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An editorial cartoon, c. 1910, portraying Johnny Canuck

Canuck /kəˈnʌk/ is a slang term for a Canadian. While there are some sources that claim the origins of the word are uncertain,[1] or related to the Iroquoian word for village (kanata), the term comes from the influx of Kanaka Maoli to what would become British Columbia[2] The Canadian Encyclopedia, "Canuck," 2019 .The term Kanuck is first recorded in 1835 as an Americanism, originally referring to Dutch Canadians (which included German Canadians) or French Canadians.[1][3] By the 1850s, the spelling with a "C" became predominant.[1] Today, many Canadians and others use Canuck as a mostly affectionate term for any Canadian.[1][4]

Johnny Canuck is a folklore hero who was created as a political cartoon in 1869 and was later re-invented as a Second World War action hero in 1942.[5] The Vancouver Canucks, a professional ice hockey team in the National Hockey League (NHL) has used a version of "Johnny Canuck" as their team logos.[6]

The Canadian military has used the term colloquially for several projects: Operation Canuck, the Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck and the Fleet 80 Canuck.

Captain Canuck is a Canadian comic book superhero who first appeared in Captain Canuck #1 (July 1975).[7] The series was the first successful Canadian comic book since the collapse of the nation's comic book industry following World War II.[8]


Although its etymology is unclear,[1] possible origins include:

Usage and examples[edit]

Canadians use Canuck as an affectionate or merely descriptive term for their nationality.[11]

If familiar with the term, most citizens of other nations, including the United States, also use it affectionately, though there are individuals who may use it as a derogatory term.

Usage of the term includes the following.


  • Canuck also has the derived meanings of a Canadian pony (rare) and a French-Canadian patois[12] (very rare).
  • Johnny Canuck, a personification of Canada who appeared in early political cartoons of the 1860s resisting Uncle Sam's bullying. Johnny Canuck was revived in 1942 by Leo Bachle to defend Canada against the Nazis. The Vancouver Canucks have adopted a personification of Johnny Canuck on their alternate hockey sweater.
  • As the historical nickname for three Canadian-built aircraft from the 20th century: the Curtiss JN-4C training biplane, with some 1,260 airframes built; the Avro CF-100 jet fighter; and the Fleet 80 Canuck two-seat side-by-side trainer.
  • One of the first uses of Canuck – in the form of Kanuk – specifically referred to Dutch Canadians as well as the French.
  • Operation Canuck was the designated name of a British SAS raid led by a Canadian captain, Buck McDonald in January 1945.
  • The Canuck letter became a focal point during the US 1972 Democratic primaries, when a letter published in the Manchester Union Leader implied Democratic contender Senator Edmund Muskie was prejudiced against French-Canadians. He soon ended his campaign as a result. The letter was later discovered to have been written by the Nixon campaign in an attempt to sabotage Muskie.
  • A brand of firearms engineered and distributed by O'Dell Engineering Ltd since 2014 includes the Canuck 1911, Canuck Over Under and Canuck Shotgun.


  • In the opening of Thornton Wilder's 1938 play Our Town, Polish and "Canuck families" are mentioned as living on the outskirts of the prototypical 1901 New Hampshire town.
  • In 1975, in comics by Richard Comely, Captain Canuck is a super-agent for Canadians' security, with Redcoat and Kebec being his sidekicks. (Kebec is claimed to be unrelated to Capitaine Kébec of a French-Canadian comic published two years earlier.) Captain Canuck had enhanced strength and endurance thanks to being bathed in alien rays during a camping trip. The captain was reintroduced in the mid-1990s, and again in 2004.
  • The Marvel Comics character Wolverine is often referred to affectionately as "the Ol' Canucklehead" due to his Canadian heritage.
  • Soviet Canuckistan was an insult used by Pat Buchanan in response to Canada's reaction to racial profiling by US Customs agents.



  1. ^ a b c d e Orkin, Mark M. (2015). Speaking Canadian English: An Informal Account of the English Language in Canada. Taylor & Francis. p. 175. ISBN 978-1-317-43632-4.
  2. ^ "Canuck". The Canadian Encyclopedia. 2019.
  3. ^ Leiden University
  4. ^ The Mavens' Word of the Day, archived from the original on 17 April 2001
  5. ^ Bachle, L.; Kulbach, A.; Dak, P. (2015). Johnny Canuck. Comic Syrup Press. pp. 17–21. ISBN 978-0-9940547-0-8. Retrieved 2023-02-15.
  6. ^ "Canuck". The Canadian Encyclopedia. 2019-07-08. Retrieved 2023-02-15.
  7. ^ Markstein, Don. "Captain Canuck". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  8. ^ Edwardson, Ryan (November 2003). "The Many Lives of Captain Canuck: Nationalism, Culture, and the creation of a Canadian Comic Book Superhero". The Journal of Popular Culture. 37 (2): 184–201. doi:10.1111/1540-5931.00063.
  9. ^ Random House Dictionary
  10. ^ Allen, Irving Lewis, 1990. Unkind Words: Ethnic Labeling from Redskin to WASP, pp 59, 61–62. New York: Bergin & Garvey. ISBN 0-89789-217-8.
  11. ^ Cheng, Pang Guek; Barlas, Robert (2009). CultureShock! Canada: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette. Marshall Cavendish International Asia Pte Ltd. pp. 262–. ISBN 978-981-4435-31-4.
  12. ^ The Oxford Companion To The English Language
  13. ^ "Johnny Canuck". Archived from the original on 2010-02-14. Retrieved 2009-03-15.

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