Why the hood is also called bonnet?



...but where do you go to learn what is under the hood

Trying to understand the operating system is unfortunately not as easy as just opening the bonnet

So it seems like hood is equivalent to bonnet...? But what's the difference? Is that opening the bonnet has other usage?


Posted 2018-12-11T07:17:14.317

Reputation: 333

Note that this terminology goes back to horse-drawn conveyances. (Consider dashboard.) Partly the terminology differs from place to place because different styles of wagons and carriages were used, depending on the weather and road condition.

– Hot Licks – 2018-12-12T13:51:58.310

FYI: A google search for "british vs american english differences" turns up a bunch of pages that will have this difference and a lot more besides. E.g., this infographic.

– davidbak – 2018-12-12T15:53:34.803



The cover of a car's engine is called a bonnet in British English, and a hood in American English. Also, at the back of a traditional car design, the luggage compartment is called the boot in BrE, and the trunk in AmE.

Michael Harvey

Posted 2018-12-11T07:17:14.317

Reputation: 31 750

3The part in the front is called the hood, and the back is called the trunk. There are some cars that have their engines in the rear, in which case the engine is in the trunk. – Acccumulation – 2018-12-11T16:20:47.477

5To make things more confusing, if you happen to have a convertible, in American the part that goes up & down is simply the top, but in British it's the hood :-) – jamesqf – 2018-12-11T18:12:42.270

2And British English allows convertibles to be 'soft top' (folding cloth which folds down into a place in the bodywork), or 'hard top' (removable fibreglass or metal, has to be removed and stored somewhere). – Michael Harvey – 2018-12-11T18:18:16.053

3@MichaelHarvey As does AmE. – Kenneth K. – 2018-12-11T18:52:04.133

@MichaelHarvey: +1 for your answer, but in regards to your comment would a car with a metal folding roof (which doesn't have to be removed) be classified as a hard top or soft top? – sharur – 2018-12-11T19:59:24.997

Cloth is soft; fibreglass and metal are hard. – Michael Harvey – 2018-12-11T20:01:13.583

@Michael Harvey: But there also are convertibles which have metal/fiberglass (or perhaps carbon fiber or such) hard tops that fold down into the bodywork. – jamesqf – 2018-12-12T05:27:39.277

1Could be worth pointing out that one possible reason for this difference is that the invention of cars post-dates US independence, so each dialect developed its own term. See also airplane/aeroplane. – IanF1 – 2018-12-12T06:45:25.987

2In addition to this answer, the phrase "under the hood" is enough of an idiom that British speakers would have no problems understanding its meaning. – Mr Lister – 2018-12-12T09:53:15.563

@jamesqf: I'm british and would refer to the bit of the convertible that goes up and down as the top. I don't think I've ever heard it referred to as the hood (though I don't have a large number of conversations on this subject). – Chris – 2018-12-12T10:28:59.427

1@sharur I (BrE) would refer to any convertable with a metal/fibreglass roof as hard-top, regardless of whether it folds or needs to be removed and stored – Charlie Harding – 2018-12-12T14:47:33.970

1Yes, British speakers would understand the metaphorical meaning of ‘under the hood’ — but if they got a mental image, it might be one of a camera rather than a car! – gidds – 2018-12-12T17:15:40.643

@Chris: Perhaps "top" is a creeping Americanism. I'm sure that if it started to rain, Bertie Wooster would have put up the top of his Widgeon 7 :-) – jamesqf – 2018-12-13T17:36:29.367


In addition to the basic "Americans use hood and Brits use bonnet but it's the same thing", you can look at the origins for the term and see that they both also describe very similar pieces of headgear:

A hood is a cold weather cover for your head...usually nowadays we would say it is attached to a jacket or coat, but it used to be more common for it to be a completely separate piece of clothing. It covers the back of your head completely and usually comes forward a little bit, shielding the face without covering it.

A bonnet is an old fashioned type of hat that women used to wear, which covers the back of the head and usually comes forward, shielding the face without covering it.

In old fashioned cars, the shape of the hood/bonnet actually slightly resembled a hood/bonnet (clothing). So it's no surprise that people picked those words to describe it.


Posted 2018-12-11T07:17:14.317

Reputation: 688


The hood is the term used for the hinged opening to a cars engine compartment in American English.

Bonnet is the term for the same thing in Britsh English, so you will see both used depending on where the writer of the article comes from.

In order to check the condition of a car particularly a second hand one before buying it, it is considered important to open up this engine compartment to check the state of the components there.

They are both used as metaphors for understanding how things work such as computers and other devices.


Posted 2018-12-11T07:17:14.317

Reputation: 1 154

The fact of the matter is that while people in British English speaking countries have words and usages that are unusual or have minority status in North America, we are subjected to such a torrent of Americanisms via films, TV, the Internet, computer games, literature, etc, that we know very well what e.g. the hood of a car is, just like we know what "junk in the trunk" means, and so on. We may not have been to Australia, but we know what a dunny is, and what kind of person is an ocker. – Michael Harvey – 2018-12-12T17:26:57.747

If I wasn't on the internet, I wouldn't know what an ocker is. – Alex H. – 2018-12-12T18:22:34.350

@MichaelHarvey as a British person myself I understand what you are saying, but sometimes it's difficult for a non-native speaker to understand what is American, British and what is understood by all. I have been to Australia myself, by brother is an Aussie citizen now but an ocker was a new one on me. – Sarriesfan – 2018-12-12T22:50:24.787