33 Uniquely Canadian Slang Words & Phrases
You wouldn’t think that Canada would have so many uniquely Canadian slang words that could trip up our neighbours to the South, but we do.
If you’ve traveled across the border, or had visitors from the United States come to stay in your guest room, you may have encountered a situation where you are in the middle of a conversation, or ordering dinner from a restaurant, and the non-Canadian suddenly gives you a quizzical look.
That’s probably because you’ve dropped one of these uniquely Canadian slang words or phrases and they have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.
A few of them have become so quintessentially Canadian, that we are teased by them (think “Eh?”). But some of them remain relatively unknown on the other side of the border.
Years ago, I was travelling to Minnesota with a co-worker, and halfway through dinner their napkin dropped on the floor. When the waiter walked by, she politely asked if she could have another Serviette. The waiter had absolutely no idea what she was asking for. After pointing to the floor, the waiter exclaimed, “Oh, a NAPKIN!”
From coffee to utilities to the police to lounge wear, Canada has its own unique set of slang words that we can speak proudly!
Here are 33 Uniquely Canadian Slang Words & Phrases That Might Confuse Our American Cousins
Get ready for a wild vocabulary ride through some uniquely wonderful Canadian slang terms that will help you understand the difference in language between two countries that are so geographically linked.
A relatively common saying that often ends a sentence or a statement like a form of additional punctuation. Most often, it means something along the lines of “Wouldn’t you agree?” as in “It’s really hot outside today, Eh?”
Although not every Canadian drops the slang term “Eh?” at the end of nearly every sentence, much of America perceives that we use it as often as a Texan says Y’all.
Because Canada has two official languages, English & French, some of what have become considered Canadian slang is actually the French version of a common word. Serviette, which is French for napkin, is one of these examples.
Most Canadians will know what you want, but if you find yourself in an American restaurant, it’s probably best to save yourself some time and trouble by asking for a napkin.
When someone wears a denim jacket over matching jeans, this is affectionately known as a Canadian Tuxedo. Similar in theme to the Texas Tuxedo which is a suit jacket paired with jeans, cowboy boats, and a cowboy hat.
A shorted version of Tim Hortons, this refers to the famously-Canadian brand of delicious brewed coffee (unless you are a Starbucks fan).
Born in rural Quebec, Poutine is a uniquely Canadian dish featuring French fries, cheese cures, and gravy. Poutine itself is a French slang term for “a mess,” which is quite appropriate given the traditionally messy look of the dish.
This one qualifies as a unique Canadian slang term AND a wonderful Canadian invention, so it's like two meals in one!
In Canada, we escape for the weekend to the cottage. In the US, they will – instead – head off to the cabin. Typically, a cottage is a small house, most often located on a lake. But as cottage life and the massive growth of the Muskoka region will attest, cottages are no longer quaint little homes on the water.
Hipsters wear beanies. Canadians wear toques. This warm, knitted cap is perfect for helping to keep the cold, Canadian winter winds away from your ears.
Loonie (and Toonie)
In 1987 a gold-coloured coin was introduced as a replacement for the paper version of the Canadian dollar. This coin, with a solitary loon on one side, quickly became known as a Loonie.
In 1996, the Royal Canadian Mint followed up with a two-dollar coin, which was subsequently dubbed the Toonie (or twoonie).
The loonie became such a popular nickname for the Canadian dollar that the Royal Canadian Mint trademarked the name in 2006.
In basketball, a double-double refers to when a player accumulates ten or more in two of the following five statistical categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots during a single game.
But not so in Canada. In Canada, a double-double is when you want two creams and two sugars in your coffee, most often a Timmies. It has become so common, that the coffee part is now assumed and all you have to ask for is a Large Double-Double in order to receive a brewed coffee with two creams and two sugars.
An interesting fact, at least at Tim Hortons, is that the actual amount of cream and sugar put into a double-double varies based on the size of the coffee you order. That way, your Medium Double-Double tastes exactly the same as your Extra-Large Double-Double.
Heading up to the cottage for the weekend? Make sure you bring the two-four! If you’re struggling to understand what that is, it’s quite simple. A two-four is Canadian slang for a case of 24 (aka two four) beers.
Surprisingly, the Canadian slang phrase Kitty-Corner has nothing to do with cats. It is used to describe two things that are diagonally across from each other, like when you pull up to an intersection and you see two Tim Horton’s Kitty-Corner from each other.
Language experts believe that the phrase Kitty-Corner actually comes from the expression cater-corner, which is derived from the French word quatre, which means four.
Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are often referred to as Mounties. These iconic law enforcement officers are known for their striking red uniform, which is often turned into a Halloween costume, sometimes including the horse.
Coloured pencils are known in Canada as pencil crayons. Perhaps its because pencil crayons fall halfway between the traditional leaded pencil and the colourful crayon. Or perhaps it’s because the French word for pencil is actually crayon, so the French version of coloured pencil is “crayon de couleur.” Perhaps we will never know for sure.
If you want to sit down and stream some classic television on Netflix with your grandmother, you may want to get comfortable on the Chesterfield. This is a bit of a dated Canadian slang term, typically used by the older generation, to refer to a couch or sofa.
That fizzy beverage that goes perfectly with a hamburger is known in Canada as Pop, but is typically known south of the border as Soda.
Except in Minnesota. In Minnesota, they call it pop. But let’s face it, Minnesota is basically the Canada of the US.
The difference appears to be one of delivery. In the US, soda fountains were the popular way to enjoy this carbonated beverage. In Canada, we tended to enjoy our Coke from a bottle, which made a beautiful little “pop” when you opened it.
At least, that’s how the story goes.
Not actually a winged creature, Snowbird refers to retired Canadians who pack up their belongings and move south for the Winter. It is also a much-loved song by Canadian icon Anne Murray, but there is nothing to say for sure that this Canadian slang term came from this song about a bird flying away from winter… but maybe.
Just to confuse matters a tiny bit more, the term Snowbirds is also used to describe the military aerobatics team that puts on quite the air show across Canada during the summer.
This is not the salad. This is the adult beverage. In America, they drink a Bloody Mary. In Canada, we drink the much-superior Caesar. A Caesar contains a delicious mixture of vodka, Clamato juice, Worcestershire sauce, celery, and various other wonderful seasonings - depending your taste & preference.
The main difference between a Caesar and a Bloody Mary is the tomato juice that they use in the United States vs the Clamato cocktail that is typically used in Canada. That, and the fact that Americans tend to add a variety of really weird things to their Bloody Mary cocktails including olives and hamburgers.
These delicious frozen treats are a great way to cool down on a hot summer’s day, and they have as many names as we have heat warnings during a typical summer.
They are known as Freeze Pops, Otter Pops, Icy Pops, Ice Poles, and The Plastic Things That Cut the Sides of Your Mouth. Some even refer to them as Popsicles, despite the complete lack of a Popsicle stick.
The most popular one in the US is Freeze Pop or Otter Pop (because of the brand name), but we in Canada affectionately refer to them as Freezies.
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, as it is known in the US, goes by the much quainter name of Kraft Dinner in Canada. And because Kraft Dinner can take SOOO long to say when you’re really hungry, we shortened it down to its initials, K.D.
In America, they pay their Electric bill. Or, at least, they had better pay their electric bill or they’re going to have the power shut off. In Canada, however, we refer to this particular utility as our Hydro bill.
Most people in Canada believe that this comes from the fact that - until recent years - most of the utility companies were government owned and named after the province, including Ontario Hydro, BC Hydro, etc.
The reason why those companies were named that why was because, initially, most of Canada’s power came from Hydroelectric dams. Although that is no longer the case, and the crown corporations have since been privatized, Hydro remains in the lexicon of many Canadians when referring to their power bill.
Here is where things take a bit of a dark turn. In Canada, the slang term Mickey is used to describe a small (375 ml, aka about 12.5 oz) bottle of alcohol, which is about the size of your average flask. Americans tend to refer to this as a Pint.
In America, slipping someone a mickey does NOT mean handing someone a small bottle of booze while nobody is looking. Instead, the term Mickey actually has a very different, very dangerous, and very criminal meaning.
So be very careful when you refer to anything having to do with a Mickey in the United States, unless you are referring to Mickey Mouse.
A toboggan is a long, narrow sled used for winter fun in much of Canada. One Interesting fact about the Canadian slang word toboggan is that in the southern United States, residents somehow confused the toboggan and the toque one would wear while riding one and now call knitted hats “toboggans.”
Although the Loonie and the Toonie are now deeply ingrained slang terms for the Canadian one-dollar and two-dollar coins, the slang term for cash in Canada is bucks. As in, “Can you chip in a few bucks for gas?”
This Canadian term originates from a coin struck in the 17th century by The Hudson's Bay Company which had an equivalent value to that of a pelt of a male beaver, otherwise known as a "buck".
When Canadians lounge around all day without getting dressed, they typically do so while wearing a housecoat. Those South of us will usually do so in a bathrobe.
Although some mistakenly believe that a housecoat is worn by Canadian women and a bathrobe is worn by Canadian men, that is not the case. Both terms are fully unisex.
Even though the origins of the name come from Germany, knapsack has become the widely accepted Canadian slang term for your everyday backpack. Experts believe that the term knapsack came from a time when German soldiers would carry food (referred to as knappen - "to bite") in their backpacks, and that the name evolved to knapsacks.
Americans may be confused if you ask where the washroom is, because they might think you are referring to the laundry room. Washroom, bathroom, and restroom can be used interchangeable, although if you think about the origins of the words, washroom is the one that makes the most sense.
After all, not all bathrooms contain a bath. And people rarely go to the restroom for the sole purpose of resting. But every washroom includes a sink so that you can wash your hands. This means that Canadians are - once again - right.
As the name implies, an eavestrough is a trough under the eaves of a building that is used to help draining water from the roof when it rains.
Americans typically refer to these as gutters, but I think eavestrough is a much nicer sounding word.
For some unknown reason, folks in the United States refer to these delicious confectionery treats as Candy Bars, even though nearly all of them contain chocolate and very few of them contain actual candy.
Although some purists will tell you that this moniker is used because most candy bars in the US use such a substandard form of chocolate that they don’t deserve to use that word in their name.
It might create quite a fuss if you start talking about your latest kerfuffle with your American friends, but that’s because this Canadian slang term, with its roots in the Scottish and Gaelic languages, is not used much in those parts.
Defined as a commotion or a fuss caused by conflicting views, the term has fallen out of popular usage in Canada in recent years, but you can still hear someone gossiping about a kerfuffle or two that happened in their neighbourhood.
If you want to show off to your American friends, you can tell them about how much Molson Muscle you’ve put on this summer.
They’ll likely have no idea that you’re referring to your beer belly.
In Canada, we have two types of thongs. The slinky underwear kind. And the flip-flop sandal that received the thong nickname because of the thong-like toe hold.
If you really want to complement your Canadian Tuxedo, you can do so by donning a pair of shit-kickers.
That’s because this colloquial term is being used to refer to a heavy pair of boots, which can include cowboy boots, work boots, or even combat boots.
No, these are not a group of popular kids in high school. This is a term used to measure the distance for a road trip, because it’s a common Canadian slang short form for kilometres.
The Canadian Slang to American Dictionary
And there you have it, these 33 uniquely Canadian slang words & phrases have officially been demystified and translated into terminology you can use to help bring about world peace.
Or, at the very least, get yourself a napkin to clean yourself up after you spill your soda onto your Canadian Tuxedo, Eh?