Expat Life

Moving To Canada? Here Are 75 Canadian English Slangs & Phrases You Must Know

Land of the Rockies… 

Home of the Niagara Falls… 

Creator of maple syrup and poutine 

Country of gorgeous lakes, insanely cold weather and exciting ice hockey matches… 

Of course, you know which country we are talking about.  

CANADA, a peaceful nation blessed with a rich history, well-mannered Canucks (Canadian people), highly urbanised cities and breathtaking natural beauty. If you are moving to Canada, you can definitely look forward to a wonderful rich expat life. 

You might also want to read: If You Live In Any Of These 20 Cities, You Spend The Most Time Stuck In Traffic…

Canada is deservedly proud of its multicultural social ethos, thanks to the plethora of races, religions, languages and nationalities that now call this charming country their home. 

On the languages front, large Canadian cities like Toronto and Vancouver are full of people speaking a number of languages – right from Punjabi and Mandarin to Tagalog and Arabic. About 21% of Canada’s population speaks French, particularly in Québec. 

But of course, as with most Anglo countries, the language that continues to hold sway in Canada is ENGLISH. Consider these facts: 

  • English is one of the two official languages spoken in Canada 
  • English has over 20 million native speakers in Canada, constituting 58% of the total population 
  • Over 86% of Canadians are able to converse in English 
  • 74.5% of them speak English at home 

Put all of this together and you will realise that if you speak and understand English in Canada, you will do just fine! 

Like other Anglo countries (check out our article on Australian English!), Canadian English is also full of interesting phrases and unusual colloquialisms that make it truly unique! 

So, without any further delay, let’s dive into the mysteries and joys of anglais Canadien! Print out this guide, put it in your knapsack and get ready for your new Canadian adventure!  

You might also want to read: If You Live In Any Of These 20 Cities, You Spend The Most Time Stuck In Traffic…

Canadian Vocabulary Every Expat Must Know 

Canadian English is an odd duck.  

The language is an interesting variant of American and British English. It also includes influences from First Nations languages, French and other languages. 

So if you’re going to Canada anytime soon, here’s a list of useful terms that might come in handy. These are the words and phrases that are uniquely Canadian and often that’s jokes (hilarious or funny)! Master them and you will sound like a local in less time than you can say a-boot time! 

Are You Hungry? 

Moving To Canada? Here Are 75 Canadian English Slangs & Phrases You Must Know

Canada has gifted the world plenty of amazing culinary delights, from poutine and Timbits to Nanaimo bars and butter tarts. If you are planning to explore the gastronomic scene there, here’s a quick vocab guide to help you navigate your way around a restaurant or bar in Canada:   

Canadian English Term  Meaning 
Double Double  an oversized cup of coffee with 2 creams and 2 sugars 
homo milk  homogenised/whole milk 
Tim Hortons’ Timbits  bite-sized fried-dough confectionery similar to American doughnuts but uniquely Canadian (they’ve been around since the 70s!) 
serviettes  paper napkins 
icing sugar  powdered sugar 
two four  a case of 24 beers – cans or bottles 
Mickey  A 13-ounce bottle of hard alcohol (give or take) 
chocolate bars  Chocolate candy 
Molson muscle  beer belly 
Kraft Dinner (or KD!)  macaroni-and-cheese 
freezie  freeze (ice) pop 
dépanneur  convenience store 
Rotten Ronnie’s  McDonald’s 
booze can  illegal after-hours bar 
Caesar  cocktail (not a salad!) similar to a Bloody Mary but made with clamato juice 
Clamato juice  clam and tomato juice 
poutine  French fries (thin potato chips) covered with cheese curds and gravy 
Tortière/tourtière  Meat pie 
beavertail/whale’s tail  fried pastry dough smothered in toppings like Nutella chocolate spread 
Nanaimo bar  multilayered brownie with icing 
Butter tart  Sweet pastry shell tart with a filling of butter, sugar, syrup and egg, baked to get a semi-solid filling and crunchy top 
Peameal bacon  Wet-cured, un-smoked back bacon made from trimmed lean boneless pork loin and rolled in cornmeal 
Bumbleberry pie  Mixed berry pie (there is no such berry as a bumbleberry!) 

 Mind Your Habits & Manners! 

Moving To Canada? Here Are 75 Canadian English Slangs & Phrases You Must Know

You’ve probably heard that Canadians are a very polite lot. It’s true! And they love to say sorry and pardon even if they’re not at fault! 

With a Canadian, you can have a polite conversation – or even a friendly one – with the word eh. Canadians don’t mind it in the least! This classic term used in everyday Canadian conversations can indicate that you don’t understand something or can’t believe something is true. You can even use it if you want the other person to respond to something you said. It’s similar to ‘huh’, ‘right?’ and ‘what?’ commonly found in American and British English. 

Here are some more useful terms: 

Canadian English Term  Meaning 
Canadian tuxedo  informal outfit consisting of a blue denim jacket and blue jeans 
Pop  carbonated soft drink/soda 
Washroom  Bathroom, restroom, toilet 
Queue  Lineup 
Tap  faucet 
Canuck  Canadian person 
kerfuffle  commotion, fuss or disagreement 
keener  brown-noser, sycophant 
beauty  exceptionally great person 

 Life’s Good In Canada 

Moving To Canada? Here Are 75 Canadian English Slangs & Phrases You Must Know

Bought a new car? 

Need some change? 

Hate Canada’s winters? 

Love Canada’s winters? 

Plan to study in Canada? 

Load up on these terms first! Otherwise, you may accuse a Canadian of being a loonie and get strange looks in return! 

Canadian English Term  Meaning 
Loonie  1-dollar coin 
Toonie  2-dollar coin 
parkade  parking garage 
gas bar  petrol station 
chinook  the warm wind that comes over the mountain during winter to melt the snow and raise the temperature 
hydro bill  electricity bill 
Toque (or tuque)  knitted hat 
snowbirds  Canadians who head south to sandy beaches and tropical waters to escape winter 
Toboggan  Snow sledge 
writing a test  Taking a test, giving an exam 

In Canada, the testee writes a test, not the tester! 

 Just Hanging Out 

The people of Canada are as social as the people of any other country. And when you consider that only about 10% of the vast Canadian landmass is actually occupied by humans, this seems amazing, doesn’t it? 

Once you settle in Canada, you will surely develop a rich and rewarding social life. But make sure you know these words first to avoid awkward encounters and uncomfortable silences – whether you’re at a formal do or just hanging out with pals! 

Canadian English Term  Meaning 
knapsack  backpack 
klicks  kilometres 
6ix  Toronto 
track pants  Comfortable sweat pants 
runners  Comfortable running shoes/sneakers 
thongs  Slippers, often worn to the beach 
housecoat  Bathrobe or dressing gown 
Stag  Bachelor party (US), Stag do (UK) 
Stagette  Bachelorette party (US), Hen do (UK) 
Darts  Cigarettes (not the bar game!) 
Bill  Check (US) 
Chesterfield  Sofa, couch 
pencil crayons  Coloured pencils 
What you sayin’ tonight  What are your plans for tonight? (informal) 
True  Okay, fine 

You might also want to read: If You Live In Any Of These 20 Cities, You Spend The Most Time Stuck In Traffic…

 Home & Away! 

No, this section is not about the famous Australian soap opera! 

If you’re living in Canada, you need to acclimatise yourself to some strange-sounding words that you will hear every day in your personal and professional life.  

Allons y! (French: let’s go!) 

Canadian English Term  Meaning 
Hang a Larry  Turn left while driving 
Hang a Roger  Turn right while driving 
dinged  Fined money 

(not damage to a car in an accident!) 

Mountie  member of the highly-respected Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) 
eavestroughs  rain gutters on the roof of a house 
garburator  Garbage disposal, usually installed under a kitchen sink 
fire hall  Fire station 
deke  physical outmanoeuvring of an opponent in ice hockey 
stickhandle  skilful controlling of the puck in ice hockey 
pogie  On Government welfare assistance 
give’r  Go for it, give it your best shot 
Elementary school  Grades KG-5 
Middle school  Grades 6-8 
High school  Grades 9-12 
University  After-school college (different from ‘community college’) 

Time measured in Years – First Year, Third Year, etc 

Grade  School class 

 What Makes Canadian English, Well, Canadian? 

On the spelling front, Canadian English tends to combine aspects of American and British English. Canadian pronunciations too are influenced by British and American English (despite regional variations).  

For the most part, Canadians tend to sound like Americans. However,  there are some accent differences between Canadian and American spoken English, although they are not always easy to discern! 

The best-known feature of Canadian English pronunciation is the phenomenon known as ‘Canadian raising’ which affects two specific diphthongs before voiceless consonants like f, k, p, s and t. This ‘raising’ makes the vowel in ‘out’ sound more like ‘oot to American ears (and hence the ‘oot’ and ‘aboot’ stereotype!).  

Other unique features of Canadian pronunciations include the ‘low back merger’, which makes caught and cot sound similar and the ‘Canadian vowel shift’ which makes  ‘bit’ sound a bit like ‘bet’ and ‘bet’ sounds a bit like ‘bat’! 

OK, so now we know that Canadian English spellings and pronunciations are a charming mish-mash of British and American English. 

Le fin!

So you’re new to Canada, eh? With this guide, you won’t feel like a newbie for long.

And don’t worry about fitting in. Canadians are among the nicest people you will ever meet. So even if you don’t warm up to the Canadian winter (-30° Celsius anyone?!), you’ll definitely warm up to the Canucks and to the uniquely charming Canadian English in no time! 

You’re welcome!