...but where do you go to learn what is under the hood

Trying to understand the operating system is unfortunately not as easy as just opening the bonnet

So it seems like hood is equivalent to bonnet...? But what's the difference? Is that opening the bonnet has other usage?

  • Note that this terminology goes back to horse-drawn conveyances. (Consider dashboard.) Partly the terminology differs from place to place because different styles of wagons and carriages were used, depending on the weather and road condition.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 12, 2018 at 13:51
  • FYI: A google search for "british vs american english differences" turns up a bunch of pages that will have this difference and a lot more besides. E.g., this infographic.
    – davidbak
    Dec 12, 2018 at 15:53

3 Answers 3


The cover of a car's engine is called a bonnet in British English, and a hood in American English. Also, at the back of a traditional car design, the luggage compartment is called the boot in BrE, and the trunk in AmE.

  • 4
    The part in the front is called the hood, and the back is called the trunk. There are some cars that have their engines in the rear, in which case the engine is in the trunk. Dec 11, 2018 at 16:20
  • 6
    To make things more confusing, if you happen to have a convertible, in American the part that goes up & down is simply the top, but in British it's the hood :-)
    – jamesqf
    Dec 11, 2018 at 18:12
  • 2
    And British English allows convertibles to be 'soft top' (folding cloth which folds down into a place in the bodywork), or 'hard top' (removable fibreglass or metal, has to be removed and stored somewhere). Dec 11, 2018 at 18:18
  • 3
    @MichaelHarvey As does AmE.
    – Kenneth K.
    Dec 11, 2018 at 18:52
  • 2
    In addition to this answer, the phrase "under the hood" is enough of an idiom that British speakers would have no problems understanding its meaning.
    – Mr Lister
    Dec 12, 2018 at 9:53

In addition to the basic "Americans use hood and Brits use bonnet but it's the same thing", you can look at the origins for the term and see that they both also describe very similar pieces of headgear:

A hood is a cold weather cover for your head...usually nowadays we would say it is attached to a jacket or coat, but it used to be more common for it to be a completely separate piece of clothing. It covers the back of your head completely and usually comes forward a little bit, shielding the face without covering it.

A bonnet is an old fashioned type of hat that women used to wear, which covers the back of the head and usually comes forward, shielding the face without covering it.

In old fashioned cars, the shape of the hood/bonnet actually slightly resembled a hood/bonnet (clothing). So it's no surprise that people picked those words to describe it.


The hood is the term used for the hinged opening to a cars engine compartment in American English.

Bonnet is the term for the same thing in Britsh English, so you will see both used depending on where the writer of the article comes from.

In order to check the condition of a car particularly a second hand one before buying it, it is considered important to open up this engine compartment to check the state of the components there.

They are both used as metaphors for understanding how things work such as computers and other devices.

  • The fact of the matter is that while people in British English speaking countries have words and usages that are unusual or have minority status in North America, we are subjected to such a torrent of Americanisms via films, TV, the Internet, computer games, literature, etc, that we know very well what e.g. the hood of a car is, just like we know what "junk in the trunk" means, and so on. We may not have been to Australia, but we know what a dunny is, and what kind of person is an ocker. Dec 12, 2018 at 17:26
  • If I wasn't on the internet, I wouldn't know what an ocker is.
    – Alex H.
    Dec 12, 2018 at 18:22
  • @MichaelHarvey as a British person myself I understand what you are saying, but sometimes it's difficult for a non-native speaker to understand what is American, British and what is understood by all. I have been to Australia myself, by brother is an Aussie citizen now but an ocker was a new one on me.
    – Sarriesfan
    Dec 12, 2018 at 22:50

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