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.

Biscuit in the USA, Biscuit is the rest of the world

Biscuit USA v Rest of the World


British English American English
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
Bacon Rasher Slice of Bacon
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
Beetroot Beets
Bilberry Blueberry
Biscuit Cookie
Boiled Sweet Hard Candy
Broad Bean Fava Bean
Butter Bean Lima Bean
Candy Floss Cotton Candy
Caster Sugar Superfine Sugar
Chickpea Garbanzo Bean
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
In the UK, a large courgette is called a marrow
Crayfish Crawfish
Cream, Double Heavy Cream
Cream, Single Half and half
Crisps Chips
Crumpet English Muffin
Similar but not quite the same
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
Ginger Nut Ginger Snap
Glace Fruits Candied Fruits
Greaseproof Paper Wax Paper
Green / Red Peppers Bell Peppers
Grill Broiler
To add to the confusion a British Barbeque (BBQ) in the US is called a grill
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
Jug Pitcher
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
Liqueurs Cordials
Macaroni Cheese Mac & Cheese
Madeira Cake Pound Cake
Main Course Entrée
The word Entrée is sometimes used in the UK, but for an appetizer
Mangetout Snow peas
Mince Ground
as in beef
Muesli Granola
Napkin Serviette
Pastry case Pie case
Paw Paw Papaya
Papaya is also commonly used in the UK
Pickled Gerkins Pickles
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
Rock (Seaside Rock) Stick Candy
Rocket Arugula
Rump steak Sirloin
Salt Beef Corn(ed) Beef
Corn beef in the UK is a very different product.
Scone Biscuit
Similar but not quite the same
Self-raising flour Self-rising flour
Semi-Skimmed Milk 2% Milk
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
Stuffing Dressing
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.
Sausage Rolls Franks in a Blanket
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
Takeaway Takeout or To go
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 US spelling of Aluminum
Tinned Canned
Tinned and Canned refered to the metal containers for preserving food, but food preserved in glass in the UK is called bottled whereas in the US it is still called canned.
Toffee Taffy
Toffee Apple Candy Apple
Tomato Tomato
In the UK, is pronounced tom-ah-toe, while in the US it is pronounced tom-A-toe
Treacle Molasses
Water biscuit Soda biscuit
Whisky Scotch
Whiskey (note the spelling) comes from Ireland or the USA
Wholemeal flour Whole-wheat flour


Essential Kitchen Supplies


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

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

    • Brit on March 8, 2012 at 10:20 am
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    “Fizzy Juice” bahahah. Take this list with a pinch of salt or should I say chip-dusting.

    • James on March 8, 2012 at 2:17 pm
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    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. 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

        • Erica on April 5, 2018 at 1:49 am
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        I think instead of “fizzy juice” you must mean fizzy drink, which is used all over.

    • Edna on March 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm
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    Americans have jam–but it’s a preserve than has course bits of fruit in it (as opposed to a jelly, which is strained).

    • woadgrrl on March 8, 2012 at 6:48 pm
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    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. 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

    • Ben on March 9, 2012 at 4:42 am
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    We have various prawns/shrimps in the UK.

    In order from smallest size to largest…

    King Prawn/Tigger Prawn

    • Ben on March 9, 2012 at 4:49 am
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    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.

    • Tara on March 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm
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    Whiskey/Whisky/Scotch are not the same things and are not used interchangeably.

    1. 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.

    • mark on April 30, 2015 at 8:33 am
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    I think the origin of Stella/wifebeater might come from a “A Streetcar Named Desire,” rather more than the alcohol content.

    • Joel on August 17, 2015 at 8:08 pm
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    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.

    • Elizabeth on September 6, 2015 at 6:54 pm
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    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.

    • Rubicund on October 22, 2015 at 7:08 am
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    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.

    • Jerome on March 3, 2018 at 12:54 am
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    Toffee is not synonymous with Taffy. Toffee is more of a caramel. While Taffy is boiled sugar and oil.

    1. Though maybe not used everywhere there is some evidence to suggest the term taffy is being used to mean more of a caramel toffee

    • Larry on May 20, 2018 at 10:28 am
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    Just read in The Spectator about a Brit’s garden in Kenya growing lucerne. Anyone know another name for it, I’m puzzled. Thanks!

    1. As far as I can determine the plant Lucerne is called Alfalfa in North America

    • Matchia on July 1, 2018 at 10:21 am
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    I’m seeing a lot of comment making fun of “fizzy juice” but we use it a lot in Scotland I’ve moved three times up here and to different regions and I hear it all the time, especially in Glasgow, where I’m from.

    • Cri on February 6, 2021 at 2:28 pm
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    In the US, we have Apple juice, Cider, and Hard Cider. Apple juice is strained and usually sweetened. Mostly kids drink it in little juice boxes and is non alcoholic. Cider is unstrained and usually has spices added, like cinnamon and cloves, and is non alcoholic. Usually sold around fall and winter and drank hot. Hard cider can be spiced or not, strained or not, but the “Hard” indicates an alcoholic content of some sort, which can also vary in strength depending on who’s producing it. Its generally drank cold all year round.

    Crayfish is also used in the US. As is Crawfish, Crawdad, Craydid, Mudbug, Yabby, and Mountain lobster, depending on where you grew up. Personally, I use Crawdad.

    • Matthew Bailey on March 28, 2021 at 3:54 pm
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    A cookie and a biscuit are 2 different things.

    cookies are made with soft wheat and are leavened . Biscuits are made with hard wheat and unleavened. They really aren’t interchangeable. I know Americans use the word biscuits to describe a savoury thing kinda similar to what uk calls a scone but cookies and biscuits are not at all the same thing.

    • Sherri Evans on May 13, 2021 at 10:03 am
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    I really enjoyed reading this list and all the comments…cleared up my confusion with some of the terms on “The Great British Baking Show,” such as sultanas and caster sugar. Thanks

    • andy MACKAY on November 14, 2021 at 5:17 am
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    Someone may have said this already, but crumpets are English Muffins aren’t the same thing. English Muffins are just called MUffins here, kind of obviously. Confusingly muffins, as in a wee cake thing are also called muffins here, but they are easily distinguished as they are bigger, have a paper case and having fillings. An English muffin is very bread like, whereas crumpets are slightly chewy and if they are raised at all it isn’t much ( raised as in having been made with yeast), and don’t really have a bread like consistency. But the main difference is crumpets have like vertical holes in them and the base is browned, sort of like a blini. Crumpets are cooked on a hot plate which causes bubbles to rise through them and cause the holes, go and have a look on google images, it’s hard to explain. Crumpets are actually really nice, especially with butter and honey, jam (jello), chocolate spread.

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