10 words with different meanings in the US & UK

American English vs. British English

A hot topic among my students and I is the difference between the English spoken in the US and the UK. I’m from the UK, and I often have playful debates with friends and family, that are either from America or live there, about which accent is better, etc., etc.

Yesterday, my housemate, Rosanna, sent me a link to a post on Bigstock about British words that mean something completely different in the U.S. There were some words here that I didn’t know about, so let’s see if you can learn something too…

Here are my top 10 words that have different meanings in the US & UK:


1. Jumper


British English vs American English

Via Bigstock

US: A character from a film, who apparently likes to jump off buildings.

UK: A warm garment for the winter.


2. Trainer



Via Bigstock

US: a (sometimes attractive) man that trains you at the gym.

UK: the shoes that you put on to do sports.


3. Pants


British English vs. American English

Via Bigstock

US: the long piece of clothing that we wear from our waist to our ankles. In the UK, we call them trousers.

UK: underwear that covers our private parts.


4. Bird


British English vs. American English

Via Bigstock

US: this just refers to the winged animal.

UK: this refers to the animal and is also an informal way of saying ‘girl’ or ‘woman’.


5. Bog


British English vs. American English

Via Bigstock

US: Americans think this word just means a swamp (un pantano).

UK: for the Brits a ‘bog’ is both a swamp and a toilet (word used in informal situations).


6. Chips


British English vs. American English

Via Bigstock

US: If you order a portion of chips in the US, expect to be handed a cold snack. ‘French fries’ is how Americans refer to the hot potato chunks.

UK: Crisps are the cold snack. Crisps are the hot potato chunks.


7. Coach


British English vs. American English

Via Bigstock

US: in America, the coach is an institution in schools and colleges. He’s the driving force behind the schools’ sports teams.

UK: a coach is a form of transport (like a long bus). It does not teach (or force) us to play sports.


8. Biscuit


British English vs. American English

Via Bigstock

(I didn’t know this one)

US: some sort of small, soft, leavened bread. (Similar to a scone in the UK).

UK: an often delicious, small snack that we like to dip in our tea.


9. Lift


British English vs. American English

Via Bigstock

US: ‘lift’ is not a noun in US English. To lift means levantar. When they want to refer to the moving box of steel that transports people from one floor of a building to another, they say the ‘elevator’.

UK: if we’re feeling lazy and don’t want to walk up the stairs, we get the ‘lift’.


10. Football


British English vs. American English

Via Bigstock

(I left this until last as most people know this one.)

US: To play football, Americans put on lots of protective clothing and play a contact sport that looks a lot like Rugby.

UK: Football is the game where lots of people run around a pitch chasing after a round ball.


See the full article on Bigstock here.

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