British English

forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom

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 countriesEdit

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 and South Korea. 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. For instance, in Liverpool, people may speak with a "Scouse" accent, in Birmingham with a "Brummie" accent and in London with a "Cockney" accent.


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 – trailer, mobile home
  • chips – French fries
  • courgette – zucchini
  • crisps – chips
  • face flannel – washcloth
  • flat – apartment
  • football – soccer
  • garden – yard
  • 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
  • pram – stroller
  • petrol – gas or gasoline
  • phone box - phone booth
  • post – mail, mailbox
  • railway – railroad
  • shopping trolley – shopping cart
  • take-away – take-out
  • trousers – pants - Only Superman wears his pants outside of his trousers
  • torch – flashlight
  • tram – streetcar

Other websitesEdit

  1. "English"; IANA language subtag registry; retrieved: 11 January 2019; named as: en; publication date: 16 October 2005.
  2. "United Kingdom"; IANA language subtag registry; retrieved: 11 January 2019; named as: GB; publication date: 16 October 2005.