List of American words not widely used in the United Kingdom
List of British words not widely used in the United States
List of words having different meanings in British and American English: A–L
List of words having different meanings in British and American English: M–Z
American and British English spelling differences
British and American keyboards
List of works with different titles in the UK and US
Differences in pronunciation between American English (AmE) and British English (BrE) can be divided into:
differences in accent (i.e. phoneme inventory and realisation). See differences between General American and Received Pronunciation for the standard accents in the United States and Britain; for information about other accents see regional accents of English speakers.
differences in the pronunciation of individual words in the lexicon (i.e. phoneme distribution). In this article, transcriptions use Received Pronunciation (RP) to represent BrE and General American (GAm) and to represent AmE.
In the following discussion
superscript A2 after a word indicates the BrE pronunciation of the word is a common variant in AmE
superscript B2 after a word indicates the AmE pronunciation of the word is a common variant in BrE
• 1 Stress
o 1.1 French stress
o 1.2 -ate and -atory
o 1.3 Miscellaneous stress
• 2 Affixes
o 2.1 -ary -ery -ory -bury, -berry, -mony
o 2.2 -ile
o 2.3 -ine
• 3 Weak forms
• 4 Miscellaneous pronunciation differences
o 4.1 Single differences
o 4.2 Multiple differences
• 5 References
For many loanwords from French where AmE has final-syllable stress, BrE stresses an earlier syllable. Such words include:
BrE first-syllable stress: adultA2,B2, balletA2, baton, beret, bidet, blasé, brevetA2, brochureB2, buffet, caféA2, canardB2, chagrin,chaletA2, chauffeurA2,B2, chiffon, clichéB2, coupé, croissant, debrisB2, debut, décor, detailA2, détenteB2, flambé, frappé, garageB2,gateau, gourmetA2, lamé, montageA2, parquet, pastel, pastille, pâté, précis, sachet, salon, soupçon, vaccine; matinée, négligée,nonchalant, nondescript; also some French names, including BernardB2, Calais, Degas, Dijon, Dumas, Francoise, ManetA2, Maurice,MonetA2, Pauline, Renault, RenéB2, Renoir, Rimbaud, DelacroixB2.
BrE second-syllable stress: attaché, consommé, décolleté, déclassé, De Beauvoir, Debussy, démodé, denouement, distingué, Dubonnet,escargot, exposé, fiancé(e), retroussé
A few French words have other stress differences:
AmE first-syllable, BrE last-syllable: addressA2 (postal), moustacheA2; cigaretteA2, limousineB2, magazineB2,
AmE first-syllable, BrE second-syllable: liaisonA2, macramé, Renaissance (AmE also final-syllable stress)
AmE second-syllable, BrE last-syllable: New Orleans
ate and -atory
Most 2-syllable verbs ending -ate have first-syllable stress in AmE and second-syllable stress in BrE. This includes castrate, dictateA2,donateA2, locateA2, mandateB2, migrate, placate, prostrate, pulsate, rotate, serrateB2, spectate, striated, translateA2, vacate, vibrate; in the case of cremate, narrate, placate, the first vowel is in addition reduced to /ə/ in BrE. Examples where AmE and BrE match include create,debate, equate, elate, negate, orate, relate with second-syllable stress; and mandate and probate with first-syllable stress. Derived nouns in -ator may retain the distinction, but those in -ation do not. Also, migratoryA2 and vibratory retain the distinction.
Most longer -ate verbs are pronounced the same in AmE and BrE, but a few have first-syllable stress in BrE and second-syllable stress in AmE: elongate, infiltrateA2, remonstrate, tergiversate. However, some derived adjectives ending -atory have a difference, as stress shifting to -at- can occur in BrE with the final vowel sound being omitted, in this case, the 'o'. Among these cases are regulatoryB2, celebratoryA2,participatoryB2, where AmE stresses the same syllable as the corresponding -ate verb; and compensatory, where AmE stresses the second syllable.
A further -atory difference is laboratory: AmE /ˈlæbrɪtɔriː/ and BrE /ləˈbɒrət(ə)riː/.
There are a number of cases where same-spelled noun, verb and/or adjective have uniform stress in one dialect but distinct stress in the other (e.g. alternate, prospect): see initial-stress-derived noun.
The following table lists words where the only difference between AmE and BrE is in stress (possibly with a consequent reduction of the unstressed vowel). Words with other points of difference are listed in a later table.
BrE AmE words with relevant syllable stressed in each dialect
1st 2nd caffeine, cannotA2, casein, Kathleen, SuezA2, communal, escalopeB2, harass, omega, paprikaB2, patina, subaltern, stalactite, stalagmite, ThanksgivingB2, transference, aristocratA2,B2, kilometre/kilometerB2
2nd 1st defense (sport), guffawA2, ice creamA2,B2, guru, mama, papa, pretense, princessA2,B2, weekendB2, Canton, anginaA2,Augustine, Bushido, Ghanaian, LofotenB2, marshmallow, patronal, spread-eagle, controversy, formidableB2, hospitableB2, miscellany, predicative, saxophonistB2, submariner, ancillary, capillary, catenary, corollary, fritillary, medullary
1st 3rd ParmesanB2, partisan, premature, opportune, carburet(t)or
3rd 1st margarine, PyreneesB2, cockatoo
2nd 3rd advertisement
3rd 2nd arytenoidA2, oregano, obscurantist
-ary -ery -ory -bury, -berry, -mony
Where the syllable preceding -ary,-ery or -ory is stressed, AmE pronounce all these endings /əriː/, while BrE pronounce these endings without the vowel sound, similar to that of atory, where the 'o' isn't pronounced. Where the preceding syllable is unstressed, however, AmE has a full vowel rather than schwa: /ɛri/ for -ary and -ery and /ɔri/ for -ory. BrE retains the reduced vowel /əriː/, or even elides it completely to /riː/. (The elision is avoided in carefully enunciated speech, especially with endings -rary,-rery,-rory.) So military is AmE /ˈmɪlɪtɛriː/ and BrE /ˈmɪlɪtəriː/ or/ˈmɪlɪtriː/.
Note that stress differences occur with ending -atory (explained above) and a few others like capillary (included above). A few words have the full vowel in AmE in the ending even though the preceding syllable is stressed: library, primaryA2, rosemary. Pronouncing library as /ˈlaɪbɛriː/rather than /ˈlaɪbrɛriː/ is highly stigmatized in AmE, whereas in BrE, /ˈlaɪbriː/ is common in rapid or casual speech.
Formerly the BrE-AmE distinction for adjectives carried over to corresponding adverbs ending -arily, -erily or -orily. However, nowadays most BrE speakers adopt the AmE practice of shifting the stress to the antepenultimate syllable: militarily is thus /ˌmɪlɪˈtɛrɪliː/ rather than /ˈmɪlɪtrɪliː/.
The placename component -bury (e.g. Canterbury) has a similar difference after a stressed syllable: AmE /bɛri/ and BrE /brɪː/ or /bərɪː/. The ending -mony after a stressed syllable is AmE /moʊni/ but BrE /mənɪː/. The word -berry in compounds has a slightly different distinction: in BrE, it is reduced (/bəriː/ or /briː/) after a stressed syllable, and may be full /bɛriː/ after an unstressed syllable; in AmE it is usually full in all cases. Thus, strawberry is BrE /ˈstrɔːbəriː/ but AmE /ˈstrɔbɛriː/, while whortleberry is BrE /ˈwɔːtlbɛriː/ and similarly AmE /ˈwɔrtlbɛriː/.
Words ending in unstressed -ile derived from Latin adjectives ending -ilis are mostly pronounced with a full vowel (/aɪl/) in BrE but a reduced vowel /ɪl/ or syllabic /l/ in AmE (e.g. fertile rhymes with fur tile in BrE but with turtle in AmE). This difference applies:
generally to agile, docile, facile, fertile, fissile, fragile, futile, infertile, missile, nubile, octile, puerile, rutile, servile, stabile, sterile, tactile,tensile, virile, volatile;
usually to ductile, hostile, (im)mobile (adjective), projectile, textile, utile, versatile;
not usually to decile, domicile, infantile, juvenile, labile, mercantile, pensile, reptile, senile;
not to crocodile, exile, gentile, percentile, reconcile; nor to compounds of monosyllables (e.g. turnstile from stile).
Related endings -ility, -ilize, -iliary are pronounced the same in AmE as BrE. The name Savile is pronounced with (/ɪl/) in both BrE and AmE.Mobile (sculpture), camomile and febrile are sometimes pronounced with /il/ in AmE and /aɪl/ in BrE. Imbecile has /aɪl/ or /iːl/ in BrE and often /ɪl/ in AmE.
The suffix -ine, when unstressed, is pronounced sometimes /aɪn/ (e.g. feline), sometimes /iːn/ (e.g. morphine) and sometimes /ɪn/ (e.g.medicine). Some words have variable pronunciation within BrE, or within AmE, or between BrE and AmE. Generally, AmE is more likely to favour /iːn/ or /ɪn/, and BrE to favour /aɪn/: e.g. adamantineA2, carbine, crystallineA2, labyrinthine, philistine, serpentineA2, turbineA2. However, sometimes AmE has /aɪn/ where BrE has /iːn/; e.g. iodineB2, strychnineA2.
Some function words can has a weak form in AmE, with a reduced vocal used when the word is unstressed, but always use the full vowel in RP. These include: or [ɚ]; you [jə]; your [jɚ].
On the other hand, the titles Saint and Sir before a person's name have "weak forms" in BrE but not AmE: before vowels, [snt] and [sər]; before consonants, [sn] and [sə].
Miscellaneous pronunciation differences
These tables list words pronounced differently but spelled the same. See also the table of words with different pronunciation reflected in the spelling.
Words with multiple points of difference of pronunciation are in the table after this one. Accent-based differences are ignored. For example,Moscow is RP /ˈmɒskəʊ/ and GAm /ˈmɑskaʊ/, but only the /əʊ/-/aʊ/ difference is highlighted here, since the /ɒ/-/ɑ/ difference is predictable from the accent. Also, tiara is listed with AmE /æ/; the marry-merry-Mary merger changes this vowel for many Americans. Some AmE types are listed as /ɒ/ where GAm merges to /ɑ/ .
/æ/ /ɑ/ annato, BangladeshA2, Caracas, chiantiA2, Galapagos, GdańskA2, grappaA2, gulagA2, HanoiA2, JanA2 (male name, e.g. Jan Palach), KantA2, kebab, Las (placenames, e.g. Las Vegas), Mafia, mishmashA2, MombasaA2, Natasha, Nissan, Pablo, pasta, PicassoA2, ralentando, SanA2 (names outside USA; e.g. San Juan), SlovakA2, Sri LankaA2, Vivaldi, wigwamA2, YasserA2 (and A in many other foreign names and loanwords)
/iː/ /ɛ/ aesthete, anaesthetize, breveA2, catenaryA2, Daedalus, devolutionA2,B2, ecumenicalB2, epochA2, evolutionA2,B2, febrileA2, Hephaestus, KenyaB2, leverA2, methane, OedipusA2, (o)estrus, penalizeA2, predecessorA2, pyrethrinA2, senileA2, hygienic
/ɒ/ /oʊ/ Aeroflot, compost, homosexualB2, Interpol, Lod, pogrom, polkaB2, produce (noun), Rosh Hashanah, sconeA2,B2, shone, sojourn, trollB2, yoghurt
/ɑː/ /æ/ (Excluding trap-bath split words) banana, javaA2, khakiA2, morale, NevadaA2, scenarioA2, sopranoA2, tiaraA2, Pakistani
/ɛ/ /i/ CecilA2,B2, crematoriumA2, cretin, depot, inherentA2,B2, leisureA2, medievalA2, reconnoitreA2, zebraB2, zenithA2,B2
/æ/ /eɪ/ compatriot, patriotB2, patronise, phalanx, plait, repatriate, Sabine, satrapA2, satyrA2, basilA2 (plant)
/ɪ/ /aɪ/ dynasty, housewifery, idyll, livelongA2, long-livedA2, privacyB2, simultaneous, vicariousA2, vitamin. Also the suffix -ization. See also -ine.
/z/ /s/ AussieA2, blouse, complaisantA2, crescent, diagnoseA2, erase, GlasgowA2, parse, valise, trans-A2,B2 (in some words)
/ɑː/ /eɪ/ amenA2, charadeB2, cicada, galaA2, promenadeA2, pro rata, tomato, stratum
/əʊ/ /ɒ/ codify, goffer, ogleA2, phonetician, processor, progress (noun), slothA2,B2, wont A2, wroth
/ʌ/ /ɒ/ accomplice, accomplish, colanderB2, constableB2, Lombardy, monetaryA2, -mongerA2
/ɒ/ /ʌ/ hovelA2,B2, hover. Also the strong forms of these function words: anybodyA2 (likewise every-, some-, and no-),becauseA2,B2 (and clipping 'cos/'cause), ofA2, fromA2, wasA2, whatA2
Beethoven, chthonic, herbA2 (plant), KnossosB2, phthisicB2, salve, solder
/ɑː(r)/ /ɚ/ Berkeley, Berkshire, clerk, Derby, Hertford. (The only AmE word with
/aɪ/ /i/ eitherA2,B2, neitherA2,B2, Pleiades. See also -ine.
/iː/ /aɪ/ albino, migraineB2. Also the prefixes anti-A2, multi-A2, semi-A2 in loose compounds (e.g. in anti-establishment, but not in antibody). See also -ine.
/ə/ /ɒ/ Amazon, hexagon, octagon, paragon, pentagon, phenomenon, python
/iː/ /eɪ/ eta, beta, quayA2, theta, zeta
/aɪ/ /ɪ/ butylB2, diverge, minorityA2,B2, primer (schoolbook). See also -ine.
/ɛ/ /eɪ/ ateB2 ("et" is nonstandard in America), mêlée, chaise longue
/ɜːz/ /us/ Betelgeuse, chanteuse, chartreuseA2, masseuse
/eɪ/ /æ/ apricotA2, dahlia, digitalis, patentA2,B2, comrade
(sounded) medicineB2. See also -ary -ery -ory -bury, -berry
/ɒ/ /ə/ Amos, condom, Enoch
/ʃ/ /ʒ/ AsiaB2, PersiaB2, versionB2
/ə/ /oʊ/ borough, thorough, also place names such as Edinburgh (see also -ory and -mony)
/ɪr/ /ɚ/ chirrupA2, stirrupA2, sirupA2, squirrel
/siː/ /ʃ/ cassia, CassiusA2, hessian
/tiː/ /ʃ/ consortium
/uː/ /ju/ couponA2, fuchsine, HoustonB2
/uː/ /ʊ/ boulevard, snooker, woofA2 (weaving)
/ɜː(r)/ /ʊr/ connoisseurA2, entrepreneurA2
/ɜː/ /oʊ/ föhnB2, MöbiusB2
/ə/ /eɪ/ DraconianA2, hurricaneB2
/eɪ/ /i/ deityA2,B2, Helene, IsraelB2
/juː/ /w/ iguana, jaguar, Nicaragua
/ɔː(r)/ /ɚ/ record (noun), stridorA2,B2
/ziː/ /ʒ/ Frasier, Parisian, Malaysia
/æ/ /ɒ/ twatB2
/ɒ/ /æ/ wrath
/ɑː/ /ət/ nougat
/ɑː/ /ɔ/ UtahA2,B2
/ɑː/ /ɔr/ quarkA2,B2
/æ/ /ɛ/ femme fataleA2
/aɪ/ /eɪ/ Isaiah
/aʊ/ /u/ nousA2
/ð/ /θ/ boothB2
/diː/ /dʒi/ cordiality
/dʒ/ /ɡdʒ/ suggestA2
/eɪ/ /ə/ template
/eɪ/ /ət/ tourniquet
/ə(r)/ /ɑr/ MadagascarA2
/ə(r)/ /jɚ/ figureA2 for the verb
/ə/ /ɛ/ nonsense
/ɛ/ /ɑ/ envelopeA2,B2
/ɛ/ /ə/ Kentucky
/ə/ /æ/ trapeze
/ɜː(r)/ /ɛr/ errA2
/əʊ/ /ɒt/ Huguenot
/əʊ/ /aʊ/ MoscowA2
/əʊ/ /u/ broochA2
/ɪ/ /i/ pi(t)taB2
/iː/ /ɪ/ beenB2
/iːʃ/ /ɪtʃ/ nicheA2,B2
/jɜː/ /ju/ milieu
/juː/ /u/ (Excluding words with predictable yod-dropping) barracuda, puma
/ɔː/ /æ/ falconA2
/s/ /z/ asthma
/ʃ/ /sk/ scheduleB2
/t/ /θ/ AnthonyA2,B2
/ts/ /z/ piazzaA2
/ʊ/ /ɪ/ kümmel
/ʊ/ /u/ BuddhaA2
/ʊ/ /ʌ/ brusque, hummus
/uː/ /aʊ/ routeA2
/uː/ /oʊ/ cantaloup(e)
/ʌ/ /oʊ/ covertA2,B2
/z/ /ʃ/ Dionysius
/ziː/ /ʃ/ transientA2, nausea
The slashes normally used to enclose IPA phonemic transcriptions have been omitted from the following table to improve legibility.
Spelling BrE IPA AmE IPA Notes
ˈbær.ɑːʒ (1) bəˈrɑʒ
(2) ˈbær.ɪdʒ The AmE pronunciations are for distinct senses (1) "sustained weapon-fire" vs (2) "dam, barrier" (Compare garage below.)
(2) ˈbəʊmaɪt (1) ˈbeɪmaɪt
(2) ˈboʊmaɪt The first pronunciations approximate German [ø] (spelled <ö> or
bouquet ˈbuːkeɪ (1) boʊˈkeɪ
(2) bəʊˈjɑː (1) boʊˈjɑr
ˈbɔɪ ˈbu.i The U.S. pronunciation would be unrecognised in the UK. The British pronunciation occurs in America, more commonly for the verb than the noun, still more in derivatives buoyant, buoyancy.
cadre (1) ˈkæd.ə(r)
(2) ˈkæd.rə (1) ˈkæd.ri
canton kænˈtuːn (1) kænˈtɑn
(2) kænˈtoʊn difference is only in military sense "to quarter soldiers"
dilettante dɪləˈtænti (1) ˈdɪlətɑnt
(2) ˌdɪləˈtɑnt BrE reflects the word's Italian origin; AmE approximates more to French.
enquiry/inquiry ɪŋˈkwaɪ.(ə)ri (1) ˈɪŋ.kwə.ri
(2) ɪŋˈkwaɪ.(ə)ri BrE uses two spellings and one pronunciation. In AmE the word is usually spelled inquiry.
febrile ˈfiːb.raɪl (1) ˈfɛb.ril
(2) ˈfɛb.rəl The BrE pronunciation occurs in AmE
fracas ˈfrækɑː (1) ˈfreɪkəs
(2) ˈfrækəs The BrE plural is French fracas /ˈfrækɑːz/; the AmE plural is anglicized fracases
(2) ˈɡærɑːʒ ɡəˈrɑ(d)ʒ The AmE reflects French stress difference. The two BrE pronunciations may represent distinct meanings for some speakers; for example, "a subterranean garage for a car" (1) vs "a petrol garage" (2). (Compare barrage above.)
(2) ˈɡleɪsiə ˈɡleɪʃər
(2) ˈʒælʊziː ˈdʒæləsi
ˈlæpsæŋ suːʃɒŋ ˌlɑpsɑŋ ˈsuʃɑŋ
ləˈsuː ˈlæsoʊ The BrE pronunciation is common in AmE
(2) ləˈtɛnənt luˈtɛnənt The 2nd British pronunciation is restricted to the Royal Navy. Standard Canadian pronunciation is the same as the British.
laɪˈtʃiː ˈliːtʃiː Spelling litchi has pronunciation /ˈlɪtʃiː/
oblique əbˈliːk əbˈlaɪk AmE is as BrE except in military sense "advance at an angle"
penchant pãˈʃã ˈpɛntʃənt The AmE pronunciation is anglicized; the BrE is French.
penult pɛˈnʌlt (1) ˈpinʌlt
premier (1) ˈprɛmjə
(2) ˈprɛmɪə (1) ˈprimɪr
première ˈprɛmɪɛə (1) prɪmˈɪr
ˈprɒvəst (1) ˈproʊvoʊst
(2) ˈproʊvəst The BrE pronunciation also occurs in AmE
ˈkwɪniːn (1) ˈkwaɪnaɪn
resource (1) rɪˈzɔːs
(2) rɪˈsɔːs ˈrisɔrs
respite ˈrɛspaɪt (1) ˈrɛspət
slough slaʊ slu sense "bog"; in metaphorical sense "gloom", the BrE pronunciation is common in AmE.Homograph "cast off skin" is /slʌf/ everywhere.
tjuːˈnɪziə (1) tuˈniʒə
vɑːz (1) veɪs
(2) veɪz The BrE pronunciation also occurs in AmE
z (the letter)
zɛd ziː The spelling of this letter as a word corresponds to the pronunciation: thus Commonwealth (including, usually, Canada) zed and U.S. (and, occasionally, Canada) zee.
1. ^ "untoward". Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Cambridge University Press.
2. Wells, John C. (2000). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. 2nd ed. Longman. ISBN 0-582-36468-X.