The lift at my work for example, groundfloor is '1' and the next floor up is '2' and so on.

Whereas other lifts, ground floor is 'G' and the next floor up is '1'.

Is there a reason for this inconsistency?

2 Answers 2


An image of a flag - half UK half US

Yes, different countries have different definitions for that floor.

In the UK the 'street' level floor is called 'Ground Floor', whereas in the US they simply call it '1st floor'. So it depends on whether it's a British lift or an American elevator. See more and even more.

There are similar differences with many other words. One billion (historically at least) used to mean:

UK: 1,000,000,000,000
US: 1,000,000,000

It's one thousand times quicker to travel billion light years if you leave from the US! (Unless you are travelling million light years at a time.)

  • 3
    +1 for mentioning the American/British billion. I've had countless arguments at work where my co-workers simply don't believe me! May 22, 2014 at 6:24
  • 8
    The British start counting from zero! Of little relevance, but intriguing: When I was at university, the ground floor in my block was 17. The ground floor in some others was labelled 19. It was a sloping site, so they based the number used on the height in feet above sea-level (170, 190, etc) to provide consistency throughout the site. May 22, 2014 at 7:02
  • @DanielJohnson Strictly speaking they're right to doubt you: modern British (and many other Commonwealth countries) now use short scale numbers like the US does, not the older long scale system described by Izhaki. It's true that a lot of Europe uses long scale though (e.g. France). Canada, confusingly, uses both (short scale in English-speaking regions and long scale in French-speaking regions).
    – Kit Grose
    May 23, 2014 at 0:27
  • @KitGrose does make a valid point here. In the specific case of a billion (which wasn't really part of the original question), in the UK this matter is a bit more historical. But, if one is to consult an old text, the ambiguity is still there. I've edited my answer to reflect this.
    – Izhaki
    May 23, 2014 at 0:50
  • 3
    I work at a company branch spread across 2 buildings: Building 22 with floors 1-2-3 and building 23 with floors G-1-2 (actually 0-1-2). All was well until a bridge was built, connecting 22/2 and 23/1... And eventually, 22 was re-numbered to 0-1-2.
    – Jonathan
    Sep 17, 2014 at 12:51

Within the U.S. it is common that when all entrances to a building are on the same level, the level above that will be called "2". In buildings which have entrances on two different levels (typically, though not always, because they are built on hills) it is pretty common to have the upper of those two levels be "1" and the one below be "G"; such numbering may apply regardless of which level is used more often as the entrance.

Additionally, if a building has many similar above-ground floors, but the floors at or below ground level are very different (e.g. if a hotel has guest rooms on all of the upper floors, public accommodations at ground level, and staff facilities in the basement) the upper floors will often be identified with numbers starting at "2", but the ground-level floor will be called something like "G" because it is fundamentally different from the numbered floors. A hotel with two public-accommodation floors might call them something like "G" [Ground] and "M" [Mezzanine] and then number guest-room floors starting at "3".

  • And the actual floor you would want to exit at (for example in a fire) has a star next to the button. No use getting off at "1" and then having to smash a window and jump down 10 feet. Also, the "back door" of a two sided elevator would not have the star (because it goes in to the building, not towards the door).
    – user67695
    Apr 18, 2017 at 18:43
  • @nocomprende: If in something like a museum the shortest emergency exit route would leave the elevator on one floor, but the shortest "any-time" egress route would be on another, which one should be marked with the star?
    – supercat
    Apr 18, 2017 at 18:56
  • Basically, you want to identify the floor that a person in a wheelchair can roll out on. No use sending them to a stairway, even if it is only 20 feet to outdoors. Sorry I didn't think of that before.
    – user67695
    Apr 18, 2017 at 18:58
  • One hotel I was in had 6 levels of parking (from street level up, labelled A-F) before the main level of the hotel (M) and then a dozen levels of guest rooms (levels 1-12).
    – user67695
    Apr 18, 2017 at 19:02
  • @nocomprende: If a museum or library is on a hill and except in emergency requires people to exit via the front desk, the shortest emergency egress route from an elevator near the rear of the building may well be on a different floor from the front desk; even if both that exit and the front desk would be wheelchair-accessible, someone in a wheelchair would want different floor for emergency and non-emergency situations. When I was in the UK it made a nice distinction between yellow "WAY OUT" signs, red "EXIT" signs (emergency use only), and green "EXIT" signs (both routes are the same).
    – supercat
    Apr 18, 2017 at 19:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.