Understand Canadian English With These Regionalisms


Our neighbors just over the border in the Great White North speak English (along with French in some areas) but their dictionary contains a fair amount of Canadian flair that may be unfamiliar to most American English speakers. Here’s a list of our favorite Canadianisms.


Poor old Z. We pronounce it zee, of course, and it’s stuck at the end of the English alphabet (although, it wasn’t always).

In Canada, they say zed. And in fact, much of the world says zed. The word is from the 1400s, derived from several cultures including the Greek zeta. One of the first uses of the US pronunciation zee is first noted in 1580, in grammarian William Bullokar’s Book at Large.


In the States, when it gets chilly, we tug on a ski cap, a beanie, or a wool hat—there’s a variety of names for them. In Canada, these warm hats are known as a tuque (pronounced tyook). This is a variant of toque, from 1870s France. Vowels often get creative while traveling around the world.


If your grandmother knitted you that tuque, would you call it “handmade” or “homemade”?

bunny hug

Hoodie is the most commonly used term for a sweatshirt with a hood attached—either a pullover or zippered front, mostly. In Saskatchewan, they curiously refer to hoodies as … bunny hugs. But wait! There’s more. There’s a totally different definition for bunny hug—a ballroom dance popular in the US in the early 20th century, characterized by a syncopated rhythm. So in theory, you could do a bunny hug in a bunny hug (no animals required).


This one takes a bit of a think. In the USA, we flop down on a couch, right? In Canada, they flop on a Chesterfield. The word was first recorded around 1885–90, named after an Earl of Chesterfield in the 1800s. Evidently, the name stuck and made its way to Canada, but not to all parts of the USA. It’s too bad there isn’t an Earl of Sofa or Loveseat to talk about.

Roger and Larry

Roger and Larry, two fine and acceptable names for males anywhere! But in the Great White North, they stand for something else—traffic directions. Examples: at the corner, hang a Roger means, as you might guess, “turn right.” Same for Larry, which means “turn left.” If you were told to “pull a Sam,” would that mean to just go straight ahead? Or stop?


In most places, the words two and four are ever important numerical values. However, in Canada they have another meaning altogether. If the Leafs are on Hockey Night In Canada, and you gotta head over to the corner market for a two-four, that’s a 24-pack of beer. And in some regions of Canada, May Two-Four refers to a federal holiday celebrating Queen Victoria’s May 24 birthday. Also known as Victoria Day, the holiday calls for quite a bit of celebrating, apparently.


Hopefully you plan to share that two-four. Otherwise, you might find this comprehensive list of words for drunkards useful. 

Beware the garburator

You might think it’s some Canadian version of an automotive carburetor, right? Well, not even close. Up north, a garburator is what’s below the sink, and it breaks down and tears up food before washing it away. We call it a garbage disposal, which is much less fun to say.

stag and doe party

Once again, this has nothing to do with animals. A stag and doe/stagette party—or jack and jill party, or hen and stag party—is a celebration honoring a bride and groom, held before their wedding. The point of the party? Profit. Guests purchase tickets to attend, and the couple receives the money raised.


Though its origins trace back to the early 1900s in the US, the word parkade is much more frequently used in Canada today. It refers to a multistory parking garage, the kind that we call, well, a parking garage.


You may be familiar with the Tim Hortons Canadian coffee-shop chain (“serving over 5 million cups of coffee every day!”), but do you know what you’ll get if you order the very Canadian double-double? It’s a coffee with double cream and double sugar.


Set yourself up with two double-doubles (the coffee and the burger) while you learn about the shape English takes across the globe in South Africa. 

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Word of the Day

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Can you guess the definition?

Word of the day

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