In a mall or somewhere with multiple basement levels, what is the proper way to designate each underground level?

We have: first floor, second floor, etc. for above ground floors.

Underground levels are usually referred to as B1, B2, etc.

If we are going to say something:

The food court is on ____.

What would be the full way to say B1?

  1. The first basement floor

  2. The first basement level

  3. Or something else entirely?

  • 1
    I have always just used 'Basement 1' and 'Basement 2' (First Basement, Second Basement reminds me too much of hobbits.)
    – Jim
    Sep 21, 2014 at 4:14
  • You also confusingly see "lower ground floor". I don't think anyone knows what it means! :)
    – Fattie
    Sep 21, 2014 at 9:04
  • I have encountered lifts/elevators where the buttons for selecting the underground levels are marked with negative numbers (-1, -2 etc.).
    – Erik Kowal
    Sep 21, 2014 at 10:59
  • @Erik That would be the standard in most of Europe. I don't recall ever seeing B1, etc., in Continental Europe, though I have seen it in Britain. On the other hand, I don't recall seeing -1 in the US, so perhaps Britain is just in between on this. Sep 21, 2014 at 12:15
  • Joe Blow: "Lower ground floor" seems quite clear to me. It's the floor below the ground floor.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 21, 2014 at 15:33

2 Answers 2


There are, unfortunately, no North American standards for floor numbering in commercial buildings. P1 / P2 are common if it's a parking level and are spoken just like that (they can also be 8 floors above ground). "Basement" in a shopping mall will probably be avoided, as it implies that's where the cheap goods, rejects, maintenance facilities and extra stock are put. I have seen "Lower" used in place of Basement once or twice: "Did you look on L2?"

  • Good point on the connotation of basement, however, if it were a discount or outlet type of facility, perhaps they would play up that angle with bargain-basement "2: markedly inexpensive".
    – Patrick M
    Sep 22, 2014 at 16:22

This is a reasonable question without a similarly reasonable answer, because, at least in the US, these are influenced by regional custom and sometimes company practices. I've seen the designations of levels change when a shopping center was sold by one company to another. That said, most commonly, if the level containing the food court is "B1", the full way to say it is

The food court is on level B1.

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