Every American traveler in Britain has been there – you say something that is completely innocuous back home to a British person and you see wide eyes of shock or worse – you hear a snigger.
Did you just say something rude and not realize it?
It is often said that Britain and America are two countries divided by a common language. There are thousands of differences in American English and plain old English (many highlighted in our British Slang Dictionary). We thought it would be fun to put together a list of the major words that have a completely different meaning in the UK.
We’ll definitely be adding this list to our future travel guidebooks!
- First Floor – In the USA, we say the first floor to mean the ground floor of a building. In the UK, the first floor is the second floor. Confusing? Welcome to the troubles encountered by tourists in the UK.
- Jumper – In the USA a jumper is someone who ends their life by jumping off something. In the UK, a jumper is a type of sweater (usually knitted).
- Trainer – In the USA a trainer is a professional that works with you in a gym. In the UK trainer is the name given to Gym shoes.
- Pants – In the USA, pants are trousers. In the UK, pants are underwear.
- Bird – In the USA, a bird is a bird. In the UK, a bird is a name for a woman (though it’s fallen out of fashion as it’s rather sexist) but a bird is also just a bird.
- Bog – In the USA, a bog is a marshy area of boggy land. In the UK, a bog is another name for a toilet. Bog roll is toiler paper.
- Rubber – In the USA, a rubber is a condom. In the UK, a rubber is an eraser.
- Braces – In the USA, braces are devices placed on teeth to straighten them. In the UK, braces hold up pants (what we call suspenders).
- Trolley – In the USA, a trolley is a public transportation conveyance (most famous in San Francisco). In the UK, a trolly is a shopping cart.
- Chips – In the USA, chips are potato chips (or corn chips). In the UK, chips are what we would call fries but are a chunkier version.
- Coach – In the USA, a coach is someone who manages a sports team. In the UK, a coach is a bus.
- Fanny Pack – In the USA a fanny pack is a device worn unfashionably around the waist to store personal effects when traveling. In the UK a fanny is a term for a woman’s lady parts. So to call something a fanny pack is a rather offensive term. The Brits call a fanny pack a bum bag (bum is UK speak for butt).
- Biscuit – In the USA, a biscuit is a buttery bread roll. In the UK, a biscuit is a cookie.
- Dummy – In the USA, a dummy is an idiot. In the UK, a dummy is a baby’s pacifier.
- Flannel – In the USA, a flannel is a type of button down shirt that’s very warm. In the UK, a flannel is a washcloth.
- Pissed – In the USA, to be pissed is to be angry. In the UK, to be pissed is to be fall down drunk.
- Fag – In the USA, fag is a very derogatory term for a homosexual. In the UK, a fag is a cigarette.
- Boot – In the USA, a boot is a form of footwear. In the UK, a boot is the trunk of a car.
- Bum – In the USA, a bum is a homeless person. In the UK, a bum is your butt.
- Caravan – In the USA, a caravan is a type of minivan. In the UK, a caravan is a type of recreational vehicle.
- Chaps – In the USA, chaps are leather pants worn by cowboys or motorcyclists. In the UK, chaps are your male friends.
- Chemist – In the USA, a chemist is a scientist that works with chemicals. In the UK, a chemist is what we would call the pharmacist.
- Concession – In the USA a concession is a place to get snacks in a sporting venue. In the UK, a concession is a discount on a ticket for particular group of people (disabled, student, elderly, etc).
- Daddy Long Legs – In the USA, a daddy long legs is a harmless spider. In the UK, a daddy long legs is also known as the crane fly (but they do have the daddy long legs spider and some refer it to just that).
- Post – In the USA, a post is something in the ground holding something up. In the UK, the post is the mail.