British-to-American dictionary

I find differences in language and slang interesting and sometimes amusing.

While I was studying in England, I compiled a list of words I heard that were different from the ones I used and tried to incorporate them into my everyday vocabulary.

When speaking with my British classmates and professors, I never ran into a gap in understanding—I’m guessing that our overlapping entertainment industries have helped familiarize British people with American English and vice versa. Still, not all the words we use are the same.

In case you’re making a trip from the UK to the US or the other way around anytime soon, here’s a small dictionary of the most common words and phrases I heard that differed from the ones we use back in the US.

British   //   American

Flat — Apartment
Toilet — Bathroom/restroom
Holiday — Vacation
Sunnies — Sunglasses
Lift — Elevator
Bin — Trash can
Tarmac — Asphalt
Runners/trainers — Tennis shoes
Air-con — A/C (air conditioning)
Dodgy — Sketchy
On the day — Day-of
Return — Round-trip
Shop — Store
Car park — Parking lot
Jumper — Sweater
Coach — Bus
Pavement/Footpath — Sidewalk
Torch — Flashlight
Broad — Lake
Reception — Front desk/lobby
Diary — Planner
Tram — Trolleycar
Trolley — Shopping cart
Zed — Z
Expiry — Expiration


Uni — College
Course — Major
Module — Class
Accommodation (at a university) — Dorm


Chips — Fries
Biscuits — Cookies
Crisps — Chips
Hob — Stove
Toastie — Grilled cheese (Sort of. A toastie might have things other than cheese. It’s not exactly a panini either.)
Prawn — Shrimp
Jam — Jelly
Porridge — Oatmeal
Pudding — Dessert
Gherkin — Pickle
Aubergine — Eggplant
Savoury — Savory/not sweet (But we don’t really use “savory” to describe the opposite of sweet here, unless you are really into cooking.)
Supermarket — Grocery store
Takeaway — To-go (This is one I actually picked up while living in the UK, and I can’t seem to get rid of it.)
Go off — Expire


I’m not fussed — I am fine with whatever/anything
Are you all right? — Can I help you?/How are you?

Which differences surprised you? What are some I missed? Is your vocabulary closer to British or American English?

For more posts on living and traveling in the UK, select Follow blog via email. Thanks for reading!

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