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What is the difference between a 'pram', a 'pushchair', and a 'buggy'?

According to Google:

  • pram: a four-wheeled carriage for a baby, pushed by a person on foot
  • pushchair: a folding chair on wheels, in which a baby or young child can be pushed along
  • buggy: a light pushchair with a soft seat that allows the chair to be collapsed inwards

It appears from the above definitions that a pram has four wheels (so those with three wheels should not be called prams?), while a buggy is a light pushchair (how light?).

I tend to think that a pushchair is the light one with four small wheels, while a pram is the heavier one with bigger wheels. But if a buggy is a 'light pushchair', how could it be that I have heard people calling what I think is a pram, a buggy.

Or can all these terms actually be used interchangeably?

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Warning: I am not a native speaker of British English. This may be wrong.

I am under the impression that:

  • a pram is a type of baby-conveying cart in which the baby is laid down, such that it is facing up and backward from the direction it is pushed; in this way the person pushing the pram can see into it and look the baby in it in the face.

  • a pushchair is a type of baby-conveying cart in which the baby is seated upright, such that the baby faces forward (in respect to the direction it is pushed). The baby/passenger in the pushchair faces the same direction as the person pushing them. Such pushchairs often have a lot of baby-containing structure, padding, and onboard features (food tray for the infant, cup holders for the pusher, e.g.) and can even be made almost entirely of rigid material. (Popular in the US right now is a type of baby-conveyance in which a crash-worthy hard-shell baby seat comes with a snap-into mounting for use as a "car seat" in automobiles and a snap-into frame with wheels for pushing as a pushchair, such that one can hotswap the whole infant-seat assembly between your car and your pushchair, without having to unmount the child from the seat.)

  • a buggy, by the definition you found, would sound to be what Americans call a folding stroller: like the pushchair it faces the passenger outward and has them seated, but is built like a typical lawn chair, of metal tubing and fabric stretched between to form the seat and back.

P.S. Just in case that wasn't confusing enough: apparently there is also some sort of hybrid pram-pushchair thing, that allows one to configure it in either the baby-faces-up or baby-faces-forward configuration.

  • 1
    As a Britisher with two small children, I mostly concur with the above. I'd say that a pushchair and buggy are roughly synonymous, but with buggy having connotations of a more lightweight, collapsible conveyance. (Most pushchairs can collapse to a certain extent, but some do not seem to save a significant amount of space by doing so.) I'll also note that pram is short for perambulator, a lovely word that has sadly fallen out of fashion in the last couple of centuries. – tobyink Sep 30 '14 at 9:55
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A good (but not foolproof) way to learn the differences between and nuances of synonyms is to use the Google images search tool.

I just did that, and confirmed what I suspected:

  • These are baby carriages:

enter image description here

  • and these are strollers:

enter image description here

Baby carriages are more old-fashioned and less collapsible, whereas strollers are more modern and designed for a more on-the-go parent.

Though I don't use the British words very much, I surmised that a pram was more like a baby carriage, while a pushchair was more like a stroller. Google images seemed to confirm that supposition as well.

That said, differences like these aren't always hard-and-fast; there's probably some overlap in how these words can be applied and interpreted.

  • My parents used a pushchair which faced the other way. The child [me!] faced the parent (and could interact) rather than facing outwards. It certainly wasn't as lightweight and collapsible as a modern buggy, either. – Andrew Leach Sep 22 '15 at 16:27
  • This seems to explain well the American terms, but not the British terms. – James K Aug 25 '17 at 8:13
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I found this infographic explaining the difference between the terms. I do find that they are often intertwined and referring to the same thing

http://busycitymum.com/pram-pushchair-buggy-stroller-whats-the-difference/

  • A Pram is for newborn babies
  • A Pushchair for when your baby is a little older and can sit up
  • A Stroller is suitable for toddlers and young children
  • A Buggy is a word used when referring to either a pushchair or a stroller
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A lot of this is personal choice and habit.

"Pram" was short for "perambulator", a well-obsolete word in the UK.

"Baby carriage" is a pompous invention of the manufacturers and not in normal use.

Push-chairs can face either way - some are reversible I think. Most people want their baby to face them, so they can keep in contact; babies are short-sighted and can't enjoy the outer world much. As the child gets older, they prefer to look forward to see the interesting world around them.

I haven't lived in the UK for 23 years, but I think the word "buggy" is now used too - the word was originally for a light horse-drawn vehicle.

"Stroller" is entirely USA - I doubt many busy UK parents, rushing off to the shops, would think they were out for a stroll. But there's a great strength of English - so many dialects, all as good as each other. Let's keep it that way.

  • Not sure about the etymology of "buggy", since a "horse and buggy" is an Americanism, (Britons would say horse and carriage or horse and trap) "Beach Buggy" (British for dune buggy) might be an alternative. – James K Aug 25 '17 at 8:29
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A pram is a baby's bed on wheels (the number is irrelevant, but 4 is typical). It is intended to for young babies to lie in. This black pram is in very traditional style.

enter image description here

The baby buggy initially refers to a particular brand: The folding chair with wheels designed by Andrew Maclaren in the mid-1960s. The original buggies were lightweight and no cushioning. The name suggests the "Beach buggy". They are lightweight and can go anywhere. They are suitable for toddlers. Modern buggies may have more padding, but the key idea is that they fold up and are portable. This is the classic 1960s buggy, with its striped seat.

enter image description here

A pushchair is a chair on wheels designed to be pushed. It is a generic term that could include buggies, but generally suggests more padding, and so is suitable for older babies, who are able to sit, but not able to walk. A modern pushchair with three wheels, but the number of wheels is not important.

enter image description here

Many modern pushchairs are convertible: they can be configured as a pram for young babies, then converted into a pushchair when the baby can sit, and they can fold like a buggy. And so there is overlap in meaning, and words may be used imprecisely to mean "the thing I push the baby in". So, for example, you may hear people using buggy for a folding pram.

Other terms: Stroller and Baby Carriage are not used in British English (except as an Americanism, several shops seem to be using the term stroller now, so it may see greater use in the future). Wheelchair is a chair on wheels designed to be moved by a disabled user.

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Then there's the term (here in the US) "umbrella stroller". This stroller is used for toddlers, and when folded takes on the look of an umbrella with the curved hook at the top that can be hung in most places or on your arm. It is very lightweight and portable.

(It's the same as the small blue and white striped "buggy" pictured in James K's answer).

umbrella stroller

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I don't think the number of wheels is relevant, at least in casual conversation. There might be some technical difference, but in practice I don't think we differentiate.

Pram is definitely British. In the US the most often-used term is stroller.

I've never heard anyone call it a pushchair. I think buggy might also be British (though I'm not positive; it might be dialectical in the US. In some areas of the US, buggy refers to a shopping cart, so the two definitions might conflict).

But all of these words refer to the same item.

  • I live in the UK, and people use those three terms. According to Google, they are all British. I am aware that 'stroller' is American. – adipro May 25 '14 at 20:24

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