BrE & AmE Differences

British English vs. American English: Word Stress Differences

There are quite some stress differences between American and British English. This page outlines most of those.

Recent Loanwords from French

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

These 2-syllable words have the following pattern:

  • BrE: /10/ the first syllable is stressed
  • AmE: /01/ the last syllable is stressed
BrE /10/
AmE /01/
English Definition
Adult /ˈæd.ʌlt/ /əˈdʌlt/ a person or animal that has finished growing and is not now a child
Ballet /ˈbæl.eɪ/ /bælˈeɪ/ a type of dancing where carefully organized movements tell a story or express an idea, or a theatre work that uses this type of dancing:
Baton /ˈbæt.ɒn/ /bəˈtɑːn/ a stick used by a conductor (= person who controls the performance of a group of musicians) to show the speed of the music
Beret /ˈbereɪ/ /bəˈreɪ/ a round, flat hat made of soft material
Bidet /ˈbiːdeɪ/ /bɪˈdeɪ/ a small low bath that a person uses to wash their bottom and sex organs
Brochure /ˈbrəʊ.ʃər/ /broʊˈʃʊr/ a type of small magazine that contains pictures and information on a product or a company
Buffet /ˈbʊf.eɪ/  /bəˈfeɪ/ a meal where people serve themselves different types of usually cold food / a restaurant in a station, where food and drinks can be bought and eaten
Café /ˈkæf.eɪ/ /.kæfˈeɪ/ a restaurant where simple and usually quite cheap meals are served
Canard /ˈkæn.ɑːd/ /kəˈnɑːrd/ a false report or piece of information that is intended to deceive people
Chagrin /ˈʃægrɪn/ /ʃəˈgrɪn/ anger or disappointment caused by something that does not happen the way you wanted it
Challet /ˈʃæleɪ/ /ʃælˈeɪ/ a small wooden house, often in a mountain area, or for people who are on holiday
Chauffeur /ˈʃəʊ.fər/ /ʃoʊˈfɝː/ someone whose job is to drive a car for a rich or important person
Chiffon /ˈʃɪf.ɒn/  /ʃɪˈfɑːn/ a very thin, almost transparent cloth of silk or nylon
Cliché /ˈkliː.ʃeɪ/  /kliːˈʃeɪ/ a saying or remark that is very often made and is therefore not original and not interesting
Coupé /ˈkuː.peɪ/ /kʊˈpeɪ/ a car with a fixed roof, two doors, two or four seats, and usually a sloping back
Croissant /ˈkwæsɒŋ/ /kwɑːˈsɒŋ/ a soft, curved piece of bread, eaten for breakfast
Debris /ˈdebriː/ /dəˈbriː/ broken pieces of something
Debut /ˈdeɪbjuː/ /deɪˈbuː/ when someone performs or presents something to the public for the first time:
Décor /ˈdeɪkɔːr/ /deɪˈkɔːr/ the style of decoration and furniture in a room or building
Detail /ˈdiːteɪl/ /dɪˈteɪl/ a fact or piece of information about somethingincluding every part of something
Flambé /ˈflɒm.beɪ/ /flɑːmˈbeɪ/ to pour alcohol over food and set fire to it during cooking
Frappé /ˈfræp.eɪ/ /fræpˈeɪ/ a partly frozen drink made of milk or fruit juice, or a strongly alcoholic drink served with ice
Garage /ˈɡær.ɑːʒ/ /-ɪdʒ/ /ɡəˈrɑːʒ/ a building where a car is kept, built next to or as part of a house
Gateau /ˈɡæt.əʊ/ / ɡæt̬ˈoʊ/ a large, sweet cake, usually with cream or fruit in it
Gourmet /ˈɡɔː.meɪ/ /ˈɡʊr.meɪ/ (of food) very high quality
Parquet /ˈpɑː.keɪ/  /pɑːrˈkeɪ/ floor covering that consists of small rectangular blocks of wood arranged in a pattern
Pastel /ˈpæs.təl/  /pæsˈtel/ a soft, coloured substance, usually in the form of a small stick, that is used to draw pictures, or a picture made using this
Pastille /ˈpæs.təl/  /pæˈstiːl/ a type of small round sweet that can be sucked or chewed
Pâté /ˈpæt.eɪ/  /pætˈeɪ/ a thick, smooth, soft mixture made from meat, fish, or vegetables
Sachet /ˈsæʃ.eɪ/ /sæʃˈeɪ/ a small closed container made of paper or plastic, containing a small amount of something, usually enough for only one occasion
Salon /ˈsæl.ɒn/  /səˈlɑːn/ a shop where you can get a particular service, especially connected with beauty or fashion
Vaccine /ˈvæksiːn/ /vækˈsiːn/ a substance that is given to people to stop them from getting a particular disease

 

3-syllable words where BrE stresses the first syllable while AmE stresses the last one:

BrE /100/
AmE /201/
English Definition
Matinée /ˈmætɪneɪ/ /mætəˈneɪ/ an afternoon performance of a play or film
Négligée /ˈneɡ.lɪ.ʒeɪ/ /ˌneɡ.lɪˈʒeɪ/ a woman’s decorative dressing gown (= a loose coat worn inside the house) made of light material
Nonchalant /ˈnɒn.ʃəl.ənt/ /ˌnɑːn.ʃəˈlɑːnt/ behaving in a calm manner, often in a way that suggests you are not interested or do not care
Cigarette /ˈsɪgəˌret/ /ˌsɪgərˈet/ a thin tube of paper filled with tobacco, that people smoke

Other French loanwords with stress differences between BrE and AmE:

BrE AmE English Definition
Address /əˈdres/ /ˈædres/ the details of where a building is, including the building number, road name, town, etca series of letters, signs, or numbers used to send email to someone or to reach a page of information on the Internet
Moustache /məˈstɑːʃ/ /ˈmʌstæʃ/ a line of hair that some men grow above their mouths
Limousine /ˌlɪməˈziːn/ /ˈlɪməˌziːn/ a large, expensive car, usually for rich or important people

 

Two-syllable verbs in -ATE

Many 2-syllable verbs ending in -ate have this pattern:

  • BrE: /01/ the last syllable is stressed
  • AmE: /10/ the first syllable is stressed

This includes:

  • castrate,
  • dictate,
  • donate,
  • locate,
  • migrate,
  • placate,
  • pulsate,
  • rotate,
  • translate,
  • vacate,
  • vibrate,

Here are some 2-syllable verbs ending in -ate are stressed on the last syllable in both BrE and AmE:

  • create, debate, equate, elate, negate, orate, relate

Here are some 2-syllable verbs ending in -ate are stressed on the first syllable in both BrE and AmE:

  • mandate, probate

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