american english and british englishDescribe the differences between American English and British English vocabulary?

5 Answers | Add Yours

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

American English is such a hybrid version of the language, as it has borrowed hundreds of words from other languages.  So sometimes you will hear professors of linguistics or English people themselves referring to the King's English as a more pure version of the language.  The other major differences seem to center around spelling and slang terms.

jk180's profile pic

James Kelley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Some pronunciations and spellings are also different. For example color= colour Favorite= favourite theater=theatre

I'm not sure why these things are spelled differently, but there are many words that are spelled slightly differently like this.

Also, some word pronunciations are slightly modified... for example, aluminum is pronounced aluminium in a british dialect.

I suspect that the spelling differences that you identify are simply the products of attempts by British and American users of English to standardize (especailly in the 1700s and early 1800s) what they saw as their distinctive version of English. These attempts at standardization are tied to national identity (e.g. Noah Webster's dictionary of American English) and are reinforced through standardized education. If you look at Middle English (c. 1100-1500 AD), for example -- a period in which there was no standardized education for the masses -- you'll see an enormous variety in spellings among English speakers.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

There are hundreds of words that differ in English vocabulary and American vocabulary.  As previously mentioned, the English nouns for many things are not the same.  But, in addition, some of the words that the English use which look the same as American words have the older meanings derived from French [the effects of the Norman Conquest and hundreds of years of England under French rule with all documents and literature written in French for a couple of centuries] while the word's denotation has been altered in American.  For instance, the word dear in England is used with its French meaning of expensive.

Also, many verb forms differ as the past participles have evolved in England into other forms whereas in America, what the English consider as archaic forms have remained.  For example, in the U.S. "I've gotten it" is considered archaic in England.

howesk's profile pic

howesk | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

Some pronunciations and spellings are also different. For example color= colour Favorite= favourite theater=theatre

I'm not sure why these things are spelled differently, but there are many words that are spelled slightly differently like this.

Also, some word pronunciations are slightly modified... for example, aluminum is pronounced aluminium in a british dialect.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

There's not really any systematic difference -- it's just that Americans and the British use some different words for different things (there's no pattern to the differences).

For example, what Americans call a truck is a lorry in England.   What Americans call an elevator is called a lift in England.  Diapers (US) are nappies.  French fries (US) are chips and chips (US) are crisps.  The hood of a car (US) is a bonnet and the trunk (US) is the boot.

So it's not like there's any pattern to what things have different names.

We’ve answered 318,915 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question