George Bernard Shaw once said that the “United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language.” Of course, language can certainly vary between the United States and the United Kingdom, even though both countries predominantly speak English and this is most evident by different terms used to describe the same things. This extends even into taking some time off, and the words to describe what you’re doing or how you’re doing it. Of course, this list is not extensive, so you can feel free to add any terms or phrases we missed in the comments.
While we might call it a vacation in the States, a “holiday” isn’t just a day of festivity. The word “vacation” originated in the 1300s, while “holiday” appeared two hundred years later (originating from “holy day”). By the 19th Century, “holiday” became the primary British term to describe any day off of work, whether it was associated with a religious observance or not.
What Americans might regard as a campground is known to Brits as a “holiday camp.” The idea behind a holiday camp is that they not only provide you with buildings in which to stay but also provide entertainment from fairs to ballroom dancing. Several franchises of holiday camps started appearing in the 1930s, distinguished by the colored coats that they wore.
One of the biggest holiday camp franchises, Butlins, refers to the group of holiday camps founded by Billy Butlin in 1936. As mentioned previously, holiday camp staff are primarily known by the color of their coats, and the term “Redcoats” in the UK typically refers to Butlins staff, which is very different from its American meaning.
Another type of holiday Brits might go on, especially if they just finished secondary school. It’s a bit of a tradition in the UK for students to take a year between finishing school and starting university to travel, work, or volunteer.
Luggage has a very similar meaning in the US but is more common in the UK to refer to suitcases and handbags. The latter is also sometimes referred to as “hand luggage” and includes what we in the States might call a carry-on.
Many young Brits going on their gap year or hiking while on holiday will typically pack their things into a rucksack, which is the British term for a backpack. An older term for this that was used in both America and Great Britain was a knapsack.
A bum bag or bumbag is typically a fabric bag worn around the waist. In the United States, it’s mostly commonly called a “fanny pack,” but the word fanny in Britain has an entirely different meaning with some unfortunately inappropriate implications (women’s genitalia).
The original meaning of caravan was a group of people that traveled together, but around the late 19th to early 20th century in Britain, it also came to mean a covered vehicle in which people could live. Over time, it’s come to include both what we might think of as trailers that are towed behind a vehicle or a motor home.
Ramble doesn’t have as much meaning in America unless you’re using it to refer to someone who talks almost nonsensically without stopping. In Britain, ramble is both a noun and a verb, used to mean an idle walk. Those who go on these walks through the countryside (oftentimes regardless of fences, hedges, or other boundaries) are referred to as ramblers. There’s even a Ramber’s Association!
SATNAV is a portmanteau for “satellite navigation” and still often refers to the little device in your car that acts as a map. In the United States, we tend to use the term GPS or “Global Positioning System.” Whichever term you use, most people keep their maps on an app on their mobile phones.