You may think it’s easy to communicate when you’re visiting another English-speaking country, but be careful of words that mean something entirely different outside the US. Read on to see which eight words could cause you embarrassment across the pond or down under.

Pants – Be careful who you tell in the U.K. that you have to go pants shopping—across the pond, “pants” means “underwear.” When you’re talking about jeans and khakis, you should call them “trousers.” Avoid Using In: The U.K., Ireland

Knob – Americans hear the word “knob” and think “doorknob” or “lever.” It has a much dirtier meaning in other countries, like Australia and the U.K., where it’s an insult or slang for a part of the male anatomy. Now you’ll know to be offended if someone calls you a “knob head.” Avoid Using In: The U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa

Root – Americans may “root around” looking for a lost object, but Australians and New Zealanders use the term to refer to having sex. Avoid Using In: Australia, New Zealand

Pull – If someone “pulled” last night in the U.K., they’re probably not talking about pulling a muscle or drawing something apart. It’s commonly used as slang for successfully picking up someone while out on the town. Likewise, “going on the pull” means that someone is going out with the express goal of getting some action. Avoid Using In: The U.K., Ireland

Check out the full list here.


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Mick March 23, 2014 - 5:18 pm

Nobody in the UK would think the word pants means underwear. Underpants mean underwear, i.e. Under your pants.

Paul Feagan March 24, 2014 - 3:53 am

Also don’t be surprised if someone in the UK says they are dying for a fag – slang for a cigarette.

Mick March 24, 2014 - 11:01 am

Don’t ask for a Fanny Pack either…..

Brendan March 24, 2014 - 1:26 pm

I realise this blog is aimed towards US readers but I was a bit confused by the title as a UK reader – classifying the UK as ‘abroad’ for English is a bit strange! Perhaps changing the title to ‘American-English’ would be clearer.


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