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Words in several varieties of English

A localisation checklist

Revised 31 January 2006. Lots of small edits throughout the list, based on the second round of comments. More feedback welcome!

I’m compiling a list of terms in US, UK, Canadian, Australian and Indian English and I need some native speakers of each variety of English to check the list and see if I’ve got it right. It’s quite possible that other variations, such as South African or New Zealand English, might have some different terms that would worth adding to the list too.

The list concentrates on things a technical or scientific editor might come across, rather than social language or slang (as do most other lists I’ve seen). This means I’ve included an odd collection of terms for automobiles, finance, construction and a few other topics as well as obviously “technical” stuff. I’m sure I’ve also left out some important terms, simply because they haven’t popped into my mind.

Please send comments to jean -at- jeanweber -dot- com. Thanks!

I’ve compiled the list out of a combination of my own experience (as an Australian born and raised in the USA), plus some lists I’ve found on the Web, some of which I think are a bit suspect, being more oriented towards everyday terms than more formal language. Some of the terms really need annotation to convey the subtleties of when a particular word might be used. Special thanks to Gurudutt Kamath for the list in the column labelled “India”, and to numerous members of the Copyediting-L list for their insight and a stack of fascinating usage notes that I hope to be able to incorporate in the list when I find time to do so.

Of course, there are regional differences in usage within each country, but few of us are likely to attempt to localise our documents to that level of detail. For example, Geoff Hart, who has kindly reviewed the Canadian list, wrote: “Note that so many U.S. terms drift across the border that it’s pretty much inevitable that some creep into common use. And you’ll see regional differences between where I live (French influence) and places like Victoria, which retain a heavy British influence.”

I had some other information about word lists for localisation, including links to some online resources, in Issue 69, 16 February 2003 of my newsletter. These links may or may not still be valid; I haven’t checked them recently.

US UK Canada Australia India
antenna (TV) aerial aerial, antenna aerial, antenna aerial, antenna
appetizer entree, starters appetizer entree appetizer, starters
appraiser valuer appraiser valuer appraiser, valuer
back up (car) reverse back up, reverse reverse reverse
ballpoint pen biro ballpoint pen ballpoint pen, biro ballpoint pen
bandaid plaster bandaid bandaid bandaid
baseboard skirting board baseboard skirting board (not used)
bathroom, restroom (public) lavatory, toilet washroom, bathroom toilet toilet, lavatory, bathroom
battery accumulator battery battery battery
bell pepper capsicum bell pepper capsicum capsicum
bill (money) note bill note note
bulletin board notice board bulletin board, message board notice board notice board
braces { } curly brackets braces, curly brackets curly brackets curly brackets
brackets [ ] brackets, square brackets brackets brackets, square brackets brackets, square brackets
bus (long-distance) coach bus coach coach
busy (phone) engaged busy busy, engaged engaged
calendar (appointment) diary diary, planner, calendar diary, planner diary
call (on telephone) ring call ring, call  
can tin, can tin, can tin, can can, tin
carpet pad underlay carpet pad underlay (not used)
cart (shopping) trolley cart trolley trolley, cart
cash register till cash register till, cash register cash register
cater to cater for cater for, cater to cater for cater to, cater for
cell phone mobile phone cell phone mobile phone mobile phone
check (mark) tick check tick tick
check (money) cheque cheque cheque cheque
checking account current account cheque account cheque account current account
closet cupboard closet, cupboard cupboard cupboard
coffee break tea break, coffee break coffee break tea break, coffee break tea break
condo unit condo unit, home unit flat
cookie biscuit cookie biscuit biscuit
corn starch corn flour corn starch corn flour corn flour
cot camp bed cot, folding bed camp bed cot
counterclockwise anticlockwise counterclockwise anticlockwise anticlockwise
cream single cream light cream light cream

single cream
cream (whipping) double cream whipping cream whipping cream

double cream
crib cot crib cot crib
day care, nursery, child care nursery, creche, day care day care, nursery child care, creche, day care nursery, creche
daylight saving time summer time daylight saving time daylight saving time (not used)
defroster (on car) demister defroster demister (not used)
diaper nappy diaper nappy diaper, nappy
dinner, supper tea, supper, dinner dinner, supper tea, dinner dinner
district attorney public or crown prosecutor prosecutor (crown, federal, provincial) prosecutor public prosecutor
doctor’s office (doctor’s) surgery doctor’s office (doctor’s) surgery clinic
dumpster skip dumpster skip (not used)
elementary school, grade school primary school elementary school, grade school primary school primary school
entree, main course main course entree, main course main course main course
fall, autumn autumn fall, autumn autumn (not used)
faucet, tap tap tap, faucet tap tap
fender (car) mudguard, wing fender mudguard mudguard
field day (school) fete, sports day field day sports day sports day
fired (from a job) sacked fired, laid off sacked fired, sacked
first grade, second grade (school) year one, year two grade one, grade two, first grade, second grade grade one, grade two class one, class two, first standard, second standard
fiscal year financial year fiscal year financial year financial year
flashlight torch flashlight torch torch
freeway, expressway, interstate motorway highway, expressway motorway national highway, highway, expressway
fries, French fries (but "fish and chips") chips fries, French fries (but "fish and chips") chips fries, French fries, chips
garbage, trash rubbish garbage, trash rubbish garbage
gas pump petrol bowser gas pump petrol bowser petrol pump
gas, gasoline petrol gas, gasoline petrol petrol
ground beef mince ground beef mince mince, kheema
running shoes trainers running shoes running shoes running shoes
high school secondary school high school, secondary school secondary school, high school high school, secondary school
hood (of car) bonnet hood bonnet bonnet
inseam inside leg inseam inside leg (not used)
installment plan hire purchase installment plan hire purchase installment plan, hire purchase
intermission interval intermission interval, intermission interval
internship work experience internship work experience internship
(labor) union trade union union trade union trade union, labour union
laid off (made) redundant laid off (made) redundant laid off, relieved from duty
lawyer, attorney solicitor, barrister lawyer solicitor, barrister, lawyer lawyer, solicitor, barrister
license (noun) licence licence licence licence
license (verb) license license license license
license plate (car) number plate license plate number plate number plate
long-distance call (telephone) trunk call long-distance call trunk call trunk call
line up (v.) queue line up queue queue, line up
liquor spirits liquor spirits liquor
living room lounge room living room lounge room living room
mutual fund unit trust mutual fund unit trust mutual fund
nearsighted (myopic) short-sighted nearsighted short-sighted short-sighted
nipple (on baby bottle) teat nipple teat nipple
oatmeal porridge oatmeal, porridge porridge, oatmeal oatmeal
outlet, socket (power) power point, socket outlet, socket power point point
pacifier (for babies) dummy pacifier, soother dummy (not used)
parentheses ( ) brackets parentheses, brackets brackets brackets
parking lot car park parking lot car park car parking
pass (a car, going in the same direction) overtake pass overtake overtake
pavement, asphalt, blacktop bitumen, macadam pavement, asphalt bitumen tar road
period (punctuation mark) full stop period full stop full stop
pharmacy, drugstore chemist pharmacy, drugstore chemist, pharmacy chemist
pickup (truck)

pickup (truck) ute pickup (truck)
plexiglass perspex plexiglass perspex plexiglass, perspex
powdered sugar, confectioner’s sugar icing sugar icing sugar, powdered sugar, confectioner’s sugar icing sugar icing sugar
prenatal antenatal prenatal antenatal prenatal, antenatal
private school public school, private school private school private school private school
property taxes rates property taxes rates property taxes
public housing council housing public housing, social housing council housing public housing
public school state school public school state school public school
rest area (road) lay-by pull-off, turn-out rest area, rest stop
railroad tie sleeper railroad tie, railway tie sleeper sleeper
ranch farm (no direct equivalent) ranch, farm station (no equivalent)
rappel abseil rappel abseil rappel
realtor estate agent real estate agent estate agent (real) estate agent
rent (a car), v. hire rent hire rent
rent (property), v. let, let out rent let, rent rent
reservation booking reservation, booking booking, reservation reservation
reverse charges (telephone call) call collect reverse charges reverse charges, call collect call collect
rubber band elastic band elastic band, rubber band elastic band, rubber band rubber band
salesperson (in a shop) shop assistant salesperson shop assistant salesperson, shopping assistant
scotch tape sticky tape scotch tape, adhesive tape sticky tape cellotape
shot (vaccination) injection shot, injection, needle injection, vaccination injection
shoulder (of road) verge shoulder shoulder, verge (not used)
sidewalk pavement sidewalk footpath footpath
slaughterhouse abattoir slaughterhouse abattoir abattoir, slaughterhouse
store (retail outlet) shop store, shop shop shop, store
stove cooker stove stove, cooker stove
streetcar, trolley tram streetcar tram tram
stroller (baby) pushchair stroller, pram, buggy pram, stroller pram
stub (check) counterfoil stub stub, butt counterfoil
study (for a test) revise study study, revise study, revise
styrofoam polystyrene styrofoam polystyrene, styrofoam styrofoam
subway tube subway, metro in Montreal underground

SUV 4×4 SUV Four-wheel-drive (4WD), 4×4 SUV
sweatsuit tracksuit sweatsuit, jogging outfit tracksuit tracksuit
tailpipe exhaust pipe exhaust pipe, tailpipe exhaust pipe exhaust pipe
thread (sewing) cotton thread cotton thread
thumbtacks drawing pins thumbtacks, tacks, push-pins drawing pins thumbtacks
trailer (camping, mobile home) caravan trailer caravan trailer
trailer (goods) trailer trailer trailer trailer
trailer (horse) horsebox

horse trailer float trailer
truck stop rest stop

truck stop roadhouse (no equivalent)
trunk (of car) boot trunk boot dicky
turn signal (car) indicator turn signal, indicator indicator, turn signal indicator
two weeks fortnight two weeks fortnight fortnight
underpass subway underpass underpass

undershirt vest undershirt singlet banian, vest
vacation holiday vacation, holiday holiday, leave holiday, vacation
wallboard, drywall, sheetrock, gypsum plasterboard wallboard, drywall, sheetrock plasterboard (not used)
wax paper grease-proof paper wax(ed) paper grease-proof paper wax paper
windshield (car) windscreen windshield, windscreen windscreen windshield
wrench spanner wrench spanner spanner
yield (street sign) give way yield give way (no equivalent)


Last updated 31 January 2006