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:


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

Buggy/pram/pushchair = stroller

Kicking off = (baby) starting to fuss

Strop = tantrum

Whinging = complaining in an irritating and persistent way

Dummy = pacifier

Teat = bottle nipple

Cot = crib

Moses basket = bassinet

Carrycot = travel crib, or the large Moses basket-style part of a pram for babies up to 6 months

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

Wee/poo = pee/poop

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

Wind/winding = gas/burping

Cuddle = hug

Beaker = drinking/sippy cup

Milk teeth = baby teeth

Father Christmas = Santa Claus

Crèche = daycare centre/drop-in childcare

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

Plait (rhymes with flat) = braid (hair)


Peepo = peekaboo

Baddie = bad guy

Disco = dance party

Hokey Cokey = Hokey Pokey

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

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

Roly-poly = somersault

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

Cockerel = rooster

Ladybird = ladybug

Telly = TV

Torch = flashlight

Sledge/sledging = sled/sledding

Paddling pool = wading/kiddie pool

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

Pocket money = spending money/allowance

Money box = piggy bank

Fancy dress party = costume party

Bicycle stabilisers = training wheels

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


(Sticking) plaster = Band-Aid

Jab = shot (injection)

GP = general practitioner, or family doctor

Chemist = pharmacy

Calpol = Tylenol equivalent

Nurofen = ibuprofen equivalent

Bruise soother = ice pack

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)


Nursery = preschool

Public school = private school

State school = public school

Primary school = elementary school

Secondary school = high school

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

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

Home time = when it’s time to go home

Corridor = hall

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

Full stop = period

Rubber/rub it out = eraser/erase

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

Rubbish bin = trash can

Zed = how you pronounce the letter Z

Minibeasts = insects/invertebrates

Maths = yep, they put an s on it

Register = roll call

Rucksack = backpack

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


Tank top = vest

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

Muslin = burp cloth or swaddle

Flannel = washcloth

Towelling = terrycloth

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

Dungarees = overalls

Baby grow = sleeper/sleepsuit

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

Pants = underwear

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. We have so thoroughly confused E with our inconsistency on this that now she says things like “underwear panties.”)

Tracksuit bottoms or joggers = sweatpants

Jumper = sweater

Playsuit = romper

Trainers = tennis shoes

Swimming costume = swimsuit

Fancy dress = costume

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

Rip-tape = Velcro

Braces = suspenders

Broderie = eyelet


Antenatal = prenatal

Postnatal = postpartum

Feeling broody = feeling like you want another baby

Scan = ultrasound

Rugby hold = football hold (breastfeeding position)

Waters have gone = water broke

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.

Expressing = pumping

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

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

Mummy Matters

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

In the diary = on the calendar

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

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

Yummy mummy = posh or hot mom

Fit dad = hot dad

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

Kid Food

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.

Pudding = dessert (“Will you have treacle tart or Eton mess for pudding?”)

Biscuit = crisp, thin cookie

Chips = French fries

Crisps = chips

Pom Bears = teddy bear-shaped potato crisps

Fish or chicken goujons = Fish sticks or chicken tenders

Macaroni cheese = what you’d expect, but for some reason they ditched the “and”

Sweeties/sweets = candy

Toad in the hole = sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter

Spag bol = spaghetti Bolognese, or pasta with meat sauce

Jelly = Jell-O

Sausage roll = a big pig in a blanket–a sausage rolled in puff pastry

Cheese toastie = grilled cheese sandwich

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

Ice lolly/choc ice = popsicle/ice cream bar

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



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

Babyccino = a gateway drug designed to ensure the next generation continues to spend loads of money on fancy espresso drinks (essentially 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)

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…