14 American English Words That Mean Something Completely Different In British English

14 American English Words That Mean Something Completely Different In British English

Updated 5 minutes ago. Posted 1 hour ago

Don’t call an American “homely.”

So I’m originally from England, but I live and work in New York, which means I’ve had to adjust from the Queen’s English to American English. I started using month/day formatting and basically got rid of the letter “u.” All was well — until I saw a comment that shook me to my core.


BBC

You see, I’d written a post about Pizza Hut in the ’90s wherein I’d described the establishment as “homely.” You know, like cozy, comfortable, generally like my home. OR SO I THOUGHT.


BuzzFeed

“Homely is a nice word for ugly.”

Yes, the word “homely” means something totally different in American English and British English.


Google / BuzzFeed

So, in order to prevent further offense to any chain restaurants, please enjoy these other words that have different meanings depending on which side of the pond you’re on:

1.

“Quite”


Tainar / Wenjie Dong / Getty

What it means in the US: Very.

What it means in the UK: A bit, fairly.

Potential cause of international drama: Hearing “it’s quite cold outside” and not knowing whether to wear a jacket.

2.

“First floor”


lechatnoir / Getty

What it means in the US: The ground floor.

What it means in the UK: The level above the ground floor.

Potential cause of international drama: Lost Brits and Americans roaming two different parts of a building, each convinced they are in the correct place.

3.

“Table”


HS3RUS / Olena Babii / Getty

What it means in the US: Let’s postpone talking about this!

What it means in the UK: Let’s begin to talk about this!

Potential cause of international drama: Trying to decipher political news.

4.

“Pants”


Poike / stuartbur

What it means in the US: Outerwear that you put your legs through.

What it means in the UK: Underwear that you put your legs through.

Potential cause of international drama: The question “what pants are you wearing tonight?” turning from innocuous to saucy and vice versa.

5.

“Suspenders”


m-imagephotography / Dmitry Belyaev / Getty

What it means in the US: An item people usually use to hold up pants or to look vaguely like a hipster.

What it means in the UK: An item people use to hold up stockings.

Potential cause of international drama: The instruction of “I think you should wear suspenders to the bedroom, baby” being entirely misunderstood.

6.

“Nervy”


Rawpixel / Deagreez / Getty

What it means in the US: Used to describe someone who’s bold.

What it means in the UK: Used to describe someone nervous.

Potential cause of international drama: Your feelings going into a bungee jump being entirely misread.

7.

“Public school”


DONGSEON_KIM / Getty

What it means in the US: A free school.

What it means in the UK: A fee-paying school, often associated with a long and fancy history.

Potential cause of international drama: Wholly mischaracterizing your youth.

8.

“Scrappy”


Merlas / SilviaJansen / Getty

What it means in the US: Having a strong character that ain’t going to give up.

What it means in the UK: Messy or badly organized.

Potential cause of international drama: Describing a company’s work as “scrappy,” leading to an accidental insult or compliment.

9.

“Rocket”


3DSculptor / Yuliya Shauerman / Getty

What it means in the US: A big thing that goes into space.

What it means in the UK: A big thing that goes into space, but also a green, leafy vegetable (aka arugula).

Potential cause of international drama: Asking for rocket in your salad and appearing a bit bonkers.

10.

“Vest”


NejroN / binik / Getty

What it means in the US: A sleeveless item of clothing you typically wear over other clothes.

What it means in the UK: A sleeveless item of clothing you typically wear under other clothes.

Potential cause of international drama: A vest-themed party leading to chaos.

11.

“Purse”


alexalenin / mediaphotos / Getty

What it means in the US: A handbag.

What it means in the UK: A wallet, which you might put inside a handbag.

Potential cause of international drama: Saying “have you got my purse?” and then suddenly being locked outside your apartment with only your wallet and no keys or phone.

12.

“Biscuit”


pamela_d_mcadams / martinrlee / Getty

What it means in the US: A soft, flaky baked good.

What it means in the UK: A hard, sweet baked good.

Potential cause of international drama: Biscuits and gravy being a tasty treat or the stuff of nightmares.

13.

“College”


sshepard / monkeybusinessimages / Getty

What it means in the US: An academic institution where you’d typically get your bachelors degree, often known as a university.

What it means in the UK: An academic institution where students sit the final two years of high school and receive various qualifications.

Potential cause of international drama: Saying “it happened when I was in college” and having someone wonder whether you meant age 16 or 23.

14.

Finally, “Fanny”


VladimirFLoyd / Getty

What it means in the US: Bottom.

What it means in the UK: Vagina.

Potential cause of international drama: Perhaps not drama per say, but a lot of unintentional humor.

Of course, there’s infinite regional differences and exceptions within this strange, strange language. Still, if you’ve found yourself in a moment of confusion like this before, let me know in the comments!

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