Common American English words used in daily life vs British English equivalents

In Living in USA by Kumar116 Comments

When I first moved to US, it was very hard for me to understand a friendly chat or conversation. There were a lot of words that were quite unfamiliar to me. They were just common words, but only difference is the actual words and their usage. We are used to different set of words in other parts of world due to British English influence. Though, this has been changing a lot in recent times, I would like to share with you all some of the common words used here in America and what I felt were different. It took me a while to catch up very basic words that Americans use in day to day conversations and I am still learning new words every day! The below list something good to start with.

Common words in Daily routine/ activities

American English word

British English equivalent

Explanation and usage.

Gas Petrol In US, you would say, I need to fill gas in my car before it I run out of fuel.  Gas means liquid petroleum and NOT natural LPG Gas
Trash, Garbage Rubbish, dirt Trash is used in different ways like:

Pick up the garbage and put it in the trash can. Do not trash the place.

Trash Can Dustbin No dustbin word used here…Just trash can or Shredder for disposing the paper
Rest room Toilet Instead of saying, I want to go to toilet, you would say: “I would like to use the rest room”. Bath room is also used, but means
Shower Bath Lets say if you want to take bath, people say: I need to shower. Also like,  I was taking shower when  you called me. ‘I need to quickly jump in the shower before I take off to meeting’.
Bag (plastic or paper) Cover (plastic) Usually in India, we say ‘can I get my stuff in a plastic cover’. Here in US, people say “Can I get a bag for the stuff?” . It is used for both plastic and paper.

When you do shopping, here the cashier would ask “Receipt with you or in the bag”. People say, ‘in the bag please J or no’

Bike Bicycle We often get confused when Americans use bike. It means bicycle
Motorcycle Motorbike or bike The name says it.
Zip code Pin code Postal pin code in other countries vs Zip code in US for postal purposes.
Check Bill Typically in restaurant after you are done with meal, you ask for check in US from the waiter.
Elevator Lift No one uses lift, it is elevator in US
Football American Foot ball Americans consider football means by default as American football
Soccer Football People say Soccer when they refer to actual football. In Europe and everywhere we call football, but here in US they say it soccer.
Glasses Specs or Spectacles Eye glasses used for faulty vision
Cookies Biscuits Cookie means just biscuit and usually very sweet biscuit
Garage Place where you park your car in apartment complex or your dedicated place to park car
Store Shop Any shop is called store
Flashlight Torch Torch light that we use in darkness
Flat tire Tire puncture Usually when the tire gets puncture by any metal or thorns
Vacation Holiday When someone has taken a holiday, people usually say he is on vacation.
Bill Note 100 dollar bill vs 100 rupee notes when dealing with cash
Cheese Burger It is understood that it is a Beef burger with cheese on it and not just Cheese between bun !
Cologne It is Men’s fragrance. In India, people use Perfume for both male and female. When you say perfume, it is only for women in US or any part of the world. Just a common mistake in usage of words.
Creamer When mixing coffee, people in USA use creamer, which is equivalent of milk.
Yogurt Curd We use the word Curd a lot. You have to specifically say Yogurt.  Butter Milk is common though. It is same.
Flour is pronounced as Flower One of my friends had a bad experience in Walmart and had to literally write it on paper. So make sure you pronounce it right, otherwise you get wrong product J . Listen to pronunciation to clarify. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/flour
Meat or  Red meat, Chicken Non-Vegetarian We are used to saying I am a non-vegetarian, in US people might get lost. You have to say, I eat meat or chicken. When you go to a restaurant, if you are a vegetarian, you should say “NO Meat or Chicken”  otherwise, you may find interesting stuff as a vegetarian in your food J
Truck Lorry We use lorry a lot in daily life, but here in US, people call by truck. The trucks are huge here
Mailbox / Mail Postbox / Post In US, usage: “I have to mail this package today. Let me dropt it off at the nearest mailbox.”

Check out the some more words in this article : Common American English Words in daily life vs British Words — Part II  . Also, our readers have added some amazing set of words and differences as comments, do read the comments to get more information.

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Comments ( 116 )

  1. Lisa Schuster

    Some clues:
    A holiday in the U.S. is still a holy day, just like the word:
    Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. It’s usually a day you get off work, “thank God!” You still get paid if it’s a holi…day. That’s “holy” enough for me!

    “Vacation” comes from French. (Paris is “vacated” in the summer.) It’s time off that YOU have to pay for, or earn, and arrange with you boss ahead of time.

    Another clue: We “shop” in “stores.” (“I love to shop!”) Also, a shop is sometimes a little store, or a guild where people all make the same thing. Mechanics and engineers work in “shops” for example.

  2. Cindy

    Without having read other comments, I wanted to make some clarifications.

    Here in America the word bike is synonymous with motorcycles as well as bicycles. Bike is simply and informal word for both. However we do use the word bicycle as well (only for bicycles of course), but never motor bike.

    Yogurt and buttermilk are not synonymous. Yogurt is what is leftover from strained milk. Buttermilk is what is left over after making butter. Also, I noticed the usage of “curd” when comparing. Here, if we hear the word “curd” most will assume that you’re talking about cheese.

    The word bathroom and restroom are synonymous when used as using the toilet itself. Also, note how bathroom is spelled here, it’s not bath room. Now a shower is when you have the water spraying on you. A bath is sitting in the tub filled with water. You can only take a shower or bath in a bathroom, but never a restroom. So bathroom works as a verb (using the toilet) and a noun (a room where you clean yourself).

    Garage is a building that houses parked cars. It must be a building to be a garage. However, a parking lot is a space of land were people park. My understanding is that the Brits call a parking lot a car park, or is it a garage? I’m not sure.

    We use the word shops here too, but we usually mean small stores that sell things such as jewelry, clothing, antiques and the like. Not food and not big stores. You’re right though that for us any shop is a store, but also for us not every store is a shop.

    If you have any questions, just post a reply.

  3. Srikanth

    To know the exact difference between Perfume and Cologne you might want to check the link below :
    differencebetween.info/difference-between-perfume-and-cologne

    1. Omar Hossain

      Dear All,

      We like American common people’s life style although we are not part of the said society & despite that’s a faster society is always Honorable to us,

      With the best Compliments of
      Omar
      Dhaka,
      Bangladesh

  4. liz

    A couple are incorrect. In England we also say bike, in everyday language no one says bicycle. Our equivalent of a zipcode is a postcode, not pin code. We also say bag, not cover as you have said. We say yoghurt too, curd it something different. we call cologne after shave. over here we say glasses for spectacles too, we never call them eye glasses though, just glasses.

  5. VINAY

    hai every body i am pursing my masters in california am planning to know more american words can any body help me to improve my language .

    Thank you to all

  6. PG

    You need to specify that you’re an Indian and that you’ve moved from India to the US which explains why a lot of your definitions are wrong.

    It’s not clear why you haven’t taken advice on board from English people about any advice. But you wouldn’t need to if you specified that this isn’t British English (whatever that is) but an Indian variant – which is fine. The Chinese have their own variation.

    This seems like a popular spot so if you took some advice it could be even better. Ignoring advice is just very stupid.

  7. Adele

    Confusing as though he was trying to ‘translate’ American to British English and vica versa, the author also threw some Indian English in their which kind of ‘muddied the waters’. Sorry but did find it very confusing, especially as some under the ‘British’ column was not necessarily 100% British.

    1. sona singh

      All the american words are different from the indian words
      We can learn the all the american words the words like…
      We say lift in american language we say elevator. All the words are easy

  8. Noorain

    Heyy…thankuuu soo soomuch for providing me such good information… I look forward to learn more such words from this blog. Thank you 1nce again.

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