List of words having different meanings in American and British English (A–L)

This is the List of words having different meanings in British and American English: A–L. For the second portion of the list, see List of words having different meanings in British and American English: M–Z.

  • Asterisked (*) meanings, though found chiefly in the specified region, also have some currency in the other dialect; other definitions may be recognised by the other as Briticisms or Americanisms respectively. Additional usage notes are provided when useful.


Word British English meanings Meanings common to British and American English American English meanings
AA The Automobile Association (US: AAA) Alcoholics Anonymous American Airlines
A&E the accident and emergency (casualty) department of a hospital (US: emergency room, ER)[1]   Arts & Entertainment (name of a television network)[1]
accumulator rechargeable battery [2] (technical)

a type of bet [3] (US: parlay)

one that accumulates, as a type of computer processor register or a hydraulic accumulator[2]  
ace good, excellent (informal)
a one in a suit of playing cards
someone who is very good at something
(tennis) a winning serve in which the receiver does not touch the ball
fighter pilot who has shot down at least 5 enemy aircraft
an asexual person (slang)
(v.) to perform outstandingly *; esp., to achieve an A (on a school exam)
(n.) the best starting pitcher in a rotation on a baseball team
advert (n.) a contraction of advertisement[4][5][6][7][8] (v.) to turn the attention to or refer to something[9][4][5][6][8]
advocate (n.) Scottish, also the Isle of Man, Channel Islands and South African lawyer who appears in higher courts (rest of UK: barrister) someone who supports or speaks for a particular position
generic term for a lawyer
(v.) to recommend or support
air marshal a senior air force officer (equivalent to a USAF Lt. General)* an undercover law enforcement officer on board a commercial aircraft, also known as a sky marshal  
à la mode   fashionable with ice cream (ex. Apple pie à la mode)
allotment a parcel of land in a community garden the amount of something allocated to a particular person  
alternate   (adj.) done or occurring by turns; every second, every other ("on alternate weeks")
(n.) one that alternates with another
(adj.) constituting an alternative, offering a choice (UK usu. & US also alternative) ("use alternate routes")
"alternative", unconventional ("alternate lifestyles")

(n.) an alternative *; a substitute

amber orange-yellow traffic light (US: yellow light) orange-yellow colour
fossilised resin
a material used in the construction of some tobacco pipes' stems

(Amber) female given name
(sealed in amber) state of being oblivious to changing circumstances
anæsthetist (UK), anesthetist (US) physician trained to induce anaesthesia (US: anesthesiologist) someone who induces anesthesia. a critical care experienced graduate level educated Registered Nurse who is nationally certified to induce anesthesia
anchor   a position in a tug of war team
device for mooring ships by providing a firm fix to the seabed
(anchorman/anchorwoman) the last member of a relay team to compete
a type of radio or TV presenter ("a news anchor"). See news presenter for a description of the different roles of a newscaster, an American news anchor, and a British newsreader.
A dowel or fastener, usually made of plastic, that enables a weight-bearing screw to be attached to a wall (UK: wall plug); Rawlplug (trademark)
anorak a parka
(slang) a socially awkward person obsessively interested in something (syn. US: geek, nerd; dweeb; etc.)
hooded, rainproof outerwear that lacks a full-length zipper in the front (UK: cagoule)  
apartment suite of rooms set aside for a particular person (rare), usu. rented housing unit in a larger building implying luxury (In other words, a narrower definition than the US.) (Overlapping with the rare usage in reference to stately homes or historic properties which have been converted into residential units.)   usu. rented housing unit in a larger building, regardless of luxury level (usu. flat in UK)– cf. s.v. condominium
appropriate (v.), appropriation (n.) to take (money) to oneself, to filch or misappropriate to take (money) (there is considerable overlap but difference of emphasis) to dispense (money), to budget
Asian originating from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka (South Asian) originating from the continent of Asia originating from East Asia or continental Southeast Asia
ass   donkey
slow-witted or stupid person, often in combination (dumb-ass)
unpleasant or unthinking person (less common colloquially) ("you ass")
(often vulgar) buttocks (UK: arse); also, by synecdoche, the person ("your ass is dead"); also (vulgar) anus (short for asshole)
(vulgar) sex ("get some ass")
(adv.) a postpositive intensive (i.e., to add emphasis to an adjective) ("He drove a big-ass truck")

badass: someone of formidable strength or skill, e.g. "such a badass guitar player"[10]
kick-ass: to beat up or beat, e.g. "I am going to kick his ass" or, more positively, something that beat (did better than) everything else, e.g. "The opening band was kick-ass."
(vulgar) someone acting inappropriately or offensively ("That guy was an ass!")

athletics Sport comprising the events in track and field, cross country running, road running and racewalking   Athletic sports in general, (e.g. College athletics)
attorney   an agent or representative authorised to act on someone else's behalf ("attorney-in-fact", "power of attorney")
(Attorney General) main legal advisor to the government
(or attorney-at-law) a lawyer (UK: barrister (England, Northern Ireland, Wales)/advocate (Scotland) or solicitor, depending on the actual profession)
(District attorney, prosecuting attorney) local public official who represents the government in the prosecution of criminals (archaic in Br. Eng. for lawyer)
aubergine the plant Solanum melongena, or the fruit thereof (US: eggplant) an aubergine-like colour (US also: eggplant)