Things: An Urban Dictionary

International Conversion Reference Guide
English to American / American to English

I hate redundancy and so I will try not to repeat or reiterate things I have already covered in previous blogs. The purpose of this particular blog is to correlate all those things that I have come across that can cause possible confusion for our two countries and try to provide clear and concise explanations for each.

This document will be a work-in-progress so I will keep coming back and adding to it as I remember things. I feel it is more accurately defined as an ‘urban dictionary’ than an authoritative guide.

Once you’ve read the article and appreciate the format, feel free to comment and contribute your own additions. I do not intend to cover words that we pronounce differently but are basically the same, like aluminum (aluminium), tomato, yogurt (yoghurt) etc., only those things that are actually completely different and can cause the most confusion to a visitor.

The conversion format is American to English in all cases except where you will see *no equivalent* on either the American or English side of the equation notating that there is no known equivalent for said item in one of the cultures. Slang terms will be enclosed in single quotation marks ‘like this’.

American (first) to English (second)

Hood – Bonnet
Trunk – Boot
Gas/Gasoline – Petrol
Gas Station – Petrol Station
Stop Light – Traffic Light (on red)
Windshield – Windscreen
Windshield Wipers – Windscreen Wipers
Stick Shift – Manual Gear Change (i.e. non-automatic)
Sidewalk – Pavement
Freeway – Motorway
Rest Stop – Services/Service Station
Semi – Lorry
Road Sign – Sign Post

Wrench – Spanner
Monkey Wrench – Wrench/Monkey Wrench
Flat-Blade (Flat-Head) – Screwdriver
Philips – Posidrive / Philips Screwdriver
Come Along – Pulley (specifically ratchetable chain pulley found in an automotive garage)

Around the Home
Restroom (public) or Bathroom (private) – Loo/Bog/Toilet/Bathroom/Ladies/Gents
Faucet – Tap
Stove – Cooker
Closet – Cupboard
Vanity Unit – Medicine Cabinet
Broiler – Grill (and hence broiling = grilling)
Grill – BBQ (Americans use the term BBQ’ing too but specifically Grilling to an American = BBQ’ing)
Toilet Tank – Cistern
Toilet Paper – ‘Loo Roll’/’Bog Roll’
Baseboard – Skirting Board
Baseboard Heating – Floor Height Radiators
Doorwall – Patio Doors (uPVC)
*no equivalent* – Electric Kettle (for boiling water) –

Americans use archaic stove kettles, a saucepan, or a jug in their microwaves for boiling water. The concept of boiling water in an electric kettle is almost non-existent.

Pants – Trousers/Pants
Underwear – Pants/Underpants/’Undies’/’Undiegrots’
Tennis Shoes – Trainers
Sweater – Jumper
Bibs – Dungarees
Nylons/Hose – Tights
A run in a woman’s hose – A ladder in a woman’s tights
Diaper – Nappy
Sleeper/Playsuit – Sleepsuit
Pacifier – Dummy (Americans also use slang favorites like ‘binky’, ‘nuk’ and… ‘ninny’* {see physical})

Bangs – Fringe
Ass – Arse/Bum/Backside
Pregnant woman’s baby belly – Bump
Booger – Snot/Bogey/Ninny
‘Loogie'(Loogee) – Phlegm/’Greb’
‘Cooties’ – ‘Lurgy'(Lurgi)

Going Places
Going to the movies – Going to the cinema (English say “movies” too but Americans never say “cinema”)
Strip Mall – *no equivalent* (closest would be shopping center)

Basically a strip mall is a consecutive line of adjoined shopping stores either in a straight line, a rectangular horseshoe, or a full quadrant but the overriding features are that a) it has its own common parking to all stores and b) it follows a uniform design across all stores as the entire mall is usually designed and built by a single contractor who rents/leases out the individual stores to businesses. We do have similar places in the UK but is less common for an entire shopping outlet to be planned and built first in the hope that it will later be filled by high-street stores.

After creating this page I came across Chris Rae’s excellent The English-to-American Dictionary which you should also check out. Chris, a Scot, has been at this a lot longer than I have and his site has a wealth of content on this very subject including a great deal of reader contributed data.


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