a car wreck/accident [in BE]

  • mgcrules

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    I don't know about British but I would interpret a car wreck as a car being completely smashed while an accident might be less extreme. I'm not sure though.


    Senior Member
    English - US
    I don't think that there is a difference between BE and AE on this. Here is a fun site regarding BE and AE differences in motoring:


    I agree with mgcrules that wreck sounds more significant in damage than accident. The two words are very different in meaning, but not as regards BE and AE. I could be wrong. The British folks will be arising for breakfast very soon and will answer more definitively.


    Senior Member
    English English
    I wouldn't (personally) use wreck for the phenomenon of two cars hitting each other at speed: that's a crash. But if both cars were rendered undrivable by the crash, I'd say Both cars were wrecks.

    A minor accident is generally called a bump.


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    A car crash or a car accident (or motor accident, road accident, traffic accident). A crash leaves really visible damage: a crunched panel or a broken light at least. If it just left a scratch or took off a bit of paint you wouldn't say crash.

    There is a colloquialism 'train wreck', which is probably AE as much as BE, which means a really horrible situation - it could be anything, two people arguing furiously in an office - where you can see it's going to be very bad and messy to deal with afterwards. I don't think real railway accidents would normally be called train wrecks though.

    Ann O'Rack

    Senior Member
    UK English
    And if the context is clear that it's to do with cars, we often leave out "car" as well.

    If I say to a friend "I saw an accident on my way to work", they would usually imagine a car accident of some kind. If it were a serious one, I'd probably say "I saw a crash on my way to work" they would know it was a serious one.

    Other more colloquial words include "prang" as in "I pranged my car" or "I had a bit of a prang" (meaning minor damage, more embarrassing than dangerous).
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