I was watching the CBC this morning and a great segment was featured about The Great Canadian Word. It got me thinking about people that come to Canada to travel. They must be pretty confused when we tell them that a “Coffee Crisp costs about a Loonie, pretty good deal eh?” We have some very unique words in Canada and if you really want enjoy yourself to the fullest while traveling this vast land, I recommend diving in and learning how to use a few of our more popular phrases.

Here are a few of the staple words used daily in Canada.

1. Eh: This is our most popular phrase that we receive the most flack about from the rest of the world. Everyone always makes fun of us. They mock us by using “eh” in the most ridiculous phrases and they never get it right. So I am going to give you a quick lesson on how to use the word “eh”. It is so simple to use and anyone can do it. All you have to do is make a statement like “It is a very nice day out today.” If you add “eh” to the end of that statement, you can turn it into a question that will require a friendly reply from the person you are talking to. For example…”It is very nice day out today eh?” To which the other person will reply “Yes it is.” See how easy it is? Now before coming to Canada, you can practice your use of the word “eh” and fit right in once you get here.

2. Loonie: By far the silliest word for currency on the planet. When our one-dollar coin came out in the early nineties. Nobody really knew what to call it. You can’t exactly call it a dollar-bill any more, and a dollar coin just didn’t roll off of the tongue. Well, obviously a Loonie would be the next choice for a name. (Ok, I am kidding, it doesn’t make sense at all.) That is until you see the coin. It has a picture of a Loon on it. So naturally we all decided to call it a Loonie. And of course when the two-dollar coin came out with a picture of a Polar Bear on it we called it a Bearie or a Polie right? No way…we ended up calling it a Toonie, because it rhymes with loonie and we like things that rhyme.

3. Tuque: I went my entire childhood and a large portion of my adult life not realizing that this was a word only used in Canada. I watched Bob and Doug Mackenzie as a kid wearing their tuques telling each other to “Take Off Eh” and never thought anything of it. Then I started traveling and made statements like “Its cold tonight, I should have brought my tuque” People looked at me like I was from another planet. It is simple a tuque is a knitted hat used to keep the head warm. The Edge from U2 often wears a tuque and Jacques Cousteau always wore a tuque. Now you know.

4. Washroom: When I first started to travel the world. I was surprised to see the word Toilet used so much. In Canada we call it a washroom. I don’t think that I have ever heard the term washroom anywhere else except for Canada. In the U.S. They use bathroom, and restroom, I have seen water closet, the loo… But I never see washroom. I like washroom. I think I will keep using washroom.

5. Double Double: Ok, I could do an entire post on how Tim Hortons has shaped our coffee drinking as a nation. Mediocre coffee that we are all mysteriously addicted to. We have even opened a Tim Hortons in Afghanistan for our troops overseas. “I am going to Timmies to grab a box of timbits and a large Double Double.” That is what you say when leave the house to order an assortment of tasty doughnut centres and an oversized cup of coffee with 2 creams and 2 sugars at Tim Horton Doughnuts. Yummy. Tim Hortons by the way was founded by hockey legend Tim Horton. We love our hockey almost as much as we love our Timmies.

For more fun Canadian Facts check out

6. 2-4. One of my favourite phrases that is uniquely Canadian. This is our phrase we use when we go to buy beer. I am going to get a 2-4 of Canadian at the Beer Store. Yes, we buy our beer at the Beer store in Canada and a box of 24 beers is simply shortened to the words “two four.” Our favourite holiday is Queen Victoria’s Birthday on May 24th. Not because it is the Queens birthday. It is because it is a holiday to celebrate our great Canadian Beer. We all call it May 2-4 Weekend, because that is exactly what we do. Grab a 2-4 of beer and go to the cottage to work on our “Molson Muscle.” A Molson Muscle is our endearing term for the beer bellies we have developed over years of drinking Molson Canadian Beer. Yee Haw!

7. Chinook: I had heard this word as a child. I was born in Alberta, and my parents would often talk about when the Chinooks would blow in and how nice it was. I had no idea what this meant until I was older. It is quite amazing actually. I learned today on the CBC that it is an Inuit word for “The snow that melts.” What a Chinook is, is a warm wind that comes over the mountain in the dead of winter and instantly melts the snow and raises the temperature. It is needed because Alberta can be extremely cold. My mom and dad love to tell the story of a pair of boots that my grandmother sent to them to keep warm in the winter. Well, my dad wore them out on one cattle drive and it was so cold that his boots cracked right open and shattered. They didn’t have gortex then. And that is why everyone wore leather my friends.

8. Chocolate Bar: Canadians call our Candy Bars Chocolate Bars and I like it. That is what they are made out of. Chocolate, therefore they should be called chocolate bars. I rest my case.

9. Knapsack: This is what we Canadians call our Backpack or Rucksack. To us it is a knapsack. All through my school years I would pack my Knapsack with my schoolbooks. When I first started traveling 10 years ago, I said to myself, “Well, I better buy a new Knapsack to carry everything.” I now use the term Backpack more often but I haven’t been able to say the term Rucksack, it is just odd to me. I really miss my knapsack days.

10. OK, food is an easy cop out:, but I need to round out my top 10 list of great Canadian Phrases. Plus you can read more about it in an article I wrote about Canada’s Lack of Cultural Food Identity. So here are a few popular food choices unique to Canada.

a: Smarties are Canada’s answer to M&M’s only better!

b: A Coffee Crisp is a chocolate bar is layered chocolate and wafers with a coffee cream centre. I eat mine in layers.

c: Poutine. Sinfully delicious. French Fries Topped with Cheese Curds and Gravy. I am hungry as I write this. And my personal favourite,

d: Dill Pickle, All Dressed and Ketchup Chips. I think the rest of the world is catching on, but as far as I know these two flavours are unique to Canada.

So there you have it.

Can you think of any other Canadian words that are unique to your region or the country? Tell us some words unique to your country, we want to hear them.

A Canadian Moment, Tuque, Beer, Winter

A Canadian Moment, Tuque, Beer, Winter

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124 Comments

  1. Steph

    Chesterfield! Where I grew up the piece of furniture commonly called a couch/sofa was always referred to as the chesterfield. I’m told it’s a Canadian thing. I’ve certainly been greeted with baffled expressions anytime I slip up and say that abroad.

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  3. Lynda

    Hi. In Alberta the Convenience stores or corner stores used to be called Confectionary. They are changing to convenience stores, but in small town Alberta you will still see a Confectionary store.

    1. debndave Post author

      Ah yes, I remember the confectionary store. I think I’ll head over to one today to get myself some sasparilla:)

  4. Gail

    What about the old Zed and Zee. My husband will occasionaly say Zee (too much American Tv, I guess)and I always correct him. I heard Americans don’t have a word for slush and don’t use the word toboggan.

  5. Brill

    So I’m Canadian as well, Ontario raised.
    We used knapsack as well, but also used the other terms.

    Knapsack = small daypack for carrying only enough for the day. maybe schoolbooks.
    Backpack = Soft bodied, the same or a bit larger than a knapsack. Often used for multi-day trips or short hikes.
    Rucksack = Rugged pack for hiking and carrying equipment. Usually on a rigid frame. Often used by canadian soldiers.

  6. Andrew

    Another Canadian word: Shed>>> pertains to any small building outside a larger dwelling….this word often used in the East Coast of Canada.

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  9. katherine

    Canadians would say Grade X instead of Xth Grade.
    “I’m in grade 12″, said the Canadian. “12th grade is hard”, said the American.

    And I know in the US, students will identify themselves as a Senior, or Sophmore. Whereas in Canada, we would call ourselves a Grade 12 or Grade 10 student. Or when in university, a 1st year or 2nd year student. And speaking of post-secondary education, in Canada, there’s a clear distinction between universities and colleges. I know in the States, universities are often called colleges. And what we call colleges are their community colleges.

    For pronunciation, more Canadians would say AN-TEE instead of AN-TIE in words like anti-biotics. Canadians would also pronounce the past tense of shine (shone) to rhyme with “dawn” versus the American “bone”. And for the word route, Canadians would often pronounce it like “root”. We would pronounce leisure to rhyme with “seizure” (Americans would rhyme it with “measure”). There is virtually no pronunciation differences between “cot” and “caught” when said by a Canadian. But when an American pronounces those words, there is a huge difference. Same with merry, Mary, and marry.

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