Can You Correctly Spell All Of These Incredibly British Words?


By: Zoe Samuel

5 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

As Oscar Wilde put it, the United States and the United Kingdom are "two countries divided by a common language." While both nations speak English, there are regional differences in how words are spelled that can bamboozle even the most enthusiastic pond-hopper. Many a business relationship, friendship and romance have been jeopardized by not understanding the correct idiom, misusing a word, or putting the date the "wrong" way round. Spelling is yet another minefield when it comes to communicating, with each nation firmly convinced that their way of doing it is the right one.

Of course, you would never be befuddled by something so simple as talking British - because either you are British or you've been there so many times (or simply watched so much "Downton Abbey") that you're essentially an honorary Brit. You know when to use an "s" instead of a "z," when to keep or dump a letter "u," and whether you need a single or a double "l." You can code-switch between these two great nations' dictionaries with the agility of a truly international traveler (or perhaps, traveller). 

Still, since most people can't keep up with your expertise, it's very rare that you get to show it off - so click on through and prove your British cred once and for all!

Spell the missing word: the rainbow has seven ____.

Noah Webster, of dictionary fame, was probably responsible for this particular change, which also applies to words like vapor, honor, labor, etc.


What's the correct spelling for the paved area of a street that people walk on?

The pavement is the same thing as the sidewalk in U.K. English. The actual road area that the cars use doesn't have its own name, really. The Brits would say, "Walk on the pavement, not the road."


What is the metal called, whose symbol is AL?

Americans call it aluminum, Brits call it aluminium. It's mostly because discoverer Sir Humphry Davy couldn't decide between the two himself. Both are correct.


How do you spell the word that describes the process of growing older?

British English uses more letter E's in places like this.


What is the developmental stage after an embryo?

The "oe" in the British version is called a diphthong, which is when a vowel sound starts as one vowel and moves to another.


What's the other name for a playbill?

Program used to be the commonly used one for both sides, but in the 1800s Brits adopted the French spelling.


Where do actors perform on a stage?

Theater, center, meter, etc., are all the American spellings, as they are a little easier and simpler, which happened when American English began to simplify and standardize. British spellings keep the -re ending.


What does a data analyst do?

American English prefers the -ize ending in words like scrutinize, standardize and analyze. British versions are all -ise. That means it is easier to play Scrabble in the U.K.!


What's the bladed weapon they used to use to execute people?

An axe is the U.K. way of describing this weapon, but it's pronounced the same as the American ax.


What are the sparkly stones you put around your neck?

Jewellery is the U.K. spelling, but they still say it "jewel-ry," like Americans. Either way, diamonds are forever.


What's the breakfast food that Danon, Muller and Activia make?

The Brits still have an extraneous H in their yoghurt, but they don't pronounce it - the word is said the same in each place.


What's the rubber thing that goes on the wheel of your car?

This is one where people in either place will understand the other one. They just spell it differently.


When you have journeyed somewhere, is it correct in the U.K. to say you travelled, or you traveled?

The English keep the double L in words like travelled, marvelled, etc. Americans just have the one. But they say these words the same way.


Anymore: one word, two words, or not a correct construction at all?

In American English, "I can't take this madness anymore" refers to time, and "I can't eat any more of these cookies" refers to number. In U.K. English, both versions would use two words.


If a thing is really heavy, it weighs a _____.

Yep, it's a tonne. There are extra letters because it's just so heavy (and French).


Of "story" and "storey," which do the Brits use?

A story is a tale. A storey is a floor of a building.


How might you describe a face that looks serious and a bit sad?

Yep, it's sombre in the U.K. and somber in the U.S. Either way, it's gloomy.


What is the piece of paper you sign to pay a person?

It's a cheque in the U.K. and a check in the U.S. Both mean that money will change hands.


What's another name for a code?

Americans use cipher, but Brits use cypher. Solve that.


What's the thing you use to churn up the soil in a field so you can sow seeds?

It's plough in the U.K., plow in the U.S. Brits also call the Big Dipper the Plough.


What's the correct British spelling for a person who is not easily convinced of things, and generally assumes they are not true?

The American one is a skeptic, the British one is a sceptic. The American one is a little easier actually here, as it distinguishes itself properly from the use of SC as in school or science, by going with the unambiguous K.


What is the name for an Arab leader?

The British use sheikh and the Americans sheik or sheikh. It's a homonym for shake, either way.


If it's not digital, then its ________.

Words like dialog and analog are simplified in U.S. English. In the U.K., they are dialogue and analogue.


If a garment is made of wool, then it's ______.

The U.K. use woolly with a double L - literally putting the -ly suffix on the word wool. Some Americans prefer the double L version as well.


What do you call a fluffy egg dish commonly eaten at brunch?

The Americans simplified the British omelette to omelet.


What do you call a really long time, sort of like an epoch?

Americans have eon, Brits have aeon. But technically that should be æon - it's just that neither side still uses the æ, which used to be common.


What's the correct way to spell a slang word for a beverage?

The Brits have a double V in this one, which means it's a great Scrabble word that you should remember. Now bring me a bevvy, please.


What's it called when air leaks into or out of your house?

In the U.K., draught is for leaking air and draft is for when you get forced to be in the military.


If you're about to do something, and then hesitate, that means you ________.

The U.K. has baulk, the U.S. has balk. They sound the same, though.


What is the big silver transport with wings?

The Brits call this an aeroplane, but they will definitely understand the American usage.


If you drive your car carefully through a space, you _________.

No one can spell this word in the best of circumstances, so they won't judge you if you get it wrong. British spelling here is the French version. American spelling flipped the ending, but also tidied up the middle by dumping the O.


If someone is immediately appealing in a non-sexual way, they are _________.

Brits use likeable, Americans likable. Either way, as long as you are it, no one will mind if you cannot spell it.


What's the mythological animal with the body of a lion, and the wings and head of an eagle?

The U.S. spelling is griffin. Gryphon is now becoming old-fashioned, even in the U.K., so you can probably get away with using griffin in both.


A football team has people who protect the goal, who are called what?

Offence, defence, etc., are all British words. Americans have offense and defense. Some words stayed the same in the U.S., though, like cadence and science.


Your computer has a hard drive, but it used to have a hard _______.

While sometimes you see "disc" for hard drives and "disk" for external drives, actually disc is the U.K. version and disk the U.S. version. Despite the common misconception that it came first, diskette is actually a later word - it's spelled the same in both places, as discette would be hard to read.


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