Mar 07

English and American English Food Terms

One language separated by an ocean. English spoken in the UK and the US is not only separated by geography, but also 400 years of history. Dr Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of 1755 was one of the first codifications of English in the UK and helped standardise the language across the country. However, English in the US continued in its original form and developed in its own way until Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828. Therefore some of the words used in the US today may have come from dialects in the UK, but have fallen out of favour.

As an UK ex-pat living in the US, and someone who loves cooking, there have been challenges while shopping, eating in restaurants or just discussing food. It is sometime like learning a new language. As well as new words and phrases, even the cuts of meat are different, and not just the names. See for “What’s your beef?” for diagrams.


English American English Notes
Aubergine Eggplant
Bacon Bacon In the UK, bacon is predominantly from the back of the pig, while in the US it is from the belly, which in the UK is called streaky
Bain Marie Double Boiler
Banger Sausage The word sausage is also used in the UK. The name banger comes from the fact that sausage made in natural casing sometimes burst when cooking.
Basil Basil In the UK, basil is pronounced bah-zil, while in the US it is pronounced bay-zil
Bilberry Blueberry Removed
Biscuit Cookie
Boiled Sweet Hard Candy
Broad Bean Fava
Candy Floss Cotton Candy
Caster Sugar Superfine Sugar
Chicory Endive This applies to Belgian endive and not all chicory
Chipolata Cocktail Sausage Though technically Chipolatas are long and thin sausages, in Scotland the name is also used for cocktail sausages
Chips French Fries
Cider Hard Cider Since prohibition, cider in the US is now just apple juice
Clingfilm Saran wrap
Conserves Preserves
Coriander Cilantro In the UK coriander means both the spice and the herb, were-as in the US it just means the spice.
Cornflour Cornstarch
Cos lettuce Romaine lettuce
Courgette Zucchini or Summer Squash
Cream, Double Heavy Cream
Cream, Single Half and half
Crisps Chips
Cutlery Flatware or Silverware
Cutlet Chop
Demerara sugar Light brown cane sugar
Digestive Biscuit Graham cracker Though not the same, they can be used interchangeably in recipes as they have a similar taste
Doner Kebab Gyro In the UK, the doner is the great staple of after the pub food for the walk home
Fairycake Cupcake
Fillet Steak Filet mignon or Tenderloin In the UK, fillet is pronounced fill-it, while in the US it is pronounced fil-A
Fish Fingers Fish Sticks
French Beans String Beans
Frying Pan Skillet
Gammon Ham
Glace Fruits Candied Fruits
Greaseproof Paper Wax Paper
Green / Red Peppers Bell Peppers
Grill Broiler
Herb Herb In the UK, herb is pronounced with the H and in the US it is silent. See Eddie Izzard
Hull Shuck
Hundreds and Thousands Sprinkles
Ice lolly Popsicle
Icing Frosting
Icing Sugar Confectioner’s Sugar
Jam Jelly
Jelly Jello
Kipper Smoked Herring
Lemonade Lemonade In the UK lemonade is a fizzy soda drink while in the US it is traditional lemonade made from water, sugar and real lemons.
Liquidizer Blender
Main Course Entrée The word Entrée is sometimes used in the UK, but for an appetizer
Mangetout Snow peas
Mince Ground  as in ground beef
Muesli Granola
Pastry case Pie case
Paw Paw Papaya Papaya is also commonly used in the UK
Pie Pot Pie The word pie in the UK predominantly means a savoury pie usually filled with meat
Pint Pint Though the names are the same, a pint in the UK is equivalent to 568ml where-as in the US it is 473ml. Also to note that beer glasses in the US are exactly one pint to the brim and leave no room for the head. Get a “Piaget” Beer Gauge to keep your barman honest
Plain flour All purpose flour
Plonk Cheap Wine
Porridge Oatmeal, Cooked
Prawn Small Shrimp
Profiterole Cream Puff
Pudding Dessert
Rocket Arugula
Rump steak Sirloin
Scone Biscuit Similar but not quite the same
Self-raising flour Self-rising flour
Semolina Cream of wheat
Sirloin Porterhouse
Soft Drink,Pop, Fizzy Juice Soda Removed, as there is apparently too many UK and US regional variations. Possibly Fizzy Juice is just a Scottish thing
Sorbet Sherbert
Spirit Liquor
Spring Onions Green Onions Scallions is another term that is sometimes used in both countries
Squash ? Squash is a drink made by diluting fruit concentrate
Wife-beater Stella Artois It is called Stella in the UK as well, but this is a commonly used slang term because when it was first introduced into the UK it was a lot stronger than other beers, and caused people to become drunk faster.
Stone Pit as in peaches
Sultanas Golden Raisins
Swede Rutabaga Also known as a yellow turnip and in Scotland these are called Neeps
Sweet Dessert Dessert is used in the UK too
Sweetcorn Corn
Sweets Candy
Swiss Roll Jelly Roll
Tart Pie In the UK pies have lids and are savoury, tarts don’t have lids and are sweet
Tin Foil Aluminum Foil Also note the spelling of Aluminum
Tinned Canned
Toffee Taffy
Tomato Tomato In the UK, is pronounced tom-ah-toe, while in the US it is pronounced tom-A-toe
Treacle Molasses
Whisky Scotch Whiskey (note the spelling) comes from Ireland or the USA
Wholemeal flour Whole-wheat flour

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  1. Bill

    Great list. There is no equivalent in the U.S. for the squash (liquid fruit concentrate).

    1. Stuart

      Yes, we know, we have looked. We can get British imports of Robinson’s Orange Fruit Squash, but it is very expensive.

  2. Brit

    “Fizzy Juice” bahahah. Take this list with a pinch of salt or should I say chip-dusting.

  3. James

    Whilst it’s great that you put the effort into this list, there’s a few inaccuracies. I’ll point out a few as it may help:

    Banger: Banger is a slang term, we would always buy “sausages “in the shop and sausage is used just as, if not more frequently.

    Coriander: We refer to the plant, and the ground spice as coriander and the leaves as coriander leaves. In the US I think it is just the leaves that are cilantro.

    Bilberry and Blueberry are two different things.

    Paw Paw/Papaya: I see Papaya used much, much more.

    Plonk: Used very rarely nowadays, mainly by middle-aged geography teachers.

    Fizzy juice: !?!?!

    Spring onions: I’ve heard scallions used in some parts of the UK.

    Sweet: We use dessert too if it refers to the sweet dish served after a main. Sweet mainly means what American’s would refer to as candy.

    1. Stuart

      Thanks James for your comments. This list wasn’t meant as a definitive list of food terms between the 2 countries but as a conversation piece. I’ll edit the list to reflect some of your comments. Cheers

  4. Edna

    Americans have jam–but it’s a preserve than has course bits of fruit in it (as opposed to a jelly, which is strained).

  5. woadgrrl

    Just an FYI…. graham crackers and digestives are NOT the same thing. They’re somewhat similar (flavour and texture are different), and they can be used fairly interchangeably in recipes (i.e. for cheesecake crust, etc.), but it’s inaccurate to suggest that they’re the same product with two different names.

    1. Stuart

      Thanks woadgrrl. I know the two products are different and wasn’t trying to suggest they are the same, but like you said they can be used interchangeably in recipes. I’ve updated the list as per your comments. Cheers

  6. Ben

    We have various prawns/shrimps in the UK.

    In order from smallest size to largest…

    King Prawn/Tigger Prawn

  7. Ben


    UK chips are fat and chunky, UK fries are just like french fries but also get called chips.
    UK sherbert is difficult to describe, it’s like a tangy sweet powder.

    Biscuit and cookie is a good one in the UK. A cookie in the UK is specifically the sort with chocolate chips in, anything else is a biscuit. American biscuits are indeed a bit like scones.

    In the UK we pronouce the H in Herbs, I used to get some funny looks in the US when I did that.

  8. Tara

    Whiskey/Whisky/Scotch are not the same things and are not used interchangeably.

    1. Stuart

      Thanks for comment Tara and sorry for the confusion. The reference to Whisky, was that Whisky spelt without an ‘E’ is only from Scotland, and this is known in the US as Scotch (Blended or Single Malt). And not that the words are interchangeable.

  9. mark

    I think the origin of Stella/wifebeater might come from a “A Streetcar Named Desire,” rather more than the alcohol content.

  10. Joel

    I really enjoyed reading this list. I was especially surprised that so many British English terms for vegetables seem to be wholly French in origin.

    Thoughts on a few of the comparisons: Plenty of Americans say “tin foil” when they really mean aluminum foil. Also, I think “frying pan” and “skillet” are both prominently used across the US, and “frying pan” might even be more common.

  11. Elizabeth

    Stuart, you may have come across this by now, but in the U.S., a ‘paw paw’ is actually a native fruit. It looks similar to a mango in shape, although the seeds inside are much more like a papaya. Either way, though, it’s not the same fruit. They mostly grow in the mid-south to southeastern parts of the U.S., but they don’t travel well, so they’re not widely marketed. My grandmother in Virginia had a few trees. They’re very good and remind me a bit of the champagne mangos you get from Mexico, but a bit firmer.

  12. Rubicund

    Just a few changes:

    Chipolatas in the UK are short thin sausages, typically used in the 70’s impaled on a cocktail stick, or spread round the turkey at Christmas.

    The term “chop” is more likely to be used in the UK, lamb chop etc. than cutlet.

    We tend to say “shell” rather than “hull”, peas or nuts etc.

    Muesli and Granola are not the same thing, as Granola tends to be quite sweet with lots of sugar in it.

    “Pie” in the UK can be equally used for both savoury and sweet dishes. Apple pie, cherry pie etc.

    Neeps in Scotland are turnips not swedes.

    Tarts..not all tarts in the UK are sweet, e.g Goats Cheese tart.

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