British English

forms of the English language used in Britain

British English or UK English is the dialect of the English language spoken in the United Kingdom. It is different in some ways from other types of English, such as American English. British English is widely spoken throughout most countries that were historically part of the British Empire.

British English
British English
Native toUnited Kingdom
EthnicityBritish people
Early forms
Standard forms
Latin (English alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Use in other countries


American English is used in the United States. In Canada, the accent sounds extremely similar to American English but with few exceptions (see Canadian English). Canada has mixed the spelling rules of American and British English to form its own spelling rules.

All members of the Commonwealth of Nations learn British English, while American English is often learnt in the Americas, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The United Kingdom and Ireland use British layout keyboards, while Australia, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and the US use American layout keyboards. In continental Europe, English as a second language is sometimes taught in American English, except in Scandinavia and the Netherlands where British English is taught.



In the United Kingdom, the spelling remains the same but the pronunciation varies with local dialect. For example, a person from a place near London may not pronounce his "r"s the same as a person from Scotland. Across the country, the accent is different. In Liverpool, people may speak with a "Scouse" accent, in Birmingham with a "Brummie" accent.

In London the "Cockney" accent was once common, but is almost never heard today. All these regional accents became less extreme in the 20th century. This is generally attributed to the arrival of radio and television. Another factor is the increased mobility of people. A similar process has been noted in the United States, where regional differences are much less noticeable than they used to be.[3]



There are many words that sound the same in both American and British English but have different spellings. British English often keeps more traditional ways of spelling words than American English. Many of the British English rules are also used in other countries outside of the United Kingdom. Most of those countries are members of the Commonwealth of Nations.



In British English, "dock" refers to the water in the space between two "piers" or "wharfs". In American English, the "pier" or "wharf" could be called a "dock", and the water between would be a "slip".

Some common differences:

British English – American English

  • accelerator – throttle
  • autumn – fall
  • biscuit – cookie
  • bonnet – hood (of a car)
  • boot – trunk (of a car)
  • bum – butt
  • caravan – travel trailer, mobile home
  • chips – French fries
  • courgette – zucchini
  • crisps – chips (especially potato chips)
  • care home - assisted living facility\home
  • sweets - candy
  • face flannel – washcloth
  • flat – apartment
  • football – soccer
  • garden – yard
  • bungalow - ranch house
  • handbag – purse
  • jumper – sweater
  • lift – elevator
  • lorry – truck
  • manual gearbox – stick shift
  • metro, underground, tube – subway
  • motorway – freeway
  • mum – mom
  • nappy – diaper
  • number plate – license plate
  • pants - underpants
  • pavement – sidewalk
  • lower ground floor - basement
  • ground floor - first\main floor
  • let - rent or lease
  • fuzz\coppers - police, the cops
  • knackered - exhausted, tired
  • aeroplane - airplane
  • pram – stroller
  • petrol – gas or gasoline
  • phone box - phone booth
  • post – mail, mailbox
  • railway – railroad
  • shopping trolley – shopping cart
  • loo – toilet
  • take-away – take-out
  • trousers – pants - Only Superman wears his pants outside of his trousers
  • torch – flashlight
  • tram – streetcar
  • holiday - vacation

Other websites



  1. "English". IANA language subtag registry. 16 October 2005. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  2. "United Kingdom". IANA language subtag registry. 16 October 2005. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  3. Crystal, David 1995. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-40179-8. Part 5 'Using English' has a great deal of information, including Regional Variation (section 20).