If you’re not from the New England region, you might feel like your New England friends are sometimes speaking an entirely different language! Well, it might not be a different language, but New England slang certainly is its own unique dialect.
There are differences in phrasing, vocabulary, and pronunciation around the region. You’ll hear the difference between a Mainer accent and a Connecticut accent, for sure!
Do you want to sound wicked cool during your next New England trip? Then you’ll want to brush up on your New England slang here!
A Guide to New England Slang
Some slang words in New England are found in some other parts of the country and even around the world, but most of these slang words are very New England-centric, so picking up on the New England dialect will help you feel more at home during your New England visit.
Regarding pronunication, there is a tendency to omit the “r” sound at the end of certain words, like car becomes “cah” and park becomes “pahk,” so if you’re in certain areas of New England and are struggling to understand a word, you might try adding an “r” sound to the end and see if that helps!
New England Slang Words
Looking for a water fountain to drink out of in New England, especially in the Greater Boston area? You might find one faster if you ask where the nearest bubbler is, and of course, that final “r” sound isn’t always needed in New England, so you can just go ahead and ask “is there a bubblah around here?”
Mint is New England slang for excellent, so it’s always a good thing if a thing or place is described as mint!
This New England phrase originated centuries ago when sailors combined the terms “down wind” and “easterly” while heading east with the wind at their backs from Boston to Maine. Today, it mostly refers to areas of coastal Maine from Penobscot Bay on up along the coast into Canada, and includes popular Maine places to visit like Bar Harbor and Acadia, and can be seen as either two words or one.
Known as sprinkles throughout the rest of the country, the little candied pieces that we add to our ice cream cones have been long called jimmies in New England. With a bit of a debate over the origin of the term and if it could possibly have dubious connotations (some claim it refers only to chocolate sprinkles, and therefore could potentially have a racist association), stories of its beginnings include being named after the employee who first made them and/or hearkening back to an English slang word of jim-jam, defined as “a trivial article or knick-knack.”
You can skip the controversy and just ask for sprinkles, though!
This New England slang word refers to a package store where you can buy alcohol, so if someone asks what they can get you from the packie, they’re asking what you’d like to drink.
If you’ve been to seafood restaurants in New England, it’s likely you’ve seen scrod listed on the menu from time to time, and perhaps you’ve wondered what the heck kind of fish is a scrod? Well, it’s not one type of fish, but refers to several different kinds of white fish, and was initially coined because chefs weren’t sure what kind of white fish would be fresh caught for the day, so they’d put scrod on the menu to indicate it could be haddock, it could be cod, maybe even pollack, but it will definitely be a white fish of some sort.
This New England slang word refers to cigarettes, not just the “butt” of the cigarette, but the entireity of the cigarette.
Known in other areas of the US as a roundabout or traffic circle, in Boston and beyond, this circular traffic flow is a rotary. Massachusetts in particular is known for having a ton of rotaries, and updates to directional signage have been happening over the last several years to increase safety and efficiency.
This is one of the more obvious New England slang words, but if you’re looking for a bargain for second-hand goods, you’ll want to look for local tag sales in New England, not yard sales, rummage sales, or garage sales.
Pockabook is commonly heard in Boston and nearby areas, and it is “pocketbook” in that distinctive Boston accent. A pockabook is not just a wallet style pocketbook, but can refer to any kind of purse.
Alright, this New England slang has been spreading for years and can be heard throughout the country, but it’s still a very distinctive New England way to describe something. Is it very cool or is it wicked cool? Wicked is a much more emphatic way to describe something than “very,” don’t you agree?
A grinder is the New England word for a sub sandwich, so if you’re looking to pick up a meaty sandwich to go, you’ll want to ask a local where to find the best grinder spot in the area.
This is an important one to note if you’re visiting Boston, because this Boston slang refers to coffee with sugar and cream, so if you order coffee in Boston “regular,” thinking it means sans sugar and cream, you’re going to be in for a surprise.
All around the country, a milkshake refers to a drink made with blended ice cream. Except in New England, where a milkshake has historically referred to a drink with milk and syrup, no ice cream. If you want a drink made with blended ice cream in New England, you want a frappe!
Now you know from above that the New England word for milkshake is frappe, and that’s how you get yourself a deliciously creamy ice cream drink in the region. Well, if you’re in Rhode Island, it’s often called a cabinet! So if you’re at a restaurant and see cabinets on the menu, no they’re not selling home improvement items.
More ice cream related New England slang! A creemee is a Vermont soft serve ice cream concoction that’s a little creamier than regular ice cream due to its higher butterfat content, resulting in a dreamy and delicious frozen treat that should be on your must try list of New England foods!
All around the United States, you’ll find different terms for how to describe the receptacle we use to gather our groceries before purchase. In the South, it’s a buggy. In the midwest and beyond, it’s a shopping cart. In New England? It’s a carriage!
Need to change the channel on the TV? In New England, you’re going to need the clicker, not the remote control.
In New England, barrel is another term for trash can or garbage can, so if someone asks you to run something out to the barrel, that’s what they’re asking for!
Tonic isn’t just the clear carbonated beverage commonly used as an alcohol mixer, at least not in New England. In New England, tonic often refers to all sorts of carbonated beverages, including standard soda options.
There are a few capes in New England, but if you hear someone mentioning “the Cape,” it is likely that they are referring to Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
This New England word is very common in Maine, and it’s another way to say yes or agree to something.
To the outside ear, this New England slang sounds like it could be referring to something unsavory or insulting, but in fact, pissah is another term for awesome or outstanding! So that’s pissah!
This New England slang is more common among the older generations, but you’ll still hear jeans being referred to as dungarees throughout the region!
If you’re looking for a rubber band to tie two things together in New England, you’ll want to ask if anyone has an elastic you can use.
An affirmation in New England, particularly in Vermont, yaulp is the perfect New England slang to say “yes.”
At this point, all around the country, most people have heard of Dunkin Donuts, but it originated in Massachusetts, and all around the state, you’ll hear it referred to lovingly as just Dunks.
This is one of those slang words in New England that you don’t want to be called. It always refers to someone who is not from the area, and often carries with it a negative meaning; a tourist who isn’t respecting the area they are visiting would be called a flatlander. This New England slang is commonly heard in Vermont and Maine.
You’ll hear this New England slang in Boston specifically, referring to East Boston, where Logan Airport is located.
Nope, this isn’t missing an -er and we’re not referring to the German location, but rather the New England word for ground beef!
Did someone from New England call you gawmy? Ouch. This New England slang word means awkward or clumsy, and is most commonly used in Maine.
Johnny is slang for a few things in different areas, but in New England, specifically in the Boston area, a johnny is a hospital gown!
This New England slang word is most commonly used in Maine, but it is another word for “stupid.” Maine is good with the insults, ayuh?
If someone tells you to just huck that thing away, they’re telling you to throw that thing away, as huck is New England slang for throw or chuck and can be used interchangeably.
Largely considered an insult, a masshole is someone from, not surprisingly, Massachusetts. It’s often used in the context of driving-related offenses, as in “some masshole cut me off right as I was about to turn.”
While parlor is a bit of an old fashioned word, it is still heard as New England slang – mostly in the Boston area – for living room, but of course, you won’t hear that ending “r” sound when someone tells you to head on into the pahlah.
Known in most places around the US as a porcupine, in the Northeast, it is commonly referred to as a quill pig, especially in states like New Hampshire and Maine. A quill pig sounds much more exciting than a porcupine, don’t you think?
This is a Boston-centric slang, but it refers to the neighborhood of South Boston.
This is one of those great New England-isms that might seem counterintuitive, but to unthaw in New England, is to thaw…. “Hey, could you pull that beef out of the freezer so it can unthaw?”
One of those instances where a brand name becomes ubiquitous for all things of that kind, like kleenex and bandaids, a hoodsie cup was originally a specific brand of ice cream served in a small cup with a wooden spoon, but now refers to all small ice cream cups with a wooden spoon. You also might hear a young girl being referred to in a derogatory manner as a “hoodsie,” or someone who is trying to appear older and more mature to attract male attention.
If someone tells you to watch for the staties on your drive, they’re telling you to watch out for the state troopers on the road so you don’t get busted for speeding. This is common in Massachusetts, specifically.
If you hear someone talking about The T, they’re talking about Boston’s public subway system!
If someone tells you to wait in their door yard for them in New England, they’re telling you to wait in the yard just outside their door. This New England slang word is often used in Maine.
New England Slang Phrases
So Don’t I
Now, you might think you know what this New England phrase means, but if you’ve not heard it in use, you might be off. So Don’t I doesn’t only mean “I also don’t like that thing,” but rather “I agree.” Confused? This is one of those New England-isms that takes a while to catch on to, but Yale might be able to help explain it a little better!
Do you live in a house with a basement? If you needed to run down and grab something, you’d probably say something like, “I’ve got to run down to the basement,” right? Not in New England. In many areas of New England, you’d be running down cellar, instead.
Bang a Uey
This New England slang phrase refers to making a u-turn, hence the interesting spelling of “uey.” It’s very commonly heard in Boston and surrounding areas.
Need a way to make a strong exclamation without taking anyone’s name in vain or using profanity? Well, if you’re in New England, especially the Vermont area, jeezum crow is it!
Need to call in sick for work or some other obligation? If you’re in the greater Boston area, you need to bang out.
Right Out Straight
If you’re in New England, particularly Maine, and you’re incredibly busy and a little flustered, you’re right out straight.
Stoved or Stoved Up
You’ll hear this in various areas around New England, but it is mostly heard in Maine, where to be stoved or stoved up is to be pretty damaged or messed up. It can refer to both people and inanimate objects.
There are, of course, so many other interesting aspects of the dialect of the region other than just New England slang words, but this list of popular and common slangs in New England is a good place to start!
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Amy Hartle is the owner and editor of New England With Love, a comprehensive resource for travel in the New England region. Amy lived in Vermont for 15 years, attended Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, and continues to travel regularly around the entire New England region. On this site, Amy aims to share her love of New England and help you to have the best possible adventures!
Amy has been a full time blogger since 2012, and is also the publisher of Two Drifters, where she writes about couples travel and relationships, as well as Let’s Adventure Baby, a family travel site. When not traveling the world or creating epic blog content, Amy can be found cuddling with her husband, son, and cats, & drinking a maple latte.