Moving to Canada? Here Are 75 Canadian English slangs & phrases you must know

Expat life
20 Feb 2023
9 mins read
Written by Team Instarem

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. 


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 26 million native speakers in Canada, constituting 57% of the total population 
  • Over 86% of Canadians are able to converse in English 
  • 75.4% 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 exciting 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?

Canada has gifted the world with 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 


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!) 


paper napkins 

icing sugar 

powdered sugar 

two four 

a case of 24 beers – cans or bottles 


A 26 oz bottle of hard alcohol (give or take) 

chocolate bars 

Chocolate candy 

Molson muscle 

beer belly 

Kraft Dinner (or KD!) 



freeze (ice) pop 


convenience store 

Rotten Ronnie’s 


booze can 

illegal after-hours bar 


cocktail (not a salad!) similar to a Bloody Mary but made with clamato juice 

Clamato juice 

clam and tomato juice 


French fries (thin potato chips) covered with cheese curds and gravy 


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!

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 


Canadian tuxedo 

informal outfit consisting of a blue denim jacket and blue jeans 


carbonated soft drink/soda 


Bathroom, restroom, toilet 






Canadian person 


commotion, fuss or disagreement 


over-achiever, eager to learn


exceptionally great person 

Life’s good in Canada

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 



1-dollar coin 


2-dollar coin 


parking garage 

gas bar 

petrol station 


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 


Canadians who head south to sandy beaches and tropical waters to escape winter 


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 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 








track pants 

Comfortable sweat pants 


Comfortable running shoes/sneakers 


Slippers, often worn to the beach 


Bathrobe or dressing gown 


Bachelor party (US), Stag do (UK) 


Bachelorette party (US), Hen do (UK) 


Cigarettes (not the bar game!) 


Check (US) 


Sofa, couch 

pencil crayons 

Coloured pencils 

What you sayin’ tonight 

What are your plans for tonight? (informal) 


Okay, fine 

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 


Hang a Larry 

Turn left while driving 

Hang a Roger 

Turn right while driving 


Fined money
(not damage to a car in an accident!) 


member of the highly-respected Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) 


rain gutters on the roof of a house 


Garbage disposal, usually installed under a kitchen sink 

fire hall 

Fire station 


To avoid or dodge an object/person/conversation/topic

Or physical outmanoeuvring of an opponent in ice hockey 


skilful control of the puck in ice hockey 


On Government welfare assistance 


Go for it, give it your best shot 

Elementary school 

Grades KG-5 

Middle school 

Grades 6-8 

High school 

Grades 9-12 


After-school college (different from ‘community college’)

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


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! 

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*Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. All details are accurate at the time of publishing. Instarem has no affiliation or relationship with products or vendors mentioned.

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