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thirty slang translations that Americans need to know before visiting the UK, and vice versa


Table of Contents
  • “Pants” In The USA Is “Trousers” In The UK
  • “Eggplant” In The USA Is “Aubergine” In The UK
  • “Check” In The USA Is “Bill” In The UK
  • “Chips” In The USA Is “Crisps” In The UK
  • “Fries” In The USA Is “Chips” In The UK
  • “Eraser” In The USA Is “Rubber” In The UK, But
  • “Fanny Pack” In The USA Is “Bum Bag” In The UK
  • “Happy” In The USA May Be “Chuffed” In the UK
  • “Double Fisting” In The USA Should Never Be Said In The UK
  • “Dinner” In The USA May Be “Tea” In Northern UK
  • “Line” In The USA Is “Queue” In The UK
  • “Wasted” In The USA Is “Pissed” In The UK
  • “Hot Beverage” In The USA May Be “Cuppa” In The UK
  • “Zucchini” In The USA Is “Courgette” In The UK
  • “Costume” In The USA Is “Fancy Dress” In The UK
  • “Vacation” In The USA Is “Holiday” In The UK
  • “Cigarette” In The USA Is “Fag” In The UK
  • “Truck” In The USA Is “Lorry” In The UK
  • “Drunk” In The USA Is “Lairy” In the UK
  • “Fall” In The USA Is “Autumn” In The UK
  • “Diaper” In the USA Is “Nappy” In the UK
  • “Trash” In The USA Is “Rubbish” In the UK
  • “Purse” In The USA Is “Handbag” In The UK
  • “Sweater” In The USA Is “Jumper” In The UK
  • “Arugula” In The USA is “Rocket” In The UK
  • “Daring” In The USA Is “Cheeky” In The UK
  • “Nap” In The USA Is “Kip” In the UK
  • “Cilantro” In The USA Is “Coriander” In The UK…
  • “Tired” In The USA Is “Knackered” In The UK
  • There’s nothing funny about “fanny packs”…

    If you’re an American in the United Kingdom or a Brit in America, you’ve likely seen that truly special look of confusion, as you realize the person you’re speaking has taken something entirely the wrong way.

    Yes, even though you theoretically speak the same “English” language, there are a few words which may get you slapped, laughed out a bar or left feeling incredibly awkward.

    Before you hop on the plane for your next transatlantic adventure, use this UK/US translation guide to ensure you don’t tell your friend about your underwear, when you meant to talk about your jeans…

    a stone bridge over a road with Cotswolds in the background“Pants” In The USA Is “Trousers” In The UK

    In the U.K, pants means underwear, so having wet pants for example could take on a completely different meaning. Best to smarten up the vocab with trousers instead of accidentally telling people about your undies.

    “Eggplant” In The USA Is “Aubergine” In The UK

    It’s hard enough to get an order in at a good restaurant these days, so skip the “sorry, what’s this” question and get straight to the good stuff. And yes, the emoji has the same meaning.

    “Check” In The USA Is “Bill” In The UK

    Best to use the word “bill”, along with the international hand signal for signing the credit card receipt when asking to pay in a restaurant, just to make sure everyone understands.

    “Chips” In The USA Is “Crisps” In The UK

    Don’t worry, your British fish and chips will come with the nice soft warm potatoes you can dip in ketchup, not a packet of “potato chips” as you know them in the USA.

    “Fries” In The USA Is “Chips” In The UK

    If you want fries in the U.K., ask for chips. “Fries” probably won’t get you very far.

    “Eraser” In The USA Is “Rubber” In The UK, But

    Don’t get too excited if you’re an American in the UK and someone says they’re going to grab a rubber. Brits, a rubber in the USA is a condom. Americans, in the UK,a rubber is an eraser.

    If you’re British and you ask for a “rubber” in the USA, you’re going to get a strange glare, and then a condom. If you want something to erase pencil marks, it’s eraser…

    UK streets

    “Fanny Pack” In The USA Is “Bum Bag” In The UK

    Unfortunately, these have made a bit of a comeback recently, but if you talk about your fanny pack in Britain and it receives a giggle, it’s likely because fanny means lady private parts in the UK, and not just because these fashion accessories look terrible.

    “Happy” In The USA May Be “Chuffed” In the UK

    If someone in the UK say’s they’re “well chuffed” it means they’re very pleased or happy with something. It’s a good thing, so just smile.

    “Double Fisting” In The USA Should Never Be Said In The UK

    Best not to use this one in Britain! No matter how many drinks you’re carrying, you’re going to get a look you’ll never forget if you accidentally let it slip. And btw Brits, it means carrying two drinks at once in America. Like, “ah long week, I’ll be double fisting the mezcal cocktails tonight”.

    “Dinner” In The USA May Be “Tea” In Northern UK

    Though it makes absolutely no logical sense, Northern parts of the UK often refer to dinner as “tea” so if you get invited over for “tea” be sure to clarify if it’s liquid – or multi course.

    “Line” In The USA Is “Queue” In The UK

    Being in one is never good, whichever word you use, but if you try to jump one of these in the UK, you may get jumped, and by jumped we don’t mean the good kind.

    a stadium full of people

    In Britain football is everything and is played with a round ball – if you’re trying to talk about the prolate spheroid shaped ball sport played in America you must put American first: American Football.

    “Wasted” In The USA Is “Pissed” In The UK

    If someone is pissed in America, they’re angry. If they’re pissed in Britain, they’re drunk. If they’re pissed off in Britain, then they are angry. You with us?

    “Hot Beverage” In The USA May Be “Cuppa” In The UK

    If someone says “cuppa”, they’re looking for tea, and by tea we do mean the warm liquid kind where you steep dried leaves in a cup of warm water. They’re just shortening the obvious.

    “Zucchini” In The USA Is “Courgette” In The UK

    Just so you don’t have to ask your waiter. God forbid they earn their tips by answering fair questions from customers.

    a snow covered trees and a lake in a city

    “Costume” In The USA Is “Fancy Dress” In The UK

    A fancy dress party in Britain means you need to wear a costume, not just put on a fancy dress. This is a mistake you definitely don’t want to make. Costume party is what it says on the tin.

    “Vacation” In The USA Is “Holiday” In The UK

    If you’re British you’re going on ‘holiday’, if you’re American you’re going on ‘vacation’. ‘The Holidays’ you will hear people say in the U.S. are Thanksgiving, Christmas, Memorial Day or any national celebrations.

    “Cigarette” In The USA Is “Fag” In The UK

    If you’re an American in the U.K, and someone says they’re “stepping out for a fag”, don’t look shocked at their derogatory remarks, they’re just going out for a cigarette.

    “Truck” In The USA Is “Lorry” In The UK

    The big vehicles that drive slowly on motorways (or highways if you’re American).

    two glasses of champagne with a fruit in the middle

    “Drunk” In The USA Is “Lairy” In the UK

    If someone says they were “Lairy”, they aren’t referring to a past spirit animal, they’re just telling you they were loud and inebriated recently.

    “Fall” In The USA Is “Autumn” In The UK

    The season after summer. Yes, the one where leaves fall and sometimes turn pretty colors, errr colours if you’re in the UK.

    “Diaper” In the USA Is “Nappy” In the UK

    Necessary for anyone with babies. If someone says “nappy” to you in the UK, they’re not talking hair – they’re talking diapers.

    a bridge over a river with a clock tower in the background

    “Trash” In The USA Is “Rubbish” In the UK

    ‘Rubbish’ is what goes in the ‘bin’ or ‘trash can’, but is also an excellent word to describe anything that’s just plain bad, like “that T.V. show was rubbish”. Just like “that team is trash” works in the USA.

    “Purse” In The USA Is “Handbag” In The UK

    If someone in America asks you to pass the purse, it doesn’t mean you need to pull money out of your pocket, it just means they want theirs.

    “Sweater” In The USA Is “Jumper” In The UK

    Something to wear when we’re cold, not someone who performs jumps as a type of exercise, or life ending activity. With English weather, it’s always good to pack one.

    “Arugula” In The USA is “Rocket” In The UK

    Ah yes, the nice, peppery leaves found in a salad or next to something fried. They’re one in the same and always good with a nice Italian dressing, unless of course the context is outer space.

    a city with lights and bridges
    Image by Pierre Blaché from Pixabay

    “Daring” In The USA Is “Cheeky” In The UK

    In the UK, if someone tells you you’re cheeky, they’re not talking about your butt. They’re telling you that you made a bit of a “daring” or amusingly devilish comment, and it may have passed.

    “Nap” In The USA Is “Kip” In the UK

    A short sleep usually sometime during the day, which translates perfectly to “siesta” in Spain, just in case you’re taking your laziness across borders.

    “Cilantro” In The USA Is “Coriander” In The UK…

    For understanding on menus and in recipes. It’s the same thing, and does make everything taste better. It’s that lovely thing found in curry’s, guacamole’s and all that good stuff.

    “Tired” In The USA Is “Knackered” In The UK

    When a Brit says they’re knackered, it’s usually met with a quizzical look from most Americans. They’re just trying to tell you they (or it) is very tired, in any shape or form. Yep, even a car can be “knackered”.

    Have you had any transatlantic “lost in translation” moments?

    Sources


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