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

When I first moved to the US, it was very hard for me to understand a friendly chat or conversation with Americans. There were a lot of words that were quite unfamiliar to me. In fact, they were common words that we use in daily life, but the only difference was the actual words meaning and how they were used in America.

If you are an international student or professional who arrives in America for work or education, you may be used to a different set of words in other parts of the world due to British English influence, and sometimes local country specific influence as well. It would be very handy to know some of these common American English words that we use in daily life and how they are different from British English or words used in other countries.

Below are some of the common words used here in America, that I felt were different from what I was used to in India, including other parts of the world that I traveled. It took me a while to catch up with very basic words that Americans use in day-to-day conversations…I am still learning new words every day! The below list is something good to start with.

Feel free to add your words to the below list as comments and we will update the article.

Common American English Words Used in Daily Life

American English Word British English/ General English  equivalent Explanation and usage.
GasPetrolIn the 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, GarbageRubbish, DirtTrash is used in different ways like: picking up the garbage and putting it in the trash can. Do not trash the place.
Trash CanDustbinNo dustbin word is used in the US…Just trash can. If it is for paper, you see people use shredders for paper disposal
RestroomToiletInstead of saying, “I want to go to the toilet”, in America, you would say: “I would like to use the restroom”. Bath room is also used, but can mean different at times and not used often.
ShowerBathLet’s say if you want to take bath, people say: “I need to shower” or “I need to take a shower”. Also like,  “I was in the shower when you called me”. Some may say, “I need to quickly jump in the shower before I take off to a meeting”
Bag (plastic or paper)Cover (plastic)Usually in India, we say ‘can I get my stuff in a plastic cover’. Here in the 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’

BikeBicycleWe often get confused when Americans use a bike, all they mean is a bicycle and it is not a motorbike or motorcycle
MotorcycleMotorbike or bikeThe name says it.
Zip codePin codePostal pin code in other countries like India vs Zip code in the US for postal purposes.
CheckBillTypically when you go to a restaurant, after you are done with the meal, you ask the waitress to give the check. What it means is you are asking them to give the ‘Bill’ for what you have spent on food at the restaurant.
ElevatorLiftNo one uses the word lift, it is an elevator in the US
FootballAmerican FootballAmericans consider football means by default as American football.
SoccerFootballPeople say Soccer when they refer to actual football. In Europe and everywhere people call football, but here in the US, they call it as soccer.
GlassesSpecs or SpectaclesEye glasses used for faulty vision
CookiesBiscuitsCookie means just biscuit and usually a very sweet biscuit
Garage Place where you park your car in the apartment complex or your dedicated place to park your car in your independent house.
StoreShopAny shop is called a store
FlashlightTorchTorch light that we use in darkness
Flat tireTire punctureUsually when the tire gets punctured by any metal or big thorns
VacationHolidayWhen someone has taken a holiday, people usually say he is on vacation.
BillNote100 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 the bun ! The cheese burger is non-vegetarian. Do not be confused by seeing Cheese in it.
Cologne Perfume / CologneCologne is Men’s fragrance. In India, people use Perfume for both males and females interchangeably. When you say perfume, it is only for women in the US or any part of the world. Just a common mistake in the usage of the words.
CreamerWhen mixing coffee, people in the USA use creamer, which is equivalent to milk powder.
YogurtCurdIn India, we use the word Curd a lot. You have to specifically say Yogurt.  Butter Milk is common though. It is the 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 the wrong product. Listen to pronunciation to clarify.
Meat or  Red meat, ChickenNon-VegetarianWe are used to saying I am a non-vegetarian, in the 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 🙂
TruckLorryWe use lorry a lot in daily life, but here in the US, people call by truck. The trucks are long here in the US.
Mailbox / MailPostbox / PostIn the US, if someone says: “I have to mail this package today. Let me drop it off at the nearest mailbox”, they mean to say that they will post the physical package at a post office.
Chick It is used very commonly used in daily conversations to refer to a female teenager up to 40 years old. e.g: “I met this chick the other day, she was cool”
Hitched usually used to tell someone that they are married. e.g: he is already hitched, no more funny business.
Shots / Shot People commonly use the word ‘shot’ to indicate that they got medication or injection. E.g. “I got a flu shot yesterday” to tell that they had a flu injection/vaccination yesterday.
School University  In general, the word school is used to indicate any institution from 1st grade to 12th grade…after that, you call it as University. But, in America, the word school is used very commonly even to refer to a University or Department in University. E.g.: “Which school did you go to for your master’s?”.  “I went to Stanford”.  “I got my Masters from UW School of Engineering”. School means University.

You can also check out 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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  1. I have some of my favorite words in common with you. BTW, one of the coolest sites out there devoted to words is FavoriteWords.com

  2. I agree with you. The language is always evolving due to the changing of the human society. As a tool for communication, It should be more and more accurate,convenient and effective for us to express our thoughts and exchange informations.
    Thank you so much. I have learned a lot through you article although I am not good at english.
    As a Chinese, American English and British English are both unfamilar to me. It is so hard for me to use the corret gramma and vocabularies because english is belonging to a completely different language system from Chinese. However it is very common to have different dialects for the people from different region in a language. In china, there are alot of different dialects, some of them are completely different from others.(Most of us learn mandarin at school just like people learning english in the world and we learned our own dialect from our parents and people who lives in that region.) This is samilar as we have different lauguages through the world. This may cause a lot of misunderstanding. I am glad that english can act as a role of world language to help us communition. The developing of internet also helped us a lot for communication.
    祝大家新年新气象,万事如意,事事顺心!!:)Happy New Year everyone!

  3. heyyyy…….I think its gorgeous knowing difference between british n American English but here (in Pakistan) regularly both of them are used so I have no specific choice…

  4. Hey My Frnd u made it easy for me to undrstnd da difference between them……Its really gona help me wen I’ll b in US………Thnks Frnd……Glad To Meet U….


    shame on you Kumar. SHAME SHAME

    you actually THINK ameriCUNT english is the right english.. 🙁 guess what dumbass – the whole world uses correct english i.e. British english. america was just formed 220 yrs back, British english (correct english) has been since 1000s of years

    • I really, really hope you’re not serious. I hope so very much. If not, your ignorance and disrespect is astounding.

      Listen up and pay close attention because you clearly have a lot to learn.

      You think Brits talk today like they did back then? HA!! The King is probably rolling in his grave right now every time he hears a British person speak. Have you HEARD some British accents? Some are just as bad — if not much worse! — than any Southern American accent. Most Brits do not talk in a posh accent like the Queen. You should be aware of that. Brits use a lot of slang words that are NOT “proper English.”

      For many words it is the UNITED STATES that uses the original, proper word. You know what? England used the word “fall” ORIGINALLY. They did not use “autumn.” When they went to America, the Brits there (us!) continued using the ORIGINAL BRITISH ENGLISH WORD, which was FALL not autumn. Then England switched to the word “autumn” while the USA kept the original British word.

      For other words neither the USA nor the UK is correct. The word “aluminum” is “aluminium” in British English. Well, the original word was neither of those; it was “alumium.” So the UK is just as “wrong” as the US.

      Also, many other countries use American terms. For example, a lot of people in Canada say “mom” instead of “mum.” Actually, I’m American and I call my mother “mum.” Also, in Australia they, too, call football “soccer.” They also have tons of words that are different than British English. You don’t hear any Brits asking how your brekkie was or if you want to meet up in the avo.

      Do you think Americans today changed the language? NO. We had nothing to do with it. We just learned to read and write as we were taught. We didn’t CHOOSE to take out the “u” in “favourite.” We didn’t CHOOSE to pronounce the letter “r” (New Englanders do not. Listen to the Boston Brahmin accent — it sounds more English than most English people!!!). Back in the day, only a few people such as Daniel Webster wanted to change and simplify the British language and get rid of the pointless French spellings and unnecessary letters (“maneuver” makes much more sense than “manoeuvre”). The rest –and vast majority — of Americans (Brits!) were fine with British English spellings. It was only a few who were not.

      Keep in mind that we come from BRITS. So really we are just another type of British accent that has naturally evolved over time. Do you think we CHOOSE to speak the way we do?!?! NO! Do Australians? Do Kiwis? How about Canadians, hmmm? They sound almost identical to Americans. Do you hate them too? Or how about the Irish? They’re not part of the UK. How ridiculous are you?

      Have you seen the grammar of many British people? I’m American yet my grammar is better than most of them. They may be British but yet they can’t use the right “your”? I can write better English than most Brits!! I can easily write in British English if I want. It’s simple to alter spellings. I can talk in a British accent if I want, too. Accents are easy to do.

      Look at all that I just wrote. None of the words above are any different in British English than they are in American English. You would have used all of the same spellings as I did.

      Lastly, you used American English yourself when you said “dumbass.” In British English, it’d be “ARSE,” not “ass.” Wow. Way to (NOT) prove a point…

      Your comments are sickening. Please open your eyes are understand that English has many dialects and accents. An American accent is no different than any other of the variations of English accents in England (Cockney, Geordie, etc.). English, like any other language, has evolved with time. Evolution cannot be controlled and it is not done on purpose. Both Americans and Brits speak the English language. You are making yourself and other Brits look very bad. You know, many Brits say “Americans are so arrogant” but then people like you come and say things like “British English is the REAL English” and “Americans ruined the English language,” making a hypocrite (and an intolerant, close-minded prick) out of yourself. Instead of hating on other accents, why don’t you enjoy them? I love English accents, as well as Australian, New Zealand, Welsh, Irish, and more. I love ALL English accents. If everybody sounded like the Queen then it would be boring. Stop with the hate and embrace all types of the English language. You should love American English because it is a product of your own dialect. And you shouldn’t have hate towards Americans. After all, we share a common language. We are allies. And we can understand each other perfectly. Aren’t you GLAD you can understand Americans? Don’t you watch any American TV shows or movies? Don’t you use any American products? Don’t you use American websites such as Youtube or Google? I’m sure you’ve seen Youtube videos and you are probably very grateful to be able to understand what the Americans are saying, especially considering mostly all the videos on Youtube are made by Americans. Come on. Get rid of the hate. Yes, there are differences. But at the end of the day, we don’t speak British or American —– We both speak ENGLISH.

      • Hey Nicole,

        Hats off to you mate!

        How come you can be so cool and express what you felt bad about and what the reality actually is?
        You have portrayed your thoughts in a very astonishing and above all professional manner. I am sure you must be well learned too.

        And yes me too love all Accents and enjoy them all.

        Remember guys: “English is Official Global Language”. We must respect it however way it is spoken across the globe.

        God Bless you ALL.

      • Jeez nicole, calm down. The person who has written this article has no where mentioned that he hates American accent and you must be kidding me when you said that your grammar is much better than the people living in Britain, that shows that you are ignorant because grammar does not depend on a nation, it depends on individuals. I would be very stupid person if I were to say that Americans have the worst grammar because like I said it only depends on an individual person. Other than that, I agree with you on the rest.

      • hey nicole hats off to you….you answered well i am impressed by the way you juz answered cool.. keep it up

        You have portrayed your thoughts in a very astonishing and above all professional manner. I am sure you must be well learned too.

        how do you gain this much of knowledge in English literature?? i would like to know 🙂

    • Princehuman,

      English is not as old as you think. It was the language of peasants in Britain but if heard today would be completely incomprehensible. After William of Normandy took the English crown in 1066, he installed many of his Norman nobility in Britain and they became the ruling gentry. Norman, a French-based dialect, was the language of the day and continued for some 300 years. However the Anglo-Saxon peasants did not take up speaking the invader’s tongue. During this time Anglo-Saxon and Franco-Norman merged into the earliest form of what would become English. In 1348 the Black Death arrived in France and then spread to Britain. The most vulnerable were the Nobility. The peasants fled to the forest and hills away from the pest. Soon the feudal system broke down. The Anglo-Norman Monks, who were part of the ruling class, as well as many Lords and the like, died out in massive numbers and were replaced by humbler English-speakers who taught ordinary folk to read and write – in English. English became the official language around 1350. In 1362 Parliament was officially opened in English for the first time ever.

      Of course the version spoken then was “Chaucer’s English” which would not be understood by us today.

      The English spoken elsewhere is often a Pigin English, with local variations. As time goes by we forget the origins and think it was always like that. English (the language) spoken in the USA or Australia or Canada or India or… will have local variations in spelling and meaning. There are even local differences in say English spoken in Sothhampton (Southeren England) and Newcastle (on the Scottish border). This is how languages evolve.

      By the way “Cockney”and “Geordi” are not accents exactly they are languages.

      English has become the world’s most spoken language because, for one reason, all forms (American English, Australian English etc.) are readily understood by others.

      There is a very well written book by Bill Bryson “Mother Tongue” that anyone interested in this subject should read.

      • As a follow up to the above, modern English or the English that evolved from old English to what we speak today is in fact one of the youngest languages in the world. It dates as above from 1350 ad (ish) so it’s less than 700 years old.

        The oldest European language is in fact Basque. It is thought to have existed at least 4000 years ago.

  6. I’m sorry but I’m British and I don’t say stuff like spectacles. You know there is more than one British accent. You a so dumb. British people do terrible american accents and vice versa, you don’t know anything about British accents. Leave it at that. Americans,If you go around in Britian saying words like that they will think you have problems. JS.

    • SPECTACLE is a perfectly correct English (UK) word whether spoken in an English accent (southern or northern) or an Indian accent or a…

      The fact that you do not use it or think that you will have problems using it in the UK, is an example of how languages change.

      We must accept that this change is taking place all the time, it is slow (very slow), is continuous and sometimes goes un-noticed.

      Take just one (old english) example – The English King Cnut the Great to his earl Thorkell the Tall and the English people written in AD 1020:

      Cnut cyning gret his arcebiscopas and his leod-biscopas and Þurcyl eorl and ealle his eorlas and ealne his þeodscype, twelfhynde and twyhynde, gehadode and læwede, on Englalande freondlice.


      Cnut, king, greets his archbishops and his people’s bishops and Thorkell, earl, and all his earls and all his peopleship, greater and lesser, hooded and lewd, in England friendly.

      Note: Hooded means ordained and Lewd means a Lay person (not ordained)

  7. Hey very nice demonstration provided here……We Indians are using both American and British English most of the times(in India) and often overlook their origin and think the words as synonyms(eg. elevator/lift).Not only Vocabulary but also other aspects of language like grammar etc. differs.for difference between american and british english thekapils.com/2012/02/23/difference-bw-british-and-american-english/

  8. Hi Saurabh,

    I have 2 H1B approved petitions. First one ends on 31st dec 2011. Second one starts from 1st jan 2012. While filling my DS-160, I just mentioned the latest one. Do I need to fill in my first one as well. Do I need to update my DS-160 with the first one as well.


    • You need to mention the one you will be using for visa stamping. But you should carry both of them. Check w/ others as well who have experienced this.

  9. Dude….this is really very interesting blog…..from here i got many neww words which are very useful for me……sooooo thanxxxxxxx for ur help

  10. So much of this list is incorrect for British English. A shower is standing under a stream of water, a bath is sitting or lying in a bath. If we want a bag for goods purchased we ask for a bag not a cover. A Bicycle in England is also called a Bike. A Pin code is what we use with a payment card. Post code is used for mail. England uses ‘glasses’ mostly for Spectacles. When a tyre gets a puncture it is flat, we use both. One word is a description of what has happened to the tyre. Men normally use after-shave, occasionally called cologne. We use yoghurt, not curd. We never say non-vegetarian, that is assumed. Vegetarian or vegan should be specified. Truck and lorry in England are different vehicles. A lorry is completely enclosed, a truck has an open top.

      • Anyone else agree that maybe people this incompetent should actually live somewhere before assuming how to say something?
        There were so many things incorrect in this..it’s not in the least bit hilarious.

        • If you have any familiarity with this site you would probably already be aware that the author is writing from the perspective of an Indian National who has acquired his English through his exposure to British influenced English.

          Perhaps he might have explained his world view more clearly in the introduction, however, I don’t understand why you feel it’s necessary to chastise him so rudely and harshly. After all, any errors or confusion is unintentional and the man has given of himself to provide others with these tools that are of immense value to many people.

      • No actually I am british and a bath is actually the tub whereas a shower is the stream of water, Learn something, yeah?

        • Chloe,
          This article was written by an Indian who moved to US and was highlighting the differences b/w American English (in US) and British English (in India). And in India, even when standing under running water it means bath, specs/spectacles is used etc.

  11. tell me ..railway ‘fatak ‘ ko kya bolte hai english me..eg.i was late to d office becuse railway fatak was closed.

    • literal translation is “Gate”. You can say, I was stuck at the railway crossing as the gate was closed. In future, please post your questions in FORUM.

  12. heeyy kumar..howz u ……… m giving ma ielts on dis 5th june so i want sm more new words from ur blog to improve ma vocab.more ..so pllzzz help me out ..will b really thank ful to u …..

    • Well, I do not think the words I give here will be good enough for IELTS. You may want to read some books…I will see what I can do.


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