American and British English pronunciation differences

Differences in pronunciation between American English (AmE) and British English (BrE) can be divided into:

  • differences in accent (i.e. phoneme inventory and realisation). Accents vary widely within AmE and within BrE, so the features considered here are mainly differences between General American (GAm) and British Received Pronunciation (RP); for information about other accents see regional accents of English speakers.
  • differences in the pronunciation of individual words in the lexicon (i.e. phoneme distribution). In this article, transcriptions use RP to represent BrE and GAm and to represent AmE.

In the following discussion

  • superscript A2 after a word indicates the BrE pronunciation of the word is a common variant in AmE
  • superscript B2 after a word indicates the AmE pronunciation of the word is a common variant in BrE


See also: Phonological history of the English language, sections After American/British split, up to the 20th century (c. AD 1725–1900) and After 1900.

  • GAm is rhotic while RP is non-rhotic; that is, the letter r is only pronounced in RP when it is immediately followed by a vowel sound (unless it's silent). Where GAm has /r/ before a consonant, RP either has nothing (if the preceding vowel is /ɔː/ or /ɑː/, as in bore and bar) or has a schwa instead (the resulting sequences are diphthongs or triphthongs). Similarly, where GAm has r-coloured vowels (/ɚ/ or /ɝ/, as in cupboard or bird), RP has plain vowels /ə/ or /ɜː/. However many British accents, especially in Scotland and the West Country, are rhotic, and some American accents, such as the traditional Boston accent, are non-rhotic.

* The "intrusive R" of many RP speakers (in such sequences as "the idea-r-of it") is absent in GAm; this is a consequence of the rhotic/non-rhotic distinction.

  • GAm has fewer vowel distinctions before intervocalic /r/ than RP; for many GAm speakers, unlike RP, merry, marry and Mary are homophones; mirror rhymes with nearer, and furry rhymes with hurry. However, some eastern American accents, such as the Boston accent, have the same distinctions as in RP.
  • For some RP speakers (upper class), unlike in GAm, some or all of tire, tower, and tar are homophones; this reflects the merger of the relevant vowels; similarly the pour-poor merger is common in RP but not in GAm.
  • RP has three open back vowels, where GAm has only two or even one. Most GAm speakers use the same vowel for RP "short O" /ɒ/ as for RP "broad A" /ɑː/ (the father-bother merger); many also use the same vowel for these as for RP /ɔː/ (the cot-caught merger).
  • For Americans without the cot-caught merger, the lot-cloth split results in /ɔː/ in some words which now have /ɒ/ in RP; as reflected in the eye dialect spelling "dawg" for dog.
  • The trap-bath split has resulted in RP having "broad A" /ɑː/ where GAm has "short A" /æ/, in most words where A is followed by either /n/ followed by another consonant, or /s/, /f/, or /θ/ (e.g. plant, pass, laugh, path). However, many British accents, such as most Northern English accents, agree with GAm in having short A in these words, although it is usually phonetically [a] rather than [æ].
  • RP has a marked degree of contrast of length between "short" and "long" vowels (The long vowels being the diphthongs, and /iː/, /uː/, /ɜː/, /ɔː/, /ɑː/). In GAm this contrast is much less evident, and the IPA length symbol (ː) is often omitted.
  • The "long O" vowel (as in boat) is realised differently: GAm pure [oː] or diphthongized [oʊ]; RP central first element[əʊ]. However there is considerable variation in this vowel on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • The distinction between unstressed /ɪ/ and /ə/ (e.g. roses vs Rosa's) is often lost in GAm. In RP it is retained, in part because it helps avoid nonrhotic homophones; e.g. batted vs battered as /'bætɪd/ vs /'bætəd/. It is, however, lost in Australian English (which is also non-rhotic) meaning both words are pronounced the same, unlike American or British English.
  • Where GAm has /iː/ in an unstressed syllable at the end of a morpheme, conservative RP has /ɪ/, not having undergone happY tensing. This distinction is retained in inflected forms (e.g. candied and candid are homophones in RP, but not in GAm).
  • In GAm, flapping is common: when either a /t/ or a /d/ occurs between a sonorant phoneme and an unstressed vowel phoneme, it is realized as an alveolar-flap allophone [ɾ]. This sounds like a /d/ to RP speakers, although many GAm speakers distinguish the two phonemes by aspirating /t/ in this environment, especially after /ɪ/ or /eɪ/ (thus bitter and rated are distinguishable from bidder and raided), or by lengthening the vowel preceding an underlying /d/. [ɾ] is an allophone of /r/ in conservative RP, which is hence caricatured in America as a "veddy British" accent.
  • Yod-dropping occurs in GAm after all alveolar consonants, including ; i.e. historic /juː/ (from spellings u, ue, eu, ew), is pronounced /uː/ in a stressed syllable. In contrast, RP speakers:
    • always retain /j/ after /n/: e.g. new is RP /njuː/, GAm /nuː/;
    • retain or coalesce it after : e.g. due is RP /djuː/ or /dʒuː/, GAm /duː/;
    • retain or drop it after : e.g. allude is RP /ə'ljuːd/ or (as GAm) /ə'luːd/.
    • retain, coalesce or drop it after : e.g. assume is RP /ə'sjuːm/ or /ə'ʃuːm/, or (as GAm) /ə'suːm/;
      • In some words where /j/ has been coalesced in GAm, it may be retained in RP: e.g. issue is RP /'ɪsjuː/ or (as GAm) /'ɪʃuː/


French stress

For many loanwords from French where AmE has final-syllable stress, BrE stresses an earlier syllable. Such words include:

  • BrE first-syllable stress: adultA2,B2, balletA2, baton, beret, bidet, blasé, brevetA2, brochureB2, buffet, caféA2, canardB2, chagrin, chaletA2, chauffeurA2,B2, chiffon, clichéB2, coupé, croissant, debrisB2, debut, décor, detailA2, détenteB2, flambé, frappé, garageB2, gateau, gourmetA2, lamé, montageA2, parquet, pastel, pastille, pâté, précis, sachet, salon, soupçon, vaccine; matinée, négligée, nonchalant, nondescript; also some French names, including BernardB2, Calais, Degas, Dijon, Dumas, Francoise, ManetA2, Maurice, MonetA2, Pauline, Renault, RenéB2, Renoir, Rimbaud, DelacroixB2.
  • BrE second-syllable stress: attaché, consommé, décolleté, déclassé, De Beauvoir, Debussy, démodé, denouement, distingué, Dubonnet, escargot, fiancé(e), retroussé

A few French words have other stress differences:

  • AmE first-syllable, BrE last-syllable: addressA2 (postal), m(o)ustacheA2; cigaretteA2, limousineB2, magazineB2,
  • AmE first-syllable, BrE second-syllable: exposéB2, liaisonA2, macramé, Renaissance
  • AmE second-syllable, BrE last-syllable: New Orleans

-ate and -atory

Most 2-syllable verbs ending -ate have first-syllable stress in AmE and second-syllable stress in BrE. This includes castrate, dictateA2, donateA2, locateA2, mandateB2, migrate, placate, prostrate, pulsate, rotate, serrateB2, spectate, striated, translateA2, vacate, vibrate; in the case of cremate, narrate, placate, the first vowel is in addition reduced to /ə/ in BrE. Examples where AmE and BrE match include create, debate, equate, elate, negate, orate, relate with second-syllable stress; and mandate and probate with first-syllable stress. Derived nouns in -ator may retain the distinction, but those in -ation do not. Also, migratoryA2 and vibratory retain the distinction.

Most longer -ate verbs are pronounced the same in AmE and BrE, but a few have first-syllable stress in BrE and second-syllable stress in AmE: elongate, infiltrateA2, remonstrate, tergiversate. However, some derived adjectives ending -atory have a difference, as stress shifting to -at- can occur in BrE. Among these cases are regulatoryB2, celebratoryA2, participatoryB2, where AmE stresses the same syllable as the corresponding -ate verb; and compensatory, where AmE stresses the second syllable.

A further -atory difference is laboratory: AmE /'læbrɪˌtɔri/ and BrE /lə'bɒrət(ə)riː/.

Miscellaneous stress

There are a number of cases where same-spelled noun, verb and/or adjective have uniform stress in one dialect but distinct stress in the other (e.g. alternate, prospect): see initial-stress-derived noun.

The following table lists words where the only difference between AmE and BrE is in stress (possibly with a consequent reduction of the unstressed vowel). Words with other points of difference are listed in a later table.

BrE AmE words with relevant syllable stressed in each dialect


caffeine, cannotA2, casein, Kathleen, SuezA2, communal, escalopeB2, harass, omega, paprikaB2, patina, subaltern, stalactite, stalagmite, ThanksgivingB2, transference, aristocratA2,B2, kilometreB2


defense (sport), guffawA2, ice creamA2,B2, guru, mama, papa, pretense, princessA2,B2, weekendB2, Canton, anginaA2, Augustine, Bushido, Ghanaian, LofotenB2, marshmallow, patronal, spread-eagle, controversy, formidableB2, hospitableB2, miscellany, predicative, saxophonistB2, submariner, ancillary, capillary, catenary, corollary, fritillary, medullary


ParmesanB2, partisan, premature, opportune, carburet(t)or


margarine, PyreneesB2, cockatoo




arytenoidA2, oregano, obscurantist


-ary -ery -ory -bury, -berry, -mony

Where the syllable preceding -ary,-ery or -ory is stressed, AmE and BrE alike pronounce all these endings /əri(ː)/. Where the preceding syllable is unstressed, however, AmE has a full vowel rather than schwa: /ɛri/ for -ary and -ery and /ɔri/ for -ory. BrE retains the reduced vowel /əriː/, or even elides it completely to /riː/. (The elision is avoided in carefully enunciated speech, especially with endings -rary,-rery,-rory.) So military is AmE /'mɪlɪtɛriː/ and BrE /'mɪlɪtəriː/ or /'mɪlɪtriː/.

Note that stress differences occur with ending -atory (explained above) and a few others like capillary (included above). A few words have the full vowel in AmE in the ending even though the preceding syllable is stressed: library, primaryA2, rosemary. Pronouncing library as /'laɪbɛri/ rather than /'laɪbrɛri/ is highly stigmatized in AmE, whereas in BrE, /'laɪbriː/ is common in rapid or casual speech.

Formerly the BrE-AmE distinction for adjectives carried over to corresponding adverbs ending -arily, -erily or -orily. However, nowadays most BrE speakers adopt the AmE practice of shifting the stress to the antepenultimate syllable: militarily is thus /ˌmɪlɪ'tɛrɪliː/ rather than /'mɪlɪtrɪliː/.

The placename component -bury (e.g. Canterbury) has a similar difference after a stressed syllable: AmE /bɛri/ and BrE /brɪː/ or /bərɪː/. The ending -mony after a stressed syllable is AmE /moʊni/ but BrE /mənɪː/. The word -berry in compounds has a slightly different distinction: in BrE, it is reduced (/bəriː/ or /briː/) after a stressed syllable, and may be full /bɛriː/ after an unstressed syllable; in AmE it is usually full in all cases. Thus, strawberry is BrE /'strɔːbəriː/ but AmE /'strɔbɛri/, while whortleberry is BrE /'wɔːtlbɛriː/ and similarly AmE /'wɔrtlbɛri/.


Words ending in unstressed -ile derived from Latin adjectives ending -ilis are mostly pronounced with a full vowel (/aɪl/) in BrE but a reduced vowel /ɪl/ or syllabic /l/ in AmE (e.g. fertile rhymes with fur tile in BrE but with turtle in AmE). This difference applies:

  • generally to agile, docile, facile, fertile, fissile, fragile, futile, infertile, missile, nubile, octile, puerile, rutile, servile, stabile, sterile, tactile, tensile, virile, volatile;
  • usually to ductile, hostile, (im)mobile (adjective), projectile, textile, utile, versatile;
  • not usually to decile, domicile, infantile, juvenile, labile, mercantile, pensile, reptile, senile;
  • not to crocodile, exile, gentile, percentile, reconcile; nor to compounds of monosyllables (e.g. turnstile from stile).

Related endings -ility, -ilize, -iliary are pronounced the same in AmE as BrE. The name Savile is pronounced with (/ɪl/) in both BrE and AmE. Mobile (sculpture), camomile and febrile are sometimes pronounced with /il/ in AmE and /aɪl/) in BrE. Imbecile has /aɪl/ or /iːl/ in BrE and often /ɪl/ in AmE.


The suffix -ine, when unstressed, is pronounced sometimes /aɪn/ (e.g. feline), sometimes /i(ː)n/ (e.g. morphine) and sometimes /ɪn/ (e.g. medicine). Some words have variable pronunciation within BrE, or within AmE, or between BrE and AmE. Generally, AmE is more likely to favour /in/ or /ɪn/, and BrE to favour /aɪn/: e.g. adamantineA2, carbine, crystallineA2, labyrinthine, philistine, serpentineA2, turbineA2. However, sometimes AmE has /aɪn/ where BrE has /iːn/; e.g. iodineB2, strychnineA2.

Weak forms

Some function words have a weak form in AmE, with a reduced vowel used when the word is unstressed, but always use the full vowel in RP. These include: or [ɚ]; you [jə]; your [jɚ].

On the other hand, the titles Saint and Sir before a person's name have "weak forms" in BrE but not AmE: before vowels, [snt] and [sər]; before consonants, [sn] and [sə].

Miscellaneous pronunciation differences

These tables list words pronounced differently but spelled the same. See also the table of words with different pronunciation reflected in the spelling.

Single differences

Words with multiple points of difference of pronunciation are in the table after this one. Accent-based differences are ignored. For example, Moscow is RP /'mɒskəʊ/ and GAm /'mɑskaʊ/, but only the /əʊ/-/aʊ/ difference is highlighted here, since the /ɒ/-/ɑ/ difference is predictable from the accent. Also, tiara is listed with AmE /æ/; the marry-merry-Mary merger changes this vowel for many Americans. Some AmE types are listed as /ɒ/ where GAm merges to /ɑ/ .

BrE AmE Words
/æ/ /ɑ/ annato, BangladeshA2, Caracas, chiantiA2, Galapagos, GdańskA2, grappaA2, gulagA2, HanoiA2, JanA2 (male name, e.g. Jan Palach), KantA2, kebab, Las (placenames, e.g. Las Vegas), Mafia, mishmashA2, MombasaA2, Natasha, Nissan, Pablo, pasta, PicassoA2, ralentando, SanA2 (names outside USA; e.g. San Juan), SlovakA2, Sri LankaA2, Vivaldi, wigwamA2, YasserA2 (and A in many other foreign names and loanwords)
/iː/ /ɛ/ aesthete, anaesthetize, breveA2, catenaryA2, Daedalus, devolutionA2,B2, ecumenicalB2, epochA2, evolutionA2,B2, febrileA2, Hephaestus, KenyaB2, leverA2, methane, OedipusA2, (o)estrus, penalizeA2, predecessorA2, pyrethrinA2, senileA2, hygienic
/ɒ/ /oʊ/ Aeroflot, compost, homosexualB2, Interpol, Lod, pogrom, polkaB2, produce (noun), Rosh Hashanah, sconeA2,B2, shone, sojourn, trollB2, yoghurt
/ɑː/ /æ/ (Excluding trap-bath split words) banana, javaA2, khakiA2, morale, NevadaA2, scenarioA2, sopranoA2, tiaraA2, Pakistani
/ɛ/ /i/ CecilA2,B2, crematoriumA2, cretin, depot, inherentA2,B2, leisureA2, medievalA2, reconnoitreA2, zebraB2, zenithA2,B2
/æ/ /eɪ/ compatriot, patriotB2, patronise, phalanx, plait, repatriate, Sabine, satrapA2, satyrA2, basilA2 (plant)
/ɪ/ /aɪ/ dynasty, housewifery, idyll, livelongA2, long-livedA2, privacyB2, simultaneous, vitamin. Also the suffix -ization. See also -ine.
/z/ /s/ AussieA2, blouse, complaisantA2, crescent, erase, GlasgowA2, parse, valise, trans-A2,B2 (in some words)
/ɑː/ /eɪ/ amenA2, charadeB2, cicada, galaA2, promenadeA2, pro rata, tomato, stratum
/əʊ/ /ɒ/ codify, goffer, ogleA2, phonetician, processor, progress (noun), slothA2,B2, wont A2, wroth
/ʌ/ /ɒ/ accomplice, accomplish, colanderB2, constableB2, Lombardy, monetaryA2, -mongerA2
/ɒ/ /ʌ/ hovelA2,B2, hover. Also the strong forms of these function words: anybodyA2 (likewise every-, some-, and no-), becauseA2,B2 (and clipping 'cos/'cause), ofA2, fromA2, wasA2, whatA2
(sounded) (silent) chthonic, herbA2 (plant), KnossosB2, phthisicB2, salve, solder
/ɑː/ /ɚ/ Berkeley, Berkshire, clerk, Derby, Hertford. (The only AmE word with = [ɑr] is sergeant).
/aɪ/ /i/ eitherA2,B2, neitherA2,B2, Pleiades. See also -ine.
/iː/ /aɪ/ albino, migraineB2. Also the prefixes anti-A2, multi-A2, semi-A2 in loose compounds (e.g. in anti-establishment, but not in antibody). See also -ine.
/ə/ /ɒ/ hexagon, octagon, paragon, pentagon, phenomenon.
/iː/ /eɪ/ eta, beta, quayA2, theta, zeta
/aɪ/ /ɪ/ butylB2, diverge, minorityA2,B2, primer (schoolbook). See also -ine.
/ɛ/ /eɪ/ ateB2 ("et" is nonstandard in America), mêlée, chaise longue
/ɜːz/ /us/ Betelgeuse, chanteuse, chartreuseA2, masseuse
/eɪ/ /æ/ apricotA2, dahlia, digitalis, patentA2,B2, comrade
(silent) (sounded) medicineB2. See also -ary -ery -ory -bury, -berry
/ɒ/ /ə/ Amos, condom, Enoch
/ʃ/ /ʒ/ AsiaB2, PersiaB2, versionB2
/ə/ /oʊ/ borough, thorough (see also -ory and -mony)
/ɪr/ /ɚ/ chirrupA2, stirrupA2, sirupA2, squirrel
/siː/ /ʃ/ cassia, CassiusA2, hessian
/tiː/ /ʃ/ consortium
/uː/ /ju/ couponA2, fuchsine, HoustonB2
/uː/ /ʊ/ boulevard, snooker, woofA2 (weaving)
/ɜː(r)/ /ʊr/ connoisseurA2, entrepreneurA2
/ɜː/ /oʊ/ föhnB2, MöbiusB2
/ə/ /eɪ/ DraconianA2, hurricaneB2
/eɪ/ /i/ deityA2,B2, Helene
/juː/ /w/ jaguar, Nicaragua
/ɔː/ /ɑ/ launch, saltB2
/ɔː(r)/ /ɚ/ record (noun), stridorA2,B2
/ziː/ /ʒ/ Frasier, Parisian, Malaysia
/æ/ /ɒ/ twatB2
/ɒ/ /æ/ wrath
/ɑː/ /ət/ nougat
/ɑː/ /ɔ/ Utah
/ɑː/ /ɔr/ quarkA2,B2
/æ/ /ɛ/ femme fataleA2
/aɪ/ /eɪ/ Isaiah
/aʊ/ /u/ nousA2
/ð/ /θ/ booth
/diː/ /dʒi/ cordiality
/dʒ/ /gdʒ/ suggestA2
/eɪ/ /ə/ template
/eɪ/ /ət/ tourniquet
/ə(r)/ /ɑr/ MadagascarA2
/ə(r)/ /jɚ/ figureA2 for the verb
/ɛ/ /ɑ/ envelopeA2,B2
/ɛ/ /ə/ Kentucky
/ə/ /æ/ trapeze
/ɜː(r)/ /ɛr/ errA2
/əʊ/ /ɒt/ Huguenot
/əʊ/ /aʊ/ MoscowA2
/əʊ/ /u/ broochA2
/ɪ/ /i/ pi(t)taB2
/iː/ /ɪ/ beenB2
/iːʃ/ /ɪtʃ/ nicheA2,B2
/jɜː/ /ju/ milieu
/juː/ /u/ barracuda
/ɔː/ /æ/ falconA2
/s/ /z/ asthma
/ʃ/ /sk/ scheduleB2
/t/ /θ/ AnthonyA2,B2
/ts/ /z/ piazzaA2
/ʊ/ /ɪ/ kümmel
/ʊ/ /ʌ/ brusque
/uː/ /aʊ/ routeA2
/uː/ /oʊ/ cantaloup(e)
/ʌ/ /oʊ/ covertA2,B2
/z/ /ʃ/ Dionysius
/ziː/ /ʃ/ transientA2, nausea

Multiple differences

The slashes normally used to enclose IPA phonemic transcriptions have been omitted from the following table to improve legibility.

Spelling BrE IPA AmE IPA Notes


(1) bəˈrɑʒ
(2) ˈbær.ɪdʒ

The AmE pronunciations are for distinct senses (1) "sustained weapon-fire" vs (2) "dam, barrier" (Compare garage below.)

(1) ˈbɜːmaɪt
(2) ˈbəʊmaɪt

(1) ˈbeɪmaɪt
(2) ˈboʊmaɪt

The first pronunciations approximate German [ø] (spelled <ö> or <oe>) ; the second ones are anglicized.


(1) boʊˈkeɪ
(2) buˈkeɪ


(1) ˈbɔɪ.ɑː
(2) bəʊˈjɑː

(1) boʊˈjɑr
(2) ˈbɔɪ.jɚ




The U.S. pronunciation would be unrecognised in the UK. The British pronunciation occurs in America, more commonly for the verb than the noun, still more in derivatives buoyant, buoyancy.

(1) ˈkæd.ə(r)
(2) ˈkæd.rə

(1) ˈkæd.ri
(2) ˈkɑd.ri
(3) ˈkæd.reɪ
(4) ˈkɑd.reɪ



(1) kænˈtɑn
(2) kænˈtoʊn

difference is only in military sense "to quarter soldiers"


(1) ˈdɪləˌtɑnt
(2) ˌdɪləˈtɑnt

BrE reflects the word's Italian origin; AmE approximates more to French.


(1) ˈɪŋ.kwə.ri
(2) ɪŋˈkwaɪ.(ə)ri

BrE uses two spellings and one pronunciation. In AmE the word is usually spelled inquiry.


(1) ˈfɛ
(2) ˈfɛb.rəl

The BrE pronunciation occurs in AmE


(1) 'freɪkəs
(2) ˈfrækəs

The BrE plural is French fracas /ˈfrækɑːz/; the AmE plural is anglicized fracases

(1) ˈgærɪdʒ
(2) ˈgærɑːʒ


The AmE reflects French stress difference. The two BrE pronunciations may represent distinct meanings for some speakers; for example, "a subterranean garage for a car" (1) vs "a petrol garage" (2). (Compare barrage above.)

(1) ˈglæsiə
(2) ˈgleɪsiə



(1)  ʒælʊˈziː
(2) ˈʒælʊziː


lapsang souchong




The BrE pronunciation is common in AmE

(1) lɛfˈtɛnənt
(2) ləˈtɛnənt


The 2nd British pronunciation is restricted to the Royal Navy. Standard Canadian pronunciation is the same as the British.



Spelling litchi has pronunciation /ˈlɪtʃi(ː)/






AmE is as BrE except in military sense "advance at an angle"



The AmE pronunciation is anglicized; the BrE is French.


(1) ˈpinʌlt
(2) pɪˈnʌlt


(1) ˈprɛmjə
(2) ˈprɛmɪə

(1) ˈprimɪr
(2) prɪmˈɪr



(1) prɪmˈɪr
(2) prɪmˈjɛr



(1) ˈproʊvoʊst
(2) ˈproʊvəst

The BrE pronunciation also occurs in AmE


(1) ˈkwaɪnaɪn
(2) ˈkwɪnaɪn


(1) rɪˈzɔːs
(2) rɪˈsɔːs




(1) ˈrɛspət
(2) rɪˈspaɪt







sense "bog"; in metaphorical sense "gloom", the BrE pronunciation is common in AmE. Homograph "cast off skin" is /slʌf/ everywhere.


(1) tuˈniʒə
(2) tuˈniʃə



(1) ʌnˈtɔrd
(2) ˌʌn.təˈwɔrd



(1) veɪs
(2) veɪz

The BrE pronunciation also occurs in AmE
z (the letter)



The spelling of this letter as a word corresponds to the pronunciation: thus Commonwealth (including, usually, Canada) zed and U.S. (and, occasionally, Canada) zee.

See also


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