Is the bottom-most floor (on ground level not the basement) "ground floor" or "first floor" in America?

  • I'll note that some IBM buildings in New York number the floors 0,1,2, with any basement being -1. – Hot Licks Apr 10 '20 at 21:24
  • There will be exceptions, but, in general terms, in BE, the floor at ground level is referred to as "the ground floor" and in AE is referred to as "the first floor". In a British lift that floor is marked 0 or G - I don't know what it is in an American elevator. – Greybeard Feb 23 at 11:17

It is ground floor in GB and first floor in the US.

The first three levels top to bottom are:


Third Floor

Second Floor

First Floor


Second Floor

First Floor

Ground Floor

  • 6
    Actually in US elevators "1" and "G" are interchangeable and both refer to the floor at ground-level. – Jim Jun 3 '12 at 16:43
  • 1
    Or 'L' for lobby. – Mitch Jun 3 '12 at 16:53
  • British lifts (="elevators") sometimes use floor numbering which counts down through zero to basements: ...3 2 1 0 -1 -2... – Andrew Leach Jun 3 '12 at 17:26
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    Jim is correct, "Ground" is just as common as "First" in referring to that floor in the US. You're right about 2nd and 3rd, etc., but you're incorrect about Ground vs First. – Mark Beadles Jun 3 '12 at 18:16
  • @MarkBeadles I have given a specific answer to a specific question. I am not saying anything about the local versions. – user20934 Jun 4 '12 at 7:30

These are usually interchangeable, but I was recently visiting a relative at a major hospital on the shore of Lake Erie and when I came down the elevator I pressed "G" and found myself one floor below the one with the main entrance/exit. So, it's not entirely standard.

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    "Usually" is a good notice to put here. For example when a large building is built on a sloping ground, the entrance on one end of the building may be on a different floor than the entrance on the other end. – GEdgar Jun 3 '12 at 23:37
  • Did you end up in the garage? That's where I usually assume G will take me. – J.T. Grimes Jun 4 '12 at 2:33
  • My building is on a hillside (in California) like a house with a daylight basement. The street-level entrance (front of building) is the 2nd floor. The main entrance and reception area are at the rear, on the ground floor. There is one level of parking below. Elevator buttons are P (Parking), G(ground), 2 (the front street level I mentioned), and 3. There is no first floor. – Brian Hitchcock Apr 10 '15 at 9:35

Normally there is a slight difference between the ground floor and the first floor depending on a commercial or residential building. Commercial structures refers to the entrance level as the first floor of the building and residential structures refers to the entrance level as the ground floor of the building and the first floor being above the entrance level.


In many buildings in New York City, ‘L’ (which stands for Lobby) is on the ground floor (I’m talking about elevators and apartment numbers) and ‘1’ is the 2nd floor (also talking about elevators and apartment numbers). My current Apartment number is 5G and I press 5 on the elevator to get to my floor but it’s actually what is called the ‘6th floor’. My last apartment had the same floor numbering system, too. So it’s not US vs UK thing. The level below ground floor is called ‘basement’ here by the way.

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I've heard it called the first floor in areas where basements are uncommon. "Ground Floor" is used to describe the floor on the ground because the first floor is actually the basement. I have seen this practice used at universities. University elevators have a first floor, but the ground floor (usually floor 2) is denoted with a star to indicate the "Ground Floor".

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