Mum to Mom Translator

It’s common knowledge that there are quite a lot of differences between the American and British English vocabularies. I still learn new ones all the time. There are plenty of books offering “translations” between the two, but I have actually discovered a whole set of different terms directly related to babies, children, and pregnancy, so I am developing a Mum to Mom Translator:

General Baby Stuff

Beaker = drinking/sippy cup

Buggy/pram/pushchair = stroller

Carrycot = Moses basket-style part of a pram for babies up to 6 months

Cot = crib

Crèche = daycare centre/drop-in childcare

Cuddle = hug

Dummy = pacifier

Flannel = washcloth

Fringe = bangs (hair, as in “you just need a fringe trim”)

Go to the loo/go to the toilet = go potty (though they do say “potty training”)

Kicking off = starting to fuss

Milk teeth = baby teeth

Moses basket = bassinet

Nappy = diaper (so also nappy bin = diaper pail; nappy cream, nappy bag, etc.) Derives from “napkin”

Nappy pants = pullup

Plait (rhymes with flat) = braid (hair)

Poppet; sausage; pickle = apparently these are appropriate terms of endearment for adults to call children (like sweetie; honey)

Posset = spit up

Strop = tantrum

Teat = bottle nipple

Travel cot = Pack’n’play

Wind/winding = gas/burping

Wee/poo = pee/poop

Whinging = complaining in an irritating and persistent way

Wobble = as in, when a child gets nervous about starting school, a parent would say she’s “having a bit of a wobble”

Playtime and Storytime

Baddie = bad guy

Bicycle stabilisers = training wheels

Click your fingers = snap your fingers

Clockwork toys = windup toys

Cockerel = rooster

Crazy or Plonk Golf = putt putt/mini golf

Disco = dance party

Fancy dress party = costume party

Father Christmas = Santa Claus

Fête = a fair or festival organised to raise money for a charity, school, church, etc.

Fun fair = carnival

Helter-Skelter = a spiraling slide going around what looks like a lighthouse, found at fun fairs and amusement parks


Hokey Cokey = Hokey Pokey

It = Tag (the running game)

Julia Donaldson = a most prolific children’s author and national treasure

Ladybird = ladybug

Money box = piggy bank

Noughts and crosses = tic-tac-toe or x’s and o’s

Paddling pool = wading/kiddie pool

Peepo = peekaboo

Pocket money = spending money/allowance

Ready, steady, go! = instead of the more-common-in-America “on your mark, get set, go!”

Roly-poly = somersault

Skipping rope = jump rope

Sledge/sledging = sled/sledding

Slowcoach = slowpoke (“Hurry up, slowcoach!”)

Soft play = area for little ones to play in that’s all foam-filled objects, perhaps with a slide and a ball pit

Snakes and Ladders = Chutes and Ladders

Star jumps = jumping jacks

Stuck in the Mud = Freeze tag

Telly = TV

Tombola = a game popular at fêtes, in which you pay to choose a ticket with a number on it, and if the number you choose ends in 0 or 5, you win a prize

Torch = flashlight

Twit twoo = what an owl says, rather than hoo/hoot

Wendy house = play house


Bruise soother = ice pack

Calpol = children’s Tylenol

Chemist = pharmacy

Gaviscon = given to babies with “reflux” (i.e., they spit up a lot)

GP = general practitioner, or family doctor

Jab = shot (injection)

Nurofen = ibuprofen

Piriton = Benadryl

Plaster or sticking plaster = Band-Aid

Poorly = sick (as in, “Harry wasn’t at school today because he was poorly”—E has actually said this, and it makes it sound like poor Harry is suffering from smallpox or something)

Wobbly tooth = loose tooth


Corridor = hallway

Full stop = period

H = pronounced with a hard “h” sound at the front

Half term = weeklong school break halfway through each of the three terms (so February, May, and October)

Hall = large room for assemblies, gym, lunch, etc.

Home time = end of school day

Joined-up handwriting = cursive

Maths = yep, they put an s on it

Michaelmas = the first academic term of the year (September-December)

Minibeasts = insects/invertebrates

Nursery = preschool

Plasticine = modeling clay

Primary school = elementary school

Public school = private school

Reception = first year of primary school, ages 4-5. After that, it goes Year 1, Year 2…

Register = roll call

Rota = a fixed order or schedule of rotation; e.g., E’s reception class had a rota for which parent is responsible for making and bringing a batch of play-doh each week

Rubber/rub it out = eraser/erase

Rubbish bin = trash can

Rucksack = backpack

Secondary school = high school

Sellotape = scotch tape (which explains why in Harry Potter they use “spellotape”)

Skivving (rhymes with “diving”) off = playing hooky, skipping school

State school = public school

Tick and cross = check and x

Zed = how you pronounce the letter Z


Baby grow = sleeper/sleepsuit

Braces = suspenders

Broderie = eyelet

Dressing gown = bathrobe

Dungarees = overalls

Fancy dress = costume

Gilet (pronounced the French way, jee-lay) = quilted/padded vest or sleeveless jacket

Gro bag = sleeping bag for infants, which come in different weight/thickness called tog, e.g., 1.0 tog for a lightweight one for summer or 2.5 tog for a heavier one for winter

Jumper = sweater

Kit = appropriate clothing/equipment for an activity, e.g., P.E. kit, tennis kit

Muslin = burp cloth or swaddle

Nought to three = zero to three months (clothing size)

Pants = underwear

Playsuit = romper

Tank top = vest

Towelling = terrycloth

Tracksuit bottoms or joggers = sweatpants

Trainers = tennis shoes

Trousers = pants (For some reason, it is really hard for both M and me to remember to say trousers instead of pants. You don’t want to make the mistake of telling someone you don’t know very well that your pants are wet. When she was younger, we so thoroughly confused E with our inconsistency on this that she would say things like “underwear panties.”)

Swimming costume = swimsuit

Vest = onesie (for babies), undershirt or camisole (for older kids/adults)


Antenatal = prenatal

Broody = feeling like you want another baby

Expressing = pumping

Health visitor = the person who takes over the baby’s and mother’s general well-being after the initial midwife visits

Midwife = a nurse who specializes in delivering babies and providing ante- and postnatal care

NCT = National Childbirth Trust. This organization does lots of things to provide support for new parents, but you primarily hear people referencing their “NCT friends” or “NCT group,” which is the group of women they did antenatal/birthing/get-ready-for-baby classes with, and then continued to get together with once the babies were born for “coffee mornings” and various baby classes you can do when you have the luxury of a whole year of maternity leave.

Postnatal = postpartum

Rugby hold = football hold (breastfeeding position)

Scan = ultrasound

Waters have gone = water broke

Mummy Matters

Bubbles/fizz/champers = Prosecco or Champagne, the London ladies’ drink of choice (also acceptable drinks for London ladies: gin and tonic, Pimm’s cups in the summer, and wine)

Have a lie-in = sleep in (as in, “It’s been literally years since I had a proper lie-in”)

In the diary = on the calendar

Mothering Sunday = Mother’s Day (late March instead of early May)

Slummy mummy = my new favorite phrase, used proudly by mums who aren’t ashamed to admit they give their kids fish fingers for tea while they pop open a bottle of pinot grigio

xx = written kisses: how all the ladies sign every text message, email, handwritten note… also in forms of xxxx, xxx, or just x

Yummy mummy = posh or hot mom

Children’s Menu

Babyccino = foamed warm milk with a sprinkle of chocolate powder on top served in a plastic cup; all the coffee shops around here have these on the menu. It’s basically a gateway drug designed to ensure the next generation continues to spend money on fancy espresso drinks.

Biscuit = crisp cookie


Candy floss = cotton candy

Cheese toastie = grilled cheese sandwich

Chips = French fries

Crisps = chips

Fairy cake = smaller than a cupcake, larger than a mini muffin

Fish or chicken goujons = Fish sticks or chicken tenders

Hundreds and Thousands = small round coloured sprinkles

Jacket potato = baked potato with a choice of toppings, which are usually cheese, beans, beef chili, and tuna-mayo-sweetcorn

Jelly = Jell-O

Ice lolly/choc ice = popsicle/fudgesicle

Macaroni cheese = what you’d expect, but for some reason they ditched the “and.” It’s always white, never orange.

99 = an ice cream cone from the ice cream truck with vanilla soft serve and a Cadbury Flake chocolate stick stuck in it; I think it’s called that because it used to cost 99 pence. Now it’s more like £2.50.


Pick’n’mix = self-serve bulk candy you put into a bag and then pay by weight, a popular snack at the cinema

Pom Bears = teddy bear-shaped potato crisps, often served at childrens’ parties

Pudding = dessert

Sausage roll = a sausage rolled in puff pastry (what I would call a pig in a blanket; in England a pig in a blanket is a sausage wrapped in bacon)

Soreen malt loaf = another popular snack for kids that you won’t find in the U.S. It’s made of raisins, I think? And wheat? Its texture is described as “squidgy” and that seems pretty accurate

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Spag bol = spaghetti Bolognese, or pasta with red meat sauce, practically the national dish of England

Squash = a sweet artificial fruit juice concentrate, which you dilute with water (similar to Kool-Aid, I suppose). Knowing this is essential for understanding this headline. The more you know…

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Sweeties/sweets = candy

Tea = the kids’ supper, usually served about 5 p.m. As in, “What are you giving the children for tea?” I’m sure this derives from the custom of “high tea,” but it really confused me to begin with, as it doesn’t include actual tea for the kids to drink.

Toffee apple = caramel apple

[Note: Someone took this a step further and made a video about English vs. American parenting terminology]