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European English

Irish English

Tomayto tomahto

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Some vocabulary differences between European and American English


In addition to spelling variations, there are differences in vocabulary between European and American English.

Most of these differences are unimportant for casual interactions — though there are some that are quite important.



European American
Anticlockwise Counterclockwise
Aubergine Eggplant
Balaclava Ski mask
Bin Trash can
Bin liner Trash bag
Biro Ballpoint pen
Biscuit Cookie
Bollocks Balls Also a general-purpose swearword — see "Cursing in Ireland"
Bonnet Hood (of a car)
Boot Trunk (of a car)
Braces Suspenders (for a pair of pants. [A "suspender," in Europe, is a garter belt.)
Brush Broom
Building society Savings and loan company
Call To visit, pass by
Called Named (Personal or family name.) As in "a lad called Joe"
Canteen Break room, cafeteria
Caravan Travel trailer
Car park Parking lot
Catapult Slingshot
Chemist Pharmacist, pharmacy, drugstore
Chips French fries (sort of...) Chips are thicker than fries
Cling film Saran wrap The U.S. term is proprietary (derived from a brand name.)
Clothes peg Clothes pin
Collect Pick up (somebody)
Cooker Stove
Coriander Cilantro In U.S., "coriander" is the seed of this plant.
Coss Romaine (Lettuce)
Courgette zuchinni
Crisps Potato chips
Cunt Guy, fellow (Irreverent — yes, vulgar — but not obscene.) See Irish joke about Charles Haughey.
Custom Patronage, business "Thank you for your custom," in courteous business signage. Conversely, a "customer" is normally called a "punter."
Cutlery Silverware
C.V. Résumé (Curriculum vitae)
Dear Expensive
Different to Different from
Dodgy Sketchy (Or "bad," as in "a dodgy pint"
Dressing gown Bathrobe
Drink driving Drunk driving
Dummy Pacifier (For infant)
Earthed Grounded (Electrical)
Estate agent Realtor In European, also "auctioneer"
Fag Cigarette Not to be confused with an American homophobic term
First floor Second floor (First floor above the ground floor.
Flat Apartment
Flyover Overpass (On a road)
Football Soccer "Soccer" is the preferable term in Ireland, which also plays a game called "Gaelic football."
Fortnight Two weeks
Full stop Period (Punctuation at end of sentence)
Garden Yard In America, "garden" is specific to the area where one grows food plants.
Good job Good thing ("It's a good job [that...]")
Graft Effort, labo(u)r, work Usually if not always used as part of the term "hard graft."

In American, "graft" connotes political-business corruption.

Half-four Four-thirty See "dawn chorus" (Ireland)
Happy as Larry Satisfied

Herb Herb (silent "h")
Hire Rent (A car, etc.)
Holiday Vacation Often informally abbreviated as "hols."
"If you like" "If you will" (As a polite way of using unorthodox terminology)
Jumper Sweater
Knackered Tired, worn out
Knickers Underpants
Knocked down Run over (By a car etc.)
Lead Cord (electrical;) or leash (for pet)
Lift (n.) Elevator
Lift (v.) ride (in a car, e.g.) "Ride" has a sexual connotation in European English...
Lorry (n.) Truck
Management reserve the right... Management reserves* the right...
Mangetout Snow peas
Marks Grades (In school)
Maths Mathematics
Mean Stingy, tight
Mince Ground beef (or "hamburger")
Mobile 'phone Cell 'phone In European, usually simply "mobile"
Move house Move (from one house to another) In American, the speaker's intention is clear within context.
Nappies diapers
Naught zero
Off licence Liquor store (There seems to be no hyphen "off licence" — at least not in Ireland.)
Overtake Pass (In traffic)
Pavement Sidewalk, footpath
Petrol Gasoline, gas
Pissed Drunk, drunken This has an important difference of meaning compared to the American.
'Phone box 'Phone booth
Pitch Field (Sports)
Post (n.) Mail
Post (v.) To send by mail
Potter (v.) Putter (about)
Pram Infant stroller
Pressurise Pressure (v.) (Try to convince or compell)
Pull Pick up (For sexual interests)
Punter Customer (Patron in a shop, bettor in a bookie, sports fan at a stadium etc.)
[Made] redundant Laid off (From a job)
Return Round-trip [Ticket, or journey]
Reverse-charge call Collect call
Ride [n. or v.] F*ck One of those important differences in the two languages...
Ring (v.) Call (On telephone)
Ring road Beltway, bypass
Risible Laughable, ludicrous (Used only rarely in U.S. English)
Rob Steal In American, you would "steal" a car. In European, you'd "rob" it. To rob a car in American is to steal something from inside it.
Rocket (eruca sativa) Arugula
Roster Schedule (At work.) Also "rota" in Euro-English
Rubbish (n.) Trash, garbage
Rubbish (v.) Disparage
Sack (v.) Fire (From a job)
Salamander Broiler
Scarper Slip away, escape
Secondary school High school
Serviette Napkin
Shite shit (Literal or figurative)
Shop (n.) Store "Retail shop" = department store
Shop [v.] Rat out, turn in (somebody)
Skip Dumpster
Skive Goof off (doss, in Irish English)
Skirting board Baseboard (At bottom of wall)
Socket Outlet (Electrical)
Solicitor Lawyer, attorney
Sorry Excuse me In conversation or pedestrian traffic
Sort of Um (Approximately equivalent, most of the time. [Does not usually mean "in a way" or "kind of," but instead works to briefly delay and compose the sentence.])
Slag, slag off
To insult, criticize, talk down
Slapper
Disparaging (or hopeful) reference to a "loose" woman
Spanner Wrench
Sport Sports
Stone 14 pounds (unit of measurement) Antiquated, but still used in discussion of personal weight in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
Store Storeroom
Suspender Garter belt ("Suspenders," in Europe, are called "braces.")
Take-away To go (Food, e.g.)
Tap Faucet
Take the piss Lampoon Satirize, be ironic. Also, take advantage of an opportunity in a cheeky way.
Tarmac Asphalt (Short for tarmacadam)
Taste (n.) Flavour In America, you could say that somebody has "good taste" (in music, e.g.) But you wouldn't say that food has "a good taste," but "a good flavor." You can say that in Euro-English as well — spelling it "flavour."
The Ten a penny A dime a dozen
The excluded in some European phrases "In hospital;" "in future" (but "in the past")
Tippex White-out "Tipp-ex" is proprietary.
Thousand million Billion
Toilet Restroom, bathroom
Torch Flashlight
Trainers Sneakers (also "runners" in European.) Don't wear them to an Irish late-club.)
Trolley Cart For shopping
V. Vs. (As abbreviation for "versus.")
Wellington boots Galloshes Usually "Wellingtons" or "Wellies"
Whinge Whine, complain
Windscreen Windshield Of a car, etc.

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When refering to a group — an affiliation or an organized body — American will use the singular case, European the plural. An example: "Denver wins Superbowl;" but "Kilkenny win
All-Ireland."

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