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US to UK Language Cheat Sheet

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

While it's true that we technically speak the same language, American English and British English are vastly different in a lot of ways. While the Brits have the benefit of being exposed to a lot of American media and pop culture, it doesn't always work both ways. I won't even get started on different spellings - these are purely things that are called something different in American English than they are in British English. This is an ongoing list of "language barrier" differences - some you may already know, and some may surprise you!

I've always loved language - which makes sense, because I'm an avid reader and have always loved to write. It's always one of my favorite topics when meeting people from other parts of the world - "what would you call this?", or "how do you pronounce that?" Even within countries and within the same language, different regions or different groups of people use different words for the same thing. I find it genuinely fascinating.

A lot of the below, I learned from watching British TV or listening and learning during my time in the UK, but quite a few were found out through embarrassing errors. Don't make the same mistake I did, and mess up the pants/trousers conversion! (You'll get a lot of weird looks)



Eggplant: Aubergine

Zucchini: Courgette

Cilantro: Coriander

Arugula: Rocket

Green Onion: Spring Onion

Pickle: Gherkin

Cookie: Biscuit

Grilled Cheese: Toastie

Baked Potato: Jacket Potato

Potato Chips: Crisps

French Fries: Chips

French Toast: Eggy Bread

Oatmeal: Porridge

Cupcake: Fairy Cake

Candy: Sweets (Brits differentiate between "sweets" and "chocolate" whereas Americans would call it all candy)

Cotton Candy: Candy Floss

Popsicle: Ice Lolly

Icing Sugar: Confectioner's Sugar

Aluminum Foil: Aluminium Foil



Fanny Pack: Bum Bag (don't mess this one up - fanny means... a different thing in the UK)

Tank Top: Vest

Vest: Gilet

Sneakers: Trainers

Sweater: Jumper

Overalls: Dungarees

Pants: Trousers

Underwear: Pants

Suspenders: Braces

Rain Boots: Wellies

Uniform (as in, for sports): Kit



Sidewalk: Pavement

Crosswalk: Zebra Crossing

Hood (of a car): Bonnet

Trunk (of a car): Boot

Semi-truck: Lorry

Gas: Petrol

Detour (in driving directions): Diversion

Parking Lot: Car Park



Preschool: Nursery/Reception

Elementary School: Primary School

High School: Secondary School

College: University/Uni (this is confusing - in the USA, University and College are fairly interchangeable, but in the UK they're different levels of schooling)

Math: Maths

High School: Secondary School

Study/Studying: Revision/Revising



Bangs (as in hair): Fringe

Pacifier: Dummy

Stroller: Pram

Diaper: Nappy

Line: Queue

Period: Full Stop

Zip Code: Postcode

Trash: Rubbish

Trash Can: Bin

Eraser: Rubber

Flashlight: Torch

Apartment: Flat

Elevator: Lift

Pharmacy: Chemist

Counter-clockwise: Anti-clockwise

Mail/Mailman/Mailbox: Post/Postman/Letter Box

Vacation: Holiday


Which words did I miss out? What surprised you? Let me know!

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