I’ve noticed that this blog is getting viewers from around the globe. As such, I’m sure there are terms I use in my posts that may not be clear to everyone.
This page will be updated periodically, so keep coming back to check! If there is a term you are not familiar with, let me know and I’ll add it. Feel free to let me know if the definitions below need more clarification.
24 SUSSEX DRIVE: The official residence of the Prime Minister of Canada in Ottawa.
49th PARALLEL: The 49th parallel of North latitude forms a large part of the border between Canada and the United States.
The 905: The suburbs to the west, north and east of Toronto, covered by the 905/289 telephone area code. This includes Halton, Peel, York and Durham regions but does not include Hamilton or the Niagara Region, even though they are part of the same area code.
ABM/ATM, BANK MACHINE – A common term for an automated bank machine. Most day-to-day banking functions may be performed at these machines.
ABORIGINALS – is used to describe all indigenous people in Canada. This usually refers to the Métis and the Inuit.
ACADIA – is easy to misunderstand because it has been changing for many years. But I will try to spell it out as simply as I can. Geographically it usually refers to region of Atlantic Canada. The area was mostly populated by Catholic and French-speaking people in the 1600s and early 1700s. Then, in 1755, most Acadians were deported to British colonies in what is now the United States; some either remained in the Maritime, or escaped to it; the rest returned to France.
AFRICAN CANADIANS (also known as Blacks) – During the 19th century, immigrants from Jamaica, or the United States, came to New France. It was common for many to escape slavery, in the first half of the 1800s, who came to Upper Canada through the Underground Railroad. Many settled in south-western Ontario during the 1840s and 1850s. Once free, some returned to the United States to fight with anti-slavery forces in the American Civil War.
ALASKA BOUNDARY DISPUTE OF 1903 – The U.S.-Canada argument began as a direct result of the Klondike Gold Rush. America bought Alaska from the Russians in 1867, and the U.S. assumed it had land ownership of various fjords along the coastline in what’s now called the Alaskan Panhandle. Canada’s government feared America would block access to the Yukon for would-be Canadian prospectors arriving by sea. The problem was brought before an international tribunal in 1903, which ruled mostly in favour of the Americans, but also agreed to give four islands in the region over to Canada. (See my post of Boundary Established for more on this).
ALBERTA CLIPPER – is a fast-moving winter storm that starts east of the Canadian Rockies and moves out over the Prairies. They are often followed by colder temperatures and strong winds which can produce blizzard conditions.
ALGONQUIN (ANISSINAPEK) – are Aboriginal people living in western Québec and eastern Ontario, centred along the Ottawa River. The Algonquin language is a dialect of Ojibwa, one of the Algonquin languages.
ALLOPHONE – means a person whose first language is neither of Canada’s official languages of English and French.
AMERICAN CIVIL WAR – is a war between the Northern and Southern United States, fought from 1861 to 1865. The main issue of contention was the issue of slavery. Britain and the North American colonies favoured the South in this conflict, which led to tension and several crises with the Northern government, and convinced many in British North America that Confederation was the safest route for the colonies to take.
AMERICAN REVOLUTION – is also known as the American War of Independence, and was from 1775 to 1783. Main reasons for the Revolution was discontent in the Thirteen Colonies regarding taxes, representation in government and limitations on growth set by British treaties. Soon after war broke out, two armies invaded the province of Québec, but were defeated. Most French Canadians remained neutral, while most in Nova Scotia, Île St. John (now Prince Edward Island) and Newfoundland were loyal to the Crown. In 1781, British forces were defeated and, in 1783, Britain recognized the independence of the United States in the Treaty of Paris. After the war, 40,000 Loyalist refugees moved north into what is now Ontario, Québec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. This formed the impetus of what would later become Canada.
AMNESTY ACT OF 1849 – The Amnesty Act, passed on February 1, 1849, granted a pardon to all participants of the 1837 and 1838 rebellions.
ANGLOPHONE – means an English-speaking person.
BACHELOR APARTMENT – Small apartments usually consisting of one large room that is the living, dining and bedroom combined. Also called a studio, or bed-sit apartment.
BEAVER – The Canadian national animal, it is a semi-aquatic rodent known for building dams. The beaver is pictured on the Canadian 5 cent coin (known as a nickel).
BILINGUAL – means the ability to speak both English and French, the two official languages of Canada.
BLACK ROD – is an ebony ceremonial baton or cane. Used to knock on the door of the legislative assembly chamber to ask permission to enter to read the Speech from the Throne or grant Royal Assent to bills.
BLIZZARD – is a major winter snowstorm with strong winds and heavy blowing snow with low visibility. The temperature may be just below freezing.
CHINOOK – is a warm, dry, gusty wind. The temperature rises quickly, sometimes up to 20°C in an hour. Southern Alberta gets an average of 20 to 30 Chinook days a year, often in the winter. The term chinook comes from an Indian word meaning “snow eater.”
BYTOWN – The original name of the city of Ottawa. It is often still used as a nickname for the city. Named after Colonel John By who is credited with founding the settlement that would become Ottawa.
C.P.R. – Canadian Pacific Railway.
CALGARY STAMPEDE – Annual event in Calgary, Alberta, the Stampede consists of a large festival and rodeo that brings hundreds of thousands of visitors every year in mid-July.
CANADA GOOSE – These large (approx. 100 cm in length) birds are considered a Canadian national symbol. These geese migrate South to the United States during winter.
CANCON – Short for Canadian Content, in reference to the requirement in Canada that Canadian radio and television broadcasters must air a certain percentage of Canadian content.
CANUCK – A slang term for “Canadian” in the U.S. and Canada.
CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) – The Canadian national television and radio broadcaster, is a national crown corporation. As the longest running broadcaster in Canada, and the first national network, CBC is an important source of news and entertainment for Canadians in both English and French.
CENTRAL CANADA – Regional term referring generally to the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
CHARTER, or CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS – Part of the Canadian constitution, the Charter protects the rights of Canadians.
CHESTERFIELD – A Canadian term for a sofa or couch. Though once quite common, this term is less used by the younger generations.
CHRETIEN, JEAN – The Right Honourable Jean Chretien served as the 20th Prime Minister of Canada from November 1993 to December 2003. Chrétien sat in the House of Commons for a total of 41 years, representing the Quebec riding of Saint-Maurice.
COMMONWEALTH – Canada remains closely tied to Britain through the Commonwealth of Nations, an organization of states that were once part of the British Empire.
CONFEDERATION – In 1867 the territories of Upper Canada (Ontario), Lower Canada (Quebec), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were joined together to become provinces in the new independent Dominion of Canada. This event marks the birth of Canada as an independent nation.
COWTOWN – A nickname for the city of Calgary. Refers to its roots as a hub of ranching, livestock trade.
CROWN – refers to the sovereign or to the power and authority of the monarchy, which have been delegated to the Governor General of Canada.
CURLING – A popular Canadian team sport that was invented in Scotland in medieval times. Played on an ice surface, players slide a “rock” along the ice aiming at a target area. Teams receive points for landing their rocks closest to the target. Canada is host to several well-respected international tournaments and has produced many successful competitors in the sport.
DIEFENBAKER, JOHN – The Right Honourable John Diefenbaker served as the 13th Prime Minister of Canada from 1957-1963.
DOUBLE-DOUBLE – A cup of coffee with two creams and two sugars.
EAVES TROUGHS – Grooves or channels that attach to the underside of the roof of a house to collect rainwater. Known in most other places as gutters.
FIRST NATIONS – This term is used to refer collectively to the group of indigenous nations located in what is now Canada. They are organized together in a national representative body known as the Assembly of First Nations.
FOX, TERRY – A Canadian humanitarian, athlete and cancer activist, Terry Fox became famous for his remarkable Marathon of Hope campaign. Having lost his right leg to cancer at the age of 18, Terry Fox began a campaign to run coast to coast across Canada to raise money for cancer research when he was 21. Terry Fox ran the equivalent of a marathon a day for 143 days before the spread of his cancer forced him to stop. As other volunteers took over the campaign, over $400 million has been raised in his name to date.
FRANCOPHONE – means a French-speaking person.
FREEZING RAIN – is rain that forms a thin layer of ice. It occurs any time between late October and early May. The ice caused by freezing rain can be very dangerous and make walking and driving extremely hazardous.
GASTOWN – The name for the old part of the city of Vancouver. The name comes from a contraction of a contraction of “Gassy’s town” after steamboat captain “Gassy” Jack Deighton.
GOVERNMENT HOUSE – refers to the official residence of the representative of the sovereign, either the Governor General of Canada or a provincial lieutenant governor.
GOVERNOR GENERAL – is the representative of the Queen of England, and is selected by the prime minister of Canada and appointed by the Queen. Also receives the title “Right Honourable,” which lasts for life, and “His Excellency” or “Her Excellency” for the duration of the term in office.
GRIZZLY BEAR – A powerful yellowish-brown bear native to Western Canada. The grizzly, due to its large and intimidating stature, is a very well-known animal in Canada.
GST – The Goods and Services Tax, a 6% charge on nearly all goods and services sold in Canada as a tax to the federal government. The tax was reduced from 7% to 6% in July 2006.
GTA – An acronym for the Greater Toronto Area, which includes Toronto, its surrounding suburbs, and some nearby cities. The GTA has a population of over 5.9 million people.
HABITANTS – A name used to refer to the French settlers of North America. With the short form habs, it is also a nickname for the Montreal Canadiens hockey club of the National Hockey League (NHL).
HALIGONIAN – A name for residents of the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
HARPER, STEPHEN – The Right Honourable Stephen Harper is currently serving as the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada. Born in Ontario, Harper represents Calgary in the House of Commons. He took over as Prime Minister in January of 2006.
HOCKEY – Canada’s national pastime, ice hockey is a favourite of Canadians to play and to watch (particularly the National Hockey League). Ice hockey is played on ice with a three inch diameter rubber disc called a puck between two teams of skaters consisting of a goaltender, two defence players and three forwards.
HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA(HNIC) – A popular broadcast of Saturday night National Hockey League games on CBC. The program is one of the highest-rated Canadian-produced regular television programs.
HOGTOWN – A nickname for the city of Toronto.
HOMO MILK – Homogenized milk, particularly with a fat content greater than 2%, usually 3.25%. Referred to in the U.S. as whole milk.
HOLLYWOOD NORTH – A reference to Toronto and Vancouver as major centers for Canadian film production.
HOUSE OF COMMONS – Canada’s lower house of parliament is known as the House of Commons. Canada’s government has a bicameral legislature, with the elected House of Commons, in which the Prime Minister sits, and the appointed Senate.
HUDSON’S BAY COMPANY – (HBC) Often referred to as The Bay, the Hudson’s Bay Company is currently a department store chain but also played a formative role in the settlement of Canada. HBC controlled the fur trade in British North America for several centuries, and controlled much of the territory which would become a part of Canada at Confederation.
HUMIDEX – is a combination of the temperature and humidity into one number. It is used to describe how hot or humid weather feels to the average person.
HYDRO – Commonly used as a synonym for electrical service. Many Canadian provincial electric companies generate power from hydroelectricity, and incorporate the term “Hydro” in their names.
THE INTERIOR – Term used by residents of British Columbia to refer to the area of the province away from the coast. Generally refers to most of the province outside of the Greater Vancouver area and Vancouver Island.
INUIT – A general term for the group of culturally similar indigenous groups that occupy the Arctic. Most of Canada’s Inuit peoples live in the newly created Canadian territory of Nunavut.
KRAFT DINNER (KD)– A popular brand of macaroni and cheese, sold in the U.S. as Kraft Mac and Cheese.
LACROSSE – Canada’s official national summer sport, lacrosse is a team sport similar to hockey. Lacrosse played by ten players, each of whom uses a netted stick (the crosse) in order to pass and catch a very hard rubber ball with the aim of scoring by propelling the ball into the opponent’s goal.
LAURIER, WILFRID – A formative leader in Canadian history, the Right Honourable Sir Wilfrid Laurier served as the 7th Prime Minister of Canada between July 1896 – October 1911.
LOON – The common loon, an aquatic bird the size of a large duck, is the national bird of Canada. Generally coloured black and white, loons are excellent swimmers, and display a great deal of stamina when migrating south for winter.
LOONIE – Canadian one dollar coin. The name comes from the loon that appears on one side of the coin.
LOWER CANADA – The original British Colonial name for the Province of Quebec.
LOYALISTS – At the time of the American Revolution, this group of Americans loyal to Britain left the newly-independent United States for Canada. Settling mostly in Atlantic Canada, many Canadians can trace their ancestry to this group.
LUMBER JACKET – A thick flannel jacket either red and black or green and black plaid favoured by blue collar workers and at one time, teenagers.
MACDONALD, JOHN, A. – The Right Honourable Sir John Alexander MacDonald was the first Prime Minister of the newly independent Dominion of Canada. He held this post from 1867-1973, and again from 1878-1891. Born in Scotland, MacDonald was knighted by Queen Victoria for his contribution to bringing about Canadian Confederation.
MAPLE LEAF – The national flag of Canada, the Maple Leaf was adopted in 1965, and was designed by George S. Stanley. Prior to its adoption Canada had used variants of the British Red Ensign. The flag features the leaf of the red maple tree.
MAPLE SYRUP – Made from the sap of the Maple tree, this sweet viscous substance is most often enjoyed with pancakes or waffles. Canada is responsible for 80% of the world’s maple syrup production.
MARITIMES – The region term for the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Newfoundland is not included in this group due to climatic and geographic differences.
MARTIN, PAUL JR. – The Right Honourable Paul Edward Philippe Martin served as the 21st Prime Minister of Canada from 2003-2006. Prior to becoming Prime Minister, Martin had a long tenure as Minister of Finance under Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
MÉTIS – The Métis Nation are one of three recognized Aboriginal peoples in Canada, along with the Inuit and the First Nations. The nation consists of descendants of marriages of Woodland Cree, Ojibway, Saulteaux, and Menominee aboriginals to French Canadian and/or British/Celtic settlers. Their history dates to the mid-seventeenth century. The majority of the metis in Canada live in the province of Manitoba.
MONARCHY – King, Queen, Emperor, Empress or equivalent. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of Canada and Canada’s head of state.
MOOSE – The largest member of the deer family, the moose make their homes in the boreal and mixed deciduous forests of Canada and the United States. The moose appears on the Canadian 25 cent coin.
MOUNTIE – Refers to a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canada’s national police force.
MULRONEY, BRIAN – The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney served as the 18th Prime Minister of Canada from 1984-1993.
MULTICULTURALISM: Canada was the first country in the world to adopt an official policy of multiculturalism in 1971. It is the official policy of Canada to support the preservation of the cultures of different ethnic groups. Under this policy Canada aims to be a “cultural mosaic”.
NANAIMO BAR – A confection named for the town of Nanaimo, British Columbia and made of egg custard with a Graham-cracker-based bottom and a thin layer of chocolate on top.
NICKEL – Canada’s 5 cent coin, traditionally made from nickel (though now 95% steel).
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT: This law passed in 1969 enshrines both English and French as Canada’s official languages.
OIL TOWN – A nickname for the city of Edmonton, Alberta. Edmonton is home to a large part of Alberta’s oil industry.
PARKADE – A parking garage, especially used in the West.
PEARSON, LESTER B. “MIKE” – The Right Honourable Lester Bowles Pearson served as the 14th Prime Minister of Canada from 1963-1968. Prior to becoming Prime Minister, Pearson received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his role in defusing the Suez crisis.
PEARSON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – In Toronto, Ontario, it is the largest airport in the country, and is named after former Prime Minister Mike Pearson.
THE PEG – Nickname for the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
PENCIL CRAYON – A coloured pencil.
POLAR BEAR – The polar bear, also known as the white bear, northern bear, or sea bear, is a large bear native to the Arctic.
POP – The common name for soft drinks or soda pop.
POUTINE – Popular in Quebec, a dish of french fries (or chips) topped with cheese curds and covered with hot gravy.
PRIVY COUNCIL – is an honorary body appointed by the Governor Genera. The group as a whole does nothing, and very rarely is called together. Members of the Privy Council are given the title “Honourable” for life, and use the initials P.C. after their names. (Prime ministers and chief justices of the Supreme Court receive the title “Right Honourable.”) Members of the Privy Council are honoured by half-masting of the flag on the Peace Tower of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa when they die. Historically, in most of my posts, the term Privy Council refers to private counsellors to the sovereign or governor general.
PUCK or HOCKEY PUCK – The object of play in the sport of hockey. Hockey pucks are circular disks made of vulcanized rubber.
QUIET REVOLUTION – A period of change in Quebec society in the 1960’s characterized by secularization and modernization.
RIDEAU HALL – is the official residence of the Governor General of Canada. It was built in 1838 for Thomas Mackay, an Ottawa mill owner who helped build the Rideau Canal. The residence was acquired by the federal government in 1867 and owned by the National Capital Commission.
THE ROCK – A nickname for Newfoundland.
ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE (RCMP) – The national police force, often referred to as “mounties”.
RUNNERS – Sneakers or running shoes.
SERVIETTE – A napkin. A small square of cloth or paper used while eating.
SNOWBIRDS – The term refers to Canadians, generally retired, who spend long periods of the winter escaping the Canadian cold by living in the Southern United States, particularly Florida.
STANLEY CUP: The trophy awarded to the champion team in the National Hockey League.
STEELTOWN: A nickname for the city of Hamilton, Ontario, due to the city’s large steel industry.
STORNOWAY – The official residence in Ottawa for the leader of the official opposition in government (the party with the second most seats).
STUDIO APARTMENT – Small apartments usually consisting of one large room that is the living, dining and bedroom combined. Also called bachelor or bed-sit apartments.
SUGAR SHACK – Also known by the French as “Cabane à sucre”, these traditional homes for maple syrup production are popular tourist destinations in Quebec. At the sugar shack one can sample a large variety of items made from maple syrup.
T DOT – A slang term for Toronto, Ontario.
TOONIE – Canadian two dollar coin. When Canada switched from a two-dollar bill to a coin in the 1990’s, this name emerged after the name “loonie” for the one dollar coin (which features the image of a loon).
The TRANS CANADA – The TransCanada highway, also called Highway 1, travels 7281 km from Victoria, B.C. to St. John’s Newfoundland. It is the world’s longest national highway.
TRUDEAU, PIERRE – The Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau served as the 15th Prime Minister of Canada from 1968-1979 and from 1980-1984. One of his most famous act in office was the repatriation of the constitution along with the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
TUQUE – A knitted winter hat. Tuque is a French word that has been adopted into Canadian English.
TWO-FOUR – Slang for a case of twenty four beers.
UPPER CANADA – The original British Colonial name for the Province of Ontario.
WAR OF 1812 – The War of 1812 was a two and a half-year military conflict between the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, its North American colonies and its Indian allies. The outcome resolved many issues which remained from the American War of Independence, but involved no boundary changes. The United States declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions brought about by Britain’s continuing war with France, the impressment of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion, outrage over insults to national honour after humiliations on the high seas, and possible American interest in annexing British North American territory (part of modern-day Canada) which had been denied to them in the settlement ending the American Revolutionary War.
WESTERN CANADA – Regional term referring to the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and sometimes Manitoba.
WINDCHILL – is a temperature number to indicate what it would feel like on a calm day. For example, if the temperature is -5°C and the wind chill is -20, it means your face will feel as cold as it would if the temperature was -20°C.
For a more concise list and description, you will find that Canada in the Making from Canadiana.ca offers more than what I offer here. So if you can’t find it here, chances are good that they cover it. If not, just write a comment below, and I’ll see what I can do!