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Blog9 Canadian Slang Words and Phrases You Should Know

9 Canadian Slang Words and Phrases You Should Know

Written by E-QIP on June 25, 2020

E-QIP welcomes dozens of students through its doors every year who come to Montreal from abroad to learn our languages and experience the culture of Montreal. Many of these students come here with dreams of improving their English or French (or both) and leave fluent in another language altogether: (English) Canadian slang. 

Yes, even the native English-speaking students who spend time in Canada are likely to pick up a few “only in Canada” slang terms, some of which are used more often than others. 

Whether you’re planning to study in Canada in the future or you’re already here (and still trying to make sense of our slang), here’s a crash course in Canadian slangs, featuring a small sampling of commonly-used terms. 

Canadian Slang Words and Phrases You Should Know

Loonies and toonies 

This is likely one of the first Canadian-only terms you’ll encounter (unless you pay for everything by debit or credit card, that is). ‘Loonie’ is the nickname for a Canadian one-dollar coin, so named for the loon, a water-dwelling bird common in Canada, that appears on it. When the country introduced the two-dollar coin in the 1990s, the nickname “toonie” developed as a portmanteau of two and loonie (for that reason, some people spell it “twonie”, but we prefer the less awkward-looking accepted spelling of toonie).

For other coins, the nicknames are the same as those used south of the border in the US: quarter for 25-cent coins, dime for 10-cent coins, nickel for five-cent coins and penny for (the now-discontinued) one-cent coins. 


Canadian Slang Words and Phrases You Should Know

A term you’ll definitely want to be familiar with before winter comes! While elsewhere (as in France) the name might refer to a hat worn by those in culinary or judicial professions, in Canada, a toque (pronounced “too-k”) is a knit cap worn in winter, often referred to in other English-speaking countries as a beanie, and usually one with a pom pom on top. While “toque” is the most common spelling, it can also be spelled as tuque or touque

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All you need to do is take one step outside the building E-QIP occupies in downtown Montreal to see the source of this term first-hand: Timmies (or simply Tims) is a nickname for Tim Hortons, the popular coffee and doughnut chain that’s found throughout the country. While at Timmies, you might order a “double-double” (a coffee with two sugars and two creams) or a “timbit” (a doughnut hole) in chocolate glazed, jam-filled, birthday cake or a variety of other flavours. 

Chocolate bars 

This is exactly what it sounds like: a bar of chocolate, referred to in other English-speaking countries as a candy bar. If you ask us, the Canadian name makes a lot more sense (it’s not a bar of gummies or hard candy we’re discussing here, is it?), but we digress. Popular Canadian chocolate bars include Caramilk, Coffee Crisp and Crunchie. 

Pop and soft drinks 

While we’re on the topic of junk food, knowledge of these terms will help you avoid confusion if you ever try to order a Coke in Canada: pop is the term most Canadians outside of Quebec use to refer to soda. The term pop is also used in a few regions in the US, while English speakers in Quebec prefer “soft drink”, a term that is easily recognizable, if slightly less common, to other Canadians. 

Keener Canadian Slang Words and Phrases You Should Know

We won’t judge you if you love your E-QIP classes so much that you end up being labelled a keener! This term for a person who is extremely eager and enthusiastic comes (naturally) from the adjective keen, and is mostly used in Canadian English.

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If someone tells you that it’s about 250 klicks from Montreal to Quebec City, they’re describing the distance in kilometres. Klicks comes from a military term for a kilometre; its usage became popular with American soldiers during the Vietnam War, although its use never caught on in the rest of the US, which still uses miles rather than kilometres to measure distance.

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