The Macmillan dictionary says the word trousers is "mainly" British, which implies that it's not entirely British and Americans also use it. I have read a few novels in which American writers use the word trousers not pants--the most recent being Alex Kava's "Stranded". Do many Americans wear trousers instead of pants? Is it a regional variation or just a less common synonym that every American sometimes uses? Or might it be a particular type of pants that are called in this way?

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    I don't have enough objective evidence at the moment for an answer, but from my person experience as an American, "trousers" is used to refer to dressier pants (the kind you'd wear to the office, for example) while "pants" is a catch-all term that includes trousers, jeans, sweatpants, etc.
    – Nicole
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 5:15
  • Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/10246/…
    – user66974
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 6:00
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    @Nicole: Agreed. I don't use trousers myself -- I say slacks -- but I understand it as synonymous (in the US).
    – ruakh
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 6:50
  • books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 12:17
  • @1006a - Ah, yes! Tried to do it quickly, while I was running out the door. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 18:15

2 Answers 2


In the US you will almost never hear, "trousers", if at all, outside of certain written texts (though anyone will understand what you mean). It's just exceedingly rare to hear a native US citizen say something like, "Wow, it's so cold out, I'm glad I wore trousers today.". Extremely rare.

US: pants = vernacular for a garment covering your entire legs (such as jeans, slacks, sweats, etc... which are just more specific forms of the same thing).

UK: trousers = vernacular for a garment covering your entire legs (such as jeans, slacks, sweats, etc... which are just more specific forms of the same thing).

US AND UK: underpants/underwear = the garments you wear underneath your main garments (such as pants or trousers or shorts) to cover your private areas and keep things clean.


Myself. I'm a US citizen from central Texas in my 40s. This is based on 40 years of experience listening to people, reading, and watching TV. I have rarely heard this usage outside academic speeches, papers, and some other forms of writing (i.e. fictional works). In hearing parents, friends, co-workers, an ex-wife, my children, their friends, acquaintances, and even strangers, I have rarely ever heard the word "trousers" in everyday vernacular.

It is somewhat anecdotal, I'll give you that much, but it's also so obvious that I would venture more than 99% of native Americans would not use trousers in everyday speech. The word pants is without question the most dominant form of describing a garment that covers one's legs in the US (or the specific forms of pants: slacks, jeans, sweats, etc.). This does not mean it's never used, or that Americans don't know what trousers are; that would be an absurd notion and should not be the idea gathered from this answer.

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    Whereas in the UK "Wow, it's so cold I'm glad I wore pants today" may not be advisable to announce.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 9:28
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    -1 no references to back up the statements Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 14:26
  • @Clare Aw, come on. You're not going to be that punctilious toward me are you? :( I'm a native US citizen in my 40's. I suppose I can find some links but this is basically a matter of opinion. I answered b/c the OP wanted to know what was common in the US. Do some people here use, "trousers"? Well, of course. I know what trousers are. So do all Americans; but virtually none of them use it in speech. It's somewhat opinionated I'll give you that. In that case why not delete all of these as opinion (English is English). They wanted to know what was colloquial based on region.
    – Kace36
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 20:31
  • @AndrewLeach Yes that would be funny. LOL. A little like my blunder the other day of saying "Bare with me" (let's get naked everyone!) :D
    – Kace36
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 20:32
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    My upvote because you don't need any references to support your assertion, native speakers know this to be a fact.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 18:51

As a small piece of anecdotal evidence, in the American TV show 'The Wire' (season 3 episode 1, 2004), the character 'Bubbles', a heroin addict in Baltimore, is complaining that he was forced to give up his pants after damaging a drug dealer's car. He says: "[I] lost my trousers man, my fucking trousers".
Perhaps this suggests that the word is used regionally- there certainly is no suggestion that he is referring to formal wear.

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