Cookie vs. Biscuit: What's the Difference?

Peter Carruthers/iStock via Getty Images
Peter Carruthers/iStock via Getty Images / Peter Carruthers/iStock via Getty Images

Though English is spoken in both nations, the language varies between the U.S. and the UK. Words that mean one thing in America can mean something totally different on the other side of the Atlantic. You may assume that's the case with the cookies versus biscuits divide, but that's only partly true. It turns out there is a literal difference between the sweet baked goods Britons and Americans eat with their tea and coffee.

Cookies and biscuits contain similar ingredients—like flour, butter, and sugar—but their recipes differ. According to Times of India, the cookies Americans are familiar with tend to be made from a thick, soft dough that takes longer to bake. They are commonly loaded with additional goodies like raisins, chocolate chips, nuts, or sprinkles. The result is a chewy, flavorful treat.

The word cookie comes from koekje, which is Dutch for “little cake.” Biscuit comes from the Latin words bis and coquere, or “twice baked.” The biscuits enjoyed in the UK tend to be simpler than cookies. They don't contain many of the extra ingredients and flavorings found in the American snack, and they're usually less sweet. They're made from a stiff dough that yields a thin, crisp product that's perfect for dipping into a cup of tea.

Treats that are more biscuit-like are still called cookies in the States. That's because, in the U.S., the word biscuit describes the flaky, tender bread rolls found in Southern cooking. In British cuisine, the closest thing to an American biscuit is a scone.

If you're an American planning a British vacation or vice-versa, make sure you get your lingo straight before the trip. Here are more words with very different meanings in the U.S. and the UK.