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ATM is an initialism of automated teller machine, coined sometime in the 1970s. I have always considered it an Americanism while its British equivalent has always been cashpoint, Oxford Living Dictionaries tell me it is a trademark (who knew?). Wiktionary states that it was originally a registered trademark of Lloyds Bank.

Neither Oxford nor Wiktionary offers me any alternatives. Luckily, a quick Google search unearthed the following BrEng terms kindly supplied by Macmillan Dictionary:

  • cash dispenser
  • cash machine
  • hole-in-the-wall (informal)
  • machine

I know for a fact that ATM is the most common term used in the US but I do not know about the UK. Is it still cashpoint? Has ATM superseded it?

Question
In 2017, what is the most common term in the UK for a machine that dispenses cash?

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    @AndyT are you currently living in the UK? Then yes, absolutely. I'd appreciate answers from British people or those very familiar with its culture. – Mari-Lou A Sep 18 '17 at 11:03
  • @AndyT you could also add if there's been a shift, maybe "cashpoint" was used and heard more often in the early 2000s, I suspect it was but I don't know. – Mari-Lou A Sep 18 '17 at 11:07
  • This is an interesting reading about what expressions ate used in the U.K. It appears that there is still some disagreement on what would be the more easily and commonly understood term: What should it be called: ATM or Cash Machine? ask.metafilter.com/283404/… – user66974 Sep 18 '17 at 11:59
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    This question will shortly hit the HNQ list, so I've pre-emptively protected it, rather than have to clear things up reactively. There appear to be enough current-usage answers for voting on. – Andrew Leach Sep 18 '17 at 15:59
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    @PatrickT it seems 81 users agree that "cash machine" is the most common term heard and used in the UK. Unfortunately, a lot of helpful comments have been culled, so there were one or two who also said pretty much the same thing. Perhaps you could convert your comment into an answer? I'm pretty sure if three or more comments are added they'll get swiped. – Mari-Lou A Sep 24 '17 at 8:18

10 Answers 10

85

Source: I'm in my early thirties and have lived my whole life in South East England.

I would personally use the term "cash machine" (or the abbreviated version "machine", see further comments below). As to the other suggested terms:

  • ATM - I fully recognise this, and might even use it occasionally. This is probably due to the influence of the large amount of US television I watch.

  • Cashpoint - I don't recognise this term. On the UK television programme "Dragon's Den" they have a new dragon who is described as "The Cashpoint Queen" from her previous "cashpoint" business. Neither my wife (same age and location history as myself) or I was sure what it meant, but we decided it probably meant "cash machine".

  • Cash dispenser - Isn't this part of a self-checkout at a supermarket? The bit that gives you your change? That's my first instinct anyway, but in context it would probably be clear what it meant.

  • Hole-in-the-wall - I recognise this from my youth, so probably mid 90s (when I could first get money out of one) up until early 2000s? I don't hear it currently though. Though that could be as I moved in the early 2000s from East Kent to Hampshire, and have since moved to Surrey and commute into London.

  • Machine - I use this, as an abbreviation of "cash machine", especially if I'm also using "cash" elsewhere in the sentence. I might typically say to the wife, "I'm getting some cash out of the machine later; do you want any?".

  • 23
    "Cashpoint - I don't recognise this term" - one can see this word on many if not most high streets in the south east... – AakashM Sep 18 '17 at 12:08
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    Surprised you have never heard of "cashpoint", I would have thought this would be universally recognized. "Machine" would easily recognized, but only given the context of needing to get some cash. – Qwerky Sep 18 '17 at 12:50
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    The other option I'd add is 'Bank Machine', though that partially distinguished bank-branded /located at bank building ones from the generic ones at petroleum stations and corner shops. – Spagirl Sep 18 '17 at 13:01
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    @AakashM All of those images are for one bank. If you're not a customer of that bank, and therefore don't ever use their cash machines (because there are more convenient ones), then it's not unreasonable that you'd never see the word. I don't know about you, but when I'm walking down the high street I don't pay much attention to the cash machines if I'm not actively using one. – Anthony Grist Sep 18 '17 at 14:12
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    my most frequently used term is "cashpoint" (I am from the south of England but have lived in Cambridge, Lancaster, Oxford, London, and Bristol). I recognise the other terms but they feel clunky to me. – Yvonne Aburrow Sep 18 '17 at 14:45
37

The following article from The Telegraph suggests that cash machine is the more common expression in the UK.

  • ATM, automatic or automated teller machine, is probably the most commonly used description here. Graham Mott of LINK says: “ATM is American in origin as they use the term “Teller” when we would use “Cashier”. Some of the manufacturers of such machines are international and the term has come over to us with them. The word "Teller" though comes from old English. A bank teller being a person who counts the money.

  • The first such machines were not as we know cash dispensers today. The card would be kept by the machine and returned to the customer days later. Or a voucher or token would be used.

Cashpoint:

  • Lloyds Bank had the first computerised machine on our high streets performing transactions similar to those we know today. It used a magnetic card that was returned at once at the end of the transaction. The word ‘Cashpoint’ itself was introduced in 1972 by Lloyds Bank and registered as a trademark in October 1986. Although ‘Cashpoint’ would be a fitting way to describe such machines generically, it is a trade name that has seeped into the English language for more general use. The term remains within the bank’s intellectual property portfolio.

Hole in the wall:

  • A Barclays press release dated February 3 2006 reported “…Gone will be that American acronym the ATM (Automated Teller Machine) to be replaced by the more colloquial ‘Hole in the Wall’. 'Hole in the Wall' is a Barclays registered trademark but it didn’t quite hit the right buttons possibly because some pubs use the name too. Oddly the marketing director in the press release said at the time, “...after all I don’t know anyone in Manchester who goes to an ATM to get money out, but I know a fair few who pop off to the Hole in the Wall….”

Cash terminal:

  • This seems to be going off the radar a bit.

Cash machine:

  • This is a frequently used term in Britain but still may conjure up the image of other machines. For instance those for changing coins. Even so it seems a good name option.

Also from the site British money:

  • There are plenty of cash machines (also known as cashpoints or ATMs) dotted around London. Most accept international cards.....Some other systems are also recognised, but it's a good idea to check with your bank or card company before you travel.
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    I'm slightly confused that the Telegraph are saying that "cash machine" might make people think of a coin changing machine. That doesn't match my perception at all. – David Richerby Sep 18 '17 at 14:48
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    @DavidRicherby - Thre are called "change machines", maybe they have evidence of people confusing cash machines with change machings. scancoin.co.uk/Product_Guide/Change%20Machines.aspx – user66974 Sep 18 '17 at 15:12
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    In Scotland, I believe the term Cashline is also commonly used. – Robin Salih Sep 18 '17 at 15:22
  • @RobinSalih But, presumably, only because that's the brand name used by the Royal Bank of Scotland. If you asked a Scottish person where you could find a Cashline, would they assume you meant specifically an RBoS machine, and send you to one of those, even if it was twice as far from another bank's machine? (Note that, in the UK, there's a network called Link that allows you to use essentially any bank's cash machines without paying a fee.) – David Richerby Sep 18 '17 at 15:25
  • @DavidRicherby Yes, that is indeed the origin of the term, but I believe it's used generically and can refer to any machine, not just an RBS one. – Robin Salih Sep 18 '17 at 15:31
15

Source: I'm in my early fifties and have lived from age 5 in South East England.

In colloquial English, I've never heard anything but cashpoint or machine. Which is used depends on the context.

If the context is already established as involving money, then the simple machine is probably most usual, but it may even be omitted entirely.

"I'm going to need to get cash from the machine on the way."
"I'm going to get some cash out."

If money hasn't already been mentioned in the sentence, then cashpoint is usual:

"I need to find a cashpoint."

The term cash machine is longer and arguably physically more difficult to say (with two /ʃ/ sounds).

ATM is vanishingly rare in my experience. Hole-in-the-wall is deliberately jocular, although that has appeared "in the metal":

Barclays Hole in the Wall

All of this does appear to contradict corpus data. Ngrams shows ATM has always been more common than cashpoint, and it appears that BNC agrees (although I've never found that easy to get data from). However, they gather data from written sources, and those may be influenced by the trademark status of Cashpoint® — something which Lloyds still take seriously:

Lloyds Cashpoint®

As to answering the question: Do not use "ATM" unless you want to be marked out as someone who is less familiar with colloquial English. While it will certainly be understood, it has definitely not superseded any other term.

  • 3
    Also early fifties; born in London & living in the North of England. Until recently, cashpoint would have been my "go to" phrase (with hole-in-the-wall not unknown). Cash machine has probably taken over (possibly due to the increased number of standalone machines in shops and not in banks' walls). For most of that time, ATM – while not unrecognisable – would have been very rarely heard and even less rarely used. With the rise of US cultural influence, it's now more commonly heard, but still not a term I'd tend to use. – TripeHound Sep 19 '17 at 6:51
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    +1 I'm in my twenties down south and I've never heard a native call it an 'ATM'. It's a definite "I'm not native" flag. – Pharap Sep 20 '17 at 6:48
  • "Do not use "ATM" unless you want to be marked out as someone who is less familiar with colloquial English." ATM is colloquial English. Perhaps you are confusing "colloquial" with "regional"? And failing to use regionalisms is not necessarily indicative of unfamiliarity with them. Your comment seems to be more directed towards people who don't want anyone to know they're American than people who are trying to be understood. – Acccumulation Sep 22 '17 at 17:00
  • No, I'm not confusing "colloquial" with "regional". I use "colloquial" to mean English as used in casual conversation. Note that the question specifically asks for a UK perspective, so writing "colloquial UK English" would be redundant. – Andrew Leach Sep 22 '17 at 17:02
6

Cash machine so far worked for me in every English-speaking country (and some non-English speaking countries, too) that I visited, including the UK, the Middle East, Switzerland or China. It not only worked, I never got any Strange Looks™ either. Even if the locals call it by some other name, they recognize the term, even locals who do not speak English very well. The same may not be true for region-specific acronyms or genericized trademarks like ATM or Cashpoint.

6

English, born and raised in the north, live in the south.

Cash machine, cash point and ATM are all pretty interchangable. If I search google maps to get money out I search for an ATM though in conversation I'd say cash machine. Tbh you're good with any of those, people will know what you mean, we're exposed to enough American media to know what an ATM is.

5

Source: I am from the south of England and in my late 40s, but have lived in Cambridge, Lancaster, Oxford, London, Bristol, and Perth (Scotland).

My most frequently used term is "cashpoint".

"Cash machine" feels clunky and long-winded to me.

I would never say "cash dispenser" or "hole-in-the-wall", though I am familiar with the term.

I wouldn't refer to it just as a "machine", because there are many different types of machine available.

I rarely say "ATM".

  • 1
    Maybe if you added your age group then people then it would be easier to compare with Andrew and Andy T's answer. BTW I'm 51 so maybe saying cashpoint is a generation thing. – Mari-Lou A Sep 19 '17 at 6:10
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    good idea, done – Yvonne Aburrow Sep 19 '17 at 7:45
  • Forgive the mangled comment above, I could have sworn it was in English :) – Mari-Lou A Sep 19 '17 at 7:49
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    I think people are only suggesting "machine" in contexts that strongly suggest something to do with cash. "I got cash from the machine" avoids repeating "cash" by saying "cashpoint" or "cash machine" and seems reasonably unambiguous. Obviously, "I put my laundry in the machine" would be a washing machine, not a cashpoint. – David Richerby Sep 19 '17 at 16:13
  • Good point @DavidRicherby -- in that context, I would probably say "I went to get some cash out" (because it would be obvious where from). – Yvonne Aburrow Sep 20 '17 at 9:09
4

Barclays Bank introduced the first such device, and called it a Cash Machine. As shown on their archives.

However, within that archive article, the terms Cash Machine, Mini-bank, ATM and Barclaybank are all used.

It is still most common to hear it called Cash Machine. Although every major bank has a branded name for its variant. You have already mentioned Cashpoint, a trademark of Lloyds Bank. Midland Bank used first Cardcash then Autobank until it was taken over by HSBC.

ATM is rarely used as it is seen as an americanism. The word Teller is not used over here.

3

Bank-o-mat is the word I learned traveling in France and Italy which worked 100% of the time even in Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, and Czech. It caused a few raised eyebrows in the UK—no eyebrow raising in Gibraltar—but 100% correct comprehension.

My traveling companion used hole-in-the-wall insistently with successful communication maybe about half the time in Scotland, Wales, and N. Ireland. (I don't specifically recall reactions in England.)

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    The question explicitly asks, in boldface, what the most common term is in the UK. As you say, that certainly isn't "bank-o-mat". – David Richerby Sep 19 '17 at 16:11
  • @DavidRicherby: I wasn't trying to provide a best answer–more of a supplement to other (better) answers providing support for some and disparaging others. – wallyk Sep 19 '17 at 22:16
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    As an English native I can say I've never heard it called a 'bank-o-mat' in my life. I'm not surprised people had no idea what you were talking about. 'hole-in-the-wall' is used, but it's more of an older-generation thing so it's understandable that only a handful of people would understand that. – Pharap Sep 20 '17 at 6:55
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    Bankomat was a specific brand of ATM which was introduced throughout Europe in the late 1960s ( atmmarketplace.com/articles/… ) but they didn't make it to the UK so it's unlikely to be understood over here except by logical deduction of what you might be asking for. – DaveMongoose Sep 20 '17 at 11:41
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    @miroxlav "Bank-o-mat" is "not preferred" simply because it has never been used in English. In any case, I don't think "hole in the wall" is the most common term. It's used in two ways: as a trade-mark by Barclays and as a rather informal term by anyone else. – David Richerby Sep 20 '17 at 23:18
1

The only one of those suggested terms to even come close to atm in UK Google Trends popularity is 'machine'. Machine is much more popular, but likely not in reference to an ATM.

This data covers back to 2004, and thus is unlikely to be reflecting widespread use of the term 'at the moment', which also takes on 'atm' for short.

As this information contradicts the anecdotal evidence of all the other answers, it is worth considering the possibility that perhaps people from the UK are deliberately using 'Americanisms' in their internet searches to be more readily understood.

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    Or it suggests that speakers of American English are more likely to use Google to locate a cash machine in the UK. I'd expect foreigners to be more likely to Google something like that: people who live in a country have a good intuition for where something like cash machines would be located. – David Richerby Sep 19 '17 at 16:23
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    I concur with @DavidRicherby. I've never had to ask the internet where my local cashpoints are because I've visited most of them, and if I haven't I know roughly where to find them, and if I'm in a place I've never been to before, I'd sooner ask a local than resort to asking Google. – Pharap Sep 20 '17 at 7:00
1

Here's the NGram for cashpoint versus cash machine from the British English corpus:

As one can see cashpoint appears to be equally as frequent as cash machine in British English, as has been pointed out by many commenters and posters here. Bear in mind, however, that this is a written corpus and not a spoken one.

As pointed out in several posts, dispenser and hole in the wall are frequently used in the UK. Anecdotally, I very rarely hear ATM here in London, or in Edinburgh or Devon.

Unfortunately, an NGram for ATM in British English basically throws up thousands of results from books on:

  • Asynchronous Transfer Mode
  • Of course, the problem with Ngram in general is that it reflects written text, and mainly in "books" vs other documents which more correctly reflect the idiomatic spoken language. – Hot Licks Sep 27 '17 at 23:58
  • @HotLicks Absolutely so. You're completely right. (It might be helpful in balancing out an I've never heard xyz perhaps. Sometimes. Or maybe not ...). I've edited my post. – Araucaria Sep 28 '17 at 0:01
  • Why don't you say what you call it? You're Scottish, aren't you? And, if you can, recall if you used to call it differently when you were a young whippersnapper. – Mari-Lou A Sep 29 '17 at 9:29
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    @Mari-LouA I've always used all of cash point, hole-in-the-wall and cash machine so far as I can remember. I've only ever used ATM when trying to speak another language where I haven't known the word for cash point! Normally something like "a te emme?". I never use it in English :) – Araucaria Sep 29 '17 at 11:02

protected by Andrew Leach Sep 18 '17 at 15:56

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