Difference Between British English and American English

Difference Between British English and American English

Apart from about 2,000 miles. and the fact British English was invented first, there are several minor differences.

American English owes much to the Webster Dictionary – An American Dictionary of the English Language. (1828)

In 1755, Samuel Johnson published his Dictionary of the English Language. This was one of the first formal attempts to categorise English spelling. However, Webster didn’t approve of Johnson’s efforts. In particular he didn’t like certain varieties of Johnson’s spelling. Webster didn’t like words which weren’t spelt (or spelled which is more common in US) the way they were pronounced.

Thus Webster removed many letters like the silent u. So in American English we get

  • Favor
  • Color
  • Humor

rather than the British version favour, colour, and humour.

  • He also changed centre to center. Theatre, to theater.

Unnecessary endings were also dropped.

  • analogue (GB)  becomes analog (US)

There are also other differences. For example, Americans tend to add on l in words like travelled.

  • US – traveled.
  • GB – travelled.

In the mid Nineteenth Century, American English was close to British English in terms of accent and words used. However, the widespread immigration to American inevitably led to a widening of the difference between the two versions of English. New words became part of every day use.

American Words Replacing British English words.

  • apartment – flat
  • baby carriage – pram
  • band-aid – plaster
  • bathroom – Toilet, loo or WC
  • can – tin
  • cookie – biscuit
  • diaper – nappy
  • flashlight – torch
  • gas – petrol
  • highway – motorway
  • hood (car) bonnet
  • kerosene
  • paraffin
  • license plate – number plate
  • line – queue
  • mail – post
  • muffler – silencer
  • parking lot – car park
  • period – full stop
  • pharmacist – chemist
  • sidewalk – pavement
  • soccer – football
  • sweater – jumper
  • trash can – bin
  • zip code – postal code

Ironically, the rise of the internet, may help prevent the increasing divergence of the two versions of English. Increasingly, British English is adopting changes introduced by American English. For example, the American version of a billion (one thousand billion) is now used in the UK, rather than the old fashioned British Billion (one million million)


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