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Words that are Meant Differently Around the World

by Out and About Mag.

“The beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people.” -Unknown

Things People Say Differently Around the WorldThe world is the stage in which all partake in the beautiful experience of existing. On this steady-swift journey, many are fortunate to taste and see the vivacity of various cultures across the globe. Language is a cultural aspect that truly speaks for itself, and unique or alternative vocabularies is a fascinating subject to delve on.

Without further ado, here are words that are meant differently around the world.

  1. ‘Robot’ and ‘Traffic Light’

What is thought of as a machine built to carry out complex tasks and sometimes suggested to be an intelligent mechanical being is, in fact, the equivalent of the word ‘traffic light’ in South Africa.

  1. ‘Knickers’ and ‘Underpants’

The British regard knickers as an undergarment for females, but around the world, it has taken the neutral form of underwear.

  1. ‘Garage’ and ‘Petrol Station’

 A garage predominantly known for housing vehicles is also known as a petrol station where vehicles are repaired and receive fuel. 

  1. ‘Ice Cream Sprinkles’ and ‘Hundreds and Thousands’

These sweet bits of joy have a more affluent alias according to British English; so when necessary one shouldn’t ask for sprinkles on their ice cream, it’s best to request for hundreds and thousands.

  1. ‘Cilantro’ and ‘Coriander’

This aromatic plant is so favoured that it has been adorned with two names that one can be identified in many recipes.

  1. ‘Tomato Sauce’ and ‘Ketchup’

The ultimate border between British and American English, equally adorned across the world.

  1. ‘Dummy’ and ‘Pacifier’

Due to its modern connotation, it only makes sense that dummy isn’t as popular as its counterpart, the pacifier.

  1. ‘Garbage’ and ‘Trash’

For some odd reason, either word gives rubbish a different intention. Garbage rings more wholesome than its belligerent equivalent.

  1. ‘Biscuits’ and ‘Cookies’

The renowned flat baked good is referred to as a cookie in the USA and a biscuit in the UK. However, in the USA, a biscuit is a different type of baked goods falling under the family of scones.  

  1. ‘Crisps’ and ‘Chips’

In British English, crisps are normally associated with the store-bought, sealed and packet kind, but in the USA they refer to as chips.

  1. ‘Sweets’ and ‘Candy’ 

Instead of the collective ‘sweets’ the broader term ‘candy’ is used mainly by English-speaking Americans.

  1. ’Bonnet’ and ‘Hood’

The equivalent of a hood is a word also used to describe the front of a car holding the engine; the bonnet.

  1. ‘Glove Compartment’ and ‘Cubbyhole’

The compartment recessed in a vehicle's dashboard is known as a cubbyhole in some parts of the world.

  1. ‘Boot’ and ‘Trunk’

A trunk doesn't refer to an elephant snout alone; it also describes a storage compartment located at the back of a vehicle, also known as the boot in some parts of the world.

  1. ‘Gas’ and ‘Petrol’

When referring to gas, one must look beyond formless matter, for it is another world for petrol used mostly by American English-speakers.

  1. ‘Fringe’ and ‘Bangs’

Forelocks are popularly described as either word; fringe and/or bangs. 

  1. ‘Flat’ and ‘Apartment’

This modest living space can also be referred to by its physical appearance; flat. The world flat is mainly used in Britain. 

  1. ‘Highway’ and ‘Motorway’

A highway is referred to as the less euphoric; motorway in Western European countries.

  1. ‘Bakkie’ and ‘Van’

A bakkie is a South African spin on the modern pick-up truck/van.

  1. ‘Takkies’, ‘Trainers’ and Sneakers

A rule of thumb with athletic footwear in South Africa; they speak of takkies the equivalent of trainers in the UK and sneakers in the English-speaking Americas. 

  1. ‘Broil’ and ‘Grill’

To broil is to grill, simply; to cook by direct heat. 

  1. ‘Chutes and Ladders’ and ‘Snakes and Ladders’

The game of Indian origin is referred to as chutes and ladders by American English-speakers.

  1. ‘Flannel’ and ‘Facecloth’

When in West Europe flannels aren’t apparel; they are used on the face - the equivalent of a facecloth.

24 ‘Braces’ and ‘Suspenders’

This iconic fashion accessory is known as braces in some parts of the world and suspenders in other parts. 


This list could carry on because human beings are creative; striving to give meaning to words whilst simultaneously coining new meanings. Hence, why the world is such a vivid depth, always being filled but never full.


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