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Montreal slang
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29 slang words every Montrealer should know

These Montreal slang terms are things you’ll only hear in the city, plus some turns of phrase you should probably avoid

Isa Tousignant
Written by
Gregory Vodden
Isa Tousignant

Every city has a language within a language that can be tricky to navigate for newcomers, and that goes double for Montreal slang. Our mixing and mingling of both French and English has given rise to a bunch of terms used on both sides of the language divide that can sometimes make things confusing (hot dogs included). We’re here to lend a hand, offering up a list of our local phrases and terms so you can brush up on your slang (if you’re from here) or pass yourself off for a local (if you’re not) and get on every Montrealer’s good side—that, or at least figure out what the hell we’re talking about so you can join in on the fun.

Full guide to the best things to do in Montreal

Our favourite Montreal slang

1. All-dressed

Anglo-Montrealers poached this term as a direct translation from “toute garnie” as early as the mid-70s and it was initially used to refer to a slice of pizza with everything on it. These days it’s universally used when ordering hot dogs, burgers, shawarmas, or pretty much anything else you want fully loaded with all the standard toppings.

2. Bonjour-Hi

An unofficial greeting used by many Montrealers (especially retail employees when greeting customers) as a quick way to signify knowledge of and willingness to use either French or English to communicate. Although provincial government officials have considered banning its use in favour of a French-only greeting, it’s grown so popular in recent years that no government has yet dared.


3. Dep

Likely one of the first slang terms you’ll encounter when you’re new to Montreal, a “dep”—short for dépanneur, the French term for repairman or troubleshooter—is a convenience store, or corner store, for everyday basics. These can include snack foods, toilet paper, pantry items, cigarettes, and most notably, beer and wine. Most deps normally open around 7 am and close at 11 pm (which just happens to be the window during which it’s legal to sell alcohol). The origin of the term isn’t certain, but one theory suggests they’re called dépanneurs because they “dépanne” you, i.e. get you out of a bind thanks to the last-minute supplies they offer.

4. Autoroute

In Quebec, anglophones and francophones alike use the word autoroute when speaking about the highway and freeway systems. The word itself is a portmanteau of auto and route (the French terms for car and road respectively), much like the English term motorway. 


5. La bise

La bise is an informal French term for a kiss, but also refers to a common physical greeting that can really fluster outsiders in the city. La bise is a customary Montreal greeting where friends, families and even coworkers will plant a pair of kisses on each other’s cheeks by way of a hello instead of a stodgy handshake. Your best bet is to wait for someone to initiate. Most aim for the left cheek first. You’ll likely embarrass yourself the first few times around, but you’ll get the hang of it. It’s a rite of passage.

6. Casse-croûte

The term we use when speaking about our beloved snack-bars, casse-croûtes are found all over Quebec and serve up traditional Québécois-style hot dogs, hamburgers, and of course, poutine.


7. Guichet

Montrealers and Québécois alike will use this term to refer to bank machines or ATMs (automated teller machines.)  The term loosely means window or counter in French and is a reference to physical brick-and-mortar bank locations where you would approach a bank teller’s countertop (usually with a small window) to perform your transactions.

8. Poutine

While you’re likely already familiar with the word poutine as the dish comprised of French fries, smothered in brown gravy and dotted with fresh cheese curds, chances are you might be pronouncing it wrong if you’re not from here. Unfortunately, it’s not even as simple as mimicking the French pronunciation. Francophones will generally pronounce it pou-tsin (hard t there), and the generally agreed upon native anglophone pronunciation is pou-tin, while English speaking visitors often pronounce it pou-teen. While it might seem like a minor detail, it’s a dead giveaway that you’re from out of town.


9. Apartment lingo

If you or someone you know is planning on moving here, you’re going to come up against our confusing apartment lingo pretty quickly. Montreal’s apartment terms are more or less a system of counting how many separate pieces or rooms an apartment contains. So, a 1 ½ would be a single-room studio apartment with a separate bathroom (represented by the ½), while a 4 ½ represents 2 bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom.  It might not always make sense, but it’s how things are done and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone to discuss apartments in any other way.

10. Neighbourhood nicknames

If you’re not from here, or even not from the neighbourhood in question, you may be surprised by the short-hand people have for neighbourhoods like DDO (Dollard-des-Ormeaux), NDG (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce), RDP (Rivière-des-Prairies), the Point (Pointe-Saint-Charles) and HoMa or Hoshlag (Hochelaga-Maisonneuve).



11. Money talk

Loonies, toonies: it’s rudimentary but it bears explaining. Currency in Montréal is multicoloured, with paper bills (actually made out of plastic) whose denominations are each a different pastel hue of the rainbow. Add to that $1 and $2 denominations, which come in the form of coins, and they’re termed, respectively, a loonie (because of the loon that’s imprinted in our dollar coins) and toonies (because of, well, two for $2).

12. Branded shoptalk

Montreal has a special lingo for some household brands. Timmies, for example, is short for Tim Hortons, a Canadian-only coffee shop chain where the most common order is a double-double, i.e. coffee with two sugars and two milks. McDô is McDonald’s, expressed with a Québécois accent even in English. BK lounge is Burger King, KD is short for Kraft mac’n’cheese, PFK is Kentucky Fried Chicken (an acronym of the French, Poulet Frit Kentucky). The list goes on! If you’re wondering, just ask.


13. Coordinates

If you’ve never heard for someone asking for someone else’s coordinates in Montreal, they’re probably not asking for their longitude and latitude. Rather, this term comes from the French term coordonnées, which francophones will use when asking for someone’s contact information like an email address, phone number, etc. 

14. Construction Holiday

This Quebec-ism comes from the 1970s when the Quebec government decided to legislate an annual holiday for the construction industry that begins on the second-last Sunday of July and lasts for two weeks. The construction holiday continues to this day, but in addition to construction workers, many other Quebecers take off the same two-week period, making it by far the most popular time for summer vacations in the province.


15. Moving Day

Same idea as Construction Holiday: in Montreal, unlike most other global cities, leases (nearly) unilaterally begin on July 1. That means that it’s the maddest day of the year, with every moving company in the city fully booked, every parking spot blocked off with ropes for incoming or outgoing residents, and every home-hopping person unwashed, unkempt and stressed. Stay home (if you’ve got one)!

16. Terrasse 

It’s like terrace, but more chic. Terrasse [térâss] is the word every Montrealer, anglophone and francophone, uses to mean the outdoor spaces of restaurants, cafés and bars that pop up in the first light of spring and take centre-stage in our social lives until the frigid season begins again. Don’t use it to refer to your home deck or patio—that’s not worthy. A terrasse is by definition a social space.


17. Yeah-no-for sure

It’s a typical Montreal expression, with a lot of alternatives: yeah-yeah-no-no, uh-huh-yeah-for-sure, no-no-totally, to name but a few. It may stem from our apologetic Canadian hesitation to fully espouse a strong opinion, but it’s also VERY emphatic, so we get there in the end! It means hell yeah, absolutely, without a doubt.

18. Sorry

This is a low-blow entry, a Canadian stereotype, even, but Montreal is no exception: If you bump into someone in the street or grab their coffee by mistake in the Starbucks lineup or unwittingly steal their husband, it’s sorry, not excuse me or pardon, that you’ll hear here. It rolls off the tongue and is used way too frequently for inconsequential things, but it also only goes so deep. Think of it as a tick. 


19. Ben là

One of the many French expressions that’s made its way into the English language, ben là [bayh lā] literally means “well there” in French, but expresses exasperation, surprise and outrage. It’s like: “And then he ran and told my boss!” To which one might reply: “Ben là! Why’d he do that?”

20. Enwaye

You’ll hear this sprinkled among English speech, but it’s straight from French slang, meaning “go on.” It’s used in both languages as an expression of encouragement, or even goading: “C’mon, let’s go for a nightcap!” “Enwaye!” You’ll get extra points if you extend it to enwaye don, the more enthusiastic version.


21. Genre

Genre is both literally and figuratively the Québécois version of “like”, the way it’s peppered into conversation as an expression of doubt or comparison. It’s like, genre, well, like, conversation filler. Don’t be surprised to hear it spoken by both anglos and francos.

22. Kespasse

Just got greeted in gibberish? Worry not, it’s well intentioned. Kespasse [kesspäss] is a butchering of the French words “Qu’est-ce qui se passe?”, which translate as “What’s goin’ on?” It’s everywhere in local French and has made its way into casual English too.


23. Lessgo

You got it, it’s “let’s go” but pronounced à la Québécoise. Local anglos use it occasionally to pep each other up, like before heading to the club when you’re kind of melted onto the couch, it’s time for a loud lessgo!!

24. J’te jure

The casual French expression of “I swear” is great slang for anglophones as well because it expresses a unique kind of emphasis. When you’re meaning “OMG this is unreal, I swear it’s true even though it’s unbelievable!”, throw in a j’te jure [chtejür].


25. Eh

It’s as Canadian as beer—it’s the punchline of every American sitcom’s Canadian episode! But it’s also a rudimentary expression that’s so often misunderstood. Eh isn’t used aggressively, or every two words like the clichés portend, but rather as the interrogatory end to a sentence. As in: that was such a great show, eh?

26. Tuque

In Montreal, it gets cold. We know winter hats. Never call it a beanie. It’a tuque [tūhk].


27. SAQ

This is the most basic of acronyms that you will, guaranteed, hear in nearly every conversation you have in Montreal, including your very first! The SAQ (pronounced: "sack") is the liquor store, and in a city of lushes, it is everything. It stands for Société des Alcools du Québec, and since we can’t buy any legit good wine or stronger spirits in deps, the SAQ is where it’s at. Luckily SAQs are dotted all over the city, but beware their closing hours—some are open until 9, while others close ludicrously early.


And what NOT to say when you’re in Montreal


Literally, “hot dog.” This term is a direct translation from English and is the official way the office québécois de la langue française would prefer everyone to talk about hot dogs, which is precisely why no one does. While the term hot dog is probably the most frequently used term on the island (even in French), the informal French term roteux is also widely used and would definitely come in close second, but no one—and we mean no one—in any seriousness ever says chien-chaud.


Another food-related term we’ve heard used by try-hard tourists, the term hambourgeois is an archaic (albeit cute) term for a hamburger that positively no one uses anymore. Again, the reason for it falling out of favour stems primarily from the fact that it was created specifically to try to prevent the English term from gaining traction in everyday French usage. These efforts, of course, were completely unsuccessful, and these days most francophones will call a hamburger un burger. While people will probably know what you’re talking about if you decide to use hambourgeois, they’ll likely think you’re a spy for the language police rather than a hip, longtime Montrealer.

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