British English vs American English

Having a Degree in English and being a translator for many years made me think that I knew the  English Language well enough…and then I came to America…

…did you also have situations when you ask for tomato (pronounced as “tamAhtoh”) juice, or shower gel, or try to get a taxi, and people look funny at you?

Of course, I knew about some differences between British and American English, but I had no idea that they (differences) went that far. I felt like I was learning a new language. New pronunciation, new vocabulary, new grammar…

While some words may mean something in British English, the same word might be something else in American English and vice versa. For example, Athlete in British English is one who participates in track and field events whereas Athlete in American English is one who participates in sport in general


Rubber in British English: tool to erase pencil markings. Rubber in American English: condom.

So, which is better?

An important point to make is that different doesn’t mean wrong. The truth is that no language or regional variety of language is inherently better or worse than another. They are just different. The most important rule of thumb is to try to be consistent in your usage whatever language you prefer to use.

Here are just a few out of many differences in vocabulary between British and American English.

British English American English
autumn fall
biscuit cookie
boot trunk
caravan trailer
car park parking lot
chemist’s shop drugstore, pharmacy
chips fries, French fries
the cinema the movies
film movie
flat apartment, condo
ground floor first floor
handbag purse
holiday vacation
postcode zip code
postman mailman, mail carrier, letter carrier
pub bar
public toilet restroom
rubbish garbage, trash
solicitor lawyer, attorney
sweets candy
taxi cab
torch flashlight
trousers pants

Do you know more words that are absolutely different in British and American English? Let us know!