wisconsin, South Florida, Hawaii, and anywhere within a roughly 150-mile (240 km) radius of St. Louis.
- "Coke" predominates in the southern tier of the U.S. between New Mexico and Florida. The word is used generically, not just in reference to Coca-Cola: the answer to the question "what kind of coke would you like?" could very well be Pepsi.
- UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland — "Fizzy drink" is the most common term throughout all of these countries, though you might also hear "soft drink" in Australia and New Zealand, and "mineral" in Ireland. In the UK, "soft drink" more commonly refers to any non-alcoholic beverage.
- South Africa — "Cooldrink" is the most commonly used term.
- Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines — "Soft drink" is the most commonly used term.
- Nigeria — "Mineral" is the most commonly used term.
- U.S., Canada:
|apartment||flat||In the UK, "flat" is the generic term; "apartment" is used for similar dwellings in expensive residential areas. Australia uses both terms interchangeably, plus "unit".|
|to rent||to let||Australia, New Zealand and Singapore follow U.S. usage. In any dialect, "to lease" can be use for longer rentals that involve a lease.|
|campground||camp site||A group of spots for multiple tents, caravan trailers, or RVs.|
|camp site||camping pitch||An individual spot for one tent, caravan trailer, or RV.|
- See also: Studying abroad
Education is among the areas where differences between UK and U.S. English are most profound.
|class / course||module / unit|
|college||university / uni||Usage varies by country; see notes below. As a generic term for post-secondary undergraduate education, "university" is also understood in the U.S., though the contracted form "uni" generally is not.|
|degree program||course [of study] / degree programme|
|faculty||academics||As in educators (professors, teachers, lecturers/lectors, etc.) and researchers. In education contexts, U.S. usually distinguishes "faculty" from "staff": employees who have neither teaching, research, nor managerial responsibilities. UK "faculty" refers to a collection of related academic departments (sometimes referred to as a "school" in the context of UK higher education).|
|grades / points||marks / grades||Also U.S. "to grade" or "to check" versus UK "to mark".|
|graduate / grad (stage of education)||postgraduate / postgrad||As in education above the level of a bachelor's degree.|
|to major in (a subject)||to read / to study (a subject)||U.S. "to study (a subject)" can mean majoring, or simply to take any class, or reviewing (UK: "revising") before an exam|
|private school||public school / independent school / private school||See notes below.|
|proctor / [exam] supervisor||invigilator|
|professor||lecturer||In the UK, "professor" is a highly prestigious title and a department rarely has more than one; senior academics may be titled "readers", and the rest are "lecturers" of varying levels. In the U.S. and Canada, "lecturer" is sometimes the formal title for a junior or part-time faculty member, whereas the word "professor" can be used loosely for any professional college instructor or reserved for full-time faculty members. Other Commonwealth countries mainly follow the British system, but may use "associate professor" instead of the British "reader".|
|public school||state school||See notes below. As in a government-owned, publicly-funded school open to all students. May be known as a "government school" in some places.|
|to review||to revise||U.S. "to revise" means to make edits to improve written or printed material|
|to take (an exam)||to sit (an exam)||Canada: "to write (an exam)". India: "to write/give (an exam)".|
In the U.S., professional degree students (law, medicine, etc.) will "take" their school exams, but "sit [for]" their professional exams (bar, medical boards, etc.).
|tuition||tuition fees||UK "tuition" refers to the educational content transferred to students|
- U.S. — Generic term for post-secondary undergraduate education. An American student will "go to college" regardless of whether his or her particular institution is formally called a "college", "university", or some other term, and whether or not the school awards bachelor's degrees. This usage of "college" does not extend to graduate education, which is usually called "grad school" (or for professional degrees, "law school", "med (medical) school", etc.).
- Canada — Mainly refers to a technical, career, or community college (U.S.: "community college" or "junior college"). Canadians draw a sharp distinction between "going to college" (implying a community, technical or career college diploma) and "going to university" (studying for a bachelor's or postgrad degree). College mostly offers two or three-year programmes which prepare students for practical employment. A few exceptions:
- Quebec inserts two years of community college, locally known as CÉGEP, between its secondary education and university. Quebec students graduate from high school after grade 11, as opposed to grade 12 in Anglophone North America. Undergraduate degrees from Quebec universities are completed in one less year than in Anglophone North America, as the first year will have been completed at a CÉGEP.
- In Ontario, a "CVI" (Collegiate and Vocational Institute) is a secondary/high school facility (not a college) which offers technical or machine shops
- UK — Can refer to any post-secondary institution that is not a university, or sometimes to a secondary school. Students studying for their bachelor's or postgraduate degree will say that they are "going to university" (or "uni") instead of U.S. "college", regardless of the formal title of their school.
- Ireland — Similar to U.S. usage but slightly broader (i.e. includes postgraduate education) for historical reasons unique to that country. Before 1989, no Irish university provided teaching or research directly; they were instead offered by a constituent college of a university.
- Australia — Usually refers to a private (i.e., non-government) primary, or especially secondary, school.
- New Zealand — Normally refers to secondary schools; used interchangeably with "high school".
- Singapore — Generally refers to government high schools. Short for "junior college".
- In all countries, can also refer to a constituent college of a university.
- graduation / to graduate:
- U.S. — Most commonly refers to having earned a high school diploma or an undergraduate (bachelor's or associate) degree.
- UK — Only refers to the completion of a university degree programme (i.e. bachelor's, master's or doctorate).
- prep school:
- U.S. — a secondary/high school that prepares students for college.
- UK — a primary school that prepares pupils for fee-paying public (private) secondary schools
- public school:
- U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand — A government-owned, publicly-funded school; most often used to refer to an elementary or secondary school open to all students within the geographic boundaries designated for that school.
- UK — Can have several meanings:
- "Public" education as opposed to "private" education by a tutor
- Exclusive fee-paying secondary schools, typically boarding schools (which are "public" because they aren't restricted based on home location, religion, etc.)
- Any independent school (also called "private schools" following U.S. usage); this usage of "public school" is rare in Scotland and Northern Ireland
- state school:
- U.S. — Used exclusively to refer to publicly-funded universities operated by state governments.
- UK — A publicly-funded school for students aged between 5 and 18. Universities are not called schools in the UK, although the term may be used for departments within a university ("School of Chemistry").
- New Zealand – refers to publicly-funded primary and secondary schools, often to the exclusion of state integrated schools, i.e. former private schools that have become state schools while retaining their private school character.
- UK, Ireland — Traditionally refers exclusively to those attending university-level institutions. Attendees of primary and secondary institutions are generally called "pupils". However, the North American sense of the term (see below) is beginning to see some use.
- New Zealand — Broader than in the UK and Ireland; "pupils" refers only to children in primary school (years 1–6). "Student" is used for all higher levels, from intermediate to postgraduate.
- Philippines — Likewise, formally "students" refer to learners in the secondary level (starting at grade 7) or higher, whereas "pupils" refer to learners in the elementary level. For most schools, "student" is more widespread although the word "pupil" is sometimes used.
- U.S., Canada, Australia — Refers to all people attending educational institutions at any level, from primary to postgraduate. "Pupils" is generally understood in North America but considered something of an archaic term.
- Singapore — Follows U.S. usage, but also used interchangeably with "pupils" up to the secondary school level.
- student union or students' union:
- U.S. ("student union" only) — One of several terms used to describe a college/university building intended for student recreation and socializing. Synonyms include "student center" and "student activity center".
- Other English-speaking countries — A college/university student organization devoted to representing the interests of the students before the administration. The recreational aspect is also looked after by the unions as in the U.S., but their political role is often emphasized. The most common U.S. equivalent is "student government", with "student senate" also seeing some use.
Stay safe and stay healthy
|acetaminophen||paracetamol||A common over-the-counter pain remedy. Brand names include "Tylenol" and "Panadol".|
|attorney / lawyer||solicitor / barrister / advocate / lawyer||UK terms are not interchangeable; typically clients hire a "solicitor" to provide legal advice, who may in turn hire a "barrister" (Scotland, South Africa: "advocate") to represent the client in court. "Lawyer" is the generic term covering all these sub-professions in the UK.|
|Band-Aid / bandage||[sticking] plaster||A small adhesive used to dress minor wounds. "Band-Aid" is a trademarked brand name of such items that is widely used generically. In the UK and parts of the U.S., "bandage" is understood to mean gauze or elastic bandages intended for more serious wounds.|
|drug store / pharmacy||chemist / pharmacy||The "Green Cross" symbol in the UK and Europe indicates that store is a chemist or pharmacy. In the U.S. the same "Green Cross" symbol has been used by marijuana dispensaries, gardening suppliers and environmentalists.|
|ER (emergency room)||A&E (accident & emergency)||Australia/New Zealand: "ED (emergency department)"|
|family doctor / primary care physician||GP (General Practitioner)||"GP" is also used in the U.S., but it's possible not everyone will understand the term.|
|fire department||fire brigade||Australia uses "fire brigade" in the state of Victoria, but uses "fire service" everywhere else. New Zealand primarily uses "fire service", but "fire brigade" is also used.|
|physician (generic) / [medical] doctor||medical doctor|
|crib (infant bed)||cot||U.S. "cot" refers to a small, portable, usually foldable bed used at campsites, military barracks, etc.|
|day care||nursery / playgroup / child care||Ireland and New Zealand: "crèche"|
|diaper||nappy||Singapore distinguishes a disposable "diaper" from a cloth "nappy".|
|laundromat||laundrette||"Coin laundry" is the preferred term in Singapore as well as being used extensively as a secondary synonym pretty much everywhere else in the Anglosphere.|
|[laundry] detergent||washing powder||Liquids used for this purpose are "liquid detergent" in the U.S. and "washing liquid" in the UK.|
|luggage storage||left luggage||U.S. "left luggage" is a synonym for "lost luggage" (which was "left" behind)|
|power cord||mains lead (rhymes with "reed")|
|stroller / baby carriage||pushchair / pram||"[Baby] buggy" is common in both U.S. and UK|
|restroom / bathroom / lavatory||toilet(s) / lavatory / loo / bog / water closet / WC||See Toilets § Talk, as this is a very nuanced topic. "Loo" and "bog" are both slang usages. Canada: "washroom" is the preferred (though not universal) term for public toilets. Philippines: "comfort room" or "CR" are used colloquially.|
"Toilet paper" is universally understood, but Brits may refer to "loo roll" or "bog roll".
|to call (to use a telephone)||to ring / to call|
|cell [phone]||mobile [phone]||Britons understand "cell phone", and Americans understand "mobile phone" (unqualified "mobile" is generally understood in Canada but less so in the U.S, especially when pronounced to rhyme with "smile"). Singapore/Malaysia: "handphone". Some European second-language English speakers use "handy", from a German misconception of English slang.|
|collect call||reverse charge call|
|long-distance call||trunk call|
|post||As the saying goes: "In the UK, the Royal Mail delivers the post; in the U.S., the Postal Service delivers the mail."|
|pound [sign/key]||hash [sign/symbol]||The "#" key on a telephone.|
British usage avoids confusion with "£" as the "pound sign" as in the unit of currency. In North America, "#" is sometimes used after a number to indicate weight in pounds.
Depending on context, "#" can also be read as "number", "hash", or "hashtag".
|prepaid||pay as you go (PAYG)||Australia and New Zealand follow U.S. usage. In Canada, both terms are used interchangeably.|
U.S. "pay as you go" may refer to the more expensive per-unit rate after you use up the cheaper prepaid units.
|refill||top-up||Australia/Hong Kong: "recharge". Philippines: "reload".|
- postal code:
- Canada, Pakistan, Singapore — "postal code"
- UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Malaysia — "postcode"
- In many countries around the world they're known by the name of the local system:
- U.S. and its former colonies — "ZIP code"
- Ireland — "Eircode"
- India — "PIN" (Postal Index Number), sometimes redundantly called a "PIN code"
You might expect that numbers would be simple, since they always mean the same thing. Alas, differences in how they're spoken (or even written) can sometimes lead to confusion when you're not expecting it.
- The number 0 is spoken as "zero" or "oh" in all varieties of English, but Britons are also likely to use "nought" or "nil".
- When used in the score of a sporting event, British uses "nil" and American may use "nothing" or informally "zip". Hardcore soccer fans and journalists in North America often use "nil" following British usage when discussing soccer (or rather, "football"). Tennis and cricket have unique readings ("love" and "duck", respectively).
- For decimal numbers like 0.8 and 0.05, Britons would usually say "nought" as in "nought point eight" and "nought point nought five". Americans often omit the leading 0, saying "point eight" and "point oh five".
- Most varieties of English informally count in hundreds up to 1,900, which is "nineteen hundred" rather than "one thousand nine hundred"; this is common for money or counting things, or when the number is understood to be rounded to the next hundred. (Philippine English is an exception; they prefer the more formal "one thousand nine hundred"; "nineteen hundred" is only spoken in military contexts, e.g. 1900 hours.) But Americans often continue this trend for even large four-digit numbers above 2,000, so they're likely to read 9,500 as "ninety-five hundred" rather than "nine thousand five hundred".
- Similarly, all varieties of English group years into two-digit groups. But Americans also apply this to street addresses and sometimes phone numbers or other sequences of digits, as well as some three-digit sequences like road numbers (e.g. I-285 is "eye two eighty-five") and bus routes.
- Meanwhile, Britons tend to use "double" when reading sequences of digits such as phone numbers (which is why James Bond's 007 moniker is "double-oh seven" rather than "zero zero seven").
- Monetary amounts in the range of one or two major currency units may be spoken differently in the two main forms of English. An American would say that an item costing $1.50 costs "one-fifty", "a dollar fifty", or (slangily) "a buck fifty". In British English, £1.50 would most often be said "one pound fifty". For amounts over one major unit, Americans typically drop the currency unit; $2.40 would most often be said "two-forty". In British, "two-forty" and "two pounds forty" are both commonly used.
- In British English, whole numbers of pounds (or other currency units) are spoken by their individual digits, especially in radio and TV advertising. "Three nine nine" implies a price of £399; "three ninety-nine" implies £3.99. American English never does this—"three ninety-nine" can mean either $399 or $3.99, with the context determining the meaning.
- The U.S. has always used the short scale, where a "billion" is 1,000,000,000 (a thousand million). But most other English-speaking countries formerly used the long scale, where a "billion" is 1,000,000,000,000 (a million million). (In that scale, 1,000,000,000 is either "a thousand million" or sometimes a "milliard".) In 1974 the UK formally adopted the short scale, and other countries followed suit, although some use of the long scale persists. Most other European languages continue to use the long scale (including in bilingual countries, e.g. among French speakers in Canada) so you may want to clarify the exact quantity when talking to a non-native English speaker.
- Indian English follows the Indian numbering system; numbers are grouped completely differently, and spoken using words derived from Indian languages:
- 100,000 is written "1,00,000" and read "one lakh"; it's sometimes abbreviated "L", as in "₹5L" for "rupees five lakh"
- 1,000,000 is written "10,00,000" and read "ten lakh"
- 10,000,000 is written "1,00,00,000" and read "one crore"; it may be written out, as in "₹6 crore" for "rupees six crore"
- Indian English follows the Indian numbering system; numbers are grouped completely differently, and spoken using words derived from Indian languages:
- In handwriting, numerals are written the plain way in North America: "1" is a vertical line, and "7" is two lines. European handwriting puts the introductory swash on the top of the "1", making it look more like a typeset "1" and avoiding confusion with the capital letter I and with the lower-case letter L. Since the "1" with a swash could be confused with a "7", the "7" often gets a horizontal slash through it, a form that's also common in Australia and Singapore.
Date and time
Most countries use DD/MM/YYYY or something similar as their short date format. The biggest exception is the United States, which almost exclusively uses the MM/DD/YYYY format. The Philippines, which was an American possession during the first four decades of the 20th century and is still heavily influenced by American norms, uses MM/DD/YYYY in English-language publications, but usually DD/MM/YYYY in Filipino-language contexts. In Canada, usage is mixed: English speakers use both formats interchangeably, with newspapers invariably choosing MM/DD, but French speakers exclusively use DD/MM. Therefore, a date written as "01/02/2000" stands for "January 2, 2000" in the United States, but would stand for "1 February 2000" in almost any other country, and could conceivably mean either in Canada and the Philippines. (Note that the long dates are also formatted differently, although with hardly any potential for confusion.) Due to their significance and American media influence, the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are known internationally as "September 11" and "9/11" regardless of the actual date format in use.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recommends YYYY/MM/DD, primarily because that is the only format that a computer can sort with a straight text-based sort (not a special date-sorting routine) and get the right result. That format is widely used in China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, but not in English-speaking countries.
Britons in particular often use compact expressions for dates (e.g. "tomorrow week" or "a week [on] Tuesday") and times (e.g. "half eight") that aren't used elsewhere. Their meaning is a cultural convention that's not universal in English, let alone in other languages: for example, "half eight" means 8:30 in English but the equivalent in Dutch means 7:30, and could be taken as either in South Africa. Some of these can be made less ambiguous (for example, Americans usually say "quarter past eight" or "quarter till eight") but others will always have the potential for confusion. Be prepared to clarify, or simply use explicit dates and times.
Weights and measures
- See also: Metric and Imperial equivalents
Along with Liberia, the U.S. is one of the few countries that still use non-metric weights and measures (with a few exceptions including medicines, scientific work, and bottled wine, spirits, and soft drinks). The UK is partially metricated, using the metric system for some measures (such as temperature and fuel volume) but not for others (such as road distances and beer volume). The rest of the Anglosphere switched to metric beginning in the 1970s, though the imperial system still survives to varying extents in colloquial usage.
A "pint" of beer in many places is now 500 mL. The traditional British pint, which is still legally mandated in the UK, Ireland and Canada, is 568 mL (20 imperial fluid ounces). A U.S. pint is just shy at 473 mL (16 U.S. fluid ounces), although it's almost always sold in a conical glass that must be filled to the brim to contain 16 ounces. Beer in Australia comes in varying sizes with unique names. A "pint" of beer in Australia is 570 mL except in South Australia, where it is 425 mL, and 570 mL is somewhat erroneously called an "imperial pint". A "pint" of beer is not standardised in New Zealand, but most commonly follows the South Australian pint at 425 mL.
UK and Ireland measure body weight in "stone" (always singular after a number) and pounds; 1 stone is 14 pounds (6.35 kg). Someone who weighs "11 stone 6 pounds" weighs 160 pounds (72.6 kg), and rough body weight is often given in stones only. The imperial ton, or "long ton", is defined to be 160 stone (2,240 pounds; 1016 kg), which is somewhat larger than the U.S. ton, or "short ton", at 2,000 pounds (907.2 kg). Both tons are distinct from the tonne, or "metric ton", which is defined as 1,000 kg (approximately 2,200 pounds).
|biweekly||fortnightly||The noun form "fortnight" is also used. UK "biweekly" refers to events that occur twice a week.|
|butt / ass / buttocks / fanny||bum / bottom / arse||UK "fanny" is obscene slang for female genitalia. The words "ass" and "arse" in this sense are also profanities, albeit milder ones. Though Canada generally follows U.S. convention, "bum" is also widely used there. A "fanny pack" (US) is a "bum bag" (UK).|
|closet||cupboard / small room / wardrobe||U.S. "cupboard" specifically refers to kitchen cabinets; "wardrobe" is a collection of clothing.|
|county seat||county town||Alaska: "borough seat"; Louisiana: "parish seat"; Vermont, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island: "shire town"; Liberia: "county capital".|
|fall (season) / autumn||autumn|
|to fire||to sack||To terminate from employment (often for cause, such as misconduct or poor performance)|
|first name||first name / given name|
|flashlight||torch||As a portable hand-held battery-operated light. |
All dialects use "torch" to refer to a stick with an open flame at one end.
|garbage truck||dustcart / bin lorry||Australia/New Zealand/Singapore: "rubbish truck"|
|last name / family name||surname||"Surname" is understood and used to a certain extent in the U.S., though less commonly than the alternatives given here. All versions are common in Australia.|
|period||full stop||The punctuation mark at the end of a sentence.|
|résumé||CV (curriculum vitae)||In the U.S., academia and medicine use a long "CV", which is a comprehensive detailing of your entire history of publications, positions, awards, etc.|
|sister city||twin town|
|trash / garbage||rubbish / litter||U.S. "litter" specifically refers to small pieces of garbage discarded in plain view — i.e., not in a trash can. The verb "to litter" or "littering" is even more common.|
|trash can / garbage can||rubbish bin / dustbin|
|vacation||holiday||U.S. "holiday" is roughly equivalent to UK "bank holiday". UK "vacations" are long periods off from work/school (at least a week)|
Same words, different meaning
- Asian, when used by itself to describe people, has different meanings across the English-speaking world.
- UK — Refers typically to people from the Indian subcontinent, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. People from East and Southeast Asia are often referred to as "East Asians".
- U.S., Canada — In U.S. and Canadian government usage, refers to a person having origins in East Asia, Southeast Asia, or South Asia, including the Indian subcontinent. Popular Canadian usage generally mirrors government usage. However, popular U.S. usage often excludes South Asians, especially in areas where South Asian communities are less visible than those of East or Southeast Asian ethnicities. See notes on "Indian" below.
- Australia, New Zealand — Refers typically to people from East Asia or Southeast Asia, but can include the Indian subcontinent as well.
- elk: In the U.S. and Canada, refers to a very large deer similar to the red deer of Eurasia; this animal is also known by the Native American name "wapiti". In the UK and Ireland (and also second-language speakers in Europe), refers to an even larger deer whose males have flattened antlers; this animal is known as the "moose" in North America. There is also a smaller species found in India and known as either "Indian elk" or "Sambar deer".
- fag: A slang term for a cigarette in the UK; a derogatory term for a homosexual man in the U.S.
- faggots: A traditional dish of pork offal/bacon, herb and gravy meatballs in the UK; same offensive connotation as "fag" in the U.S.
- South Asia — Refers only to people from the country of India. (The common North American usage of the word to refer to all South Asians, irrespective of nationality, is often considered offensive here.)
- U.S., Canada — Can have several meanings:
- Traditionally referred to indigenous people of the American continent, though this usage is rapidly disappearing in favor of "Native Americans" in the U.S. and "First Nations" in Canada. (The more widely used and somewhat more politically correct term "American Indian" always refers to indigenous Americans, never to Americans with ancestry from the country of India, who are instead called "Indian-Americans".)
- People from South Asia, not always from the nation of India in particular (though the distinction is beginning to slowly filter its way into everyday North American English speech). The terms "East Indian" or "Asian Indian" still see some use as disambiguators vis-à-vis indigenous peoples of the Americas, though nowadays the unqualified term "Indian" is becoming more and more often understood in the context of Asians as it becomes less and less used for indigenous Americans.
- gentlemen's club: Refers to a posh, exclusive private club in the UK; a euphemism for a strip club in the U.S.
- mad: UK "mad" usually means insane or crazy (as in "barking mad"), while in the U.S. "mad" (at someone) is often used to mean angry (with someone).
- pissed: UK "pissed" means drunk. U.S. "pissed" is short for "pissed off", which means annoyed or angry in all varieties of English.
- rubber: Refers to an eraser in the UK; a slang word for condom in the U.S.
- to table: Has the opposite meaning in the U.S. and the UK
- U.S. — To postpone or remove something from consideration
- UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand — To put something up for consideration.
|American and British English spelling differences|