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Canadian English

Canadian English is made up of the varieties of the English language native to Canada. There are two main official languages in Canada: English and French. There are also nine recognized regional aboriginal languages. English is the first language of approximately nineteen million Canadians out of a total population of thirty-five million.


Canadian English is the result of several waves of immigration that has lasted more than two centuries, and that continues to this day. The first large wave of permanent English-speaking settlers in Canada consisted of Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution in the late eighteenth century. Canadian English has been developing features of its own since the early nineteenth century, around the time of the second wave of English-speaking immigrants from England and Ireland who were encouraged to settle in Canada after the War of 1812. Immigration peaked in 1910. Canada is a very multicultural society with linguistic changes still occurring due to globalisation.

Aboriginal influences

The Inuit and First Nations (aboriginal) people from the vast regions in the north of Canada speak a dialect of Canadian English that is strongly influenced by their first language. Some words are now used all over the English-speaking world, for example ‘kayak’ comes for the Inuit word ‘Qajaq’. Common native names in Canada include ‘Ujarak’ (rock), ‘Nasak’ (hat/hood) and ‘Nanuq’ (polar bear).

Unique words and idioms

While Canadian English tends to share most of its vocabulary with American English, it has many words and idioms that are unique. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary is widely regarded as the definitive dictionary of these. Well-known examples include ‘fire hall’ (fire station), ‘washroom’ (public toilet), ‘gas bar’ (petrol/gas station), ‘booze can’ (an after-hours establishment where alcohol is served), ‘converter’ (remote control), ‘dart’ (cigarette), ‘loonie’ (Canadian one-dollar coin) and ‘poutine’ (a Canadian dish consisting of french fries topped with cheese curds and hot gravy).


Canadian spelling is closer to American than British spelling. Notable exceptions include the retention of the 'u' in words such as colour, labour and favour. Also, 're' is preferred over 'er' in words such as theatre and centre. The American spelling is preferred in words such as ‘curb’ and ‘tire’ (kerb and tyre in British English).

Please feel free to add your own examples of Canadian English to this post!