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Cookies are, in English usage, large, semi-soft, sweet biscuits, often as large as 5ins diameter. By contrast biscuits are small, almost always crisp and near-flat. In North America the term 'cookie' is used for what in England is a 'biscuit', while the word 'biscuit' is used there for, I don't really know what, but possibly some sort of dry scone. The word 'cracker' for a crisp savoury is used on both sides of the Atlantic, but in England a cracker is definitively a class of biscuit.

North American (left) English (Right) - in this case a Bourbon Biscuit
Image: Lou Sander

The word 'cookie' seems to be from the Dutch 'koekje' a diminutive of koek, and turns up first in Scotland in the 1750's as a word for plain bread bun, from which it was adapted to the modern usage, as in the wonderful line from Scott's 'Antiquary', "Mickle obliged to ye for your cookies, Mrs. Shortcake."
'Biscuit', on the other hand, is defined in the OED as "A kind of crisp dry bread more or less hard, prepared generally in thin flat cakes. The essential ingredients are flour and water, or milk, without leaven; but confectionery and fancy biscuits are very variously composed and flavoured." It seems to be of very old use, first known in Mannyng's Chronicle of about 1338; "Armour žei had plente, & god besquite to mete."

Cookies are also little notes left on your computer by websites to remember what you did when you last visited. Someone in Brussels has got in a tizzy about them, and thinks sites should know if you want cookies or not. Trouble is, the only way a site can know not to leave cookies is by leaving a cookie saying 'don't leave cookies here'. Our policy is to ignore the whole thing and wait till it just goes away.

Some, just some, of the pages mentioning Biscuits in Foods of England are:

Aunt Charlotte's Biscuits
Barnstaple Fair Gingerbread
Bath Olivers
Bean Bread
Tunbridge Cakes
Ormskirk Gingerbread
Bobbies' Feet
Prince Biscuits
Cornish Fairings
Essex Shortcake
Oat Biscuits
Nice Biscuits
Cream Crisps or Palmier Creams
Brighton Buttons
Jewelled Shortbread
Mothering Sunday Wafers
Thin Arrowroot
Dorset Knobs
Beetroot Biscuits
Shrewsbury Biscuits
Shrewsbury Cakes
Sunderland Gingerbread Nuts
Captain's Biscuits
Morning Coffee Biscuit
Paper Wafers
Blackburn Cracknels
Digestive Biscuits
Brandy Snaps
Mousecatcher Biscuits
Ladyfingers, or, Boudoir Biscuits
Ginger Nut Biscuit
Easter Biscuits
Easter Cake
Scott's Last Expedition
Root Biskets
Grantham White Gingerbread
Shortcake Biscuit
Oatcakes - Yorkshire
Stained Glass Window Biscuits
Sago Pudding
Devon Flats
London Cheesecake
Fruit Shortcake Biscuit
Tonbridge Cakes
Toad in a Hole Biscuits
Gingerbread Men
Buttermere Biscuits
Fig Roll Biscuits
Grantham Whetstones
Norfolk Fair Buttons
Market Drayton Gingerbread
Brandy Snaps of Hereford
Oat Cakes
Cowes Pudding
Goofer Wafers
Ice Cream Cornet
Hardtack or Ship's Biscuit
Exeter Pudding
Lincoln Biscuit
Maidstone Biscuits
Derby Cakes
Mereworth Biscuits
Iced Gem Biscuits
Yarmouth Biscuits
York Biscuits
Custard Cream Biscuits
Rich Tea
Malted Milk Biscuits
Clotted Cream Biscuits
Rout Biscuits
Lemon or Orange Pudding
Butter Biscuits
Jammie Dodger
Spinach Cream
Reading Biscuits
Brown Windsor Soup
German Biscuits
Biscuit Cake
Refrigerator Cake
Biscuit Pudding
Bisket Bread (1)
Bisket Bread (2)
Chester Tart
Liver Pudding
Bride Cake
Bourbon Cream
Empire Biscuits
Knot Biscuits
Benton Cakes
Scouse or Lobscouse
Lancashire Biscuits
Lincoln Ginger Biscuits
Wareham Bears
Water Biscuits
Ginger Snap
Gingerbread Biscuits
Garibaldi Biscuit
Shropshire Biscuits
Caramel Squares
Flie's Graveyard or Fly Pie
Melting Moments
Widecombe Gingerbread
Dorset Fair Gingerbreads
Sandown Pudding
Tonbridge Biscuits
Norfolk Hollow Biscuits (or Knobs)
Fulford Biscuits
Lancashire Nuts
Threadneedle Street Biscuits
Cressing Biscuits
Hertford Hard Gingerbread
Abernethy Biscuits

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