Canadian English

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Canadian English (CanE, CE, en-CA[1]) is the variety of English spoken in Canada. English is the first language, or "mother tongue", of approximately 19 million Canadians or 58% of the population, which is relatively low due to strong French (c. 22%) and allophone (non-English, non-French, 21%) population segments (based on 2011 Census data).[2] However, 28 million use English as their dominant language.[3] 82% of Canadians outside Quebec speak English fluently, but within Quebec the figure drops to just 7.7% as most residents are native speakers of Quebec French.[4]

The vocabulary and spelling of Canadian English contains elements of British English and American English, as well as many unique Canadianisms. The phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicon for many regions/areas in Canada are similar to that of the Western and Midland regions of the United States; in fact, linguist Charles Boberg concluded that "the English spoken in Canada is most closely related to the variety recognised around the world as 'General American'."[5][6] The Canadian Great Lakes region has similarities to that of the Upper Midwest & Great Lakes region, in particular Michigan (and its Upper Midwestern speech), which has extensive cultural and economic ties with Ontario, while the phonological system of western Canadian English is virtually identical to that of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and the phonetics are similar.[7] As such, Canadian English and American English can be classified together as North American English, emphasizing the fact that the vast majority of outsiders, even from other English speaking countries, cannot distinguish Canadian English from most varieties of American English by sound. It should be noted, however, that "while a local East Anglian English speaker may confuse a Torontonian for an American, Canadians usually have little difficulty telling the one from the other."[8] In Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta, speech is influenced by French, with many English words being replaced by their French counterparts.[6]


The term "Canadian English" is first attested 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.[9]

Canadian English is the product of four waves of immigration and settlement over a period of almost two centuries. The first large wave of permanent English-speaking settlement in Canada, and linguistically the most important, was the influx of Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution, chiefly from the Mid-Atlantic States – as such, Canadian English is believed by some scholars to have derived from northern American English.[10][11] The historical development of Canadian English is underexplored, but recent studies suggest that Canadian English has been developing features of its own since the early 19th century,[12] while recent studies have shown the emergence of Canadian English features.[13] The second wave from Britain and Ireland was encouraged to settle in Canada after the War of 1812 by the governors of Canada, who were worried about anti-English sentiment among its citizens. Waves of immigration from around the globe peaking in 1910 and 1960 had a lesser influence, but they did make Canada a multicultural country, ready to accept linguistic change from around the world during the current period of globalization.[14]

The languages of Aboriginal peoples in Canada started to influence European languages used in Canada even before widespread settlement took place,[15] and the French of Lower Canada provided vocabulary to the English of Upper Canada.[9]

Spelling and dictionaries[edit]

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 and centre). While the United States uses the Anglo-French spelling defense and offense (noun), Canadians use the British spellings defence and offence. (Note that 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 such as realize and paralyze are usually spelled with -ize or -yze rather than -ise or -yse. (The etymological convention that verbs derived from Greek roots are spelled with -ize and those from Latin with -ise is preserved in that practice.[16])
  • 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. (Note that advice and advise are universal.)
  • Canadian spelling sometimes 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, more often than not in Canadian) to American traveled, counseling, and controllable (only doubled when stressed). (Both Canadian and British English use balloted and profiting.[17])

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.[citation needed] 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 automobiles and their parts (for example, truck instead of lorry, gasoline instead of petrol, trunk instead of boot).[17]

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.[18]

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 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) 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", as 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.[19]

Throughout part of the 20th century, some Canadian newspapers adopted American spellings,[citation needed] for example, 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.[20] 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.[20] 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.[21]

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.[22] Other Canadian newspapers adopted similar changes later that decade, such as the Southam newspaper chain's conversion in September 1998.[23] The Toronto Star adopted this new spelling policy in September 1997 after that publication's ombudsman discounted the issue earlier in 1997.[21][24] 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. Some publishers, e.g. Maclean's, continue to prefer American spellings.

Phonology and phonetics[edit]

In terms of the major sound systems (phonologies) of English around the world, Canadian English aligns most closely to U.S. English, both being grouped together under a common North American English sound system; the mainstream Canadian accent ("Standard Canadian") is often compared to the very similar and largely overlapping "General American" accent, an accent widely spoken throughout the United States and perceived there as being relatively lacking in any noticeable regional features.

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.[25] 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.[6] This dialect forms a dialect continuum with the far Western U.S. English, however it is sharply differentiated from the Inland Northern U.S. English of the central and eastern Great Lakes region.

Standard Canadian English[edit]

Throughout all of Canada, English mostly has a uniform phonology and very little diversity of dialects compared to the neighbouring English of the United States;[6] the greatly homogeneous single variety spoken particularly in western and central (inland) Canada, as well as across all of Canada among urban middle-class speakers from Anglophone family backgrounds, is commonly referred to as Standard Canadian English.[26] The Standard Canadian English dialect region is defined by the cot–caught merger to [ɒ] and an accompanying chain shift of vowel sounds, called the Canadian Shift. A subset of this dialect region at its central core, excluding British Columbia to the west as well as Montreal and everything else to the east, has been called Inland Canadian English, and is further defined by both of the Canadian raising phenomena, the production of // and // with back starting points in the mouth, and the production of // with a front starting point and very little glide (almost [eː]).[27]

Phonemic incidence[edit]

Although Canadian English phonology is part of the greater North American sound system, and therefore extremely similar to U.S. English phonology, the pronunciation of particular words may have British influence, while other pronunciations are uniquely Canadian.

Features shared with General American[edit]

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.

Like most other North American English dialects, Canadian English is almost always spoken with a rhotic accent, meaning that the r sound is preserved in any environment (and not "dropped" after vowels, as commonly done by speakers in central and southern England, and in Australia).

Like General American, most Canadian English varieties possess the Mary–marry–merry merger (making word pairs like Carrie/Kerry, Barry/berry, perish/parish, hairy/Harry etc. and trios like arable/errable/airable, Mary/merry/marry etc. have identical pronunciations; however, a distinction between the marry and merry sets remains in Montreal),[6] the father–bother merger (making lager/logger, con/Kahn, etc. sound identical), the horse–hoarse merger (making pairs like horse/hoarse, for/four, morning/mourning, war/wore etc. sound identical), and the wine–whine merger (making pairs like wine/whine, Wales/whales, wear/where etc. sound identical, in most cases eliminating /hw/, except in some older speakers).[35]

Also, the flapping of intervocalic /t/ and /d/ to alveolar tap [ɾ] before reduced vowels is common, so the words ladder and latter, for example, are mostly or entirely pronounced the same. Therefore, the pronunciation of the word "British" in England is often [ˈbɹɪtɪʃ], but in Canada and the U.S. is often [ˈbɹɪɾɪʃ]. For some speakers, the merger is incomplete and 't' before a reduced vowel is sometimes not tapped following [eɪ] or [ɪ] when it represents underlying 't'; thus greater and grader, and unbitten and unbidden are distinguished.

Some Canadian speakers have the typical American dropping of [j] after alveolar consonants, so that new, duke, Tuesday, suit, resume, lute, for instance, are pronounced /nuː/, /duːk/, /ˈtuːzdeɪ/, /suːt/, /ɹɪˈzuːm/, /luːt/.

Canadian raising[edit]

Perhaps the most recognizable feature of Canadian English is "Canadian raising," which is found most prominently throughout central and west-central Canada, as well as in parts of the Atlantic Provinces.[6] For the beginning points of the diphthongs (gliding vowels) /aɪ/ (as in the words height and mice) and /aʊ/ (as in shout and house), the tongue is often more "raised" in the mouth when these diphthongs come before voiceless consonants, namely /p/, /t/, /k/, /s/, /ʃ/ and /f/, in comparison to other varieties of English.

Before voiceless consonants, /aɪ/ becomes [ʌɪ~ɜɪ~ɐɪ]. One of the few phonetic variables that divides Canadians regionally is the articulation of the raised allophone of this as well as 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].[36] 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 merges with coach, meaning the two sound the same, and about sounds like a boat; this is often inaccurately represented as sounding like "a boot" for comic effect in American popular culture.

In General American, out is typically [äʊt], but, with slight Canadian raising, it may sound more like [ɐʊt], or, with the strong Canadian raising of the Prairies and Nova Scotia, more like [ʌʊt]. Due to Canadian raising, words like height and hide have two different vowel qualities; also, for example, house as a noun (I saw a house) and house as a verb (Where will you house them tonight?) have two different vowel qualities: potentially, [hɐʊs] versus [haʊz].

Especially in parts of the Atlantic provinces, some Canadians do not possess the phenomenon of Canadian raising. On the other hand, certain non-Canadian accents demonstrate Canadian raising. In the U.S., this feature can be found in areas near the border and thus in the Upper Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and northeastern New England (e.g. Boston) dialects, though it is much less common than in Canada. The raising of /aɪ/ alone, is actually increasing throughout the U.S., and unlike raising of /aʊ/, and is generally not perceived as unusual by people who do not have the raising.

Because of Canadian raising, many speakers are able to distinguish between words such as writer and rider –which can otherwise be impossible, since North American dialects typically turn both intervocalic /t/ and /d/ into an alveolar flap. Thus writer and rider are distinguished solely by their vowel characteristics as determined by Canadian raising: thus, a split between rider as [ˈɹäɪɾɚ] and writer possibly as [ˈɹʌɪɾɚ] (About this sound listen).

When not in a raised position (before voiceless consonants), /aʊ/ is fronted to [aʊ~æʊ] before nasals, and low-central [äʊ] elsewhere.[citation needed]

The cot–caught merger and the Canadian Shift[edit]

Almost all Canadians have the cot–caught merger, which also occurs primarily in the Western U.S., but often elsewhere in the U.S., especially recently. Speakers do not distinguish the vowels /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.[35]

This merger creates a hole in the short vowel sub-system[37] 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;[38] the retraction of /æ/ was independently observed in Vancouver[39] and is more advanced for Ontarians and women than for people from the Prairies or Atlantic Canada and men.[40] 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.[41] 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 U.S., 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 dialect of the U.S.

A notable exception to the merger occurs, in which some speakers over the age of 60, especially in rural areas in the Prairies, may not exhibit the merger.

Other common features[edit]

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 U.S. 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 can almost rhyme with vague.[42] For most Canadian speakers, /ɛ/ is also realized higher as [e] before /g/.

A comparison of /æ/ tensing in three English accents
following /æ/
Standard Canadian General American (USA) Received Pronunciation (UK)
/r/ [ɛ~ɛə] [ɛ~eə]
([æ] in Mid- and North-Atlantic USA)
(except words affected by trap–bath split)
/m/, /n/ [ɛə~æ] [eə~æ]
/ɡ/ [e~ɛ~æ] [æ]
all other consonants [æ]

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.[43]

The vowels /e/, /i/ and /u/ before before /ɹ/ may be lowered and laxed to /ɛ/, /ɪ/ and /ʊ/, causing pronunciations like [pʰɛɹ], [pʰɪɹ] and [pʰjʊɹ] for pair, peer and pure for many speakers.

The words origin, Florida, horrible, quarrel, warren, as well as tomorrow, sorry, sorrow, horrible, etc. are all generally use the sound sequence [-ɔɹ-] (as in gory), rather than [-ɑɹ-] (as in starry) or [-ɒɹ-]. The latter set of words often distinguishes Canadian pronunciation from U.S. pronunciation.

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.

The word milk is realized as [mɛɫk] (to rhyme with elk) by some speakers, [mɪɫk] (to rhyme with ilk) by others.

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

Regional variation[edit]

British Columbia[edit]

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.[44] Canadian raising (found in words such as "about" and "writer") is less prominent in BC than other parts of the country and is on the decline further, with many speakers not raising /aɪ/ before voiceless consonants.[citation needed] Younger speakers in the Greater Vancouver area do not even raise /aʊ/, causing "about" to sound somewhat like "a boat". The "o" in such words as holy, goal, load, know, etc. is pronounced as a back and rounded [o], but not as rounded as in the Prairies where there is a strong Scandinavian, Slavic and German influence.


Canadian raising is quite strong throughout the province of Ontario, except within the Ottawa Valley. The Canadian Shift, is also a common vowel shift found in Ontario. The retraction of /æ/ was found to be more advanced for women in Ontarians than for people from the Prairies or Atlantic Canada and men.[40]

In Southwestern Ontario (roughly in the line south from Sarnia to St. Catharines), despite the existence of the many characteristics of West/Central Canadian English, many speakers, especially those under 30 speak a dialect which is influenced by the Inland Northern American English dialect found on much of the American regions adjacent to the Great Lakes, though there are minor differences such as Canadian raising (listen to "ice" vs "my"). Additionally, there is a tendency to round the mouth after pronouncing the vowel "o" which is distinct from the General American Accent. Also, the vowel of "bag" sounds closer to "vague" or "egg"; "right" sounds like "rate"; and the "ah" vowel in "can't" is drawn out, sounding like "kee-ant".

The subregion of Midwestern Ontario consists of the Counties of Huron, Bruce, Grey, and Perth. The "Queen's Bush" as the area was called, did not experience communication with Southwestern and Central dialects until the early 20th century. Thus, a strong accent similar to Central Ontarian is heard, yet many different phrasings exist. It is typical in the area to drop phonetic sounds to make shorter contractions, such as: Prolly (Probably), Goin' (Going), and "Wuts goin' on tonight? D'ya wanna do sumthin'?" It is particularly strong in the County of Bruce, so much that it is commonly referred to as being the Bruce Cownian (Bruce Countian) accent. Also 'er' sounds are often pronounced 'air', with "were" sounding more like "wear".

Residents of the Golden Horseshoe (including the Greater Toronto Area) are known to merge the second /t/ with the /n/ in Toronto, pronouncing the name variously as [tʰoˈɹɒɾ̃o], [tʰəˈɹɒɾ̃o] or even [ˈtʰɹɒɾ̃o] or [ˈtʰɹɒɾ̃ə]. This, however, is not unique to Toronto as Atlanta is often pronounced "Atlanna" by residents. In Toronto and the other areas within the Greater Toronto Area, the th sound /ð/ is often pronounced [d]. Sometimes /ð/ is elided altogether, resulting in "Do you want this one er'iss one?" The word southern is often pronounced with [aʊ]. In the area north of the Regional Municipality of York and south of Parry Sound, notably among those who were born in the surrounding communities, the cutting down of syllables and consonants often heard, e.g. "probably" is reduced to "prolly", or "probly" when used as a response. In Greater Toronto, the diphthong tends to be fronted (as a result the word about is pronounced as [əˈbɛʊt] or ‘a-beh-oot’).

The Greater Toronto Area is diverse linguistically with 44 percent of its people holding a mother tongue other than English.[45] As a result Toronto has a distinct variation from other regions.[46] In Toronto's ethnic communities there are many words that are distinct; many of which come from the city's large Caribbean community. 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.[47] As a result Toronto shows a more variable speech pattern.[48]

In Eastern Ontario, Canadian raising is not as strong as it is in the rest of the province. In Prescott and Russell, parts of Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry and Eastern Ottawa, French accents are often mixed with English ones due to the high Franco-Ontarian population there. In Lanark County, Western Ottawa and Leeds-Grenville and the rest of Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry, the accent spoken is nearly identical to that spoken in Central Ontario and the Quinte area. Phrases such as "got it" is often pronounced as [ɡɔɾɪʔ]. Okay is often pronounced as [ɔɪke], while "hello" is often pronounced as [helo].

A linguistic exclave has also formed in the Ottawa Valley, heavily influenced by original Scottish, Irish, and German settlers, and existing along the Ontario-Quebec boundary, has its own distinct accent known as the Ottawa Valley twang or brogue).[49] Phonetically, the Ottawa Valley twang is characterized by the lack of Canadian raising as well as the cot–caught merger, two common elements of mainstream Canadian English. However, this accent is quite rare in the region today.[50]


Main article: Quebec English

English is a minority language in Quebec (with French in the majority), but has many speakers in Montreal, the Eastern Townships and in the Gatineau-Ottawa region. Uniquely, many people in Montreal distinguish between words like marry versus merry and parish versus perish,[6] which are homophones to most other speakers of Canadian English.Quebec also has French influence. A person with English mother tongue and still speaking English as the first language is called an Anglophone versus a French speaker, or Francophone. Quebec Anglophones generally pronounce French street names in Montreal as French words. Pie IX Boulevard is pronounced as in French, not as "pie nine", but as "pee-nuff". On the other hand, Anglophones do pronounce final d's as in Bernard and Bouchard; the word Montreal is pronounced as an English word and Rue Lambert-Closse is known as Clossy Street.

In the city of Montreal, especially in some of the western suburbs like Côte-St-Luc and Hampstead, 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:[51] 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 Anglophones, particularly of Greek or Italian descent, to use translated French words 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:

  • Cot-caught merger in effect, but toward a central vowel ä.
  • No Canadian Shift of the short front vowels
  • Pre-consonantal /r/ is sometimes (though rarely) 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.


Main article: Newfoundland English

The dialect spoken in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, an autonomous dominion until March 31, 1949, is often considered the most distinctive Canadian English dialect. Some Newfoundland English differs in vowel pronunciation, morphology, syntax, and preservation of archaic adverbial-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.[6]

Aboriginal north[edit]

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.[52]


  • When writing, Canadians will start a sentence with As well, in the sense of "in addition"; this construction is a Canadianism.[53]
  • In speech and in writing, Canadian English speakers permit (and often use) a transitive form for some past tense verbs where only an intransitive form is permitted in most other dialects. Examples include: "finished something" (rather than "finished with something"), "done something" (rather than "done with something"), "graduated university" (rather than "graduated from university").


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, in the open access edition as Dollinger, Brinton and Fee 2013.), 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 CEGEP 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.[citation needed]

Successive years of school are usually referred to as grade one, grade two, and so on. In Quebec, the speaker (if Francophone) will often say primary one, primary two (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/Nth.Irish Primary 1, Primary 2 or P1, P2, and Sth.Irish First Class, Second Class and so on.).[54] The year of school before grade 1 is usually called "Kindergarten", with the exception of Nova Scotia, where it 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").[55] As for higher education, only the term freshman (often reduced to frosh) has some currency in Canada.[55] 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 US) to refer to their results; usage is very mixed.[55]

Units of measurement[edit]

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, 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. Canadians measure property, both residential and commercial, in square feet exclusively. Fuel efficiency is less frequently discussed in miles per gallon, more 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 US, 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). In Saskatchewan, the term 'grid road' is used to refer to minor highways or rural roads, usually gravel, referring to the 'grid' upon which they were originally designed. In Quebec, freeways and expressways are called autoroutes.

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, Yellowhead Trail in Edmonton). 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, BC, to Blaine, Washington, USA or the Saint John Throughway (Highway 1) in Saint John, NB), 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.[citation needed]
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 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 Montréal 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,[citation needed] 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".[56] 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 licenced 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 specializes 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."[57] 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).[citation needed]

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:

  • Bachelor: bachelor apartment, an apartment all in a single room, with a small bathroom attached ("They have a bachelor for rent").[58] The usual American term is studio. In Quebec, this is known as a one-and-a-half apartment;[59] some Canadians, especially in Prince Edward Island, call it a loft.[60]
  • Camp: in Northern Ontario, it refers to what is called a cottage in the rest of Ontario and a cabin in the West.[61] It is also used, to a lesser extent, in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, as well as in parts of New England.
  • Fire hall: fire station, firehouse.[62]
  • Height of land: a drainage divide. Originally American.[63]
  • Parkade: a parking garage, especially in the West.[60]
  • Washroom:[64] 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.
  • Indian reserve, rather than the U.S. term "federal Indian reservation." Often shortened to reserve, especially when the meaning is clear from context; another slang variant of this term is the shortened res or rez.
  • 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-stream channel that rejoins a larger river, creating an island.

Daily life[edit]

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.[citation needed]
  • Cutlery, for silverware or flatware.
  • Serviette, especially in Eastern Canada, for a paper table napkin.[citation needed]
  • Tap, conspicuously more common than faucet in everyday usage.

The following are more or less distinctively Canadian:

  • ABM, bank machine: synonymous with ATM (which is also used).[65]
  • 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).[66][67] 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.[68] Couch is now the most common term; sofa is also used.
  • Dressing gown or Housecoat: 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."[69]
  • Flush: toilet, used primarily by older speakers throughout the Maritimes.
  • Garburator: (rhymes with carburetor) a garbage disposal.[70]
  • 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.[71] 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:[72] 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.[73] 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:[74] running shoes, especially in Western Canada.[75] Also used in Australian English[76] and Irish English.[77][78][79] Atlantic Canada prefers sneakers while central Canada (including Quebec and Ontario) prefers "running shoes".[80]
  • 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.

Food and beverage[edit]

  • 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 (though neither term is dominant in British English). "Soft drink" is also extremely common throughout Canada.
  • What Americans call Canadian bacon is named back bacon in Canada, or, if it is coated in cornmeal or ground peas, cornmeal bacon or peameal bacon.
  • What most Americans call a candy bar is usually known as a chocolate bar (as in the United Kingdom). 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.[81]
  • 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?"
  • 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".
  • 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.[82]
  • Canadianisms relating to alcohol:
    • 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, 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 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).
    • 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.
  • There are also genericized trademarks used in Canada:
  • Freezie: 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 (not unlike New England's Necco Wafers) sold in rolls. In Canada these are sold as "Rockets".

Prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta)[edit]

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
  • Bunny hug: elsewhere hoodie or hooded sweat shirt (mainly in Saskatchewan, but also in Manitoba)
  • Ginch/gonch/gitch/gotch: underwear (usually men's or boys' underwear, more specifically briefs; whereas women's underwear are gotchies), probably of Eastern European or Ukrainian origin. Gitch and gotch are primarily used in Saskatchewan and Manitoba while the variants with an n are common in Alberta and British Columbia.[83]
  • Jam buster: jelly-filled doughnut.
  • Porch climber: moonshine or homemade alcohol. Porch climber has a slightly distinguished 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.

British Columbia[edit]

British Columbian 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. However, among young British Columbians, almost no one uses this vocabulary, and only a small percentage is even familiar with the meaning of such words.[citation needed] In the Yukon, cheechako is used for newcomers or greenhorns.

Northern Ontario[edit]

Charles Boberg’s book The English Language in Canada may be heard to use positive anymore (as in, I spend a lot of time with my family anymore).

Northern Ontario English has several distinct qualities stemming from its large Franco-Ontarian population. As a result several French and English words that are used interchangeably. In Northern Ontario some people are found to pronounce the word "envelope" as Anvelop. A number of phrases and expressions may also be found in Northern Ontario that is not present in the rest of the province.[84]

Informal speech[edit]

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 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 US, especially in the northern states).

One of the most distinctive Canadian phrases is the spoken interrogation eh, which is commonly mocked by films such as South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, and treated more warm-heartedly within Canada itself by programmes such as The Red Green Show and The Royal Canadian Air Farce. 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. It is common in Northern/Central Ontario, the Maritimes and the Prairie provinces. The word eh is used quite frequently in the North Central dialect, so a Canadian accent is often perceived in people from North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

A Canadian-built Curtiss JN-4C "Canuck" training biplane of 1918, with a differing vertical tail to the original U.S. version

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, while the only Canadian-built version of the popular World War I-era American Curtiss JN-4 Jenny training biplane aircraft, the JN-4C, got the "Canuck" nickname, 1,260 of which were built. The nickname Janey Canuck was used by Anglophone women's rights 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.[85] 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 and is a euphemism for "loser" coming from the earlier days of hockey played on an outdoor rink and the losing team would have to hose down the ice after the game so it refreezes smooth. 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.[citation needed]

A Newf or Newfie is someone from Newfoundland and Labrador; 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.

Other Canadianisms[edit]

  • The code appended to mail addresses (the equivalent of the British postcode and the American ZIP code) is called a postal code.
  • 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 term aboriginal peoples (and sometimes spelled with a capital "A": "Aboriginal peoples") is preferred when all three groups are included. The term "Eskimo" has been replaced by the term Inuit in the past few decades. It is now considered offensive to use the term Eskimo, but is still used commonly (without pejorative intent) by those born in the early-mid-20th century.
  • "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 "bunkie" is a secondary building at these second homes that are small enough to require no building permits and house extra guests visiting.
  • 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[citation needed] 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).
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 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 hockey of removing gloves prior to fighting.

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Handbook of World Englishes 2nd ed. In Press
  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. ^ Boberg, Charles (2004). "Standard Canadian English." In Raymond Hickey. Standards of English: Codified Varieties Around the World. Cambridge University Press. p. 159.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Labov, p. 222.
  7. ^ Boberg, C: "Geolinguistic Diffusion and the U.S.-Canada Border", "Language Variation and Change", 12(1):15
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b Chambers, p. xi.
  10. ^ "Canadian English." 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. ISBN 0-521-26479-0, ISBN 978-0-521-26479-2. On 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)."
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ ("New-Dialect Formation in Canada. (2008). Dollinger, Stefan. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 978 90 272 31068 6. On p. 279"
  13. ^ "Labov, Ash, Boberg. 2006. The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton, ch. 15.
  14. ^ Chambers, p. xi–xii.
  15. ^ "Factors which shaped the varieties of English". Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
  16. ^ Sir Ernest Gowers, ed., Fowler's Modern English Usage, 2nd ed. (Oxford: OUP, 1965), 314.
  17. ^ a b Oxford Press and Katherine Barber (2001). The Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Toronto, Ontario: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-541731-3. 
  18. ^ Richard Gwyn, John A.: The Man Who Made Us, ([Place of publication not listed]: Random House Canada), 2007, pp. 3–4.
  19. ^ "Dollinger 2006". Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
  20. ^ a b MacPherson, William (31 March 1990). "Practical concerns spelled the end for -our". Ottawa Citizen. p. B3. 
  21. ^ a b Sellar, Don (8 March 1997). "Let's hear what the readers say". Toronto Star. p. C2. 
  22. ^ Allemang, John (1 September 1990). "Contemplating a U-turn". The Globe and Mail. p. D6. 
  23. ^ "Herald's move to Canadian spellings a labour of love". Calgary Herald. 2 September 1998. p. A2. 
  24. ^ Honderich, John (13 September 1997). "How your Star is changing". Toronto Star. p. A2. 
  25. ^ Labov, p. 214
  26. ^ Dollinger, Stefan (2012). "Varieties of English: Canadian English in real-time perspective." In English Historical Linguistics: An International Handbook (HSK 34.2), Alexander Bergs & Laurel J. Brinton (eds), 1858-1880. Berlin: De Gruyter. pp. 1859-1860.
  27. ^ Labov, p. 223-4.
  28. ^ Bill Casselman. "Zed and zee in Canada". Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  29. ^ J.K. Chambers (2002). Sociolinguistic Theory: Linguistic Variation and Its Social Significance (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  30. ^ The pronunciation with the stress on the second syllable is the most common pronunciation, but is considered incorrect by some people. - Canadian Oxford Dictionary
  31. ^ The pronunciation /ˈkɑrki/ was the one used by author and veteran Farley Mowat.
  32. ^ pecan ˈpi:kan, pi:ˈkan, pəˈkɒn - Canadian Oxford Dictionary
  33. ^ Vase. (2009). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 2009-03-03.
  34. ^ Barber, p. 77.
  35. ^ a b Labov p.218.
  36. ^ Boberg
  37. ^ Martinet, Andre 1955. Economie des changements phonetiques. Berne: Francke.
  38. ^ Labov p. 219.
  39. ^ Esling, John H. and Henry J. Warkentyne (1993). "Retracting of /æ/ in Vancouver English."
  40. ^ a b Charles Boberg, "Sounding Canadian from Coast to Coast: Regional accents in Canadian English."
  41. ^ 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."
  42. ^ Labov, p. 221.
  43. ^ Labov, p. 219.
  44. ^ Erin Hall "Regional variation in Canadian English vowel backing"
  45. ^
  46. ^ Labov pp. 214–215.
  47. ^ "" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
  48. ^ Labov p. 214–215.
  49. ^ Henry, Alison. 1992. Infinitives in a For-To Dialect. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 2, 279.
  50. ^ Chesire, Jenny. (ed.) 1991. English Around the World: Sociolinguistic Perspectives. New York: Cambridge University Press, 134.
  51. ^ Boberg, p. 36.
  52. ^ Lavov, 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 ..."
  53. ^ Trudgill and Hannah, International English (4th edition), p. 76.
  54. ^ American Speech 80.1 (2005), p. 47.
  55. ^ a b c American Speech 80.1 (2005), p. 48.
  56. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
  57. ^ Visible Minority Population and Population Group Reference Guide, 2006 Census from StatsCan
  58. ^ Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, "bachelor".
  59. ^ "". 
  60. ^ a b Boberg 2005.
  61. ^ Boberg 2005, p. 38.
  62. ^ "Fire hall – Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". 2010-08-13. 
  63. ^ Webster's New World College Dictionary, Wiley, 2004.
  64. ^ "". 
  65. ^ Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, ABM; Boberg 2005.
  66. ^
  67. ^ Chesterfield. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000
  68. ^ J.K. Chambers, "The Canada-U.S. border as a vanishing isogloss: the evidence of chesterfield." Journal of English Linguistics 23 (1995): 156-66.
  69. ^ Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, eavestrough; Oxford English Dictionary; American Heritage Dictionary.
  70. ^ According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (second edition), garburator is "Canadian" and garbage disposal is "North American."
  71. ^ Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, hydro.
  72. ^ Barber, Katherine, ed. (1998). The Canadian Oxford Dictionary (1st ed.). Toronto: Oxford University Press. p. .1075. ISBN 0-19-541120-X. 
  73. ^ "Pogey: What Does it Mean? Bonny, 2006" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
  74. ^ Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, runner.
  75. ^ American Speech 80.1 (2005).
  76. ^ Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary.
  77. ^ Sometimes the gym doesn't fix it, The Irish Times, Tuesday, January 06, 2009
  78. ^ Machismo . . . or masochism?, The Irish Times – Saturday March 22, 2008
  79. ^ Stars in the running, The Irish Times, Tuesday October 7, 2008
  80. ^ American Speech 80.1 (2005), p. 36.
  81. ^ "Decisions: Chocolate and Cocoa Products". Canadien Food Inspection Agency. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  82. ^ Arts – 'Double-double'? Now you can look it up
  83. ^, reference for gonch.
  84. ^ Stone, Laura (27 September 2011). "Looking for true Canadian English, there? Go north". Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  85. ^ "The Crazy Canucks: Canada's Skiing Heroes". Retrieved 2012-09-25. 

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]