British vs American vs Singapore English

There are many British words which are different to American words. For example:

  • A lorry is a slimmer truck.
  • A lift is an elevator.
  • A fortnight is two weeks.
  • A chemist is a person who works in a drugstore.
  • A dual carriageway is a freeway.

Here’s a list of various British words and expressions together with their American and Singaporean equivalents. Although Singapore English is based on British spelling, there is a mix of British and American usage for common words. I’ve also included a few Singlish words/phrases for a bit of fun.

I would really like your thoughts and input to help with this list. Please comment below.

British English
American English
Singapore English
accommodation accommodations accommodation
action replay instant replay replay
aerofoil airfoil aerofoil
aeroplane airplane aeroplane
agony aunt advice columnist aunt agony
Allen key Allen wrench allen key
aluminium aluminum aluminium
aniseed anise anise
anticlockwise counterclockwise anticlockwise
articulated lorry tractor-trailer trailer
aubergine eggplant brinjal / eggplant
autumn fall autumn
baking tray cookie sheet baking tray
bank holiday legal holiday public holiday
beetroot beet(s) beetroot
bill check bill
biscuit cookie; cracker biscuit
black economy underground economy black market
blanket bath sponge bath sponge bath
blind (window) shade blind
block of flats apartment building HDB
boiler suit coveralls coveralls
bonnet (of a car) hood bonnet
boob tube tube top tube top
boot (of a car) trunk boot
bottom drawer hope chest bottom drawer
bowls lawn bowling
braces suspenders suspenders
brawn (the food) headcheese
breakdown van tow truck tow truck
breeze block cinder block concrete block
bridging loan bridge loan bridging loan
bumbag fanny pack waist pouch
candyfloss cotton candy candyfloss / cotton candy
car park parking lot car park
casualty emergency room emergency room (A&E)
catapult slingshot catapult
central reservation median strip road divider
chemist drugstore pharmacy
chips French fries fries
cinema movie theater; the movies cinema
cling film plastic wrap cling wrap
common seal harbor seal seal
consumer durables durable goods electricals
cooker stove stove
cornflour cornstarch cornflour
cos (lettuce) Romaine lettuce / Romaine
cot crib cot
cot death crib death cot death
cotton bud cotton swab cotton bud
cotton wool absorbent cotton cotton wool
council estate (housing) project HDB estate
courgette zucchini zucchini
court card face card ‘ah beh’
crash barrier guardrail divider
crisps chips; potato chips potato chips
crocodile clip alligator clip crocodile clip
cross-ply bias-ply cross-ply
crotchet (music) quarter note crotchet
curtains drapes curtains
current account checking account current account
danger money hazard pay extra pay
demister (in a car) defroster demister
dialling tone dial tone dialling tone
diamante rhinestone diamante
double cream heavy cream double cream
draughts (game) checkers checkers / lum
drawing pin thumbtack thumbtack
dressing gown robe; bathrobe robe / bathrobe
drink-driving drunk driving drink-driving
drinks cupboard liquor cabinet wine cabinet
drinks party cocktail party cocktail party
driving licence driver’s license driver’s licence
dual carriageway divided highway dual carriageway
dummy (for a baby) pacifier pacifier
dust sheet drop cloth canvas
dustbin garbage can dustbin
earth (electrical) ground earth
engaged (of a phone) busy engaged
estate agent real estate agent, realtor (trademark) real estate agent
estate car station wagon station wagon
ex-directory unlisted unlisted
faith school parochial school mission school
financial year fiscal year financial
fire brigade/service fire company/department civil defence
first floor second floor second floor
fish finger fish stick fish finger
fitted carpet wall-to-wall carpeting wall-to-wall carpeting
flannel washcloth towel / rag
flat apartment HDB apartment
flexitime flextime flexitime
flick knife switchblade switchblade
flyover overpass flyover
football soccer football / soccer
footway sidewalk sidewalk
fringe (hair) bangs fringe
full board (in hotels) American plan full board
full stop (punctuation) period full stop
garden yard; lawn garden
gearing (finance) leverage leverage
gear lever gearshift gear
goods train freight train train
greaseproof paper wax paper/waxed paper wax paper
green fingers green thumb green fingers
grill (noun) broiler grill
grill (verb) broil grill
ground floor first floor first floor
groundsman groundskeeper gardener
hairslide barrette hair clip
hatstand hatrack hatstand
hen night bachelorette party hen night
hire purchase installment plan hire purchase / installment plan
hoarding billboard hoarding
hob stovetop hob / stove
holdall carryall carryall
holiday vacation holiday
holidaymaker vacationer tourist
homely homey homely
hosepipe (garden) hose hose
in hospital in the hospital in hospital
hot flush hot flash hot flush
housing estate housing development HDB estate
hundreds and thousands sprinkles (for ice cream) rainbow topping
ice lolly Popsicle (trademark) ice cream
icing sugar confectioners’ sugar icing sugar
indicator (on a car) turn signal indicator
inside leg inseam inseam
jelly babies jelly beans jelly beans
Joe Bloggs Joe Blow Tom, Dick or Harry
Joe Public John Q. Public Mr Tan
jumble sale rummage sale flea market
jump lead jumper cable starter cable
jumper sweater sweater
junior school elementary school primary school
kennel doghouse doghouse
ladybird ladybug ladybird
a lettuce a head of lettuce a lettuce
level crossing grade crossing train crossing
lift elevator lift
lolly Popsicle (trademark) lollipop
lollipop lady (or man) crossing guard road marshal
loo (toilet) john toilet
loose cover slipcover sofa cover
lorry truck lorry
loudhailer bullhorn loudhailer / megaphone
low loader flatbed truck flatbed truck
lucky dip grab bag lucky dip
luggage van baggage car minivan
maize corn corn
mangetout snow pea snow pea
market garden truck farm
marshalling yard railroad yard
maths math maths
metalled road paved road paved road
milometer odometer odometer
minim (music) half note minim
mobile phone cell phone hand phone
monkey tricks monkeyshines monkey tricks
motorway expressway; highway expressway
mum/mummy mom/mommy mum / mummy
nappy diaper diaper
needlecord pinwale punwale
newsreader newscaster newscaster
noughts and crosses tic-tac-toe tic-tac-toe
number plate license plate licence plate
off-licence liquor store; package store wine shop
opencast mining open-pit mining open-pit mining
ordinary share common stock ordinary share
oven glove oven mitt oven glove / mitt
paddling pool wading pool wading pool
paracetamol acetaminophen paracetamol
parting (in hair) part parting
patience solitaire solitaire
pavement sidewalk pavement
pay packet pay envelope pay
pedestrian crossing crosswalk pedestrian crossing
peg clothespin clothes peg
pelmet valance pelmet / valance
petrol gas; gasoline petrol
physiotherapy physical therapy physiotherapy
pinafore dress jumper pinafore dress
plain chocolate dark chocolate dark chocolate
plain flour all-purpose flour plain flour
polo neck turtleneck polo neck / turtleneck
positive discrimination reverse discrimination discrimination
postal vote absentee ballot absentee vote
postbox mailbox postbox / mailbox
postcode zip code postal code
potato crisp potato chip potato chip
power point electrical outlet power point
pram baby carriage; stroller pram / stroller
press stud snap snap
press-up pushup pushup
private soldier GI private soldier
public school private school independent school
public transport public transportation public transport
punchbag punching bag punching bag
pushchair stroller pram / stroller
pylon utility pole power grid
quantity surveyor estimator quantity surveyor
quaver (music) eighth note quaver
queue line queue
racing car race car race car
railway railroad railway
real tennis court tennis tennis
recorded delivery certified mail registered mail
registration plate license plate license plate
remould (tyre) retread retread
reverse the charges call collect call collect
reversing lights back-up lights reversing lights
right-angled triangle right triangle right-angle triangle
ring road beltway ring road
room only European plan room only
roundabout (at a fair) carousel roundabout
roundabout (in road) traffic circle roundabout
rowing boat rowboat rowing boat
rubber eraser rubber / eraser
sailing boat sailboat sailing boat
saloon (car) sedan saloon
sandpit sandbox sandpit
sandwich cake layer cake layer cake
sanitary towel sanitary napkin sanitary napkin
self-raising flour self-rising flour self-raising flour
sellotape scotch tape scotch tape
semibreve (music) whole note semibreve
semitone (music) half step semitone
share option stock option share option
shopping trolley shopping cart shopping trolley
show house/home model home showflat
silencer (on a car) muffler muffler
silverside rump roast rump roast
skeleton in the cupboard skeleton in the closet skeleton in then closet
skimmed milk skim milk skim milk
skipping rope jump rope skipping rope
skirting board baseboard skirting
sledge sled sled
sleeper railroad tie sleeper
sleeping partner silent partner sleeping partner
slowcoach slowpoke slowcoach / chia bo yiu
snakes and ladders chutes and ladders snakes and ladders
solicitor lawyer lawyer
soya/soya bean soy/soybean soya bean
splashback backsplash backsplash
spring onion green onion spring onion
stag night bachelor party bachelor party
Stanley knife utility knife utility knife
starter appetizer starter / appetizer
state school public school government school
storm in a teacup tempest in a teapot storm in a teacup
surtitle supertitle surtitle
swede rutabaga turnip
sweet(s) candy sweet
takeaway (food) takeout; to go dabao
tap faucet tap
taxi cab taxi / cab
taxi rank taxi stand taxi stand
tea towel dish towel dish cloth
terrace house row house terrace house
tick check mark tick
ticket tout scalper scalper
tights pantyhose stockings
timber lumber timber
titbit tidbit tidbit
toffee apple candy apple candy apple
torch flashlight torch / flashlight
touch wood knock on wood touch wood
trade union labor union trade union
trading estate industrial park industrial park
trainers sneakers sports shoes
tram streetcar; cable car tram
transport cafe truck stop
trolley shopping cart trolley
trousers pants pants
twelve-bore twelve-gauge gun
unalike unlike unlike
underground subway MRT
vacuum flask thermos bottle thermos flask
verge (of a road) shoulder shoulder
vest undershirt singlet
veterinary surgeon veterinarian vet
wagon (on a train) car car
waistcoat vest vest
walking frame walker walking frame
wardrobe closet wardrobe / cupboard
water ice Italian ice slurpee
weatherboard clapboard
white coffee coffee with cream white coffee / Kopi
white spirit mineral spirits turpentine
wholemeal bread wholewheat bread wholemeal bread
windcheater windbreaker windbraker
windscreen windshield windscreen
wing (of a car) fender fender
worktop countertop countertop
Yale lock cylinder lock lock
zebra crossing crosswalk zebra crossing
zed (letter Z) zee zed / zee
zip zipper zip

List taken from Oxford Dictionary Online (excluding Singapore part).
Thanks to: Abel Teo, Mandy Lim, Ellen Tan, Honey Lim and Kevin Beitler for all your contributions. Extra credit to Abel for his comprehensive spreadsheet of terms 🙂



More comparisons between British and American English