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 the most common (and not so common) Southern slang terms heard in Arkansas, throughout the South. 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 have 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.

    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. Sometimes 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."