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In American, Please: Translations of Common British Car & Driving Terms

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Mr Bean driving british car tv show funny terms tiny vehicle

Brits have a very different vocabulary when it comes to driving–just as Mr.
Bean
Photo: Tiger Aspect Productions

If you’ve ever spend time around someone from the United Kingdom, including Great Britain, you’ll quickly realize that even though you’re both speaking English, you’re not really speaking the same language. There are numerous terms and idioms that are commonly used on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean that you scratch your head at.

That rings true even for the automotive industry. So, brush up on these definitions of common British expressions and monikers to prepare for your next conversation with a Brit about cars and driving.


More Driving Advice: Tips for safely driving in the rain


20 British Car Terms Every American Should Know

  • Kerb: The concrete edging (aka curb) along a road
  • Bonnet: The front of the car where the engine is typically located (aka hood)
  • Boot: The rear compartment of an automobile (aka trunk)
  • Motorway: Another term for the highway
  • Banger: A junky old car
  • Petrol: The fuel of a car, what Americans call gasoline. Thus, you refill at a petrol station
  • Windscreen: The vehicle’s windshield
  • Car park: A parking lot where cars are parked
  • Indicators: The turn signal lights on a car
  • Lorry: A large truck transporting goods
  • Sleeping policeman: A wry term for a speed bump
  • Tarmac: The paved surface of a road
  • Zebra crossing: The white-striped pedestrian crossing
  • Gearbox: The transmission of a vehicle (e.g. manual gearbox)
  • Hooter: A car horn
  • Wing: The fender of a vehicle
  • Junction: Where two roads intersection (aka intersection)
  • Lay-by: Rest areas along roads or motorways
  • Tailback: A really, really major traffic jam
  • Pram: While not really a car-related term, you’ll likely hear this term for a baby carriage if you have young children—especially if you’re storing one in the boot of your banger.

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Sources: Anglotopedia, Effingpot