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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.

Countries in the world where English is the majority native language (blue) or an official minority language (turquoise)
Statue of English national bard William Shakespeare in New York City's Central Park

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, New Zealand, South Africa, and other former British possessions in Africa, Hong Kong, all of South Asia, 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, the Arab states of the Gulf, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, parts of Latin America and current and former American possessions in the Caribbean and Oceania.
  • The European Union has mandated British English 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 "toll-free" vs. "freephone"), 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 pronunciation, especially among young people, which is fueled in no small part by the increasing availability of American media in the original version.
  • The African Union, just like the EU, follows UK English
  • 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 American vocabulary choices ("elevator", not "lift"). Canadian English is also pronounced similarly to American English; the most common Canadian accent is very close to a Midwestern U.S. accent.
  • Australia mostly follows British spelling; some words are spelled the American way (such as "program", not "programme"), though fewer than in Canada. However, most of the country with the exception of South Australia has a preference for U.S. terminology due to its heavy American influence since the 1970s, and a lot of British terms may not be understood outside South Australia. However, as a traveller, using only US terminology will get you nearly everywhere.
  • Papua New Guinea, being a former Australian territory up until 1975, mostly uses Australian English in an ordinary English context
  • Singapore mostly uses British English, and uses fully British spelling, but has also been significantly influenced by American and Australian English, and a large number of words are pronounced the American way. Singlish is also used, which is an English-based creole with influences from various Chinese dialects, Malay and Tamil.
  • 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 Oxford usage as homage to the "senior" variety of English.

Regardless of which variety is more popular locally, a good course in English as a foreign language will at some point teach the key differences between British and American English. Most reasonably fluent second-language speakers should at least be aware of the most well-known vocabulary differences.

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. These are now standard in American English, but generally not used in other varieties.

Depending on the variety of English used, this is either a truck or a lorry, and its color or colour is spelled or spelt gray or grey.

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:

American British Comment
color colour
humor humour but humorous in all varieties
harbor harbour
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:

American British Comment
center centre
liter litre
(kilo)meter (kilo)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".

American British
defense defence
offense offence

The adjective forms, "defensive" and "offensive", are always spelled with an "S".

Some varieties of English change the "S" to a "Z" in some "-ise" and "-yse" endings. American English does this universally, while British spelling choice varies by dictionary; the Oxford English Dictionary recommends using the Z, while most other dictionaries opt for the S:

American British Comment
analyze analyse
organize organise
realize realise

Canadian spelling as well as the British Oxford Dictionary generally uses the American -ize endings, although the UK Oxford Dictionary uses -yse endings.

In some words, British English retains the -ae or -oe spellings while American English simplifies it to an -e.

American British Comment
paleontology palaeontology In Australia and Canada, both spellings are found
eon aeon Canada and Australia generally follow U.S. usage
maneuver manoeuvre Australia and Canada follow UK usage
diarrhea diarrhoea Both spellings are found in Canada and Australia

When adding a suffix for some words ending with a silent "E", American English sometimes drops the "E" while British English retains the "E":

American British
aging ageing
livable liveable
sizable sizeable

Some words, such as "bathing" and "usable" drop the "E" everywhere, while some others, such as "dyeing" and "changeable" retain the "E" everywhere. Canada and Australia generally follow U.S. usage here.

Some words have silent letters dropped in American English or are just spelled differently:

American British Comment
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".
licorice liquorice
program programme UK uses "program" only in the context of a "computer program".
Canada generally uses "program", while Australia uses "program" in all contexts.
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".
yogurt yoghurt / yogurt / yoghourt Canada: "yogourt, yogurt, yoghurt, yoghourt", In Australia, NZ and South Africa, both are found.

And a few words are both pronounced and spelled differently:

American British Comment
aluminum (ah-LOO-mi-num) aluminium (al-lyoo-MIN-ee-um) The British "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".
mom mum
specialty speciality

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", "mom", and "tire". Similarly, Australian usage tends to be mixed as the same categories as Canada, with British spelling being used for such words like "mum", "cheque", and "aluminium", but American spelling being followed for words such as "specialty", "program" (in all contexts), "licorice" and sometimes "inquire". Other Commonwealth English-speaking countries, such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Singapore or India, tend to fully use British spelling.

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, New Zealand and Singapore, while single quotation marks () are used in all other varieties.


There are many 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. We list a few that may cause confusion below.

Plural "you"[edit]

The second person pronoun "you" can be either singular or plural in standard English, but in many dialects of colloquial spoken English there are separate plural forms:

  • "y'all" in the American South and African American Vernacular English (AAVE).
  • "youse" (also spelled "yous") in Ireland, the Glasgow area in Scotland, the Liverpool area in England, and parts of the U.S.
  • "you lot" in parts of the UK
  • "you guys" in much of Canada and parts of the US. This is gender-neutral; a group of women can be addressed as "you guys".

Verb forms[edit]

Some verbs take different forms in different varieties of English.

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".

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.

American British Comment
dreamed dreamt
learned learnt The adjective in "a learned man", pronounced with two syllables, is spelled the same in all dialects.
spelled spelt
dove dived
snuck sneaked

Some verbs retain the older form in all dialects, for example "slept", "built" and "wept".

  • Australia uses both spellings, although words like "leant" (instead of leaned), "sneaked" (instead of snuck), and "dreamt" (instead of dreamed) are no longer used and others such as "learnt" (instead of learned) are rare, and in general, there's a move towards the US spelling.
  • Similarly Canada also uses a mix of the two spellings, and similar to Australian usage, it depends on word.
  • New Zealand follows UK usage except for "snuck" in which the US form is used.

Some subjunctive forms are less used in British English. Many in the UK could say "I suggest that he is fired" but in North America it must be "I suggest that he be fired".


The historical U.S. Route 66. "Route" usually rhymes with "shoot", but in North America it may alternatively rhyme with "shout".

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, the Otago and Southland regions of New Zealand, the Philippines, Canada, most of the U.S., Aboriginal Australian English and parts of South Australia.
  • Dialects without "R": Most of England, Wales, most of 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 Irish. The pronunciation of the R can also vary between speakers; in Scotland, India and among black people in South Africa, the R is often trilled like in Spanish and Italian.

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 "broad A" as in "palm".

In Ireland, the Caribbean, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, people tend to pronounce the "th" sound as a "t", so "three" and "tree" would be pronounced the same way.

In this list below, assume that Australia and Canada follow U.S. pronunciation and Singapore and other Commonwealth countries follow UK pronunciation unless indicated otherwise.

Certain words are pronounced very differently:

Word American British Comment
advertisement AD-ver-tighz-muhnt uhd-VER-tihs-muhnt The shortened forms also differ: U.S. "ad" vs. UK "advert".
basil BAY-zuhl BA-zuhl Australia and Canada follow British pronunciation.
data DAY-tuh / DAT-uh DAY-tuh Australia: DAH-tuh
garage guh-RAHZH GA-rahj or GA-rihj sometimes in Canada and Australia as: "graj" (one syllable)
herb urrb hurb (non-rhotic) Australia follows British pronunciation
leisure LEE-zhuhr LEH-zhuhr Australia and Canada follow British pronunciation.
oregano uh-REH-guh-noh o-rih-GAH-noh
privacy PRY-vuh-see PRIH-vuh-see Singapore follows 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 Singapore follows American pronunciation.
valet val-AY VAL-ay or VAL-it Singapore follows American pronunciation.
Z (letter) zee zed In some parts of Scotland, you'll occasionally hear it called "izzard".
All dialects apart from American English and English in some former U.S. colonies follow British pronunciation.

Also, the sweet nougat is pronounced NOO-guht in the United States and Singapore, but follows the original French NOO-gah in Australia and New Zealand while in the UK, it's pronounced as nʌɡɪt.

Sometimes two places whose names share the same spelling can be pronounced rather differently. For instance, the village of Berkeley in England is pronounced BARK-lee but the city of Berkeley 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 was an incident where an airline passenger ended up on the wrong side of the Pacific Ocean.


All dialects of English include words borrowed from other languages, and many of those such as "bungalow" (Hindi), "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". Manga in Japanese refers to any type of comics, but the word borrowed into English is used to refer specifically to Japanese comics. In some cases, particularly when pseudo-English words like Handy (German for "mobile phone") are used, confusion may arise.

Get in/around[edit]

U.S. UK Notes
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 Australia uses both car and carriage, but not coach.
carry-on bag hand luggage
coach [class] / economy class standard class / economy class The lowest class of seating on a plane or train. Also called "cattle class".
crosswalk pedestrian crossing / zebra crossing A zebra crossing has striped road markings, as seen on The Beatles' Abbey Road album cover. All three are used in Australia.
downtown city centre CBD (Central Business District) is standard in Singapore, Australia and sometimes used elsewhere. City centre in Australia does not mean downtown, but rather the centre of the CBD. In some places referred to as just the "City".
elevator lift Australia uses both terms.
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. Australia uses both interchangeably.
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. Australia and Canada follow U.S. usage.
main street high street A primary road lined with shops in the central commercial district. Some older towns in Australia use "high street" while "main street" is used elsewhere.
overhead compartment / overhead bin overhead locker Australia only uses "overhead compartment".
[pedestrian] underpass subway As a pedestrian tunnel under a busy road or railroad. Singapore and most of Australia follow U.S. usage, while the Australian states of Victoria and South Australia follow British 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 usually 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. Australian usage varies by state: light rail (or LRT) is used in New South Wales and Queensland and tram is used in Victoria and South Australia. In Singapore, "trolley" is a synonym of "trolleybus".
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 its own acronym.

By car[edit]

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 and Australian English use American terminology and spelling extensively. An exception is the Australian state of South Australia, which tends to be more conservative and mostly use British terminology. Additionally, the British spellings of "tyre" and "plough" are exclusively used in Australia.

U.S. UK Notes
blinker / turn signal indicator / signal Australia uses both interchangeably.
boot wheel clamp Also the related verb "to boot" (U.S.) vs "to clamp" (UK). Australia uses both terms, depending on region; New Zealand follows UK usage.
carpool car sharing South Africa: "lift scheme". Australia follows U.S. usage.
carsharing car club As in self-service short-term (often hourly) car rentals. Australia follows U.S. usage.
coupe (pronounced KOOP) / 2-door coupé (pronounced koo-PAY or KOO-pay) / 2-door Australia follows the American spelling but both pronunciations are heard.
divided highway dual carriageway In Oceania, a divided highway has an island in the middle, regardless of how many lanes there are. Dual carriageway means two lanes each way, but there does not need to be an island in the middle. Australian signage therefore exclusively uses "divided highway" or "divided road".
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). Australia usually uses "fuel", but follows British usage when there is a need to distinguish between petrol and diesel.
gas [pedal] accelerator Australia uses both terms interchangeably, except South Australia which exclusively uses "accelerator".
gas station filling station / petrol station Australia: "service station" or "fuel station". Canada: also "gas bar". Singapore: "petrol kiosk". South Asia: "petrol shed"
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".
New Zealand has a brand of petrol station called "GAS", hence "gas station" may be ambiguous.
hood (of a car) bonnet Australia follows UK usage
median central reservation Australia follows U.S. usage. New Orleans: "neutral ground"
minivan people carrier Australia and New Zealand follow U.S. usage with "minibus" also used. Singapore: "minibus / minivan"
overpass flyover U.S. "flyover" generally refers to not just an overpass but a complex interchange with ramps. Australia follows U.S. usage.
parking brake handbrake Australia (except South Australia) follows U.S. usage
parking lot [open-air] car park Singapore "parking lot" refers to a parking space. Australia follows UK usage.
parking garage / parking deck / parking ramp [multi-storey] car park South Africa and Canada: "parkade". New Zealand: "parking building". Australia follows UK usage.
pedestrian mall pedestrian precincts / pedestrian zone / car-free zone Pedestrian mall is only used in Australia and the U.S.; the rest of the world use one of the three UK terms. The U.S. uses "car-free zone" only for large areas where cars are prohibited, such as Mackinac Island in Michigan.
to pass to overtake In Australia, you overtake cars and pass cyclists. New Zealand distinguishes between "passing" in traffic lanes on your side of the road, and "overtaking" by moving into the lane for oncoming traffic.
pavement road surface / tarmac Australia: "bitumen". U.S. "tarmac" 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 of the 1960s–1980s, or the Chevrolet SSR of the mid-2000s). Pickup trucks are extremely uncommon in the UK, and don't have a specific name. Singapore follows U.S. usage.
railroad crossing level crossing Australia follows British usage.
to rent to hire Australia and New Zealand use both terms. 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/gas station that may or may not also include repair facilities.
side view mirror wing mirror Australia (except South Australia) follows U.S. usage
speed bump / speed hump speed bump / hump / sleeping policeman U.S. now distinguishes "speed bumps" from "speed humps", with shorter "bumps" designed to slow vehicles to a halt, and longer "humps" allowing for continuous traffic flow. "New Zealand: "speed bump" (long) or "judder bar" (short). Australia follows U.S. usage. Singapore only uses "hump".
[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.
trailer caravan Australia follows British usage.
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 Australia follows British usage.
undivided highway single carriageway In Oceania, an undivided highway has no traffic island, regardless of the number of lanes, and a single carriageway has two lanes, whether divided or not.
windshield windscreen
yield give way Australia and the Philippines use "give way", but finding the term "yield" isn't uncommon. Belize, Ireland, Namibia and South Africa use "yield".
This Toyota Hilux pickup / bakkie / ute / truck has a 3.0L turbo-diesel engine / motor under the hood / bonnet.
  • 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 a "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 in the U.S. or Singapore, "truck" on its own will generally be assumed to mean a large vehicle like a semi-trailer unless you specifically use the term "pickup [truck]".
  • freeway, motorway, expressway, 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 is known as the Midland Expressway. "Highway" refers to all publicly-owned roads of any size.
    • Australia:
      • Australian Capital Territory – no specific usage. The only freeways in the ACT are either called parkway or avenue, but they can refer to any road
      • New South Wales – motorway, freeway, expressway and highway (even if it's a freeway grade road) are all used.
      • Queensland – Mostly uses motorway, with the exception of Western Fwy, and highway even if it's a freeway grade road
      • South Australia – uses freeway and expressway interchangeably, with freeway being more common. The term "motorway" is only used in proper names and only on the North-South Motorway which is classified as an expressway.
      • Victoria/Western Australia and a general Australian context – exclusively uses "freeway"
      • Tasmania – just called a highway
    • Philippines - "expressway" is used for any controlled-access tolled highway.
    • Papua New Guinea – the term "freeway" is only used when referring to the Poreporena Freeway in Port Moresby, but it is hardly a freeway.
    • 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". In Singapore, the term "parkway" is only used in the proper name "East Coast Parkway", the main expressway from the city to Changi Airport.
    • Malaysia, Brunei — 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[edit]

For sports, the International Olympic Committee and most international sports federations follow British usage.

U.S. UK Notes
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. Australia follows U.S. usage. Singapore uses both terms interchangeably.
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 of Canada. All countries outside North America follow British usage.
field hockey hockey The game played on grass or artificial turf, popular in India and Pakistan. All countries outside North America follow British usage.
overtime extra time Additional time at the end of sports matches in the event of a draw. Australia follows British usage. However, in basketball and ice hockey, all countries use "overtime".
intermission interval Australia follows British usage.
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. Australia and NZ follow U.S. usage, although "draw" is not unheard of in soccer.
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. Australia follows British usage.
movie theater / cinema cinema In the UK, "going to the pictures" can also mean a trip to the movies.
The most popular sport in the world: "association football", "football", or "soccer".
  • football refers to the most common game in the respective country.
    • In the UK, India, Hong Kong and the Caribbean, 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 Queensland and most of New South Wales, but refers to Australian rules football (AFL) everywhere else. However, "football" never refers to soccer.
    • In the U.S. (except Puerto Rico), 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 (soccer).
    • In South Africa, "football" would be understood to mean 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, Malaysia and the Philippines, "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). Australia mostly follows British convention.
  • Billiards is technically a generic term for all sports played with billiard balls and cue sticks, but more often refers to specific games or groups of games.
    • In the UK, "billiards" usually refers to English billiards.
    • In North America and Oceania, "billiards" usually refers to pool.
    • Billiard balls are divided into "spots and stripes" in the UK, "solids and stripes" in the U.S., and "smalls and bigs" in Australia.
  • Bowling, without further qualification, usually refers to indoor ten-pin bowling worldwide, but in the UK and some Commonwealth countries it can also refer to lawn bowls.
  • 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.


U.S. UK Notes
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 "swimmers" or "bathers"). In the U.S., men's swimwear that covers part of the thighs can be "swim shorts" or "swim(ming) trunks".
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. Australia and Singapore follow U.S. usage.
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. Australia follows U.S. usage, but also uses "transaction account" or "everyday banking account".
fanny pack bum bag UK "fanny" is obscene slang for female genitalia, whereas U.S. "bum" is a rude word for a homeless person.
Singapore: "waist pouch" or just "pouch"
jersey shirt When referring to sports clothing. Australia and New Zealand follow U.S. usage, except in Australian rules football where it is called a "guernsey" or a "jumper"
jumper pinafore [dress]
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". Australia mostly uses mall, however for smaller roadside malls, it's called "shopping plaza", although that is starting to fade out
pants trousers UK "pants" refers to underwear. Australia, New Zealand and Singapore use both terms interchangeably.
panties knickers New Zealand uses both terms interchangeably. Australia and Singapore follow 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 Singapore only uses "singlet".
tuxedo dinner jacket / dinner suit "Dinner jacket" can be abbreviated to "DJ", and "tuxedo" can be shortened to just "tux". Australia and Canada follow U.S. usage. Singapore uses all these terms interchangeably.
vest waistcoat Australia and Canada follow U.S. usage. Singapore uses both terms interchangeably.
rubber boots / galoshes / mud boots / rain boots Wellington boots / wellies Australia: "gumboots" or "rubber boots" but Wellington boots is unheard of. Canada: "gumboots", "wellies", "wellingtons", or "rainboots". New Zealand: "gumboots", "wellies", or "Redbands".
Depending on the variety of English used, these are either (shopping) carts, trollies, buggies, carriages, or trundlers, and they are used in either a grocery store, in a supermarket, or to "do the groceries".
  • 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 — "OAP" (which stands for "old age pensioner") is also used


U.S. UK Notes
appetizer / starter starter Australia: "entrée". In Commonwealth countries except Canada and Australia, 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. The UK does not make the distinction between the two. Australia follows U.S. usage.
candy sweets Australia/New Zealand: "lollies". U.S. "sweets" refers to desserts in general.
check (restaurant) bill Canada and Australia follow 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. Australia and NZ follow British usage.
corn maize See notes below. Southern Africa: "mealie"
corned beef salt beef UK "corned beef" refers to "bully beef". Australia/New Zealand: "corned beef" or "silverside" (after the beef cut commonly used).
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". Australia follows American usage.
eggplant aubergine South Asia/Singapore/Malaysia: "brinjal". Australia follows U.S. usage.
entrée / main course main course In English-speaking areas outside the U.S. and Canada, "entrée" would generally be understood to be a synonym of "starter". Australia uses both "main dish" and "main course".
food truck mobile canteen All Commonwealth countries that use the term "truck" follow U.S. usage while other Commonwealth countries follow UK usage.
[French] fries chips See notes below.
grocery store / supermarket supermarket Australia follows U.S. usage, and often just called "the groceries".
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. Australia follows British usage.
ketchup / catsup tomato sauce / ketchup Usage may vary. "Tomato sauce" is more common in 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). Australia uses both terms interchangeably, depending on restaurant. The spelling "catsup", while still occasionally seen in the U.S., is becoming increasingly uncommon.
napkin serviette / napkin UK distinguishes paper "serviettes" from cloth "napkins". Canada uses both terms interchangeably. Australia and Singapore use both terms interchangeably for paper serviettes, but use "napkin" exclusively for cloth napkins.
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.
rutabaga swede Scotland: "neep"
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 and Canada follow 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, Singapore — "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, cut into "rashers" which include part of the belly or "medallions" which are just the trimmed eye of loin meat. 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. However, the term "fries" is used in American fast food chains such as McDonald's, and is also beginning to see some use outside of that in Australia.
    • Singapore — Mostly follows U.S./Canadian usage, but the British sense of "chips" is also common in certain contexts.
    • 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".
  • corn:
    • North America, Oceania, Singapore — 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.
  • crayfish:
    • U.S. (except Louisiana), Canada: refers to small freshwater crustaceans resembling lobsters, known as a crawfish in Louisiana, and a yabby in Australia
    • Australia, New Zealand: refers to rock lobsters (i.e. lobsters without pincers)
    • Singapore: usually refers to a type of slipper lobster, known as a Moreton Bay bug in Australia. Can also be used in the North American sense, though these are rarely eaten in Singapore.
  • mutton:
    • In most of the English-speaking world, refers to the meat of adult sheep.
    • India, Malaysia, Singapore — can also refer to goat meat.
  • flapjack: In the U.S., this is an informal word for a pancake. In the UK, it's a simple pastry made from oats.
  • porridge: Across the English-speaking world, this is a soft dish made of heated grain or legumes that can be eaten with a spoon. Different countries have local variations, like oatmeal in the UK or congee in Singapore.
  • yam:
    • UK, Ireland — 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 Greek dish consisting of meat roasted on a vertical rotisserie is called a gyro (often pronounced "YEE-roh") in the United States, but yiros (pronounced the way it is spelt) in Australia.
  • The Chinese dish known as hot pot in most of the English-speaking world is known as steamboat in Singapore and Malaysia.
  • monosodium glutamate (MSG) — while this term is standard across the English-speaking world, in many Asian countries it is better known as Ajinomoto after the Japanese company that first commercially synthesized it.


U.S. UK Notes
apple juice / [apple] cider apple juice U.S. "apple juice" is filtered and "cider" is unfiltered (and both are non-alcoholic). Australia follows British usage.
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. Australia follows British usage.
liquor store / package store off licence Australia/New Zealand: "bottle shop" or sometimes "Bottle-O".
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.
Singapore uses only "liquor store".
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.
    • Australia, New Zealand – generally synonymous with "soft drink", which is the common term and the equivalent of the UK/Ireland "fizzy drink".
    • UK, Ireland — "Fizzy drink" is the most common term throughout all of these countries, though you might also hear "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. UK Notes
apartment flat In the UK, "flat" is the generic term; "apartment" is used for similar dwellings in expensive residential areas. Australia mostly uses U.S. usage along with "unit". In Singapore, "flat" refers only to public housing units, while "apartment" usually refers to units in private condominiums.
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. Australia follows U.S. usage.
campsite camping pitch An individual spot for one tent, caravan trailer, or RV. Australia follows U.S. usage.
comforter duvet Australia: "doona"
faucet / spigot / tap tap Australia and Canada follow British usage.


See also: Studying abroad

Education is among the areas where differences between UK and U.S. English are most profound.

U.S. UK Notes
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). Australia follows British usage
grades / points marks / grades Also U.S. "to grade" or "to check" versus UK "to mark". Singapore and Australia distinguish quantitative "marks" from qualitative "grades".
graduate / grad (stage of education) postgraduate / postgrad As in education above the level of a bachelor's degree. Australia follows British usage.
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. In Singapore, "tuition" refers to classes conducted by a private tutor outside of school hours.
Balliol College, part of Oxford University
  • college:
    • 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 programs 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 (e.g. King's College London is also considered a university as it provides higher education).
    • 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".
    • Philippines — usage is the same as the US. But the term can also be used in the name of an educational institution that offers primary/elementary or secondary education in addition to tertiary education.
    • 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., Australia — 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
The University of California in Berkeley, regarded as one of the top public universities in the world
  • 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.
  • student:
    • 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 — Usage is similar to New Zealand. In formal documents or memoranda issued by the Department of Education (DepEd) or Commission for Higher Education (CHED), "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 learners attending educational institutions at any level, from primary to postgraduate. The term "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[edit]

U.S. UK Notes
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 and facilitate legal paperwork that does not require court representation. A "barrister" (Scotland, South Africa: "advocate") is a lawyer who is licensed 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. Australia and Canada follow U.S. usage
drug store / pharmacy chemist / pharmacy Australia and Singapore exclusively use "pharmacy".
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. GP is used in all Commonwealth countries though.
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
Q-tip cotton bud "Q-tip" is a trademarked brand name of such items that is widely used generically. Australia follows British usage.


U.S. Australia Notes
co-pay gap Singapore: co-insurance
deductible excess Singapore follows U.S. usage.


U.S. UK Notes
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 / crèche Australia follows U.S. usage. Singapore: childcare centre. In the UK "daycare" may refer to facilities for vulnerable adults.
diaper nappy Singapore distinguishes a disposable "diaper" from a cloth "nappy". Disposable diapers are also knowns as "Pampers" in Singapore after a popular brand.
laundromat laundrette "Coin laundry" is the preferred term in Australia and 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. Singapore: soap powder
luggage storage left luggage U.S. and Australia: "left luggage" is a synonym for "lost luggage" (which was "left" behind)
pacifier dummy Singapore follows U.S. usage, but also uses "soother"
power cord mains lead (rhymes with "reed") Australia follows U.S. usage
stroller / baby carriage pushchair / pram "[Baby] buggy" is common in both U.S. and UK. Canada, Australia and Singapore use both "pram" and "stroller"
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".


U.S. UK Notes
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. Australia follows UK usage although the U.S. "cell" is widely understood, while NZ follows U.S. usage.
collect call reverse charge call
long-distance call trunk call
mail post As the saying goes: "In the UK, the Royal Mail delivers the post; in the U.S., the Postal Service delivers the mail." Most Commonwealth countries follow U.S. usage.
pound [sign/key] hash [sign/symbol] Referring to the # button on a telephone. When denoting the same symbol's usage on Twitter and other social media, the term "hashtag" is used throughout the Anglosphere, including the U.S.
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. Australia follows British usage.
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". Canada follows British usage.
toll-free [call] freephone Australia, Canada and Singapore follow U.S. usage while NZ follows UK usage
  • 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 and Australians 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. The same applies in Australia, but not commonly for road numbers.
  • 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. Australia and New Zealand follow US usage.
Price tag for an item costing $399.99 (not including sales tax, as the photo was taken in the U.S.). In smaller print, the sale dates are given as "3/9 – 3/13", which uses the U.S. month-first order, implying March 9–13.
  • 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"
  • In handwriting, numerals are written the plain way in North America and Oceania: "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[edit]

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 is a former American colony and still heavily influenced by American norms, uses MM/DD/YYYY in English-language publications, but usually DD/MM/YYYY in publications in Filipino languages. 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.)

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recommends the unambiguous and well-defined method of 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 Sweden, 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[edit]

See also: Metric and Imperial equivalents
Gas station in Florida, with prices given per U.S. gallon of fuel. (1 U.S. gal = 0.84 imperial gallons.) In the UK, this would be a filling station and the price would be given in pence per litre

The U.S., Liberia and Myanmar, are 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). Other Anglophone countries (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa) 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).


U.S. UK Notes
biweekly fortnightly The noun form "fortnight" is also used. UK "biweekly" refers to events that occur twice a week. Using the term "fortnight" in America may draw confusion among those who are familiar with Fortnite, the video game, but not fortnight, the period of time.
butt / ass / buttocks / fanny bum / bottom / arse U.S. "bum" is a derogatory term for a homeless person; 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" (U.S.) is a "bum bag" (UK). All seven of them are used in Australia.
check tick As in the ✓ mark. Also the verb form "to check" vs "to tick". Australia follows British usage.
closet cupboard / small room / wardrobe U.S. "cupboard" specifically refers to kitchen cabinets; "wardrobe" is a collection of clothing. Australia uses "wardrobe".
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). Australia follows U.S. usage, and Singapore uses both terms. The term "to fire" is commonly used and understood in the UK: Indeed, in the UK version of The Apprentice, the term "you're fired" is used to dismiss candidates rather than "you're sacked".
first name first name / given name Australia follows U.S. usage. Singapore only uses "given name". Ethnic Chinese in Singapore are often given an English name in addition to their Chinese name, the former of which is often referred to as their "Christian name" which is sometimes heard in Australia as well.
flashlight torch As a portable hand-held battery-operated light.
Singapore: torchlight
All dialects use "torch" to refer to a stick with an open flame at one end.
garbage truck dustcart / bin lorry 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 equally used 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. Australia and South Africa use both interchangeably (without the accents).
Scotch tape sellotape Australia: sticky tape; Singapore follows U.S. usage.
sister city twin town Australia and New Zealand follow U.S. usage
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. Australia: garbage / rubbish
trash can / garbage can rubbish bin / dustbin All versions are common in Australia except "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[edit]

  • Asian, when used by itself to describe people, has different meanings across the English-speaking world.
    • UK — Typically refers 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, Australia, New Zealand — Typically refers to people from East Asia or Southeast Asia. People from the Indian subcontinent are referred to as "South Asians". You may also hear the term "East Indians" in Canada for the latter.
  • brew: As a noun, usually refers to a cup of tea in the UK, but to a glass of beer in the U.S. and Australia.
North American moose
  • 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". There is also a smaller species found in India and known as either "Indian elk" or "Sambar deer".
In the UK and Ireland (and also second-language speakers in Europe), "elk" refers to an even larger deer whose males have flattened antlers; this animal is known as the "moose" in North America.
  • 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.
  • Indian:
    • South Asia and Oceania — 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. and Canada — Can have several meanings:
      • People from South Asia, not always from the nation of India in particular.
      • "East Indian", "American Indian" or "Canadian Indian" are used to avoid the ambiguity.
      • Traditionally referred to indigenous people of the American continent, though this usage is rapidly disappearing in favor of "Native Americans" in the U.S. In Canada, it is offensive to many indigenous people; use "First Nations person" or "Indigenous person" instead.
    • Caribbean — usually refers to the indigenous people. People of South Asian origin are usually referred to as "East Indians".
    • Singapore — usage differs depending on context. Typically includes people from modern-day Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, but excludes people from Nepal when referring to race, but only refers to people from the country of India when referring to nationality.
  • 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.
  • thongs almost everywhere (including New Zealand) would mean a type of underwear, but in Australia, it means flip-flops. What would be called "thongs" everywhere else would be called a G-string.
  • hotel
    • In all dialects, refers to a place where you can pay for short-term lodging, but may take on additional meanings in some countries.
    • In Australia, the word is also used to refer to pubs, which may or may not have accommodation on site but often do, especially in rural areas.
    • In India and Pakistan, the word is also used to refer to any dining establishment, regardless of whether they are part of an establishment that provides accommodation.
  • interstate in the U.S., it would refer to a highway system, while in Australia, interstate is the equivalent of the U.S. out-of-state
  • Eskimos has the same meaning in the U.S., Canada and Greenland, but is considered very offensive in Canada and Greenland. In the U.S., it is somewhat acceptable except in Alaska, where it is becoming increasingly offensive.

See also[edit]

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