How to Understand Canadian Slang

Four Parts:Mastering Canadian Expressions and VocabularyLearning Regional SlangPracticing Canadian SlangSlang Cheat Sheets

Canadians are proud of their cultural heritage and linguistic diversity. To express their unique heritage, there are a number of words that are uniquely Canadian. However, Canada is a large country housing a variety of cultures. Make sure you take time to learn regional slang as well as Canadian slang.

Part 1
Mastering Canadian Expressions and Vocabulary

  1. 1
    Study expressions that are uniquely Canadian. Some commonly used phrases in Canada don’t have obvious counterparts in American and British English. These phrases can be difficult to understand if you’ve never heard them before. Fortunately, all of these expressions are easy to master with practice.
    • Eh? – Used at the end of a sentence, this expression generally means, “Don’t you agree?” That movie was great, eh?
    • Book off work – To take off time from work.[1]I’m going to book off work next week.
    • Write a test – To take a test. I’m writing a test today in English.
  2. 2
    Study vocabulary that’s unique to Canada. There are many important words that refer to foods and items that are popular among Canadians. If you don’t know these words you may have trouble keeping up in a conversation.
    • Poutine – A delicious Canadian dish made from French fries, squeaky cheese curds, and gravy. This poutine is amazing!
    • Double-double – A phrase that’s said when ordering a coffee with two creams and two sugars. I could really use a double-double right now.
    • Loonie– A Canadian one-dollar coin. Can you lend me a loonie?
    • Back-bacon – Known in America as “Canadian bacon”or thinly sliced and cured strips of ham.[2]I eat eggs and back-bacon for breakfast every day.
  3. 3
    Learn words that have American or British English counterparts. These terms are easy to master because they directly translate to an American or British English vocabulary word. Practice using these terms in place of your preferred words in daily conversation.
    • Washroom – Bathroom or toilet. Where’s your washroom?
    • Runners – Trainers or sneakers. I wear runners when I exercise.
    • Housecoat – A bathrobe. Where’s my housecoat when I need it?
    • Toque – Pronounced “took,” this word refers to a ski cap or wool hat.[3]It’s too hot outside for a toque.

Part 2
Learning Regional Slang

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    Learn the regions of Canada. Canada is a large country with a variety of people. Regional slang can be grouped into a few categories: the Atlantic provinces, Central Canada, the Prairie Provinces, British Columbia, and the Northern Provinces.[4]
    • Some expressions don’t carry over from province to province. For example, Quebec has more French slang words than British Colombia.
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    Learn terms that are unique to the Atlantic Provinces. Also called the “Maritime Provinces,” this region includes Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. The local slang has Gaelic, British, Scottish, and French influences.[5]
    • Caper – A person from Cape Breton Island. My boyfriend’s a caper.
    • Hollywood North – Another word for Toronto, as this city is known for its film production. I’m heading to Hollywood North this weekend for the film festival.
    • The Rock – An endearing term for Newfoundland. I’m going back to the Rock for Christmas.
    • Maritimer – A person from the Atlantic Provinces.[6]Everyone in my extended family is a Maritimer.
  3. 3
    Pick up phrases that are commonly found in Central Canada. This region includes Quebec and Ontario. The local English slang has French and British influences. Furthermore, Quebec is the only French-speaking region in North America. Francophones will find interesting French slang spoken there as well.[7]
    • Serviette – The French word for “napkin,” this word is commonly used by French and English speakers alike. May I have a serviette, please?
    • Jam buster – A jelly-filled doughnut. I’d like a jam buster, please.
    • Takitish – Conversationally used to mean “take it easy,” or “see you later.” Takitish, John!
    • Lines – Small old country roads, usually dating back to the Colonial era. Which line should I take back to the farm?
  4. 4
    Study common slang from the Prairie Provinces. Also called “the Prairies,” these provinces include Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. This region is known for its farmland and oil-based economy.[8]
    • Gitch – Also called “gotch,” this expression refers to men or women’s underwear. It’s laundry day; time to wash my gitch.
    • Kitty-corner – Caddy-corner, or diagonally across from something else. The drugstore is kitty-cornered to the movie theater.
    • Hey – Used instead of “eh” in the Prairies, asking for agreement. That was a great dinner, hey?
    • Bunny-hug – A hooded sweater.[9]I love your new bunny-hug!
  5. 5
    Learn Canadian slang from the British Columbia. This large province covers the Western border of Canada and has heavy British influences. This region includes the cities of Surrey and Vancouver.
    • Squatch – A large, hairy, unkept man. If you don’t start shaving and showering more you’ll look like a squatch.
    • Terminal City – Another name for Vancouver, BC. I’m headed to Terminal City, wish me luck!
    • Whale’s Tail – Also called Beaver Tail or Elephant ear, this dessert is made from fried dough, lemon juice, and cinnamon sugar.[10]This Whale’s Tail is delicious!
  6. 6
    Study slang from the Northern Provinces. This region includes the Nunavut and Yukon provinces and the Northwest Territories. This cold region has unique slang with British, French, and indigenous influences.
    • Masi – Thank you, from the French word “Merci.” Masi! Have a good night.
    • Twofer – Also called two-four, this term refers to a case of 24 beers. Let’s pick up a twofer for the party tonight!
    • Mucking down – Shoveling food into your mouth. Stop mucking down and get dressed, we’re late!

Part 3
Practicing Canadian Slang

  1. 1
    Find a language buddy online. The best way to learn and practice slang is to talk with a native Canadian. There are many online services that are dedicated to helping language learners find native speakers to talk with. Alternatively, you could post on message boards on websites such as Reddit to find a language partner yourself.
    • You may have to pay to find a Canadian language partner. If not, make sure to show your partner that you appreciate their time by sending them a thank-you note.
    • To use these services you will need a computer and a microphone.[11]
  2. 2
    Watch Canadian movies. Toronto, a Canadian city, is very well known for its film industry. By watching movies made in Canada about Canadians you will be exposed to a lot of Canadian slang. If you’re having trouble understanding what the actors are saying, turn on the subtitles while you watch.
    • Watch the same movie several times. This will help you memorize the words you don’t know.[12]
    • If you want to develop a Canadian accent, try to say the lines along with the actors on the third or fourth viewing. This will help you sound more Canadian.
  3. 3
    Read Canadian magazines. Do an online search to find a contemporary Canadian magazine that interests you. If you can’t ship the magazine to your house, see if they have an online version you can subscribe to. While these magazines won’t contain as much slang as a Canadian movie might, they will help you learn to spell these words.

Slang Cheat Sheets

Sample Canadian Slang

Sample Provincial Canadian Slang

Sample Canadian Insults


  • Quebec Anglophones have freely adopted French words, such as autoroute for highway and dépanneur for corner store, as well as French constructions, such as take a decision and shut a light. In Quebec, people take the Metro instead of the subway, belong to syndicates instead of unions, and attend reunions instead of meetings.
  • In the Ottawa Valley, the accent is heavily influenced by the Irish who settled the area. The accent here is very distinctive, and found nowhere else in Canada.
  • The term “university” is limited to schools which offer four-year, degree programs. The term "college" typically only refers to one or two-year program community colleges. (This applies to most provinces, but not Quebec, which has a slightly different school system.)

Article Info

Categories: English Dialects and Slang