Southern Slang Dictionary

The Southern Slang Dictionary will help you avoid confusion if you are planning to visit the South. Use this slang dictionary to help you to understand what’s going on all over the South.

These are some of them most common (and not so common) Southern slang terms I hear in Arkansas.  Be sure to check the Arkansas pronunciation guide too.

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

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

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.”

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

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.”

Function: Noun

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.

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.”

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.”

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

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.

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 — called also 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.”

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

No ‘count
Function: Contraction
Of no account; good for nothing.

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.

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

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.

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

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

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 to my knowledge!

Function: Adjective

Function: Noun
A doll.

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.

Function: Adjective
Very. Example: “You’re right near the street you want to be on.”

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

Function: Verb
Form of rather.

Scarce As Hen’s Teeth
Function: Colloquialism
Rare or scarce.

Sho ‘Nuff
Function: Contraction
Sure enough.

Function: Noun
A movie.

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

Function: Verb
Run, scatter.

Slap your pappy
Function: Colloquialism
To pat your stomach.

Snug As A Bug
Function: Colloquialism
Comfortable, cozy.

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

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

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

Function: Adjective

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

War between the States; War for Southern Independence; War of Northern Aggression
Function: Noun
The Civil War

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.

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

Yaller dog
Function: Colloquialism
A coward.


Function: Noun
Someone from the North.

Function: Contraction
Ye ones. Example: “Yeens better go before you’re late.”

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.”

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