The Brit List: 10 Words Pronounced Differently in Britain

You say VIT-a-min, I say VITE-a-min … (Photo via AP)

These words look the same in both the U.S. and U.K. but for some reason they do not quite sound the same. Basically the stress is on different syllables but in some cases it’s just plain unexplainable! But, we will try.

1. Vitamin = In the U.K. it’s pronounced how it is spelled VIT-a-min, vit rhymes with wit. Americans pronounced it VITE-a-min, vite rhyming with bite.

2. Aluminum = The British pronunciation is a tongue twister. It comes easier after a few tries. But, then you’re in danger of forgetting how to say it in American-English. Sounding it out may help, al-loo-MIN-ee-um … There’s a second “i” in the British form of the word, aluminium, hence the extra syllable. Here’s a video to help out.

3. Privacy = In the U.K. it’s sort of like privy, as in “You’re not privy to this conversation.” The word is pronounced PRIV-a-see, “priv” rhymes with the verb “live.”

4. Schedule
= This is a tricky one. Somehow, in the U.K., the word begins with a shh and the “c” disappears, here it is sounded out, SHED-ual. In a study by the British Library, interim results suggest a third of Britons taking part now adopt the American-style “SKED-ual.” Maybe they’re tired of getting “huh” looks?

5. Ate = In Britain, this word has been traditionally pronounced “et.” Yep, just two letters. You’d think ate was already short enough. “I’m full, I et a huge lunch.” This may be considered old fashioned though as it’s reported younger people in the U.K. are now pronouncing the word as spelled, a-t-e.

6. Garage = Americans put a “zsa” on the end like Zsa Zsa Gabor, pronounced ga-RAHJ. In the U.K., it’s pronounced “GARE-idge.” Like, “Can I park my bike in your GARE-idge?”  

7. Water = BBC America’s Mind the Gap polled our expat readers and a lot chimed in saying “water” is really hard for Americans to understand when said in a British accent. They don’t even know why! It comes across as “WAH-ta” vs. our “wodder.”  

8. Mobile = Actually, the Brits pronounce this as it is spelled, mo-BILE, with bile rhyming with “while.” Americans pronounce it MO-bul. Hmm, fancy that?

9. Advertisement = Brits shorten this word to advert which sounds quite clever, “Did you see the new Jaguar advert?” Vert sounds like shirt. The whole word is broken down like this, ad-VERT-iz-ment. Americans on the other hand keep the “t” in the third syllable making the U.K “iz” into an American “tize” sounding like this, AD-ver-tize-ment.

10. Herb = Brits pronounce the “h” in herb, when referring to leafy greens, while it’s silent in the U.S. and sounds like “erb”. For instance, in the U.K. it’d be “herbal tea” versus here in the U.S. it’d be “erbal tea.” If you heard a Brit say, “I picked herbs out of the garden,” you’d know what they’re saying but might think, “That’s a lot of ‘h’”.

What word makes you wonder, “What’s that again?”