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Canadian English

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Canadian English

Canadian English (CanE, CE, en-CA[1]) is the "standard" variety of English spoken in Canada.[2] Canadian English is the sole first language, or "mother tongue", of approximately 18 million Canadians (57%), and one of two or more "mother tongues" for 450,000 Canadians (1%). The mother tongue of 7 million Canadians is French (22%), while another 6 million have a non-English, non-French mother tongue (21%). Approximately 20 million (65%) use English at home, while another 500,000 speakers are bilingual or trilingual in their homes.[3] 61% of Canadians outside Quebec speak standard Canadian English as their mother tongue.[4]

Standard Canadian English broadly encompasses the language variety as spoken by the majority of middle class Canadian anglophones. However, the complex colonial history, extreme regional isolation of many communities, and high level of non-English speaker immigration has left Canada with a diversity of regional variations and very distinct dialects, which are in some instances mutually unintelligible.[2] Based on lexis and phonology, standard Canadian English is divided into eight dialect regions: British Columbia, the Prairies (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba,and northwestern Ontario), Southern Ontario, Greater Toronto, Eastern Ontario, Quebec (mostly Greater Montreal), the Maritimes (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island), and Newfoundland and Labrador.[2]

The term "Canadian English" first appears in a speech by the Reverend A. Constable Geikie in an address to the Canadian Institute in 1857. Geikie, a Scottish-born Canadian, reflected the Anglocentric attitude that would be prevalent in Canada for the next hundred years when he referred to the language as "a corrupt dialect", in comparison to what he considered the proper English spoken by immigrants from Britain.[5]

Development of Standard Canadian English

Modern standard Canadian English derives largely from variants of British English delivered over several centuries of colonisation in North America and through Canada's very close ties to British English as part of the British Empire and Commonwealth, to the present day. Recent studies have shown how it reflects an admixture of other languages, including those of the First Nations,[6] Canadian French,[5] Italian and Ukrainian[7] and the English dialects of the United States.[8] There had been some debate about the development of Canadian English,[9][10] but these have been largely superseded by recent linguistic studies and data collection. The historic development of Canadian English is only recently the focus of scholarly study,[11] while recent studies have shown the historically recent emergence of distinctly Canadian English features.[12]

Spelling and dictionaries

Canadian spelling of the English language combines British and American conventions.

  • French-derived words that in American English end with -or and -er, such as color or center, retain British spellings (colour or centre). While the United States uses the Anglo-French spelling defense or offense (noun), Canadians use the British spellings defence and offence (defensive and offensive are universal).
  • In other cases, Canadians and Americans differ from British spelling, such as in the case of nouns like curb and tire, which in British English are spelled kerb and tyre (see below for an explanation of the Canadian spelling of tire).
  • Words ending in -ize in America (such as realize and apologize) also use that spelling in Canada.
  • Some nouns take -ice while matching verbs take -ise; – for example, practice is a noun and practise is a verb. In addition, licence is a noun and license is a verb (advice and advise are universal).
  • Canadian spelling retains the British practice of doubling consonants when adding suffixes to words even when the final syllable (before the suffix) is not stressed. Compare Canadian (and British) travelled, counselling, and controllable (always doubled in British and Canadian) to American traveled, counseling, and controllable (only doubled when stressed; both Canadian and British English use balloted and profiting.[13])

Canadian spelling conventions can be partly explained by Canada's trade history. For instance, the British spelling of the word cheque probably relates to Canada's once-important ties to British financial institutions. Canada's automobile industry, on the other hand, has been dominated by American firms from its inception, explaining why Canadians use the American spelling of tire (hence, "Canadian Tire") and American terminology for the parts of automobiles (for example, truck instead of lorry, gasoline instead of petrol, trunk instead of boot).[13]

Canada's political history has also had an influence on Canadian spelling. Canada's first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, once directed the Governor General of Canada to issue an order-in-council directing that government papers be written in the British style.[14]

A contemporary reference for formal Canadian spelling is the spelling used for Hansard transcripts of the Parliament of Canada (see The Canadian Style in Further reading below). Many Canadian editors, though, use the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, often along with the chapter on spelling in Editing Canadian English, and, where necessary (depending on context), one or more other references (see Further reading below.)

The first Canadian dictionaries of Canadian English were edited by Walter Spencer Avis and published by Gage Ltd. The Beginner's Dictionary (1962), the Intermediate Dictionary (1964) and, finally, the Senior Dictionary (1967) were milestones in Canadian English lexicography. Many secondary schools in Canada use these dictionaries. The dictionaries have regularly been updated since: the Senior Dictionary was renamed Gage Canadian Dictionary and exists in what may be called its 5th edition from 1997. Gage was acquired by Thomson Nelson around 2003. The latest editions were published in 2009 by HarperCollins.

In 1997, the ITP Nelson Dictionary of the Canadian English Language was another product but has not been updated since.

In 1998, Oxford University Press produced a Canadian English dictionary, after five years of lexicographical research, entitled The Oxford Canadian Dictionary. A second edition, retitled The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, was published in 2004. Just as in the older dictionaries, it includes uniquely Canadian words and words borrowed from other languages and surveyed spellings, such as whether colour or color was the more popular choice in common use. Paperback and concise versions (2005, 2006), with minor updates, are available.

The scholarly Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles (DCHP)[15] was first published in 1967 by Gage Ltd. It was a partner project of the Senior Dictionary (and appeared only a few weeks apart from it). The DCHP can be considered the "Canadian OED" because it documents the historical development of Canadian English words that can be classified as "Canadianisms". It therefore includes words such as mukluk, Canuck, bluff, and grow op but does not list common core words such as desk, table, or car. It is a specialist, scholarly dictionary but is not without interest to the general public. After more than 40 years, a second edition has been commenced at UBC in Vancouver in 2006.[16]

Throughout part of the 20th century, some Canadian newspapers adopted American spellings (e.g., color as opposed to the British-based colour). The use of such spellings was the long-standing practice of the Canadian Press, perhaps since that news agency's inception, but visibly the norm prior to World War II.[17] The practice of dropping the letter u in such words was also considered a labour-saving technique during the early days of printing in which movable type was set manually.[17] Canadian newspapers also received much of their international content from American press agencies; therefore, it was much easier for editorial staff to leave the spellings from the wire services as provided.[18]

More recently, Canadian newspapers have adopted the British spelling variants such as -our endings, notably with The Globe and Mail changing its spelling policy in October 1990.[19] Other Canadian newspapers adopted similar changes later that decade, such as the Southam newspaper chain's conversion in September 1998.[20] The Toronto Star adopted this new spelling policy in September 1997 after that publication's ombudsman discounted the issue earlier in the year.[18][21] The Star had always avoided using recognized Canadian spelling, citing the Gage Canadian Dictionary in their defence. Controversy around this issue was frequent. When the Gage Dictionary finally adopted standard Canadian spelling, the Star followed suit.

With its unique blend of British and American orthographic styles, Canadian English has led to particular words obtaining multiple accepted spelling denotations. As a result of the "Canadian compromise", uniquely Canadian spellings arose that combine elements of both British and American styles as is apparent with "maneuvre" that employs a British final -re yet utilizes the American -eu in place of the British -oeu which further emphasizes Canadian English's malleability. Eventually, the use of "maneuver" became more common than "manoeuvre", an indication that may reflect the perceived "Americanization" of Canadian English but it is simplistic to reduce such change to this notion because it ignores how American English is itself changing for reasons beyond intrinsic factors that may entail American English becoming more British among other things.[22] While those of Nova Scotia, Ontario, and British Columbia tend to value the British style as being more "proper" than the American alternative as well as correspondingly preferring British style when uncertain of a particular spelling, those of Alberta, Manitoba, and Prince Edward Island are said to be inclined to follow the American form.[23] It is interesting to note how Canadian English has and continues to be affected by the rise of computer technology with such implications as spell checkers potentially making Canadian English become more American as a consequence of spell checking aids for Canadian dialects often being inadequately adapted from American counterparts.[24] Many editors of Canadian English insist upon the spelling of "programme" except where computer programs are concerned. This can be interpreted as perpetrating two divergent words with more specialized meanings than the parent word by virtue of segregating the original word's applicable use.[25]

Phonemic incidence

The pronunciation of certain words has both American and British influence; some pronunciations are more distinctively Canadian.

  • The name of the letter Z is normally the Anglo-European zed; the American zee is far less common in Canada, and it is often stigmatized.[26][27]
  • While Americans would use the IPA vowel /ɪ/ in words like "milk", "perfect" (adjective), "miss", Canadians sometimes use [ɛ]. To an American "milk" and "miss" would sound like "melk" and "mess" when pronounced by Canadians, and to Canadians "perfect" (adjective) as pronounced by an American would sound like "purfict".
  • In the words adult and composite – the stress is usually on the first syllable, as in British English.
  • Canadians side with the British on the pronunciation of shone /ʃɒn/ (rhymes with con), often lever /ˈliːvər/ (rhymes with beaver), and several other words; been is pronounced by many speakers as /biːn/ (homophone of bean) rather than /bɪn/ (homophone of bin).
  • Schedule can sometimes be /ˈʃɛdʒuːl/ (approximate homophone of shed jewel); process, progress, and project are sometimes pronounced /ˈproʊsɛs/, /ˈproʊɡrɛs/ (rhymes with toe dress), and /ˈproʊdʒɛkt/; leisure is often /ˈlɛʒər/ (rhymes with measure), harassment is sometimes /ˈhærəsmənt/ (approximate homophone of Harris mint).[28]
  • Again and against are often pronounced /əˈɡeɪn, əˈɡeɪnst/ (homophone of a gain) rather than /əˈɡɛn, əˈɡɛnst/ (rhymes with ten).
  • The stressed vowel of words such as borrow, sorry or tomorrow is /ɔɹ/ (borrow is an approximate homophone of bore row) rather than /ɑɹ/ (borrow is an approximate homophone of bar row).
  • Words such as fragile, fertile, and mobile are pronounced /ˈfrædʒaɪl/, /ˈfɜrtaɪl/ and /ˈmoʊbaɪl/ (so that the final syllable rhymes with mile).
  • Words like semi, anti, and multi tend to be pronounced /ˈsɛmi/, /ˈænti/ (approximate homophone of ante), and /ˈmʌlti/ rather than /ˈsɛmaɪ/, /ˈæntaɪ/, and /ˈmʌltaɪ/ (approximate homophone of mull tie).
  • Loanwords that have a low central vowel in their language of origin, such as llama, pasta, and pyjamas, as well as place names like Gaza, tend to have /æ/ (same vowel as in jazz) rather than /ɑ/ (which is the same as /ɒ/ due to the father–bother merger; see below); this also applies to older loans like drama or Apache. The word khaki is sometimes pronounced /ˈkɑrki/ (homophone of car key), the preferred pronunciation of the Canadian Army during the Second World War.[29]
  • Pecan is usually /ˈpiːkæn/ (or ) or /piːˈkæn/ (or ), as opposed to /pɨˈkɑːn/ (or ), more common in the U.S.[30]
  • The most common pronunciation of vase is /veɪz/ (rhymes with maze).
  • Words of French origin, such as clique and niche are pronounced more like they would be in French, so /kliːk/ (rhymes with leak) rather than /klɪk/ (homophone of click), /niːʃ/ (rhymes with quiche) rather than /nɪtʃ/ (rhymes with hitch).
  • The word syrup is commonly pronounced /ˈsɪrəp/ (approximately rhymes with beer up).
  • The word premier "leader of a provincial or territorial government" is commonly pronounced /ˈprimjər/ (or ), with /ˈprɛmjɛər/ (or ) and /ˈprimjɛər/ (or ) being rare variants.
  • Many Canadians pronounce asphalt as /ˈæʃfɒlt/ (or ).[31] This pronunciation is also common in Australian English, but not in General American English or British English.
  • The word garage can be pronounced /ɡəˈrɑʒ/ (rhymes with collage) or /ˈɡærɪdʒ/ (rhymes with carriage).
  • Some Canadians pronounce predecessor as /ˈpriːdəsɛsər/ (rhymes with need assessor).[32]
  • Some Canadians use the word "Mum" rather than the American "Mom".[33]

The intonation and pronunciation of some vowel sounds have similarities to the dialects of Scotland and to accents in Northern England such as Geordie, for example the raising to "about" to sound roughly like "aboot" or "aboat", is also heard in Scotland, the Tyneside, Chorley, and Bolton areas of England, Northern Ireland, and the Upper Midwest of the United States.


Almost since the onset of the study of Canadian English, the concept of linguistic homogeneity (i.e. contrary to regional variation, see below) has been an, at times even dominant, factor in the field (see [34] for a comprehensive overview). However, while many linguists have held and still hold the homogeneity issue (put simply: "CE sounds the same from coast to coast"), it is clear that recent work has revealed regional variation based on national samples (e.g.,[35][36]) that have been hitherto unavailable.

Regional variation

Based on Labov et al.; averaged F1/F2 means for speakers from Western and Central Canada. Note that /ɒ/ and /ɔ/ are indistinguishable; /æ/ and /ɛ/ are very open.
Canadian raising according to the vowel chart in Rogers (2000:124)

Canada has very little dialect diversity compared to the United States.[37] The provinces east of Ontario show the largest dialect diversity. Northern Canada is, according to William Labov, a dialect region in formation, and a homogeneous dialect has not yet formed.[38] A very homogeneous dialect exists in Western and Central Canada, a situation that is similar to that of the Western United States. Labov identifies an inland region that concentrates all of the defining features of the dialect centred on the Prairies, with periphery areas with more variable patterns including the metropolitan areas of Vancouver and Toronto.[37] This dialect forms a dialect continuum with the far Western United States; however, it is sharply differentiated from the Inland Northern United States. This is a result of the relatively recent phenomenon known as the Northern cities vowel shift; see below.

Western and Central Dialect

As a variety of North American English, this variety is similar to most other forms of North American speech in being a rhotic accent, which is historically a significant marker in identifying different English varieties. However, in places with recent British migration, especially British Columbia, rhoticity is often less pronounced.

Canadian raising

Perhaps the most recognizable feature of Canadian English is Canadian raising. The diphthongs /aɪ/ and /aʊ/ are "raised" before voiceless consonants, namely /p/, /t/, /k/, /s/, /ʃ/ and /f/. In these environments, /aɪ/ becomes [ʌɪ~ɜɪ~ɐɪ]. One of the few phonetic variables that divides Canadians regionally is the articulation of the raised allophone of /aʊ/: in Ontario, it tends to have a mid-central or even mid-front articulation, sometimes approaching [ɛʊ], while in the West and Maritimes a more retracted sound is heard, closer to [ʌʊ].[39] Among some speakers in the Prairies and in Nova Scotia, the retraction is strong enough to cause some tokens of raised /aʊ/ to merge with /oʊ/, so that couch and coach sound the same, and about sounds like a boat. Canadian raising is found throughout western and central Canada, as well as in parts of the Atlantic Provinces.[37] It is the strongest in southern Ontario, and is some what less pronounced in younger speakers in Vancouver B.C, a pattern which continues to be observed by linguistics across North America.

In most eastern regions "about" /əˈbaʊt/ sounds like a-beh-oot [əˈbɛʊt], the prairies a-boat, and in southwestern BC nearest to (a non raised) a-bowt - especially among younger speakers. Speakers in Montreal whose first language was French often do not have the raising & enunciate it "a-bowt", even if there is no trace of a French accent anymore.

Many Canadians, especially in parts of the Atlantic provinces, do not possess Canadian raising. In the U.S., this feature can be found in areas near the border such as the Upper Midwest and parts of New England, although it is much less common than in Canada; raising of /aɪ/ alone, however, is increasing in the U.S., and unlike raising of /aʊ/, is generally not noticed by people who do not have the raising.

Because of Canadian raising (C.R), many speakers are able to distinguish between words such as writer and rider – a feat otherwise impossible, because North American dialects turn intervocalic /t/ into an alveolar flap. Thus writer and rider are distinguished solely by their vowels, as the distinction between their consonants has been lost. Speakers who do not have C.R. cannot distinguish between these two words based on vowel sound alone.

The cot–caught merger and the Canadian Shift

Almost all Canadians have the cot–caught merger, which also occurs in the Western US. Speakers do not distinguish /ɔ/ (as in caught) and /ɒ/ (as in cot), which merge as either [ɒ] (more common in Western Canada) or [ɑ] (more common in Southern Ontario and in Atlantic Canada, where it might even be fronted). Speakers with this merger produce these vowels identically, and often fail to hear the difference when speakers who preserve the distinction (for example, speakers of General American and Inland Northern American English) pronounce these vowels. This merger has existed in Canada for several generations.[40]

This merger creates a hole in the short vowel sub-system[41] and triggers a sound change known as the Canadian Shift, which involves the front lax vowels /æ, ɛ, ɪ/. The /æ/ of bat is lowered and retracted in the direction of [a] (except in some environments, see below). Indeed, /æ/ is further back in this variety than almost all other North American dialects;[42] the retraction of /æ/ was independently observed in Vancouver[43] and is more advanced for Ontarians and women than for people from the Prairies or Atlantic Canada and men.[44] Then, /ɛ/ and /ɪ/ may be lowered (in the direction of [æ] and [ɛ]) and/or retracted; studies actually disagree on the trajectory of the shift.[45] For example, Labov and others (2006) noted a backward and downward movement of /ɛ/ in apparent time in all of Canada except the Atlantic Provinces, but no movement of /ɪ/ was detected.

Therefore, in Canadian English, the short a and the short o are shifted in opposite directions to that of the Northern Cities shift, found across the border in the Inland Northern US, which is causing these two dialects to diverge: the Canadian short a is very similar in quality to the Inland Northern short o; for example, the production [maːp] would be recognized as map in Canada, but mop in the Inland North.

The front vowel merger before /r/

The Mary-marry-merry merger of front vowels [eɪ], [æ], [ɛ], respectively, before the intervocalic /r/, epitomizes this trend in North American speakers.[46] In particular, scholars witness a trend in which Canadian English speakers merge front vowels TRAP (m[æ]rry) and FACE (M[eɪ]ry) towards the DRESS (m[ɛ]rry) front vowel, before intervocalic /r/.[36][46] Thus, not only do marry and Mary themselves share the same-sounding vowel, transformed from [æ] and [eɪ] to [ɛ], but the pronunciation of merry (historically and presently with the DR[ɛ]SS front vowel) is now matched by marry and Mary, all three of which have become exclusive homophones in Western-Central Canadian English speakers.[46]

The front vowel merger before /r/ is the conventional trend in Canadian English speakers, with exceptions in Quebec and Newfoundland.[36] Notably, while the merging of lexical sets DRESS to FACE prevails in Canadian English, Boberg's 2008 MANCOVA study demonstrates that the merging of TRAP to DRESS does not apply to English-speakers in Newfoundland, nor in urban Quebec (Montreal).

Quebec English speakers' pronunciation of [ær] is 166 Hz higher than that of the rest of Canadian English speakers (excluding Newfoundland English speakers). Moreover, Quebec English speakers' pronunciations of [ær] and [ɛr] measure at an average of 161 Hz in deviation.

To Montreal Anglophones, marry and merry sound the same, sharing the [ɛ] front vowel before intervocalic /r/. Meanwhile, Mary retains its historical FACE ([eɪ]) front vowel, with differences ranging from 112 to 138 Hz from DRESS-vowel dominant merry and "marry". Comparatively, native English-speakers in rural (i.e. not Montreal) Quebec exhibited a mean difference of only 35 Hz in their respective pronunciations of [ær] and [ɛr]—results that echo the rest of Canadian speakers.

Moreover, this phonemic feature can also be observed on the coastal region of the mid-Atlantic United States; studies suggest that this resistance of conditioning the TRAP [æ] vowel to the DRESS [ɛ] and FACE [eɪ] vowels could be a British English retention. The resistance of the TRAP vowel merger before /r/ by Anglophones in Montreal, in which Quebec Anglophones predominantly reside, supports the British-English retention hypothesis.[36]

It has been argued that the marry-merry merger has, in the past, been less general in Canada, with records of Ontario English speakers (1934, 1961) displaying m[ɛr]ried, West Canadian English speakers (1976) maintaining distinct vowels in marry and merry, and “some speakers” (1957) in Vancouver exhibiting the merger.[47] Avis’ findings (1938) demonstrate a retention of distinct vowels in his generation, and a tendency towards TRAP-DRESS merging in the following generation.

Other features

Most Canadians have two principal allophones of /aɪ/ (raised to lower-mid position before voiceless consonants and low-central or low-back elsewhere) and three of /aʊ/ (raised before voiceless consonants, fronted to [aʊ] or [æʊ] before nasals, and low-central elsewhere).

Unlike in many American English dialects, /æ/ remains a low-front vowel in most environments in Canadian English. Raising along the front periphery of the vowel space is restricted to two environments – before nasal and voiced velar consonants – and varies regionally even in these. Ontario and Maritime Canadian English commonly show some raising before nasals, though not as extreme as in many American varieties. Much less raising is heard on the Prairies, and some ethnic groups in Montreal show no pre-nasal raising at all. On the other hand, some Prairie speech exhibits raising of /æ/ before voiced velars (/ɡ/ and /ŋ/), with an up-glide rather than an in-glide, so that bag sounds close to vague.[48]

The first element of /ɑr/ (as in start) tends to be raised. As with Canadian raising, the relative advancement of the raised nucleus is a regional indicator. A striking feature of Atlantic Canadian speech (the Maritimes and Newfoundland) is a nucleus that approaches the front region of the vowel space, accompanied by strong rhoticity, ranging from [ɜɹ] to [ɐɹ]. Western Canadian speech has a much more retracted articulation with a longer non-rhotic portion, approaching a mid-back quality, [ɵɹ] (though there is no tendency toward a merger with /ɔr/). Articulation of /ɑr/ in Ontario is in a position midway between the Atlantic and Western values.[49]

Another change in progress in Canadian English, part of a continental trend affecting many North American varieties, is the fronting of /uː/, whereby the nucleus of /uː/ moves forward to high-central or even high-front position, directly behind /iː/. There is a wide range of allophonic dispersion in the set of words containing /uː/ (i.e., the GOOSE set), extending over most of the high region of the vowel space. Most advanced are tokens of /uː/ in free position after coronals (do, too); behind these are tokens in syllables closed with coronals (boots, food, soon), then tokens before non-coronals (goof, soup); remaining in back position are tokens of /uː/ before /l/ (cool, pool, tool). Unlike in some British speech, Canadian English does not show any fronting or unrounding of the glide of /uː/, and most Canadians show no parallel centralization of /oʊ/, which generally remains in back position, except in Cape Breton Island and Newfoundland.

Traditionally diphthongal vowels such as /oʊ/ (as in boat) and /eɪ/ (as in bait) have qualities much closer to monophthongs in some speakers especially in the Inland region.

Some older speakers still maintain a distinction between whale and wail, and do and dew.[40]

Rhythm and intonation

Another difference observed in General Canadian English (GenCan) in comparison to General American (GenAm) is a slight intonation difference. Canadians often possess a sing-songy cadence to their speech which isn't usually seen in most varieties of General American English which tends to be on average "flatter". The intonation difference may signify remnants of Scottish or Irish influence.

British Columbia

British Columbia English has several words still in current use borrowed from the Chinook Jargon although the use of such vocabulary is observably decreasing. The most famous and widely used of these terms are skookum and saltchuck. In the Yukon, cheechako is used for newcomers or greenhorns. A study shows that people from Vancouver exhibit more vowel retraction of /æ/ before nasals than people from Toronto, and this retraction may become a regional marker of West Coast English.[50]

Prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta)

A strong Canadian raising exists in the prairie regions together with certain older usages such as chesterfield and front room also associated with the Maritimes. Aboriginal Canadians are a larger and more conspicuous population in prairie cities than elsewhere in the country and certain elements of aboriginal speech in English are sometimes to be heard. Similarly, the linguistic legacy, mostly intonation but also speech patterns and syntax, of the Scandinavian, Slavic and German settlers – who are far more numerous and historically important in the Prairies than in Ontario or the Maritimes – can be heard in the general milieu. Again, the large Métis population in Saskatchewan and Manitoba also carries with it certain linguistic traits inherited from French, Aboriginal and Celtic forebears. Some terms are derived from immigrant groups or are just local inventions:

  • Bluff: small group of trees isolated by prairie (a common feature of the aspen parkland biome)
  • Bunny hug: elsewhere hoodie or hooded sweat shirt (mainly in Saskatchewan, but also in Manitoba)
  • Ginch/gonch/gitch/gotch: underwear ("ginch"/"gitch", usually women's, "gotch/gonch", usually men's, "gitchies/gotchies", usually children's), probably of Eastern European or Ukrainian origin.[51] Gitch and gotch are primarily used in Saskatchewan and Manitoba while the variants with an n are common in Alberta and British Columbia.[52]
  • Jam buster: jelly-filled doughnut.
  • Porch climber: moonshine or homemade alcohol. Porch climber has a slightly specialized meaning in Ontario where it refers to a beverage mixed of beer, vodka, and lemonade.
  • Slough : pond – usually a pond on a farm
  • Vi-Co: occasionally used in Saskatchewan instead of chocolate milk. Formerly a brand of chocolate milk.

In farming communities with substantial Ukrainian, German or Mennonite populations, accents, sentence structure and vocabulary influenced by these languages is common. These communities are most common in the Saskatchewan Valley region of Saskatchewan and Red River Valley region of Manitoba.


Ottawa Valley

The area to the north and west of Ottawa is heavily influenced by original Scottish, Irish, and German settlers, with many French loanwords. This is frequently referred to as the Valley Accent.


Although only 1.5% of Torontonians speak French, a relatively low proportion of them (56.2%) are native speakers of English, according to the 2006 Census.[53] As a result Toronto shows a more variable speech pattern.[54]

Northern Ontario

With a smaller, but more concentrated French population (notably in the cities of Timmins, North Bay and Sudbury) and sizable Aboriginal population, this area is somewhat unique as having elements from both the Western provinces and the rest of Ontario. Communities receive media from both directions, and residents travel frequently to both areas, prompting a blending of dialects. Sharp-eared locals can detect from word usage (soda versus pop, hoodie versus bunny hug) where one originated, "Down east" (east of Sault Ste. Marie and beyond the Great Lakes), or "Out West" (west of the Manitoba border).


  • Many people in Montreal distinguish between the words "marry" and "merry" in pronunciation.[37]
  • Quebec Anglophones generally pronounce French street names in Montreal as French words. Pie IX Boulevard is pronounced /pi nœf/, not as "pie nine". On the other hand, most Anglophones do pronounce final Ds, as in Bernard and Bouchard.
  • Areas of the Montreal, especially in some of the neighbourhoods like Côte-St-Luc, Hampstead and Outremont, there is a strong Jewish influence in the English spoken in these areas. A large wave of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union before and after World War II is also evident today. Their English has a strong Yiddish influence; there are some similarities to English spoken in New York.
  • Words used mainly in Quebec and especially in Montreal are:[55] stage for "apprenticeship" or "internship", copybook for a notebook, dépanneur or dep for a convenience store, and guichet for an ABM/ATM. It is also common for Francophones to use translated French words, or terms, instead of common English equivalents such as "open" and "close" for "on" and "off" or "Open the lights, please" for "Turn on the lights, please".


Based on Labov et al.; averaged F1/F2 means for speakers from NS, NB, NL.

Many in the Maritime provinces – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island – have an accent that sounds more like Scottish English and, in some places, Irish English than General American. Outside of major communities, dialects can vary markedly from community to community, as well as from province to province, reflecting ethnic origin as well as a past in which there were few roads and many communities, with some villages very isolated. Into the 1980s, residents of villages in northern Nova Scotia could identify themselves by dialects and accents distinctive to their village. The dialects of Prince Edward Island are often considered the most distinct grouping.

The phonology of Maritimer English has some unique features:

  • Pre-consonantal /r/ is sometimes deleted.
  • The flapping of intervocalic /t/ and /d/ to alveolar tap [ɾ] between vowels, as well as pronouncing it as a glottal stop [ʔ], is less common in the Maritimes. Therefore, battery is pronounced [ˈbætɹi] instead of [ˈbæɾ(ə)ɹi].
  • Especially among the older generation, /w/ and /hw/ are not merged; that is, the beginning sound of why, white, and which is different from that of witch, with, wear.
  • Like most varieties of CanE, Maritimer English contains Canadian raising.


The varieties of English spoken in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador include several distinct English dialects.[56] Newfoundland English differs in vowel pronunciation, morphology, syntax, and preservation of archaic adverbal-intensifiers. The dialect can vary markedly from community to community, as well as from region to region, reflecting ethnic origin as well as a past in which there were few roads and many communities, and fishing villages in particular remained very isolated. A few speakers have a transitional pin–pen merger.[37]

Northern Canada

First Nations and Inuit people from Northern Canada speak a version of Canadian English influenced by the phonology of their first languages. European Canadians in these regions are relatively recent arrivals, and have not produced a dialect that is distinct from southern Canadian English.[46]


  • In writing and formal speech, Canadians will start a sentence with As well, in the sense of "in addition"; this construction is a Canadianism.[57]


Where Canadian English shares vocabulary with other English dialects, it tends to share most with American English. Many terms are shared with Britain, but not with the majority of American speakers. In some cases British and the American terms coexist in Canadian English to various extents; a classic example is holiday, often used interchangeably with vacation, distinguishing the two between a trip elsewhere and general time off work respectively. In addition, the vocabulary of Canadian English also features words that are seldom (if ever) found elsewhere. A good resource for these and other words is the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles (Avis and others. 1967), which is currently being revised at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Canada shares many items of institutional terminology and professional designations with the countries of the former British Empire – for example, constable, for a police officer of the lowest rank, and chartered accountant.


The term college, which refers to post-secondary education in general in the U.S., refers in Canada to either a post-secondary technical or vocational institution, or to one of the colleges that exist as federated schools within some Canadian universities. Most often, a college is a community college, not a university. It may also refer to a pre-university college in Quebec. In Canada, college student might denote someone obtaining a diploma in business management while university student is the term for someone earning a bachelor's degree. For that reason, going to college does not have the same meaning as going to university, unless the speaker or context clarifies the specific level of post-secondary education that is meant.

Within the public school system the chief administrator of a school is generally "the principal", as in the United States, but the term is not used preceding his or her name, i.e. "Principal Smith". The assistant to the principal is not titled as "assistant principal", but rather as "vice-principal", although the former is not unknown. This usage is identical to that in Northern Ireland.

Canadian universities publish calendars or schedules, not catalogs as in the U.S. Canadian students write or take exams (in the U.S., students generally "take" exams while teachers "write" them); they rarely sit them (standard British usage). Those who supervise students during an exam are sometimes called invigilators as in Britain, or sometimes proctors as in the U.S., but most often the general term teaching assistant (TA) is used; usage may depend on the region or even the individual institution.

Successive years of school are usually referred to as grade one, grade two, and so on. In Quebec, the speaker (if Francophone) and referring to grade school, will often say first year (grade 1), second year (grade 2) (a direct translation from the French), and so on; while Anglophones will say grade one, grade two. (Compare American first grade, second grade (sporadically found in Canada), and English/Welsh Year 1, Year 2, Scottish/Northern Irish Primary 1, Primary 2 or P1, P2, and Irish First Class, Second Class and so on.).[58] In Nova Scotia only, the first year of school is called "grade primary".

In the U.S., the four years of high school are termed the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years (terms also used for college years); in Canada, the specific levels are used instead (i.e., "grade nine"),[59] except in Quebec where the five years of high school are termed "secondary 1" (lowest/freshman) to "secondary 5" (highest/senior). Also in Quebec, high schools are often either "junior" (secondary 1 to secondary 3) institutions or "senior" (secondary 4 and 5), more similar to the U.S. As for higher education, only the term freshman (often reduced to frosh) has some currency in Canada.[59] The American usages "sophomore", "junior" and "senior" are not used in Canadian university terminology, or in speech. The specific high-school grades and university years are therefore stated and individualized; for example, the grade 12s failed to graduate; John is in his second year at McMaster. The "first year", "third year" designation also applies to Canadian law school students, as opposed to the common American usage of "1L", "2L" and "3L."

Canadian students use the term marks (more common in England) or grades (more common in the U.S.) to refer to their results; usage is very mixed.[59]

Units of measurement

Unlike in the United States, use of metric units within a majority of industries (but not all) is standard in Canada, as a result of the national adoption of the Metric System during the mid-to-late 1970s; this has spawned some colloquial usages such as klick for kilometre (as also heard in the U.S. military). See metrication in Canada. Nonetheless, Imperial units are still used in many situations. For example, most English Canadians state their weight and height in pounds and feet/inches, respectively. Distances while playing golf are always marked and discussed in yards, though official scorecards may also show metres. Temperatures for cooking are often given in Fahrenheit, while the weather is given in Celsius. Directions in the Prairie provinces are sometimes given using miles, because the country roads generally follow the mile-based grid of the Dominion Land Survey. It is also common practice in the Prairies to measure distance, particularly on the highway, in travel time rather than the actual distance. Canadians measure property, both residential and commercial, in square feet exclusively. Fuel efficiency is frequently discussed in miles per gallon, less often the metric L/100 km. The letter paper size of 8.5 inches × 11 inches is used instead of the international and metric A4 size of 210 mm × 297 mm.


  • Although Canadian lexicon features both railway and railroad, railway is the usual term in naming (witness Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway), though railroad can be heard fairly frequently in some regions; most rail terminology in Canada, however, follows American usage (for example, ties and cars rather than sleepers and carriages).
  • A two-way ticket can be either a round-trip (American term) or a return (British term).
  • The terms highway (for example, Trans-Canada Highway), expressway (Central Canada, as in the Gardiner Expressway) and freeway (Sherwood Park Freeway, Edmonton) are often used to describe various high-speed roads with varying levels of access control. Generally, but not exclusively, highway refers to a provincially funded road. Often such roads will be numbered. Similar to the United States, the terms expressway and freeway are often used interchangeably to refer to controlled-access highways, that is, divided highways with access only at grade-separated interchanges (for example, a 400-Series Highway in Ontario).

However, expressway may also refer to a limited-access road that has control of access but has at-grade junctions, railway crossings (for example, the Harbour Expressway in Thunder Bay.) Sometimes the term parkway is also used (for example, the Hanlon Parkway in Guelph). The terms grid road (Saskatchewan) and mile road (Manitoba) are used to refer to minor highways or rural roads, usually gravel, referring to the Dominion Land Survey grid upon which they were originally designed. In Quebec, freeways and expressways are sometimes called by the French term autoroutes; however, native English speakers use the term highway.[60]

In Alberta, the generic trail is often used to describe a freeway, expressway or major urban street (for example, Deerfoot Trail, Macleod Trail or Crowchild Trail in Calgary, St. Albert Trail in Edmonton). The Yellowhead Trail in Edmonton is an exception, where it is simply referred to as "the Yellowhead".[61] The British term motorway is not used. The American terms turnpike and tollway for a toll road are not common. The term throughway or thruway was used for first tolled limited-access highways (for example, the Deas Island Throughway, now Highway 99, from Vancouver, to Blaine, Washington, or the Saint John Throughway (Highway 1) in Saint John, New Brunswick), but this term is not common anymore. In everyday speech, when a particular roadway is not being specified, the term highway is generally or exclusively used.

  • A railway at-grade junction is a level crossing; the U.S. term grade crossing is rarely, if ever, used.
  • A railway or highway crossing overhead is an overpass or underpass, depending on which part of the crossing is referred to (the two are used more or less interchangeably); the British term flyover is sometimes used in Ontario, and in the Maritimes as well as on occasion in the prairies (such as the 4th Avenue flyover in Calgary, Alberta), subway is also used.
  • In Quebec, English speakers often use the word "Metro" to mean subway. Non-native Anglophones of Quebec will also use the designated proper title "Metro" to describe the Montreal subway system.
  • The term Texas gate refers to the type of metal grid called a cattle guard in American English or a cattle grid in British English.
  • Depending on the region, large trucks used to transport and deliver goods are referred to as transport trucks (e.g. used in Ontario and Alberta) or transfer trucks (e.g. used in Prince Edward Island)


  • While in standard usage the terms prime minister and premier are interchangeable terms for the head of an elected parliamentary government, Canadian English today generally follows a usage convention of reserving the title prime minister for the federal first minister and referring to provincial or territorial leaders as premiers. However, because Canadian French does not have separate terms for the two positions, using premier ministre for both, the title prime minister is sometimes seen in reference to a provincial leader when a francophone is speaking or writing English. As well, until the 1970s the leader of the Ontario provincial government was officially styled prime minister.
  • When a majority of the elected members of the House of Commons or a provincial legislature are not members of the same party as the government, the situation is referred to as a minority government rather than a hung Parliament.
  • To table a document in Canada is to present it (as in Britain), whereas in the U.S. it means to withdraw it from consideration. (However, in non-governmental meetings using Robert's Rules of Order to table a document can be to postpone consideration until a later date.)
  • Several political terms are more in use in Canada than elsewhere, including riding (as a general term for a parliamentary constituency or electoral district). The term reeve was at one time common for the equivalent of a mayor in some smaller municipalities in British Columbia and Ontario, but is now falling into disuse. The title is still used for the leader of a rural municipality in Saskatchewan, parts of Alberta, and Manitoba.
  • The term Tory, used in Britain with a similar meaning, denotes a supporter of the federal Conservative Party of Canada, the historic federal or provincial Progressive Conservative Party. The term Red Tory is also used to denote the more socially liberal wings of the Tory parties. Blue Tory is less commonly used, and refers to more strict fiscal (rather than social) conservatism. The U.S. use of Tory to mean the Loyalists in the time of the American Revolution is not used in Canada, where they are called United Empire Loyalists, or simply Loyalists.
  • Members of the Liberal Party of Canada or a provincial Liberal party are sometimes referred to as Grits. Historically, the term comes from the phrase Clear Grit, used in Victorian times in Canada to denote an object of quality or a truthful person. The term was assumed as a nickname by Liberals by the 1850s.
  • Members of the Bloc Québécois are sometimes referred to as Bloquistes. At the purely provincial level, members of Quebec's Parti Québécois are often referred to as Péquistes, and members of the Quebec provincial Action démocratique du Québec as Adéquistes.
  • The term "Socred" is no longer common due to its namesake party's decline, but referred to members of the Social Credit Party, and was particularly common in British Columbia. It was not used for Social Credit members from Quebec, nor generally used for the federal caucus of that party; in both cases Créditiste, the French term, was used in English.
  • Members of the Senate are referred to by the title "Senator" preceding their name, as in the United States. Members of the Canadian House of Commons, following British parliamentary nomenclature, are termed "Members of Parliament", and are referred to as "Jennifer Jones, MP" during their term of office only. This style is extended to the Premiers of the provinces during their service. Senators, and members of the Privy Council are styled "The Honourable" for life, and the Prime Minister of Canada is styled "The Right Honourable" for life, as is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Governor General. This honorific may also be bestowed by Parliament, as it was to retiring deputy prime minister Herb Gray in 1996. Members of provincial legislatures do not have a pre-nominal style, except in certain provinces, such as Nova Scotia where members of the Queen's Executive Council of Nova Scotia are styled "The Honourable" for life, and are entitled to the use of the post-nominal letters "ECNS".[62] The Cabinet of Ontario serves concurrently (and not for life) as the Executive Council of Ontario, while serving members are styled "The Honourable", but are not entitled to post-nominal letters.
  • Members of provincial/territorial legislative assemblies are called MLAs in all provinces and territories except: Ontario, where they have been called Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) since 1938; Quebec, where they have been called Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) since 1968; and Newfoundland and Labrador, where they are called Members of the House of Assembly (MHAs).


Lawyers in all parts of Canada, except Quebec, which has its own civil law system, are called "barristers and solicitors" because any lawyer licensed in any of the common law provinces and territories must pass bar exams for, and is permitted to engage in, both types of legal practice in contrast to other common-law jurisdictions such as England, Wales and Ireland where the two are traditionally separated (i.e., Canada has a fused legal profession). The words lawyer and counsel (not counsellor) predominate in everyday contexts; the word attorney refers to any personal representative. Canadian lawyers generally do not refer to themselves as "attorneys", a term which is common in the United States.

The equivalent of an American district attorney, meaning the barrister representing the state in criminal proceedings, is called a crown attorney (in Ontario), crown counsel (in British Columbia), crown prosecutor or the crown, on account of Canada's status as a constitutional monarchy in which the Crown is the locus of state power.

The words advocate and notary – two distinct professions in Quebec civil law – are used to refer to that province's equivalent of barrister and solicitor, respectively. In Canada's common law provinces and territories, the word notary means strictly a notary public.

Within the Canadian legal community itself, the word solicitor is often used to refer to any Canadian lawyer in general (much like the way the word attorney is used in the United States to refer to any American lawyer in general). Despite the conceptual distinction between barrister and solicitor, Canadian court documents would contain a phrase such as "John Smith, solicitor for the Plaintiff" even though "John Smith" may well himself be the barrister who argues the case in court. In a letter introducing him/herself to an opposing lawyer, a Canadian lawyer normally writes something like "I am the solicitor for Mr. Tom Jones."

The word litigator is also used by lawyers to refer to a fellow lawyer who specialises in lawsuits even though the more traditional word barrister is still employed to denote the same specialization.

Judges of Canada's superior courts (which exist at the provincial and territorial levels) are traditionally addressed as "My Lord" or "My Lady"; however, there are some variances across certain jurisdictions, with some superior court judges preferring the titles "Mister Justice" or "Madam Justice" to "Lordship".

Masters are addressed as "Mr. Master" or simply "Sir".

Judges of provincial or inferior courts are traditionally referred to in person as "Your Honour". Judges of the Supreme Court of Canada and of the federal-level courts prefer the use of "Mister/Madam (Chief) Justice". Justices of The Peace are addressed as "Your Worship". "Your Honour" is also the correct form of address for a Lieutenant Governor.

A serious crime is called an indictable offence, while a less-serious crime is called a summary offence. The older words felony and misdemeanour, which are still used in the United States, are not used in Canada's current Criminal Code (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46) or by today's Canadian legal system. As noted throughout the Criminal Code, a person accused of a crime is called the accused and not the defendant, a term used instead in civil lawsuits.

In Canada, visible minority refers to a non-aboriginal person or group visibly not one of the majority race in a given population. The term comes from the Canadian Employment Equity Act, which defines such people as "persons, other than Aboriginal people, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour."[63] The term is used as a demographic category by Statistics Canada. The qualifier "visible" is used to distinguish such minorities from the "invisible" minorities determined by language (English vs. French) and certain distinctions in religion (Catholics vs. Protestants).

A county in British Columbia means only a regional jurisdiction of the courts and justice system and is not otherwise connected to governance as with counties in other provinces and in the United States. The rough equivalent to "county" as used elsewhere is a "Regional District".


Distinctive Canadianisms are:

  • Height of land: a drainage divide. Originally American.[64]
  • Indian reserve, rather than the U.S. term "federal Indian reservation." A slang variant of this term is the shortened res or rez. A more politically correct Canadian term is "First Nations land" or "First Nations territory".
  • Rancherie: the residential area of a First Nation reserve, used in BC only.
  • Quiggly hole and/or quiggly: the depression in the ground left by a kekuli or pithouse. Groups of them are called "quiggly hole towns". Used in the BC Interior only.
  • Gas bar: a filling station (gas station) with a central island, having pumps under a fixed metal or concrete awning.
  • Boozcan: an after-hours establishment where alcohol is served, often illegally.
  • The term dépanneur, or the diminutive form dep, is often used by English speakers in Quebec. This is because convenience stores are called dépanneurs in Canadian French.
  • A snye is a side-water channel that rejoins a larger river, creating an island.

Houses and other buildings

  • Bachelor: bachelor apartment, an apartment all in a single room, with a small bathroom attached ("They have a bachelor for rent").[65] The usual American term is studio. In Quebec, this is known as a one-and-a-half apartment;[66] some Canadians, especially in Prince Edward Island, call it a loft.[67]
  • Minihome or mini home: in Atlantic Canada, a mobile home.[68] Elsewhere in Canada, a minihome or mini home would, as in the United States, refer to an architect-designed, environmentally-sustainable, small home,[69] usually prefabricated.
  • Fire hall: fire station, firehouse.[70]
  • Parkade: a parking garage, especially in the West.[67]
  • Washroom: the general term for what is normally named public toilet or lavatory in Britain. In the United States (where it originated) the word was mostly replaced by restroom in the 20th century. Generally used only as a technical or commercial term outside of Canada. The word bathroom is also used.
  • Camp: in Northern Ontario, it refers to what is called a cottage in the rest of Ontario and a cabin in the West.[71] It is also used, to a lesser extent, in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, as well as in parts of New England.

Racial and ethnic groups

  • People of Sub-Saharan African ancestry who are citizens or permanent residents of Canada are commonly referred to as Black Canadians. African Canadian is much less common. Caribbean Canadian is sometimes preferred in the case of Black Canadians of Caribbean origin. In informal conversation, references to national origin such as Jamaican or Haitian are most commonly used and imply heritage rather than current nationality. Although Black Canadian is not a racial slur, in academic and legal contexts and in the media, use of the term Black Canadian is often avoided by using the broader euphemism visible minority discussed in the Law section, above. "Black" is usually not considered outdated or politically incorrect as it is in the United States where African American is the common non-disparaging term.
  • The term First Nations is often used in Canada to refer to what are called American Indians or Native Americans in the United States. This term does not include the Métis and Inuit, however; the terms aboriginal peoples or FNMI (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) are used by some when all three groups are included. The term "Eskimo" has been largely replaced by the term Inuit in the past few decades. Some contend that it is offensive to use the terms Eskimo and Indian, but they are still used commonly (without pejorative intent) by some.

Daily life

Terms common in Canada, Britain and Ireland but less frequent or nonexistent in the United States are:

  • Tin (as in tin of tuna), for can, especially among older speakers. Among younger speakers, can is more common, with tin referring to a can which is wider than it is tall.
  • Cutlery, for silverware or flatware.
  • Serviette, especially in Eastern Canada, for a paper table napkin.
  • Tap, conspicuously more common than faucet in everyday usage.[72]

The following are more or less distinctively Canadian:

  • ABM, bank machine: synonymous with ATM (which is also used).[73]
  • BFI bin: Dumpster, after a prominent Canadian waste management company, in provinces where that company does business; compare Kleenex, Xerox.
  • Chesterfield: originally British and internationally used (as in classic furnishing terminology) to refer to a sofa whose arms are the same height as the back, it is a term for any couch or sofa in Canada (and, to some extent, Northern California).[74][75] Once a hallmark of CanE, chesterfield as with settee and davenport, is now largely in decline among younger generations in the western and central regions.[76] Couch is now the most common term; sofa is also used.
  • Dressing gown: in the United States, called a bathrobe.
  • Eavestroughs: rain gutters. Also used, especially in the past, in the Northern and Western United States; the first recorded usage is in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick: "The tails tapering down that way, serve to carry off the water, d'ye see. Same with cocked hats; the cocks form gable-end eave-troughs [sic], Flask."[77]
  • Flush: toilet, used primarily by older speakers throughout the Maritimes.
  • Garburator: (rhymes with carburetor) a garbage disposal.[78]
  • Homogenized milk or homo milk: milk containing 3.25% milk fat, typically called "whole milk" in the United States.
  • Hydro: a common synonym for electrical service, used primarily in New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia. Most of the power in these provinces is hydroelectricity, and suppliers' company names incorporate the term "Hydro". Usage: "I didn't pay my hydro bill so they shut off my lights." Hence hydrofield, a line of electricity transmission towers, usually in groups cutting across a city, and hydro lines/poles, electrical transmission lines/poles.[79] These usages of hydro are also standard in the Australian state of Tasmania. Also in slang usage can refer to hydroponically grown marijuana.
  • Loonie: the Canadian one-dollar coin; derived from the use of the common loon on the reverse. The toonie (less commonly spelled tooney, twooney, twoonie) is the two-dollar coin. Loonie is also used to refer to the Canadian currency, particularly when discussing the exchange rate with the U.S. dollar; "loonie" and "toonie" describe coinage specifically. (for example, I have a dollar in pennies versus "I have three loonies in my pocket").
  • Pencil crayon:[80] coloured pencil.
  • Pogie or pogey: term referring to unemployment insurance, which is now officially called Employment Insurance in Canada. Derived from the use of pogey as a term for a poorhouse.[81] Not used for welfare, in which case the term is "the dole", as in "he's on the dole, eh?".


The following are common in Canada, but not in the United States or the United Kingdom.

  • Runners:[82] running shoes, especially in Western Canada.[83] Also used in Australian English[84] and Irish English.[85][86][87] Atlantic Canada prefers sneakers while central Canada (including Quebec and Ontario) prefers "running shoes".[88]
  • Tuque (also spelled toque or touque): a knitted winter hat. A similar hat would be called a beanie in the western United States and a watch cap in the eastern United States, though these forms are generally closer-fitting, and may lack a brim as well as a pompom. There seems to be no exact equivalent outside Canada, since the tuque is of French Canadian origin.
  • Bunnyhug: a hooded sweatshirt, with or without a zipper. Used mainly in Saskatchewan.
  • Kangaroo jacket: a hooded sweatshirt or jacket, usually of cotton or polyester/cotton fleece or water-resistant polyester. Although kangaroo was a common term in the 1960s, it has been replaced by hoodie.
  • Hockey sweater: a hockey jersey

Food and beverage

  • Most Canadians as well as Americans in the Northwest, North Central, Prairie and Inland North prefer pop over soda to refer to a carbonated beverage (but neither term is dominant in British English). "Soft drink" is also extremely common throughout Canada.
  • What Americans call Canadian bacon is named back bacon or, if it is coated in cornmeal or ground peas, cornmeal bacon or peameal bacon in Canada.
  • What most Americans call a candy bar is usually known as a chocolate bar (as in the United Kingdom; however, some in the United States, especially Americans in northern states, call it a chocolate bar). In certain areas surrounding the Bay of Fundy, it is sometimes known as a nut bar; however, this use is more popular amongst older generations. Legally only bars made of solid chocolate may be labelled chocolate bars, others must be labelled as candy bars.[89]
  • Even though the terms French fries and fries are used by Canadians, some speakers use the word chips (and its diminutive, chippies) (chips is always used when referring to fish and chips, as elsewhere).
  • Whole-wheat bread is often referred to as brown bread, as in "Would you like white or brown bread for your toast?"
  • Kraft Dinner or "KD": packaged dry macaroni and cheese mix, even when it is not produced by Kraft.


  • Double-double: a cup of coffee with two measures of cream and two of sugar, most commonly associated with the Tim Hortons chain of coffee shops.[90]
  • Mickey: a 375 mL (12.7 US fl oz; 13.2 imp fl oz) bottle of hard liquor (informally called a pint in the Maritimes and the United States). In Newfoundland, this is almost exclusively referred to as a "flask".
  • Two-six, two-sixer,twenty-sixer, twixer: a 750 mL (25 US fl oz; 26 imp fl oz) bottle of hard liquor (called a quart in the Maritimes). The word handle is less common. Similarly, a 1.14 L (39 US fl oz; 40 imp fl oz) bottle of hard liquor is known as a forty and a 1.75 L (59 US fl oz; 62 imp fl oz) bottle is known as a sixty or half gallon in Nova Scotia.
  • Texas mickey (especially in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia; more often a "Saskatchewan mickey" in western Canada): a 3 L (101 US fl oz; 106 imp fl oz) bottle of hard liquor. (Despite the name, Texas mickeys are generally unavailable outside of Canada.)
  • Two-four: a case of 24 beers, also known as a case in Eastern Canada, or a flat in Western Canada (referencing that cans of beer are often sold in packages of six, with four packages to a flat box for shipping and stacking purposes). The term "May two-four" is also commonly used to refer to the national holiday 'Victoria Day', which celebrates the birth of Queen Victoria on May 24.
  • Six-pack, half-sack, half-case, or poverty-pack: a case of six beers
  • Poutine: a snack of french fries topped with cheese curds and hot gravy.
  • Cheezies: cheese puffs. The name is a genericized trademark based on a brand of crunchy cheese snack sold in Canada.
  • Freezies: A frozen flavoured sugar water snack common worldwide, but known by this name exclusively in Canada.
  • Dainty: a fancy cookie, pastry, or square served at a social event (usually plural). Used in western Canada.
  • Smarties: a bean-sized, small candy covered chocolate, similar to plain M&M's. This is also seen in British English. Smarties in the United States refer to small tart powdered disc sold in rolls. In Canada these are sold as "Rockets".
  • The States: Commonly used to refer to the United States or almost as often the U.S., much less often U.S.A. or America, which are commonly used in other countries, the latter more often used in other English-speaking nations.
  • Hoser: a particular stereotype of a certain kind of "boorish" or uncultured Canadian.
  • Drop the gloves: to begin a fight. A reference to a practice in professional ice hockey of removing gloves prior to fighting.
  • The Forces: used to refer to the Canadian Armed Forces (C.A.F.), as a whole. See Canadian Forces

Informal speech

A rubber in the U.S. and Canada is slang for a condom; however, in Canada it is sometimes (rarely except for Newfoundland and South Western Ontario) another term for an eraser (as it is in Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland).

The word bum can refer either to the buttocks (as in Britain), or, derogatorily, to a homeless person (as in the U.S.). However, the "buttocks" sense does not have the indecent character it retains in British use, as it and "butt" are commonly used as a polite or childish euphemism for ruder words such as arse (commonly used in Atlantic Canada and among older people in Ontario and to the west) or ass, or mitiss (used in the Prairie Provinces, especially in northern and central Saskatchewan; probably originally a Cree loanword). Older Canadians may see "bum" as more polite than "butt", which before the 1980s was often considered rude.

Similarly the word pissed can refer either to being drunk (as in Britain), or being angry (as in the U.S.), though anger is more often said as pissed off, while piss drunk or pissed up is said to describe inebriation (though piss drunk is sometimes also used in the U.S., especially in the northern states).

Canadian colloquialisms

One of the most distinctive Canadian phrases is the spoken interrogation eh (pronunciation: , ), used widely in Central Canada but less frequently in the prairies and Atlantic Canada. The tag is commonly mocked by films such as South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, and treated more warm-heartedly within Canada itself by television programmes such as The Red Green Show and the Royal Canadian Air Farce and TV performers Bob and Doug McKenzie. The only usage of eh exclusive to Canada, according to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, is for "ascertaining the comprehension, continued interest, agreement, etc., of the person or persons addressed" as in, "It's four kilometres away, eh, so I have to go by bike." In that case, eh? is used to confirm the attention of the listener and to invite a supportive noise such as mm or oh or okay. This usage is also common in Queensland, Australia and New Zealand. Other uses of eh – for instance, in place of huh? or what? meaning "please repeat or say again" – are also found in parts of the British Isles and Australia.

In recent years it has been found that younger Canadians in the larger cities have been replacing "eh" with other words such as "right" at the end of sentences.[91] It is not known if this trend will extend to rural areas, but such is normally the case.

The term Canuck simply means Canadian in its demonymic form, and, as a term used even by Canadians themselves, it is not considered derogatory. In the 19th century and early 20th century it tended to refer to French-Canadians, but Janey Canuck was used by Anglophone writer Emily Murphy in the 1920s and the Johnny Canuck comic book character of the 1940s. Throughout the 1970s, Canada's winning World Cup men's downhill ski team was called the "Crazy Canucks" for their fearlessness on the slopes.[92] In the mid-1970s, Captain Canuck was a comic book superhero. It is also the name of the Vancouver Canucks, the National Hockey League team of Vancouver.

The term hoser, popularized by Bob & Doug McKenzie, typically refers to an uncouth, beer-swilling male. Bob & Doug also popularized the use of Beauty, eh, another western slang term which may be used in variety of ways. This describes something as being of interest, of note, signals approval or simply draws attention to it.

A Newf or Newfie is someone from Newfoundland and Labrador; the term is sometimes considered derogatory. In Newfoundland, the term Mainlander refers to any Canadian (sometimes American, occasionally Labradorian) not from the island of Newfoundland. Mainlander is also occasionally used derogatorily.

In the Maritimes, a Caper or "Cape Bretoner" is someone from Cape Breton Island, a Bluenoser is someone with a thick, usually southern Nova Scotia accent or as a general term for a Nova Scotian (including Cape Bretoners, while an Islander is someone from Prince Edward Island (the same term is used in British Columbia for people from Vancouver Island, or the numerous islands along it). A Haligonian refers to someone from the city of Halifax.

Miscellaneous Canadianisms

  • The code appended to mail addresses (the equivalent of the British postcode and the American ZIP code) is called a postal code.
  • "Going camping" still refers to staying in a tent in a campground or wilderness area, while "going out to camp" may refer to a summer cottage or home in a rural area. "Going to camp" refers to children's summer camps. In British Columbia, "camp" was used as a reference for certain company towns (for example, Bridge River). It is used in western Canada to refer to logging and mining camps such as Juskatla Camp. It is also a synonym for a mining district; the latter occurs in names such as Camp McKinney and usages such as "Cariboo gold camp" and "Slocan mining camp" for the Cariboo goldfields and Slocan silver-galena mining district, respectively. A "cottage" in British Columbia is generally a small house, perhaps with an English design or flavour, while in southern Ontario it more likely means a second home on a lake. Similarly, "chalet" – originally a term for a small warming hut – can mean a second home of any size, but refers to one located in a ski resort. In Northern Ontario, these second homes tend to be called "camps". In Western Canada, these second homes tend to be called "cabins".
  • A stagette is a female bachelorette party (US) or hen party (UK).
  • A "shag" is thought to be derived from "shower" and "stag", and describes a dance where alcohol, entry tickets, raffle tickets, and so on, are sold to raise money for the engaged couple's wedding. Normally a Northwest Ontario, Northern Ontario and sometimes Manitoba term, a "stag and doe" or "buck and doe" is used elsewhere in Ontario. The more common term for this type of event in Manitoba is a "social".
  • The humidex is a measurement used by meteorologists to reflect the combined effect of heat and humidity (vs. US term heat index quantifying the apparent temperature).
  • An expiry date is the term used for the date when a perishable product will go bad (similar to the UK Use By date). The term expiration date is more common in the United States (where expiry date is seen mostly on the packaging of Asian food products). The term Best Before also sees common use, where although not spoiled, the product may not taste "as good". Expiry dates printed on food products usually have BB/MA (best before/meilleur avant) before giving the expiry date, e.g. BB/MA 2014 DE 22.
  • Elementary school grades are usually referred to as Grade 1 (and so on), unlike in the United States where they are referred to as 1st grade.
  • "Going down East" referring to travel towards the Maritime Provinces from Central Canada, derived from travelling downstream along the St.Lawrence River.
  • Regional Pronunciations:
    • Toronto is often pronounced without the last "t" producing "Torono", whereas Toronto natives tend to say "Toranah"
    • Ottawa natives often pronounce the city name with a "d" sound where the "t"s are, producing "Oddawa"
  • The word fair is often used in sentences like the following: We had to walk a fair distance. We have a fair amount of clothing.

See also


  1. ^ en-CA is the language code for Canadian English , as defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639-1 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-2) and Internet standards (see IETF language tag).
  2. ^ a b c Boberg, C., "The English Language in Canada: Status, History, and Comparative Analysis", Cambridge University Press, 2010
  3. ^ "Population by knowledge of official language, by province and territory (2006 Census)". 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
  4. ^ "Population by mother tongue and age groups, percentage distribution (2006), for Canada, provinces and territories – 20% sample data". Statistics Canada. 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  5. ^ a b Chambers, p. xi.
  6. ^ "Factors which shaped the varieties of English". Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
  7. ^ Barber, C. "Neither Uncle Sam nor John Bull: Canadian English comes of age." (abstract) Canadian English in the Global Context, University of Toronto, 2005, accessed July 29, 2014
  8. ^ Boberg, C: "Geolinguistic Diffusion and the U.S.-Canada Border", "Language Variation and Change", 12(1):15
  9. ^ Brinton, Laurel J., and Fee, Marjery, ed. (2005). Ch. 12. in The Cambridge history of the English language. Volume VI: English in North America., Algeo, John, ed., pp. 422–440. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992; p. 422: "It is now generally agreed that Canadian English originated as a variant of northern American English (the speech of New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania)."
  10. ^ "Canadian English." McArthur, T., ed. (2005). Concise Oxford companion to the English language, pp. 96–102. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280637-8. On p. 97: "Because Canadian English and American English are so alike, some scholars have argued that in linguistic terms Canadian English is no more or less than a variety of (Northern) American English
  11. ^ ("New-Dialect Formation in Canada. (2008). Dollinger, Stefan. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 978 90 272 31068 6. On p. 279"
  12. ^ "Labov, Ash, Boberg. 2006. The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton, ch. 15.
  13. ^ a b Barber, Katherine (2001). The Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Toronto,  
  14. ^ Gwyn, Richard (2007). "John A: The Man Who Made Us".  
  15. ^ "Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles". CA: Gage. 1967. 
  16. ^ "Dollinger 2006". Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
  17. ^ a b MacPherson, William (31 March 1990). "Practical concerns spelled the end for -our".  
  18. ^ a b Sellar, Don (8 March 1997). "Let's hear what the readers say".  
  19. ^ Allemang, John (1 September 1990). "Contemplating a U-turn".  
  20. ^ "Herald's move to Canadian spellings a labour of love".  
  21. ^ Honderich, John (13 September 1997). "How your Star is changing".  
  22. ^ V. Fromkin, R. Rodman, N. Hyams, and K. M. Hummel. 2010. An Introduction to Language, 4th Canadian ed., pp. 619-621. Canada: Nelson Education Ltd. ISBN 978-0-17-650119-8
  23. ^ “Canadian spelling: How much British? How much American?” Robert Ireland, 1979–80, The English Quarterly, 12(4), 64–80.
  24. ^ V. Fromkin, R. Rodman, N. Hyams, and K. M. Hummel. 2010. An Introduction to Language, 4th Canadian ed., pp. 6621. Canada: Nelson Education Ltd. ISBN 978-0-17-650119-8
  25. ^ L. Burton et al., 1987, Editing Canadian English, Vancouver and Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre
  26. ^ Bill Casselman. "Zed and zee in Canada". Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  27. ^ J.K. Chambers (2002). Sociolinguistic Theory: Linguistic Variation and Its Social Significance (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  28. ^ The pronunciation with the stress on the second syllable is the most common pronunciation, but is considered incorrect by some people. - Canadian Oxford Dictionary
  29. ^ The pronunciation /ˈkɑrki/ was the one used by author and veteran Farley Mowat.
  30. ^ pecan ˈpiːkan, piːˈkan, pəˈkɒn - Canadian Oxford Dictionary
  31. ^ Barber, p. 77.
  32. ^ predecessor ˈpredəˌsesɜr, ˈpriː-. Canadian Oxford Dictionary
  33. ^ mom mɒm, mʌm -
  34. ^ Dollinger, Stefan & Sandra Clarke. 2012. On the autonomy and homogeneity of Canadian English. World Englishes 31(4): 449-466.
  35. ^ Boberg, Charles. 2005. The North American Regional Vocabulary Survey. American Speech 80(1): 22-60.
  36. ^ a b c d Boberg, Charles. 2008. Regional phonetic differentiation in Standard Canadian English. Journal of English Linguistics 36(2): 129-154.
  37. ^ a b c d e Labov et al. (2006), p. 182.
  38. ^ Labov, p. 214
  39. ^ Boberg
  40. ^ a b Labov p. 218.
  41. ^ Martinet, Andre 1955. Economie des changements phonetiques. Berne: Francke.
  42. ^ Labov p. 219.
  43. ^ Esling, John H. and Henry J. Warkentyne (1993). "Retracting of /æ/ in Vancouver English."
  44. ^ Charles Boberg, "Sounding Canadian from Coast to Coast: Regional accents in Canadian English."
  45. ^ Labov et al. 2006; Charles Boberg, "The Canadian Shift in Montreal"; Robert Hagiwara. "Vowel production in Winnipeg"; Rebecca V. Roeder and Lidia Jarmasz. "The Canadian Shift in Toronto."
  46. ^ a b c d Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; and Boberg, Charles. The Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology, and Sound Change. Walter de Gruyter, 2006, p. 216: "In general, the English spoken in the Canadian North can be viewed as a dialect in formation ... The region's European population is too sparsely settled, too diverse in origin, and too recently arrived to have produced an identifiable, homogeneous dialect distinct from southern Canadian English, while its large Aboriginal population speaks a range of varieties influenced by non-English substrates ..."
  47. ^ Charles Boberg (2010). The English language in Canada: Status, history, and comparative analysis. New York: Cambridge University Press. 
  48. ^ Labov, p. 221.
  49. ^ Labov, p. 219.
  50. ^ Erin Hall "Regional variation in Canadian English vowel backing"
  51. ^  
  52. ^ "gonch". 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  53. ^
  54. ^ Labov pp. 214–215.
  55. ^ Boberg, p. 36.
  56. ^ Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador
  57. ^ Trudgill and Hannah, International English (4th edition), p. 76.
  58. ^ American Speech 80.1 (2005), p. 47.
  59. ^ a b c American Speech 80.1 (2005), p. 48.
  60. ^ [1]
  61. ^
  62. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
  63. ^ Visible Minority Population and Population Group Reference Guide, 2006 Census from StatsCan
  64. ^ Webster's New World College Dictionary, Wiley, 2004.
  65. ^ Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, "bachelor".
  66. ^ "". 
  67. ^ a b Boberg 2005.
  68. ^ "Mini Homes page of Kent Homes, a regional lumber, home improvement and construction retailer". Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  69. ^ based on searches in Google Images using the term "minihome" and various province and state names.
  70. ^ "Fire hall – Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". 2010-08-13. 
  71. ^ Boberg 2005, p. 38.
  72. ^ Dollinger, Steven. "Canadian English". Oxford English Dictionary. 
  73. ^ Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, ABM; Boberg 2005.
  74. ^
  75. ^ Chesterfield. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000
  76. ^ J.K. Chambers, "The Canada-U.S. border as a vanishing isogloss: the evidence of chesterfield." Journal of English Linguistics 23 (1995): 156-66.
  77. ^ Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, eavestrough; Oxford English Dictionary; American Heritage Dictionary.
  78. ^ According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (second edition), garburator is "Canadian" and garbage disposal is "North American."
  79. ^ Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, hydro.
  80. ^ Barber, Katherine, ed. (1998). The Canadian Oxford Dictionary (1st ed.). Toronto: Oxford University Press. p. .1075.  
  81. ^ "Pogey: What Does it Mean? Bonny, 2006" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
  82. ^ Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, runner.
  83. ^ American Speech 80.1 (2005).
  84. ^ Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary.
  85. ^ Sometimes the gym doesn't fix it, The Irish Times, Tuesday, January 06, 2009
  86. ^ Machismo . . . or masochism?, The Irish Times – Saturday March 22, 2008
  87. ^ Stars in the running, The Irish Times, Tuesday October 7, 2008
  88. ^ American Speech 80.1 (2005), p. 36.
  89. ^ "Decisions: Chocolate and Cocoa Products". Canadien Food Inspection Agency. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  90. ^ "Arts – 'Double-double'? Now you can look it up". Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  91. ^ "End of an era, right?".  
  92. ^ "The Crazy Canucks: Canada's Skiing Heroes". Retrieved 2012-09-25. 


External links

  • Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Words: Woe & Wonder
  • Canadian Oxford Dictionaries (Oxford University Press – sales only)
  • Lexical, grammatical, orthographic and phonetic Canadianisms
  • Varieties of English: Canadian English from the University of Arizona
  • Dictionary of Newfoundland English
  • Dave VE7CNV's Truly Canadian Dictionary of Canadian Spelling– comparisons of Canadian English, American English, British English, French and Spanish
  • 'Hover & Hear' pronunciations in a standard Canadian accent, and compare side by side with other English accents from around the world.
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