Toques, Mickeys and Runners, eh? A Transferee’s Guide to Canadianisms.

Welcome to Canada, land of toques, serviettes  and double doubles! Wait, what??

Canada is a special place, and with it comes a special set of phrases and words only spoken in The Great White North. Born-and-raised Canadians know and love their unique linguistic lexicon, but if you’re coming from another English-speaking country, say the U.S. or Great Britain, you may find yourself at a loss during conversations because somebody said a word you’ve never heard before. Things may get a little confusing, but don’t worry, with a little time, and a little help from the team, you’ll be ordering double doubles, sporting runners and finding a sport in a parkade like a native. Here’s a partial guide to Canadianisms to get you started.

Food and drink:


Backbacon: outside of Canada, and especially in the U.S., this cylindrical cooked bacon that is sliced thickly and trimmed is known affectionately as “Canadian Bacon.” But north of the border, we call it backbacon. No matter what you call it, this savory, meaty treat is the perfect addition to any meal.

Whitener: Some people drink their coffer black. Others prefer a few drops of cream or milk. In Canada, there’s another option: whitener. Known elsewhere as non-dairy creamer, this powdered alternative is named for how it looks – literally whitening coffee, team and other beverages.

Mickey: Only in Canada will you be able to purchase a mickey-sized bottle of liquor. It’s a 375-mililitre bottle of alcohol that most new Canadians have never seen before. A mickey is one of a few Canadian-centric measurements for alcohol. Others include the “two four” – a case of 24 beers, a “twenty sixes” – a 750-mililitre bottle of liquor, and a “forty-ouncer” – a 1.14 litres of liquor.

Double double: Originally popularized by the Canadian coffee chain Tim Horton, this is the way to order a coffee with double cream and double sugar is now used at virtually all coffee shops and cafes in Canada.

Homo milk: Only in Canada is “whole” milk referred to as homo milk. This popular abbreviation for  homogenized milk is found both in speech and on labels, and it refers to milk with 3.25 per cent butterfat.

Freezies: During Canada’s hot summers, you might find yourself enjoying freezies – the stepsister of the popsicle. This frozen fruit-flavored dessert is a lot like a popsicle, except instead of coming on a stick, it’s packaged in a plastic sleeve.



Toque: This word is a must-know for anyone enduring a cold Canadian winter. Historically Toques were a type of headwear popular in France and other parts of Europe from the 13th to the 16 century. Now, in other English-speaking nations, the toque refers to the headgear or professional cooks. But in Canada, we use the word to refer to knitted winter caps (a.k.a hats or “beanies”). Stay in Canada long enough and you’ll have a whole collection of toques.

Runners: You say running shoes or sneakers, we say runners! Strap them on when jogging though the natural beauty of Canada.

Housecoat: Here’s our word for robe or bathrobe – that comfortable article of clothing worn around the house in mornings, on weekends and after showers.

Track pants: This is our way of saying sweatpants. They’re a casual type of soft trousers usually made out of cotton and worn for sporting or comfort purposes. They are also quite warm, and great for bumming around the house on cold winter days.



College: In some English-speaking nations, the work college is interchangeable with university, and indicates a two-or four-year  higher education institution. But in Canada, college refers specifically to community college, and does not include universities.

Public school: This word has a couple of meanings in Canada. First, it predictable refers to the school system in Canada that is publicly funded by the government – from Kindergarten to public universities. But the term has another meaning – it is often used as a stand in for “primary school” or “elementary School.”

Supply teacher: It may sound a little strange at first, but a supply teacher is simply another term for “substitute teacher.”

Marking: The hard work of studying and taking the test is over. Now you just have to sit and wait until your teacher is done marking the exam. In other English-speaking country, teachers spend time “grading” papers and tests. But here in the Great White North, they are marking the exams.



Parkade: Some people love parkades for their convenience while others prefer to forgo the prices and look for on-street parking. Here in Canada, when we say parkade, we’re talking about “parking garages.” They are multi-level structures for parked cars, and a great way to keep your car snow-free in the winter.

Zed: This is what Canucks call the last letter of the alphabet. Americans may say “zee” but we take our cue from British English, and call a “Z” a zed.

Pencil Crayon: A favorite of aspiring young artists across the globe, pencil crayon is what we call “colored pencils” – narrow  pigmented wax cores encased in wood.

Serviette: If you’re coming from Britain, you know exactly what to use a serviette for, but if you’re arriving from the United States, it’s another story. Not to worry! A serviette is nothing more or less than a “napkin.”

Chesterfield: There are lots of alternative words for this one. Call it a sofa, a couch, a settee, divan or Davenport – Chesterfield is just another word for that comfortable piece of furniture found in most living rooms.

Eavestrough: An important one for any home owner. This is the Canadian terms for “rain gutter.” These handy house fixtures are attached to the edge of a roof and diverts water away from the house. Stay dry!


We at hope this newcomers’ guide to Canadianisms helps you understand your new home a little better!

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(Photos: Nimalan Tharmalingam, Tara Hunt, Sonin, Shane Global)




About Dobromir

Relocating to Canada was a difficult decision that turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. It’s important for me to find a work-life balance that satisfies my professional ambitions, my family life and my personal interests. Here in the cities of Canada, we work hard, but a trip to the ski slope with the kids, or a night of excellent dining and a theater production is never out of reach. At, we can help all your moving formalities (like planning your finances and finding the perfect home) run smoother, so you can begin to enjoy your new city even faster. // Se relocaliser au Canada a été une décision difficile mais qui s’est avérée être exactement ce que je recherchais. C’est important pour moi de trouver un équilibre entre travail/ vie personnelle qui puisse satisfaire mes ambitions professionnelles, ma vie familiale et mes intérêts personnels. Ici, dans les villes du Canada, nous travaillons dur mais un petit tour sur les pistes de ski avec les enfants ou une soirée avec un bon repas puis une pièce de théâtre ne sont jamais hors de portée. A, nous pouvons vous aider à faire toutes vos formalités de déménagement ( comme la planification de vos finances et trouver la maison idéale ) tout en douceur afin que vous puissiez commencer à profiter de votre nouvelle ville encore plus rapidement.