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ELC - English Language Center Boston
American vs. British Vocabulary December 21st, 2015

After 11 weeks of hard work and studying, our Cambridge class successfully completed their exams last week! Congratulations to them! The Cambridge test is a British test, created by a British company. Sometimes this meant that the students ran into a bit of an obstacle: British English and American English, while mostly similar, have quite a bit of different vocabulary. If you are taking the Cambridge exam or the IELTS exam or if you are planning to travel to the United Kingdom, here are some words that are different in England that in her former colonies!

Jumper sweater

In England, this is a jumper. But if you go to buy one in Boston–and you should because it gets really cold here in the winter–you’ll want to call it a sweater.

French friesChips

This is a bit confusing. In England, those are chips on the left and crisps on the right. But in America, if you ask for chips you’ll get the food on the right. If you want the food on the left, you have to ask for french fries.


We’re only on the second floor here at ELC, so I assume most people take the stairs to get to classes! But if you’re just too tired to walk up one flight, you can take the elevator. If you’re in England, you’d hop onto the lift.


If you ask for a biscuit in England, you may get one of the delicious treats in the picture above. But if you ask for a biscuit in America, you’ll get something that looks like a breakfast roll. If you want the treat, you need to ask for a cookie!

Parking Lot

The British call this a car park, which makes it sound like a place that cars hang out for fun! In America, we call this a parking lot instead.


This is the universal symbol for a person who can distribute medicine to people with prescriptions: a chemist in England, a pharmacist in America.


This is a really tough one! In England, if you say you’re going on holiday, it means you are taking some time off from work or school and maybe travelling to somewhere new and interesting. In America, we call that going on vacation; when we talk about holidays, we are talking about special days on the calendar, such as Thanksgiving or Memorial Day.

Cell phone

You better know the right vocabulary for these because everyone has them! They are cell phones in America and mobiles in the UK.

Flash light

If you find yourself lost in the dark, use a torch in Britain or a flashlight in the United States. Don’t call it a torch here, though—in America, a torch is made from fire!


Ah, underground public transportation. It has so many names in so many different places. Perhaps you’ve heard it called the Metro, such as in Paris. In London, it’s the underground or the Tube. In America, we call it the subway. But in Boston, we have a special name for it: we call it simply the T, which you can see on the side of the Green Line train in the picture.

How did you do? Did you know some of these already? If you’ve traveled to both the United Kingdom and the United States, do you know any other words that could be added to this list?