13 American Words with Completely Different Meanings Overseas

by  Tommy Burson | Jul 3, 2014
Travelers ordering food in Rome
Travelers ordering food in Rome / TFILM/iStock

Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and many others countries speak the English language. But sometimes talking with the locals there can feel as foreign to U.S. travelers as communicating with those in, say, Thailand. To help clear these up, here are a few words that our stateside readers are all familiar with -- but that mean something completely different in other English-speaking places around the world.

Slang in Europe 

Pants: In England, the word pants refers to one’s underwear, not their trousers. When something's awful, you can also say, "that's pants."

Jock: No, it’s not the hunky star quarterback. A Jock is a term for a Scottish person that, while affectionate in some instances, can also be interpreted as derogatory.

Ride: Don't ask a new Irish friend from the bar for a "ride" to your place. Ask for a lift instead, because a ride implies a roll in the hay.

Chips: If you've ever ordered fish and chips, you know that these are actually french fries. That greasy snack that we so love? They're called crisps.

Banger: This means sausage...or a shabby car.

Jelly: Here’s why foreigners constantly sneer at our love for PB&J sandwiches. "Jelly" is a monicker for Jell-O -- would you ever put that in your toast?

FannyWhile "fanny" refers to the backside in American English, the word is quite rude to Britons -- who use the word to refer to women's genitals. (Fanny packs are “bum bags” on this side of the pond.)

Fag: Before lashing out at the Brit politely asking for a "fag," remember that, to them, it means cigarette.

Knock up: If someone promises to "knock you up in the morning,” they're assuring you that they'll make sure to wake you up.

Thong: Flip-flop shoes.

Slang in Other Parts of the World 

Entree: When you order an entree in Australia, you’re actually ordering an appetizer. The "main" is the focus of the meal.

Gypped: In some parts of the world, this term has racist implications, referring the the stereotype that the nomadic Roma are thieves. So when you're telling a tale abroad of being cheated, think twice about your word choice.

America: Believe it or not, this word can be mildly offensive in South American if you use it interchangeably with "United States." You might see why doing so could be interpreted as narrow -- after all, some South Americans also refer to themselves as Americans, too.

'Po Boy sandwich
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