They Speak English, Right? Common British vs American Terms

By Tayler Gill, ISA Sr. Site Specialist, England

When a student is asked why they want to study in England a frequent response is because, “I want to study in an English speaking country.” While it’s true that the USA shares a common language with our friends across the pond, American culture and slang have developed separately over the years. Many students are surprised when first meeting their local flat mates how difficult it can be understand their pace of speaking, their accent or regional dialect and even some of the words they use to refer to everyday objects or activities.

While there are some words Brits use that are familiar to Americans such as cinema (movie theatre) or football (soccer) there are still many words to be discovered. Below are some common word differences that American students can expect to come across while studying in the United Kingdom.

Food terms

  • Bap – Burger Bun
  • Biscuits – Cookies
  • Crisps – Chips
  • Chips – Fries
  • Jam – Jelly
  • Jelly – Jell-o/Gelatin
  • Scones – Biscuits
  • Sweets – Candy
  • Take away – To go/Take out
  • Trolley – Grocery Cart

Living/Clothing Terms

  • Flat – Apartment
  • Garden – Backyard
  • Hoover – Vacuum
  • Jumper – Sweater
  • Loo – Restroom/Bathroom
  • Pants – Underwear
  • Post/Post Box – Mail/Mail Box
  • Rubbish – Trash/Garbage
  • Trainers – Sneakers
  • Trousers – Pants
  • Washing – Laundry

School Terms

  • Assessments – Class Papers
  • Lecturers – Professors
  • College – High School
  • Primary School – Elementary School
  • Rubber – Eraser
  • Term – Semester
  • University – College/University

Expressions & Other Notable Terms

  • Boot – trunk of a car
  • Brilliant – Cool
  • Cheers – Thanks
  • Chemist – Pharmacist
  • Dodgy – Sketchy
  • Fag – Cigarette
  • Lift – Elevator
  • Queue up – Line up
  • Quid (£) – Buck ($) (slang term for local currency)
  • Ta – Thank you/appreciate it
  • The Tube – Undergound/Subway

Learn more about studying abroad in England.

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