List of Words Having Different Meanings in British and American English: A–L - C

C

Word British English meanings Meanings common to British and American English American English meanings
callbox (n.) telephone booth (UK also telephone box) roadside emergency telephone
call for (v.) to require or advocate to predict or anticipate ("The forecast calls for rain")
can (n.) small metal container can (v.): to fire someone from a job (UK: sack)

can (n.): toilet (slang), jail

canteen (n.) basic food service location usually at a work place or institution (US:Cafeteria). a box with compartments for storing eating utensils, silverware etc.

a military mess kit water bottle, typically used for military or camping purposes.

campsite (n.) area or park for people to camp in (US: campground) spot for a particular person or group to camp, often within a campground (UK: pitch)
candy (n.) (candy floss) heated sugar spun into thin threads and collected into a mass, usually on a stick; something pleasing but having little worth (US: cotton candy for both senses) (v.) to sugarcoat, or boil with sugar (as fruit)
to sweeten

edible, sweet-tasting confection containing sugar, or sometimes artificial sweeteners, and often flavored with fruit, chocolate, nuts or artificial flavours; a piece of candy (UK: sweets, confectionery)

(eye candy) (derog.) someone particular who is physically attractive (See also arm candy.)
canfield (n.) a patience (solitaire) card game (US: Klondike) a patience (solitaire) card game (UK: Demon)
car (n.) railway vehicle, only in combination (e.g. "restaurant car", except London Underground "carriage")

(archaic) street tramway vehicle
motorcar (n.) (UK, q.v.)/automobile nonpowered unit in a railroad or railway train ("railroad car"; "a passenger/freight/parlor/dining/baggage etc. car") (see s.v. motor car, trolley; UK: cf. s.v. carriage, coach, wagon)
elevator (q.v.) cage
caravan towed recreational vehicle containing accommodation (US: travel trailer)
to take such a vehicle on holiday
overland trading convoy a type of minivan sold in the United States (see Dodge Caravan)
caretaker (n.) one who takes care of a building, usu. a state-owned building, i.e. school (US: janitor; cf. s.v. custodian)
one put in charge of a farm after eviction of tenant
one who takes care of someone or something
stopgap government or provisional government
one who takes care of real estate in exchange for rent-free living accommodations *
carnival (n.) the festive days just preceding Lent (US: Mardi Gras) (adj.) suggesting a festive atmosphere (n.) a travelling circus or fair (UK: funfair) comprising amusement rides
carousel (n.) a moving luggage/baggage display unit, most often at airports a rotating fairground ride (UK: merry-go-round, roundabout)
carriage (n.) railway coach (q.v.) designed for the conveyance of passengers
the conveying of goods or the price paid for it ("carriage-paid"); "handling"
4-wheeled horse-drawn private passenger vehicle (baby carriage) baby transport vehicle featuring the infant lying down facing the pusher (UK: perambulator, pram) – more s.v. buggy
a shopping cart (primarily in North Atlantic states)
carry on, carryon continue, take part in,

(informal) have a love affair

(colloquial) carrying-on, unruly behaviour luggage that can be carried aboard an aircraft, bus, or train (UK: hand luggage or baggage)
cart usu. 2-wheeled one-horse vehicle (as that used in farming) a lightweight wheeled vehicle, as for shopping, serving, carrying baggage, etc. (UK: trolley)
cartridge (primarily related to video games)
casket (n.) a small box, as for jewels, particularly an antique The type of coffin with upholstery and a half-open lid, any coffin
casualty (person) often, someone who has been wounded; hence casualty department (US: emergency room) generally, someone who has been injured or killed often, someone who has been killed; see also casualty insurance
catapult small Y-shaped handheld projectile weapon often used by children (US: slingshot) a type of medieval siege engine
an aircraft catapult
(v.) rise quickly
chaps men or boys (but increasingly used for people of either sex; in the singular it still almost exclusively refers to a male, "Guys" has become a more popular phrase in the UK) (US & UK: guys)
one's friends ("the chaps") (US & UK: the guys)
cheeks – as in Bath Chaps – stewed pigs' cheeks, a delicacy
leather leggings worn by cowboys and designed to protect the legs against thorns (sometimes pronounced shaps), short for "chaparajos"
check examine for a particular purpose
a pattern of coloured squares
a warning given in chess
leave items in the care of someone else (e.g. at a cloakroom; hence checkroom)
(also check mark) mark used to denote 'correct' or indicate one's choice (UK: tick, q.v.)
request for payment, especially at a restaurant; bill
written order for a bank to pay money (UK: cheque)
checker one who checks (e.g. an inspector) a store or shop cashier (almost always a grocery store)
(checkers) a popular board game (UK: draughts)
to mark with alternating colored squares (UK: chequer)
cheers (interjection) said to express gratitude in England, or on parting (slang). Also cheerio. used as a toast or valediction
chemist pharmacist, pharmacy (US similar: druggist, drugstore) student or researcher of chemistry
chew to chew on something, i.e. food referring to or using chewing tobacco
chip in to express one's opinion (as in a conversation); to "chime in" to contribute (as money) (orig. US)
chips (food) Long cuts of deep fried potato, usu. thick cut resembling American steak fries
French fries, in (orig. UK) phrase fish and chips thin slices of fried potato*(UK: crisps)
chippie, chippy carpenter (slang);
fish-and-chip shop (slang) (Scot, Ire: chipper)
(adj.; chippy only) aggressively belligerent, especially in sport loose woman (dated slang);
the N. American bird Chipping Sparrow
chum friend (sometimes sarcastic) (n.) waste products from fish processing (heads, tails, blood etc.) often used for shark fishing

(v.) to spread fish entrails etc. in the hope of luring sharks. "We chummed the water all morning, but never spotted any dorsal fins." Has some cross-over usage metaphorically in non-fishing situations.

cider an alcoholic drink derived from apples (US: hard cider) a nonalcoholic drink derived from apples
Cinderella a team which underachieves, or is overshadowed by successful neighbouring rivals* fairy tale character a lowly sports team or individual which enjoys an unexpectedly good run in a tournament
city a large town, in particular a town created a city by charter and containing a cathedral
"The City": the City of London, London's financial centre, hence financial markets and investment banking more generally (c.f. US Wall Street)
a usually large or important municipality governed under a charter granted by the state (however some smaller towns in the US are cities); an element of a standard mailing address (UK "postal town")
clerk administrative worker (or salesclerk) store or shop worker (UK: shop assistant)
hotel employee at the reservation desk (US & UK: receptionist)
closet any small room (esp. Northern England, Scotland, & Ireland); hence water closet, a room containing a flush toilet, later the toilet itself a private chamber for retirement
in secret; (come out of the closet) to reveal what was secret (especially in relation to homosexuality)
a cabinet or wardrobe, as for utensils or apparel; in the latter case oftenest built-in; hence e.g. walk-in closet, linen closet, and skeleton in the closet *(UK also: in the cupboard) *
coach bus with of higher standard of comfort, usually chartered or used for longer journeys*
tutor, usu. private, who prepares pupils for examinations *
railway carriage *
enclosed horse-drawn passenger carriage
sports trainer
extracurricular sports teacher at a school (UK: PE teacher)
lowest class on a passenger aircraft (UK: economy)
cob (mainly Northern & Central Eng.) a type of bread roll ("Chip cob", "ham cob", "pack of six cobs please")
(pl.) large globules of sweat ("I'm sweating cobs")
The portion of a corn plant around which the kernels grow.
a building material
a type of horse
a male swan
cock (n.) form of address to a man to gain attention or greet e.g. "Wotcha cock!"
a popular personage e.g. Cock o' the North
(v.) (cock up) *to make a mess of things; cock-up (n.) is the act or the resulting state of affairs
(n.) a male bird; esp., an adult male chicken (US oftenest rooster)
(n.) penis (vulgar slang)
(v.) to set the hammer or firing pin of a loaded firearm ready for firing; likewise, to "cock the shutter" of an old, spring-activated camera
(n.) A type of tap, faucet, or valve (e.g., a stopcock).
collect To win a bet (from the idea of picking up the winnings) (v.) to gather together, to pick up; (orig. US) to pick up a person or thing
(n.) short prayer read during the first part of a church service as practised by certain parts of the Christian faith; mainly Anglican and Roman Catholic.
(adj., adv.) charged to the receiver ("to call collect", to reverse the charges) ("a collect call")
college part of the name of some state secondary schools (US approx.: high school) and many independent schools (US approx.: prep school)
educational institution between school and university (e.g. sixth form college, technical college, college of further education)
vocational training institution
constituent part of some larger universities, especially ancient universities professional association which usu. grants some form of professional qualifications, mostly in the medical field (e.g. Royal College of Surgeons, American College of Surgeons)

an independent institution of higher education (as a small university or a division of a university) granting bachelor's degrees
generic term for higher education, but only at the undergraduate level

comforter a baby's dummy (q.v.) one who comforts quilted bedspread (UK: duvet)
commissioner professional head of the Metropolitan Police Service and City of London Police (US: chief of police) political head of a police department
member of any commission
commode small cabinet portable toilet for use in a room without plumbing normal toilet, in a bathroom (q.v.)
compensation the act of compensating
damages awarded for a legal wrong
(workers' compensation) payment to injured workers
remuneration received by employees
(unemployment compensation) compensation paid to an unemployed person (as a laid-off worker), arising from government resources
concession reduction in price (discount) for a certain category of person the action of conceding
in politics, the action of a candidate yielding to another
an area within one country that is administered by another
a lease or grant of premises or land for a particular use, or the so contracted-out service, as in concession stand, i.e. a counter, stand or area at public entertainment venues where snacks or drinks are sold, often at inflated prices
a concession stand
condominium a political territory (state or border area) in or over which two sovereign powers formally agree to share equally dominium (in the sense of sovereignty) and exercise their rights jointly (also condo) a type of joint ownership of real property (as an apartment building) in which portions of the property are commonly owned and other portions are individually owned; an apartment in a condominium
constable technically, a police officer of any rank, but usu. understood to mean a police officer of the lowest rank (one who holds no other more specific rank) (US: officer or patrolman) peace officer in a township without an organised police department
official who serves summonses (UK: bailiff or sheriff's officer)
construction the act or process of building or constructing; a structure; the construction industry
from construe: the assigning of meaning to ambiguous terms
road construction and maintenance work; roadwork ("a construction area/zone") (UK: roadworks)
cooker an appliance for cooking food (US: cookstove, stove, range); see also AGA cooker
a cooking apple, a large sour apple used in cooking
a pot or utensil for cooking in ("pressure cooker", "rice cooker", "slow cooker") a person who cooks (UK always cook)
cookie a bun (Scotland)

a biscuit of a particular variety, usually containing chocolate chips (often referred to as a "chocolate chip cookie")

a small packet of information stored on users' computers by websites a small, flat baked cake *(UK usu. biscuit, q.v.)
fellow, guy *("a tough cookie"); also, an attractive girl *
(that's the way the cookie crumbles) that's how things go
(to toss one's cookies) to vomit
(cookie-cutter) trite, banal
a cook or Culinary Specialist (Army and Navy slang)
cop to take ("cop a look at this", "cop one of these") (slang)
to be blamed for, be caught ("he'll cop it!") (slang)
police officer (short for "copper") (slang)
(cop a feel) to grope (slang)
(cop a plea) (law, orig. slang) to plead guilty to a lesser offence to not be tried for a graver charge; compare plea bargain
(cop a squat) to take a seat (slang)
copper low value coin, brown or 'copper' colored (currently 1p and 2p coins)
large copper vessel used for heating water and washing clothes (archaic)
the metallic element copper
police officer (slang, orig. UK)
coriander the leaves of the coriander plant, used as a herb (US: cilantro or Chinese parsley) the plant Coriandrum sativum
dried seeds of this plant
corn wheat in England, oats in Scotland and Ireland


any of various cereal plants or grains (US usu.: grain), also in combination (e.g. cornfield, a field of any cereal)
(see also US)

in both dialects, the principal crop cultivated in a particular region
Indian corn, in corn on the cob, corn flakes, popcorn
horny swelling on the foot
Zea mays; originally known as Indian corn (q.v.; UK usu.: maize or sweetcorn); hence cornfield, cornstarch (UK: corn flour), cornbread, cornball, cornblade, etc.
something corny *, hence cornball
cot infant bed; hence cot death (US: crib) camp bed
coulee a (solidified) stream of lava (chiefly Western, orig. Canadian) a deep steep-sided ravine formed by erosion, or a small valley or stream
course the entire degree programme a student takes at university an individual subject a student takes at university
court shoe a women's dress shoe with a heel (US: pump, q.v.) a type of athletic shoe used for sports played on an indoor court, such as volleyball or squash (UK similar: plimsoll or regionally pump)
cowboy an unscrupulous or unqualified tradesman a legendary archetype found in Wild West genre works

(derog.) one who is reckless, uncontrollable.

a cowhand working with livestock (UK: drover)
cracker small parcel that makes an explosive report when pulled from both ends, traditionally pulled at Christmas
attractive woman (slang)
anything good ("the new product is a cracker") (slang)
thin, hard, unsweetened biscuit (formerly chiefly US, now common everywhere) an unsophisticated, typically rural white person (also white cracker; derogatory slang, southeastern US)
crèche day care, day nursery nativity scene, manger scene, crib (q.v.) *
creek tidal channel through a coastal marsh (orig. sense) any inland stream of water smaller than a river (other terms: UK: rill, gill; N. Eng. & Scot.: burn; Eng. & New Eng.: brook; Midland US: run)
crew body of people manning a vehicle of any kind
gang of manual workers (e.g. road crew)
group of friends or colleagues ("I saw him and his crew at the bar")
rowing as a sport
crib (n.) nativity scene, crèche (q.v.) *
a manger or rack, or stall for cattle
a plagiarism, as of a student ("crib sheet")
cribbage
small enclosed bedstead for a child; hence crib death (UK: cot)
(informal) one's house or apartment
a bin for storing maize
a structure of logs to be anchored with stones; used for docks, dams, etc.
(orig. Canada) a small raft of timber
crisp fried potato slices with salt, sometimes with flavour (US: potato chips) when something sounds clear and dry. a term to sunburning. For example: Because he didn't have sunscreen, Jack was burnt to a crisp.
crumpet an attractive female (slang) A savoury waffle-like cake made from flour or potato and yeast
cubicle A compartment in a bathroom with low walls that contains a toilet. (US: stall)
A compartment in a larger area separated from similar adjoining compartments by low walls, such as in an office area.
cuffs The ends of a garment's sleeves, furthest from the wearer
short for handcuffs
An arrangement at the bottom of trouser-legs, in which the material is folded back upon itself to form a trough externally around the bottom of the leg. (UK: turn-ups)
cunt offensive (or sometimes indulgent) term often applied to men vagina (usu. obscene) offensive, obscene term usu. applied to women
custodian an association football goalkeeper a keeper or guardian of a person or thing one who cleans and maintains a building; a building superintendent, a janitor

Read more about this topic:  List Of Words Having Different Meanings In British And American English: A–L

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