Differences between American English and British English

During the 17th century, on the basis of British English, Americans created their own English which is now called American English. Although British English and American English are rooted in the same language, there are differences between them in aspects of grammar pronunciation and vocabulary. Therefore, the author will introduce the difference between English and British English, such as spelling, homonym, and so on.


Synonymy means that different words in American English and British English are used to designate the

same meaning. In the process of 200 years’ separation and communication with immigration from other countries, differences in synonymy become more and more distinct and also greater in number. Here are two examples.

In America, the first floor of the buildings and houses is called the first floor and of course, the second floor is called the second floor. But in Britain, people call the first floor of the buildings and houses, especially those with a long history ground floor. So the second floor of those is called the first floor and the third floor is called the second floor In Britain, people use the word “biscuit” to describe a small baked unleavened cake, typically, crisp, f1at, and sweet. But in American English, the word “cracker” has the same meaning. In British English, the word “cracker” means a firework exploding with a sharp noise. British people may be surprised when American people say, “Do you like to eat some crackers?”.

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Homonymy refers to words or phrases that differ in meaning. Many words have totally different meanings or refer to different things in British English and American English.

The phrase “wash up” means that washing the plates knives and forks and so on in the UK. However, when American people say “wash up”, they mean washing one’s body. But when British people say “I will help you to wash up” to American people, American people may be very surprised because American people think that it means “I will help you wash your body”. It may cause a sort of misunderstanding. Yet another, the “pavement” refers to the road itself on which vehicles drive. Whereas, the British people call the path alongside the road where pedestrians walk “pavement” and American people call the path “sidewalk”.

Apart from totally different in meaning, there are some words which have additional meaning in American English or British English or both of them. In both American and British English the word “faculty” refers to talent and authority. But in American English, it also means teaching staff. For example, Harvard has an excellent mathematics faculty. In British English, it means university school or college. For instance, London University comprises London School of Economic and the teaching faculties of various hospitals.

The Special Word:

Britain and the United States, the two countries also gradually introduce and create a lot of new words in the continuous development of their own. Some of the vocabulary for their own use, not for other uses, the most obvious performance is the proper nouns used to describe their national characteristics and things. For example, there is a significant difference between Britain and the United States in climate, which leads the two countries to have many different kinds of plants and animals. Therefore, the proper noun used to represent this kind of plants and animals of the two countries is also completely different, such as hickory, moose, raccoon, etc.

Difference in Spelling:

Simplification of American English:

In America, people use the word “specialty” instead of “specialty”. This shows that the letter “i” is missed in some words in American English. In addition, people rarely see the word “dialogue” but always see the word “dialog”. In British English, words end up with “-ogue” now ended with “-og” in American English, such as analog and analog, prolog and prologue. On the other hand, in American English, words usually use the end “-able” rather than “-cable”. The words “lovable” and “loveable”, “sizable” and “sizeable”, belong to this kind.

Changes of Alphabets:

Besides American simplification, spelling differences between American English and British English are reflected in the aspect that a single alphabet or more alphabets are changed in a word. Different spelling may cause different connotation. For example, the words “matt” and “matte”, in the UK, “matt” refers to a non-glossy surface and “matte” to the motion-picture technique. But in America, both of them have the same meaning. The word “ensure” is apt to the virtual guarantee, for example, the government has ensured the safety of the refugees. Whereas the word “insure” is the commercial sense of providing financial compensation in the event of damage to property.

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