22 American English Words that Brit’s Don’t Understand

April 24, 2018
24 April 2018,

The English language has been spoken for 1,500 years now and is spoken in many different countries in the world including countries where English is the native language.  American English could be said to be an easier language to British English as the words are less complicated.  For example, sidewalk used by Americans meaning to walk on the side of the road compared to pavement in British English where there is no obvious connection between walking on the side of the road and pavement.  These differences just have to be learned. 


American word(s)         British word(s)               Notes  


Sidewalk                          Pavement                       Both mean the same – just different words.


Trash/garbage               Rubbish                           Different word but same meaning.         


Trashcan                         Dustbin                            Americans put garbage in trashcans. English put rubbish in dustbins for collection.


Garbage trucks              Dustbin lorries                   Garbage trucks collect rubbish in America. Dustbin lorries collect rubbish in Britain.


Drugstore                        Chemist                           A drugstore may have a pharmacy inside it. Chemist is the British word.


Chips                                Crisps                                American use chips for the British word crisps.


French fries                    Chips                                Again different words for the same item.


Line                                   Queue                              Both mean the same – just different words.           


Candy                               Sweets                             Both mean the same but the British use candy for a certain type of sweets.


Closet                               Wardrobe                       Both mean cupboard for hanging clothes inside but a different word is used 


Hood                                Bonnet                             Both mean the front of the car.


Parking lot                      Car park                           Same meaning but just different words.


Tow truck                        Breakdown van             Same meaning but different words.


Counter clockwise        Anticlockwise                Again different words for same meaning.


Estimator                        Quantity surveyor        No obvious connection between these words.


Beltway                            Ring road                        Again no obvious connection.


Eggplant                          Aubergine                       This is so different it has to be learnt but both mean the same thing.


Zucchini                           Courgette                        The same meaning for this vegetable.


Turn signal                      Indicator                         Same meaning but again just different words.


Divided highway           Dual Carriageway         No similarity between these words but again both mean the same.


Yard/lawn                       Garden                             No obvious connection but mean the same.


Liquor store                    Off-license                      Shops which sell alcohol.  No obvious connection.



There are also many more different words with same meaning for example baseboard in American English and skirting board in British English, candy apple in American English and toffee apple in British English, shoulder in American English and verge in British English, lumber in American English compared to timber in British English, vest in American English compared to waistcoat in British English, second floor is used by Americans compared to first floor of a building used by British,  broiler is used in America whereas grill is used in Britain, to name but a few.


Many English speakers will choose to learn either American English or British English depending on which side of the Atlantic they live.  Europeans tend to learn British English whereas for example Southern Americans will learn American English.  Once these different words between American English and British English are learnt then everyone will understand their meanings whether living or visiting America or Great Britain.

Learning English is like learning to bike