Southern Slang Dictionary

Summer Solstice on Flatside Pinnacle
••• A sunset from Flatside Pinnacle, part of Arkansas' Ouachita Mountains. Linda Henderson/Getty Images

The Southern Slang Dictionary will help you avoid confusion if you are planning to visit the South. These are some of them most common (and not so common) Southern slang terms heard in Arkansas. After you're done, brush up on some Southern manners and learn how to pronounce these commonly mispronounced Arkansas names.

Ain't

Pronunciation: 'Ant
Etymology: contraction of are not
Date: 1778
1: am not : are not : is not
2: have not : has not
3: do not : does not : did not (used in some varieties of Black English)

Air-Up

Function: Verb
To pressurize or inflate. Example: "Air-up your car tires before you go on a long trip."

A larking

Function: Verbal phrase
Originates from the word "lark" which means to engage in harmless fun or mischief. To go a larking means to play a prank or joke on someone.

All y'all

Etymology: Intensive form of y'all
This usage states "you all" more emphatically. For example, saying "I know y'all," would mean that one knows a group of people; saying, "I know all y'all" would mean that one knows the members of the group individually.

Arkansas toothpick

Function: Noun
A large knife.

Arkansawyer, Arkansan, Arkie

Function: Adjective or noun
1: A resident or native of Arkansas.
2: Referring to a resident or native of Arkansas.  Residents who refer to themselves as Arkansawyers commonly proclaim, "There is no Kansas in Arkansas." when you call them Arkansans.

Bowed Up

Function: Colloquialism
Marked by impatience or ill humor.

Refers to the way a snake bows up his head before he strikes.

Bread Basket

Function: Colloquialism
Stomach.

Cattywampus

Function: Adjective
Askew. Example: The storm knocked the boat cattywampus and it started to take on water.

Chief Cook and Bottle Washer

Function: Colloquialism
A person capable of doing many things.

Darn tootin'

Function: Colloquialism
For sure. Correct. "You're darn tootin', that is oil."

Egg on

Function: Verbal phrase
To urge to do something. Example: "He only did it because the crowd egged him on."

Figure

Function: Verb
To calculate, consider, conclude or decide. Example: "He hadn't figured on winning the lottery."

Fit As A Fiddle

Function: Colloquialism
In good shape, healthy.

Fit to be tied

Function: Colloquialism
Angry.

Fixin'

Function: Verb
To get set: be on the verge Example: We're fixin' to leave soon.
Function: Noun
Customary accompaniments. Example: We had a turkey dinner with all the fixins.

Frog Gig

Function: Noun
A pole used to spear frogs for cooking.
Function: Verb
The act of hunting frogs for meat. Often called "frog gigging."

Goobers

Function: Noun
Peanuts.

Grab A Root

Function: Colloquialism
Have dinner. "Root" refers to potatoes.

Grits (Hominy Grits)

Function: Noun
Hominy or plain corn that's been ground until it has the consistency of coarse sand. It's used as a side dish, a breakfast cereal, or as an ingredient in baked goods.

Hankering

Etymology: probably from Flemish hankeren, frequentative of hangen to hang; akin to Old English hangian
Function: Noun
A strong or persistent desire or yearning often used with for or after.

 Example: I have a hankering for fried okra. I've really been craving it."

Heap

Function: Noun
A large quantity. Example: Billy got into a heap of trouble when he stole his dad's car.

Hear tell

Function: Verbal phrase
A form of "hear it told." Often conveys that the information was passed second hand. Example: "I hear tell that the new mini-mall is going up next month."

Hoecake

Pronunciation: 'hO-"kAk
Function: Noun
Date: 1745
A small cake made of cornmeal.

Hominy

Pronunciation: 'hä-m&-nE
Function: Noun
Etymology: Virginia Algonquian -homen, literally, that treated (in the way specified)
Date: 1629
Kernels of corn that have been soaked in a caustic solution (as of lye) and then washed to remove the hulls.

Horse sense

Function: Colloquialism
Smart. Example: She has horse sense. She'll make it in business.

Howdy

Pronunciation: 'hau-dE
Function: Interjection
Etymology: alteration of how do ye
Date: 1712
Used to express greeting.

Hush puppies

Function: Noun
A Southern food made with cornmeal. They are small, round balls of cornbread and spices that are deep fried and often served with fish. These were originally fed to dogs to quiet their begging at the table.

Hunkey Dorey

Function: Adjective
Everything is great.

June bug

Function: Noun
Date: 1829
Any of numerous rather large leaf-eating scarab beetles (subfamily Melolonthinae) that fly chiefly in late spring and have larvae that are white grubs which live in soil and feed chiefly on the roots of grasses and other plants. Also called june beetles.

Laying out [all night]

Function: Verbal phrase
Staying out all night, often drinking of doing something illicit. Example: "I was laying out at the bar last night so I had a hangover."

Lazy man's load

Function: Colloquialism
A lazy man's load is an unmanageably large load carried to avoid making more than one trip. This colloquial phrase is often used to indicate that someone is too lazy to think properly. Example: 'Sam took a lazy man's load of groceries out of the car and ended up spilling them all over the sidewalk."

Lickety split

Function: Colloquialism
Very quick.

Like to

Function: Adverbial phrase
Almost. Example: "I like to pee my pants when that car hit me."

Nearabout

Function: Adverb
Almost. Example: "I nearabout ran over that squirrel in the road."

No 'count

Function: Contraction
Of no account; good for nothing.

Nuss

Function: Verb
To nurse. Example: "She nussed the sick dog to bring it back to health."

Okie or Sooner

Function: Noun
A resident or native of Oklahoma.

Okra 

Function: Noun
A green, cylindrical vegetable that is often fried in the South.

Ornery

Pronunciation: 'or-n&-rE, 'är-; 'orn-rE, 'ärn-
Function: Adjective
Inflected Form(s): or·neri·er; -est
Etymology: alteration of ordinary
Date: 1816
Having an irritable disposition.

Out of kilter

Function: Colloquialism
Not right. Out of sorts. Example: John was out of kilter for a while when he was relocated to New York."

Pack or Tote

Function: Verb
To carry.

Particular

Function: Adjective
Concerned over or attentive to details: meticulous.

People

Function: Noun
Relatives, kinfolk. Example: "Shelly went to see her people on vacation."

Piddlin'

Function: Adjective
Small or inferior. Example: "His work only gave him a piddlin' 1% raise. Function: Adverb
Poorly. Example: "She felt piddlin' so she didn't go to school."
Function: Verb
To waste time. Example: He spent all his time piddlin' and never got anything done."

Poke, Pokeweed, Poke Salad

Function: Noun
A type of salad often eaten in the South. Pokeweed can be toxic if not chosen and prepared properly.

Possum Pie

Function: Noun
A meat pie made from possum. This is not actually eaten in Arkansas!

Purdy

Function: Adjective
Pretty.

Rag-baby

Function: Noun
A doll.

Reckon

Function: Verb
Etymology: Middle English rekenen, from Old English -recenian (as in gerecenian to narrate, akin to Old English reccan
Date: 13th century
1: Count Example: To reckon the days till Christmas 2: to regard or think of as : Consider 3: Think, suppose Example: "I reckon I've outlived my time -- Ellen Glasgow"

Redneck Caviar

Function: Noun
Potted meat.

Right

Function: Adjective
Very. Example: "You're right near the street you want to be on."

Rile

Function: Transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): riled; ril·ing
Etymology: var. of roil
Date: 1825
To make agitated and angry : Upset

Ruther

Function: Verb
Form of rather.

Scarce As Hen's Teeth

Function: Colloquialism
Rare or scarce.

Sho 'Nuff

Function: Contraction
Sure enough.

Show

Function: Noun
A movie.

Shuck

Function: Verb
To remove the outer covering of a nut, corn or shellfish.

Skedaddle

Function: Verb
Run, scatter.

Slap your pappy

Function: Colloquialism
To pat your stomach.

Snug As A Bug

Function: Colloquialism
Comfortable, cozy.

Tarnation 

Function: Noun
Etymology: alteration of darnation, euphemism for damnation
Date: 1790
Used to indicate surprise, shock, displeasure, or censure.

Tarred and Feathered

Refers to the practice of tarring and feathering people who committed small crimes such as distilling in colonial America (and in England). Today, it is often used to denote great suprise. Example: "I'll be tarred and feathered, that dog just flew!"

That dog won't hunt

Function: Colloquialism
The idea or argument won't work.

Tore up

Function: Adjectival phrase
1: Broken. 2: Upset. Example: He was tore about wrecking his new Corvette. Tote
Pronunciation: 'tOt
Function: Transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): tot·ed; tot·ing
Etymology: perhaps from an English-based creole; akin to Gullah & Krio tot to carry Date: 1677
To carry by hand : bear on the person

Trotline

Function: Noun
A long line on which short lines are attached, each with a hook, for catching catfish. Some times mispronounced as trout line.

Tump

Function: Verb
Etymology: perhaps akin to British dialect tumpoke to fall head over heels Date: 1967
To tip or turn over especially accidentally.

Uppity

Function: Adjective
Conceited.

Varmint

Function: Noun
Etymology: alteration of vermin
Date: 1539
An animal considered a pest; specifically : one classed as vermin and unprotected by game law.

Walking on a slant

Function: Colloquialism
Drunk.

War between the States; War for Southern Independence; War of Northern Aggression

Function: Noun
The Civil War

Washateria

Variant(s): also wash·e·te·ria /wä-sh&-'tir-E-&, wo-
Function: Noun
Etymology: wash + -ateria or -eteria (as in cafeteria)
Date: 1937
chiefly Southern : a self-service laundry

Whup or whoop

Pronunciation: 'hüp, 'hup, 'hwüp, 'hwup, 'wüp, 'wup
Function: Verb
Variant of "to whip". To hit or spank.

Y'all

Pronunciation: 'yol
Function: Contraction
Ye all or you all.

Yaller dog

Function: Colloquialism
A coward.

Yankee

Function: Noun
Someone from the North.

Yeens

Function: Contraction
Ye ones. Example: "Yeens better go before you're late."

Yonder

Function: adverb
Etymology: Middle English, from yond + -er (as in hither)
Date: 14th century
At or in that indicated more or less distant place usually within sight.

Your druthers is my ruthers

Function: Colloquialism
"Your preferences are mine," "We agree."