Vegetables, Food, Snacks– British(Indian) vs. American English used in Daily Life USA

In Living in US by KumarUpdated : 16 Comments

If you are an international student or professional, who just landed in America, you may have hard time at the grocery store communicating with the store people asking for some specific vegetable and they not understanding your terminology.  When I first came to US, I was in a similar situation asking a guy “do you have lady fingers ?”, the guy just laughed not understanding what I was trying to say…This is not a comprehensive vegetable or food list. I will try to list the ones that I felt were different. You can always add to it as comments…You may also want to read article English words in Daily life USA vs British.

Vegetables, Food items – American vs. British (Indian, International) English

Just a note, I grew up in India and we studied British English..…so I am taking it for granted and writing that it belongs to UK, some may be just part of Indian English as well…

American English Word


English Word


OkraLady fingersI never heard anyone use Lady fingers
CilantroCoriander leavesAs some use coriander powder for cooking, some people use Coriander leaves…but mostly it is called cilantro in America


Unless you go to ethnic stores, they are called Eggplant
PeanutsGroundnutsNo one uses ground nuts or ground nut oil. Peanuts are also used to refer something trivial as a phrase in conversations.
YogurtCurdNo one understands what curd means…the good part is they have a variety of yogurts, with flavor, without fat, etc..
CreamerMilk powderPeople use creamer in brewed coffee as a substitute for milk….no one uses milk powder, it is just called creamer…can sometimes be thick condensed milk as well.
CookiesBiscuitsFor some of us in India, cookies means a brand of chocolate …but in US, most of the biscuits are called cookies…usually they are sweet
CrackersSalt Biscuits, tea biscuitsIf the biscuits are not sweet, they are called crackers…some may be salty and some may be plain without any flavor, dipped in tea.
Candy / Hard CandyChocolates/ ToffeeMost of the times, anything that is sweet and in small wrapper, small in size is called candy. Typically, most of the candy is hard and brittle…but not always…
ChocolateChocolate bar/ Cadbury Chocolate bar/ Five star bar, etcThis is tricky, when someone refer to chocolate, they mean something that is real chocolate in form of Bar or made in pieces with full chocolate…In India, we use it very generic, here it is specific
BeetsBeetrootAmericans just don’t add root to it…just beets
Bell Peppers/ Chili peppers/ Green peppersCapsicumThe big chili we call capsicum is called bell peppers, green peppers…some of them are in different colors yellow peppers, etc
PicklePickle in US means usually a cucumber or anything that is fermented/ soaked for a period of time in Vinegar or some salty solution…it is used just as a side when eating burger, etc. Do NOT confuse with Indian pickle with spices, oil and other stuff.
SpinachMost of the leafy vegetables are packed in bags or fresh outside are called Spinach in US…usually called palak in Indian or general leafy vegetables

I have not written a full list of vegetables….If you would like to add anything to the list above, please add it as comment…

Can you think of any  other food or snack called with different name in US ?

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Comments ( 16 )

  1. John

    This is an excerpt from another post I made on several items.

    The one that surprised me was Ladies Fingers as a name for okra. When I was growing up, I remember my mother making “Lady Fingers” as a light refreshment. This an elongated sugar cookie/biscuit. It might sometimes have icing (“or be iced”).

  2. suraj

    hey provide really good info here..All puspose flour is Maida i learned that after couple of weeks only(this learning saved me copule of bucks coz All purpose flour in american stores is really cheap as comapred to maida in indian store)….so for the indians staying here learning american vocab can be a gr8 help for you when grocery shopping from american store for more on indain grocery shopping in USA

  3. Jason

    If you ask for milk powder in the States a grocer might point you to a box of dry milk that’s made by freeze-drying real milk, but you won’t likely be directed to powdered creamer that is a non-dairy product. If you want that item ask for powdered non-dairy creamer or the brand name “cremora.”

    When we refer to green leafy vegetables they are often referred to as “greens.” Spinach is not used as a generic term for any leafy vegetable from my experience.

    A cookie is a very sweet, slightly raised, and very dense biscuit. When we refer to a homemade biscuit it’s specific to a non-sweet, self-raising flour mixture with baking soda/baking powder. A biscuit that isn’t homemade found at super markets are flat, crispy, and often non-sweet. Crackers are a lower quality of the same type of flat crispy salted biscuit made of white flour. Crackers are often eaten with chili, and biscuits are often served with a quality cheeses.

    A cordial in the US is sweet liquor. In the UK I think it would mean sweets as in toffee.

    Ladyfingers refer to long oval shaped biscuits rather than a vegetable.

    In the US it’s either carry-out or take-out. I think take-away is used in the UK. If you say “parcel the food” someone here might think you want your food shipped in a box. A parcel is a package sent though the post.

  4. Clarissa at Talk to the Clouds/Readable

    Oh yes, one note about creamer: I don’t know what milk powder is like in India (or in the UK). In the US, creamer often contains NO MILK. It is a pretty disgusting mix of artificial ingredients, dried/powdered corn syrup, and so on. I avoid it. If you would like to use actual powdered milk in your drinks at home, you should look for boxes of “dry milk” or “powdered milk” in the baking section of the grocery store. In restaurants, ask for half-and-half (that’s half cream and half milk), cream, milk, or soy milk to put in your coffee or tea (all of these are liquids). I think they’re healthier than creamer. 🙂

  5. Clarissa at Talk to the Clouds/Readable

    Great list. 🙂 I love the varieties of English in the world.

    From my perspective, “spinach” is one very specific green. It’s not interchangeable with other greens. For a generic term, you can say “salad greens” or “mixed greens” (raw ones, usually mixed) or “leafy greens” or something.

    We do have other pickled things, but they’re more common in the southern US, and still quite different from Indian (or Japanese or British) pickled items. It took me a long time to realize that I liked Indian and Japanese picked things, because I’m not very fond of the strong vinegar taste which is present in most American picked items.

    By the way, “ladyfingers” means a kind of cookie (biscuit) in American English. 🙂 I like to serve it with strawberries, sugar, and cream. That could really create confusion!

  6. lynneguist

    You might also be interested in this list, from my blog on American and British English:

    It does not emphasize the Indian terms (which I heard a lot more in my South African days than in my UK ones), but I’ve got a lot of posts on food word differences too, if you’d like to click on the food/cooking tag there.

    Best wishes!

  7. Priya Pillai

    Another thing i learned on my holiday – food that is ordered to by taken home or else where is termed as ‘ take away’ .. The American restaurant/ fast food chain etc do not understand ‘parcel the food’… The statement for that is ‘ i need it as a take away’

      1. Clarissa at Talk to the Clouds

        “Take away” is British English. American English is “take out” or “to go.”

        (Great list, by the way!)

  8. D. Chandramouli

    If only this kind of information had been available five years ago, my son’s life as an undergraduate in the U.S. then would have been much more easier. Whenever I go to U.S. on vacations (I live in Jakarta, Indonesia), I’m really flabbergasted at not only the strange words (as far as we, Indians, are concerned) but even the accent. At times, my son translates their speech to me in ‘our’ English! But by and large, I find Americans are helpful, but expect us to have decent manners, like not jumping the queue (is it ‘line’ in America?) or not tossing the currency note to the cashier, etc. Your website is great going, indeed. I even told one of my friends here to access your pages at least for academic interest and knowledge. Kudos to you.

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