Southern Slang Dictionary

Summer Solstice on Flatside Pinnacle
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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

  • Am not: are not: is not
  • Have not: has not
  • 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

  • A resident or native of Arkansas.
  • 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

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 a 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

  • Count Example: To reckon the days till Christmas 
  • To regard or think of as: Consider
  • 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

A 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, a 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 surprise. 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

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

The 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."