In UK, do you say, or used to say, 'candy' to mean 'boiled sweet'(Br) = 'hard candy'(Am)?

I found this definition on some dictionaries, but except Pocket Oxford, they're all British and rather old (up to 1974), but I can't find it on modern dictionaries.

Dictionaries with "candy" as "boiled sweet":
1911 Century Dictionary online; The concise Oxford dictionary, 1964; Collins modern English dictionary, 1974; The pocket Oxford dictionary, 1992.

EDIT: below is added after the comments by @Unrelated, @Clare and the answer by @Laurel.

This definition is also given in Merriam-Webster, which is American. (OTOH MW says "sweet" can mean "hard candy" in UK, which I've never seen anywhere else.)

Dictionaries (and other usages) without this definition:

  • Before people come pouncing on you, you might want to add the text from the dictionaries
    – Unrelated
    Feb 16, 2017 at 6:17
  • What online dictionaries did you try? As the answer by @Laurel shows the ODO (Oxford Online Dictionary) definition 1.1 gives the definition you're looking for. Feb 17, 2017 at 2:01

2 Answers 2


Not sure what dictionary you're using, but mine has this entry for "candy":

British Sugar crystallized by repeated boiling and slow evaporation.
Oxford Dictionaries

The blog Separated by a Common Language gives a great explanation:

In BrE, candy refers to things that are made from sugar that's been melted (usually with water and some flavo(u)ring) and resolidified in some form, including boiled sweets (AmE = hard candy) and candy floss (AmE = cotton candy).

  • 1
    Thanks. For the record, (1) in that blog post, there's also a comment "The Australian definition of candy is more or less the same as the one you give for British." (2) That blog's subtitle is "Observation on British [...] English by an American linguist in the UK." Feb 17, 2017 at 6:18
  • It's a tricky issue, because as a Briton if I heard the word "candy" I'd assume someone was using an Americanism, not talking about hard candy or another specific category of speech. Although the word formerly had other meanings/connotations in the UK, American candy is now fairly widely available in Britain, and the American usage is more widely known.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 21, 2021 at 8:05

So I'll fess up and candidly admit, I used to live in the UK and never once did I utter the word candy to talk about sweets, but that was a hundred years ago and since then it's possible that British children have become more familiar with the term candy, meaning sweets, in all its myriad of forms.

Today, I don't know if Brits say candy or hard candy in place of hard-boiled sweets, but they definitely say candy floss (the sickly sticky pinky fluff on a stick). And instead of calling it Brighton rock, they might say candy cane; the stripy stick made from granulated sugar, shaped like a walking stick (a cane), but the place where Brits buy their sugary snacks is called a sweet shop, although candy store seems to be close behind (which is odd!). If you can't find a sweet shop, pop into a newsagent's, they'll have a rack of sweets and chocolates opposite the cash till or right beside the counter.

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If we swim across the pond, it is the candy store which is most used by American English speakers, according to Google Ngram that is.

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Finally, Wikipedia seems to confirm my earlier suspicion that boiled sweets are not synonymous with hard candy. They list it under
Glossary of British terms not widely used in the United States

boiled sweet type of confection (US: hard candy)

And Longman Dictionary says boiled sweet is British English.

The sticky toffee apple of my childhood is, I discover, commonly referred to as candy apple or caramel apple (also pronounced as /ˈkɑrml/) in the US.

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See also the enjoyable YouTube video: 15 British Sweets Everyone Should Try - Anglophenia Ep 22

  • 1
    I know this is an old one (and it's a generally good answer), but I just want to comment on the NGrams - I've found that NGrams is unreliable at distinguishing between British and American English. A lot of American books are republished in the UK and these seem to get filed under English (British) in NGrams. In real life, "candy store" is still very rare in British usage (I lived in the UK until last year).
    – rjpond
    Apr 21, 2021 at 22:25

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