Chips vs. fries: the top 5 differences between American and British food vocabulary

In most cases Americans and Britons have the same words for speaking about food. A steak is a steak, apples are apples, and potatoes are potatoes. Most of the time it doesn’t matter which side of the Atlantic you’re on – you’ll be understood when you order your food and buy your groceries.

But watch out – sometimes there are differences. Let’s look at the most common.

Sweets vs. candy

We in the UK say sweets but the Americans call it candy. It’s also worth noting that sweet is a countable noun (plural sweets), while candy is both countable and uncountable.

candy / sweets

Chips vs. French fries

Chips is British English, French fries American. If you ask for chips in the US, you’ll get what we call crisps in Britain! Confusing, eh?

British people often use the word fries, too because fast food chains in the UK such as McDonald’s and Burger King advertise the product as fries, not as chips.

french fries (AmE) / chips (BrE)

Crisps in Britain, chips in the United States.

(above) ‘Crisps’ in Britain, (below) ‘chips’ in the United States.

Biscuits vs. cookies

A biscuit is British, a cookie American.

cookie (AmE) / biscuit (BrE)

Aubergine vs. eggplant

Like much food terminology in Britain, the word aubergine was borrowed from French. The Americans say eggplant, which sounds funny to British peopleJust to add to the confusion, it’s also known as brinjal.

aubergine (BrE) / eggplant (AmE)

Courgette vs. zucchini

Once again, there’s a difference. The British say courgette (from French). The Americans say zucchini (watch out for the spelling!), which you’ll also hear in Australia and New Zealand.

courgette (BrE) / zucchini (AmE)

Want to test yourself on some other differences between British and American English? Try this quiz: British vs. American English: different words quiz

Stuart is an English teacher and runs the Speakspeak website. He currently lives in Prague and has been teaching for over 20 years. Follow Stuart and contact him by subscribing to his monthly newsletter.


  1. Richard MacDonald - February 7, 2014, 2:50 pm Reply

    Hi Stuart,

    Good post but I would make one minor alteration: Chips (thick cuts of deep fried poatao) in Britain are quite different from fries (thin cuts of deep fried potato). Although sometimes fries will get called chips, chips would never get called fries.

    • William R. Cousert - September 19, 2014, 8:36 am Reply

      How do chips compare with wedge cut or mojo potatoes?

      • Anonymous - September 27, 2015, 10:29 am Reply

        Fries do not have to be thin. Americans have thick fries too.
        We also have zigzag looking fries,

  2. William R. Cousert - September 19, 2014, 8:32 am Reply

    Zucchini is also called Italian squash in the US.

  3. Menny - July 2, 2016, 12:29 pm Reply

    And a biscuit in America is a bun made with milk! Wtf?
    And chips is all over the world only in America people call them french fries, sad to hear people in uk are losing their english culture for American rubbish.

    • Vlad - February 24, 2017, 8:33 am Reply

      Menny, in Russian/Ukrainian “chips” actually carry the US meaning and are used to refer to the British “crisps”.
      Likewise, in Japan they are referred to as ポテチ(potechi = potato chips) or チップス(chippusu), which, again follows the American meaning.
      So your statement that “all over the world” the British meaning of “chips” is used is not entirely true.

    • langagier - May 18, 2018, 4:56 am Reply

      Menny, your assertion is actually just invalid… In France, we call them “frites”, which is the literal equivalent of “fries”. We call the British “crisps” the “chips”. The Spanish and Portuguese speaking world (a great part of the world) call them “fritas” (= “fries”). The Vietnamese use “khoai tây chiên”, which means “western potato fries” (since they fry many things, they make it clear by indicating what has been fried) and they just use “chips” for the chips. Indian call them “फ्रेंच फ्राइज़”, which you’d pronounce “phrench phraiz”, and so on and so forth. We actually use “chips” for fries and “crisps” for chips only in U.K., Ireland and Australia. Even in other Crown countries like Canada, NZ or Jamaica, people use “fries” and “chips” (or chippies).

  4. Jacob - September 20, 2016, 9:03 pm Reply

    In New Zealand we call “French fries” chips unless ordering maccas well say a large fries please, but ,crisps or potato chips we call em chippies even though the packet says potato chips everyone calls them chippies, bar the few weirdos running around , also ketchup is tomato sauce in NZ we have the best of both worlds here

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