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What do British people call Americans?

When it comes to nationalities, different people and cultures often have their own unique ways of referring to each other. For Brits, Americans are one of the most frequently encountered groups, whether in real life or in popular culture. But have you ever wondered what British people call their American counterparts? From slang terms to affectionate nicknames, there are plenty of ways that Brits refer to Americans, often depending on context and familiarity. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common terms used by Brits to refer to Americans, giving you a glimpse into the cultural and linguistic nuances between these two nations.

How do British people refer to Americans?

If you’re an American and have spent some time in the UK, you must have heard a variety of terms used to describe you and your fellow countrymen. It’s no secret that Americans are known globally for their culture, influence, and stereotypes. But how do British people refer to Americans?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most popular terms used by British people to refer to Americans.

1. Yanks

You’ve probably heard the term “Yank” used to refer to Americans in movies or TV shows. This is one of the most common terms used by British people to describe Americans. The term “Yank” is believed to have originated during the American Civil War and was used to describe Union soldiers.

2. Septics

The term “Septic” is a short form of “Septic Tank,” which rhymes with Yank. So, British people refer to Americans as Septics sometimes. This term is considered to be slightly derogatory and is not commonly used in regular conversations.

3. Gringos

In Britain, the term “Gringo” is used mostly to refer to Americans from Spanish-speaking countries. However, it’s not uncommon for some British people to use this term to refer to all Americans.

4. Cowboys

Most people associate the term “Cowboy” with the American Southwest and the Wild West. But in Britain, it’s not unusual to hear this term being used to describe Americans in general.

5. Americans

Maybe the most straightforward term used by British people to refer to Americans is simply “Americans.” This term is commonly used in situations that require a formal tone or in official communication.

6. Seppos

Seppos is another term used to describe Americans, and it is likely a shortened version of the term “Septic.” Like Septic. Tank is a euphemism for Yank, “septic” is British rhyming slang for “septic tank,” hence the use of “seppo.”

7. Yanks in the British Army

During both World War I and World War II, there was a significant population of American troops in the UK. They were stationed here to help support the British Army. During this time, “Yank” became the common term that British soldiers used to describe American soldiers.

8. Yankees

In the UK, the “Yankee” term is most often applied to sports teams based in the Northeast United States, such as the New York Yankees.

9. Merkins

Merkins are American pubic wigs, but as an allusion to this, it can also be an epithet for Americans used in the UK.

10. Americans by State

Sometimes, you may hear British people refer to Americans by their home state, depending on where they’re from. For example, someone from California may be referred to as a “Californian” or someone from New York as a “New Yorker.”

Wrapping Up

The terms used by British people to refer to Americans vary from situation to situation. Some of these terms are formal and commonly used in official communication, whereas others are quite informal and can even be considered derogatory. It’s important to remember that context and tone often influence the way in which terms are interpreted and used, so it’s essential to consider these before using them in any conversation.

1. Yankee


Yankee is one of the most common names that British people use to refer to Americans. The term Yankee originated during the American Revolution, referring to the colonials using the term to identify themselves. Nowadays, British people use Yankee in a less derogatory sense, describing Americans as a whole.

2. Yank


Yank is another word commonly used to refer to Americans by British people. It’s a shortened form of Yankee and is used interchangeably with it. Yank is still considered by many Americans to be somewhat derogatory, much like Yankee, but it has become commonplace among the British who use it as a friendly nickname.

3. Septic


Septic is a shortened form of the rhyming slang, septic tank, which is used as a derogatory term for a Yank. It’s a term not commonly used by most Brits as it can lead to misunderstandings. While Septic is meant to be an insult, most Americans are unfamiliar with the slang and wouldn’t realize it, nor would they know where the name came from.

4. Gringo


Another word that British people use to call Americans is Gringo. This name originated in South America and is commonly used to refer to Americans who speak Spanish. Brits who use this term see it as a lighter, more playful term rather than an insult.

5. Americano


In Britain, Americano is a term often used for someone who is either from the United States or has American heritage. The term is not used as frequently as some of the more playful nicknames but is rather seen as a polite way to refer to Americans in conversation or in writing.

6. Seppo


Seppo is a slightly less common term used to refer to Americans from Britain. The word originated from the Finnish term for American, Amerikan Seppo. While not commonly used, the term has become more popular in recent years amid a growing appreciation of Finnish language and culture in the UK.

7. Cousin from across the pond

Cousin from across the pond

British people often refer to Americans as their “cousin from across the pond”. This term is not only restricted to Americans, as Brits have used this phrase to describe people from a number of English-speaking countries. “The pond” refers to the Atlantic Ocean that separates the United States and Great Britain.

8. Burger


Burger is a playful nickname that British people have given to Americans. The term is derived from the popularity of fast food chain McDonald’s. While many Americans might find this nickname a little offensive, it is meant to be more of a fun, light-hearted way to refer to Americans.

9. Colonial


Another term that British people use to refer to Americans is colonial. This name hearkens back to the days when America was a British colony before the Revolutionary War. While this term might have held some weight back in the late 18th century, nowadays, it’s used in a more playful or even ironic sense to refer to Americans.

10. Cowboy


Last on our list is cowboy, which is a nickname British people use to refer to Americans. The association comes from the days of the Wild West, where cowboys roamed the American frontier. While it might be considered a stereotype, some Brits view Americans as adventurous, independent, and daring, much like the iconic cowboy stereotype.

Informal terms for Americans used by the British

In informal settings, British people often use terms that are more playful or even mocking when referring to Americans. Here are some of the most common ones:


The term “Yank” is derived from “Yankee”, a word that originally referred specifically to New Englanders but was later used to describe all Americans. In British English, “Yank” is often used in a friendly or neutral way but can also be used in a derogatory way.

For example, a British person might say “I met a lovely Yank at the pub last night” to refer to an American they had just met and liked. On the other hand, someone might say “Those damn Yanks always think they’re better than us” as an insult.



The term “Septic” is short for “septic tank” which, in cockney rhyming slang, rhymes with “Yank”. This term is considered more derogatory than “Yank” and is usually used by people who are hostile towards Americans.

For example, someone might say “I hate those bloody Septics, they’re all ignorant and arrogant” to express their dislike of Americans.



While “Gringo” is a term that is more commonly used in Latin America to describe Americans, it has also been used in British English to refer to Americans in a mocking way.

For example, someone might say “Look at that loud Gringo over there, he thinks he owns the place” to make fun of an American’s perceived arrogance or loudness.



The term “Colonial” refers to America’s history as a British colony and is used to refer to Americans in a somewhat condescending way.

For example, someone might say “That Colonial needs to learn some manners” to criticize an American’s behavior or actions.



The term “Cowboy” is used to refer to Americans who are seen as overly macho or aggressive.

For example, someone might say “Don’t mess with that Cowboy, he looks like he’s ready to start a fight” to describe an American’s apparent toughness or willingness to use violence.


Term Meaning
Yank Informal term for an American
Septic Derogatory term for an American
Gringo Mocking term for an American’s perceived arrogance or loudness
Colonial Condescending term for an American’s behavior or actions
Cowboy Term for an American’s perceived toughness or willingness to use violence

Learn more about the different names British people use to refer to Americans with this list of common nicknames from BBC America’s Anglophenia.

What British People Call Americans

And that’s it, folks! Thanks for reading this article on what British people call Americans. We hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into British slang and the humorous ways we refer to our American cousins. If you ever find yourself in the UK and hear someone say “Yank” or “Colonial,” now you know what they mean! Check back soon for more lively articles on the quirks of British culture. Cheers!

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