British Versus American Terminology – Don’t get lost in translation!

The UK and the US have a wonderful relationship – we have lots in common with our transatlantic neighbours but contrary to what many people think, language might not be one of them.

We recently opened new offices in America and everything was going swimmingly, until we suddenly realised that our teams on both sides of the Atlantic were sometimes completely confused after a conference call or Skype meeting. It turns out that despite both offices speaking English, they were speaking very different languages.

Our team in the US seemed outraged when their British peers went outside for a quick “fag”, and the UK team were left baffled when they were asked to meet an American client on the “first floor”, which in British English means ground floor.

It transpires there are hundreds of words that have a completely different meaning across the pond, so to ensure you don’t get caught saying something offensive or embarrassing, we created this jolly good video comparing the British and American terminology for certain objects.

The biggest attack to British English comes at the sacred, quintessential British ritual of tea time (you will not believe what they call a biscuit, it’s almost blasphemous).


Here’s the cross-Atlantic business lingo you can’t afford to get wrong either!

UK Vocabulary US Vocabulary
To phone/ring someone To call someone
Mobile Cell
Holiday Vacation
CV Resume
Annual leave Vacation days
Lift Elevator
Trousers Pants
Rubbish Trash
Lorry Semi
Paid maternity leave _(?)_/¯
Photocopier Xerox
Franking Machine Postage Meter
Post/ Letter box Mailbox
Inland Revenue /HMRC IRS
Petrol Gas
Till Register
Cash Point ATM
Pension Scheme Retirement Plan
National Insurance [number] Social Security [number]
University College
Post Code Zip Code
Biscuit Cookie
Weird scone thing Biscuit
Bum bag Fanny pack
Skive Play hooky
Boot Trunk