The terms “prawn” and “shrimp” are used interchangeably in British and American English, but they have slightly different meanings. In American English, prawns are any species of shrimp that grow larger than 16-20 count per lb (U.S.). This includes: tiger prawns, rock shrimp, cold water shrimp, warm water shrimp and Australian native brown shellfish—which all fall into the category of large/jumbo shrimp. These are typically sold as frozen or fresh products with head-off shells or peeled/shelled body meats.
American and British English have different ways of grouping similar foods. In American English, “shrimp” refers only to small crustaceans and not other animals that are commonly referred to as shrimp. In British English, however, the word “prawn” is used to refer to any aquatic animal with a distinct head and tail (and sometimes even two tails) that isn’t lobster-sized or larger. American English tends not to use this distinction in everyday speech: if you’re ordering dinner at an American restaurant and want shrimp scampi, you’ll be served prawns—in fact, in most places outside of Britain and its former colonies such as Australia and New Zealand where British culture has spread there’s no need for different words at all!
The difference between prawns and shrimp is not important enough to call out in law—at least in the United States. In fact, they are often used interchangeably and you can find both terms on menus across America. In Australia and the UK, however, the distinction is clearer: prawns are larger than shrimp (and not as salty), so if you want something even larger than that but still smaller than lobster or crab legs, it’s best to ask for “large prawns” instead of just “prawns.” While the terms shrimp and prawn are often used interchangeably, there are some differences between the two. Prawns are usually larger than shrimp and can have a harder shell. They may also have more flavor than their smaller counterparts. Shrimp is used in American English; in British English, prawns are usually preferred (as well as scampi). Prawns are found in oceans, while shrimp live in lakes or ponds and rivers.
Those are the basics of shrimp and prawns. We hope this helped clear up any confusion about the difference between these two words!