Toronto, known for its multiculturalism and diversity, has developed and normalized its own language by adopting various slang terms and phrases. Icons such as Drake and Lilly Singh model these terms throughout their social media platforms and music, which gives the city a unique reputation and a culture of its own. Other Greater Toronto Area (GTA) artists such as PARTYNEXTDOOR and Tory Lanez have also pridefully incorporated representations of Toronto culture in their music.
Much of Toronto slang comes from widespread cultures within the GTA, including Jamaica, Somalia, Guyana, and certain Arabic countries. In particular, Drake’s influence on these foreign terms has shaped Toronto’s vocabulary and publicized it on a global scale. However, the public and many media outlets have criticized Drake’s role in the cultural appropriation of these terms, as he doesn’t belong in the communities from which these terms originated.
If you’re not from the city, you may find it difficult to adjust to the municipal dialect. But if you are, then these 13 terms have definitely stumbled their way into your vocabulary, whether you use them or simply know what they mean.
1. The 6ix
A popular name for Toronto, the “6ix” is a term coined by Canadian recording artist Jimmy Prime, also known as Jimmy Johnson. It is used as an alternative way to refer to the city. Many mistake this term to be invented by Drake, but in reality, he simply attributed the term in his OVO record label, and it became more popular when Drake released his 2016 album, Views From the 6.
Additionally, the name also comes from Toronto’s area codes, 416 and 647. Viral social media accounts such as 6ixbuzz have also employed this term as part of their business, and on social platforms.
This name is short for the Canadian multinational fast-food restaurant chain and famous Canadian hockey player, Tim Hortons. “Timmies” claimed its Canadian roots when it was founded in 1964 in the city of Hamilton.
Since then, Canadians have adapted this endearing short form for the fast-food restaurant chain in everyday dialogue. There are more than 4,000 Tim Hortons locations in Canada in more than 900 cities. The chain has also expanded to other countries.
“Yute” refers to children or young adults and originates from Jamaican patois, meaning “youth.” It is often used when an individual is complaining about young people or mocking certain things they do.
Another term derived from the Jamaican lexicon, “ting,” is an abbreviation for “thing” as Jamaicans do not pronounce the letter “h.”
It is commonly used to refer to women but is largely interchangeable and can also pertain to anything else. Other words from Jamaican culture that refer to a girl or female include “gyal” and “gyaldem.”
Of Arabic origin, this term is frequently used by Arabs in serious contexts but has now been adopted by many others in Toronto. It means “I swear in the name of God,” but has become an expression of promise among those who are not Muslim. It has evolved and infiltrated Canadian slang vocabulary to be commonly used in public schools across the GTA.
Not necessarily derived from a specific source, “reach” is used when an individual asks one of their friends to hang out. Variations of this word also include “link up” and “come through.”
Another term from Jamaican patois is “ahlie,” which translates to “a lie” and can be used in either a question or a statement of disbelief. It can be used in a variety of ways and can also be interchanged with “same,” “truth,” or “relatable.” For instance, you can find someone say, “I look nice, ahlie?”
9. Nize it
The term “nize” is a Jamaican word that translates to “noise.” This phrase isn’t necessarily used in Jamaica but more so in Toronto as a snarky way of telling someone to be quiet, stop talking, or to shut up.
This term is used to describe a man who has a way with women or one who looks “sweet.” It has been around for years but became popular through the influence of Canadian artists Ramriddlz and Drake. Ramriddlz opens up in interviews that though he has a song titled “Sweeterman,” the term itself is generally inspired by Drake.
This term does not come from any particular culture but has found its way to be popularly used within the GTA if someone is showing off, or as a noun. For instance, if a person desires a coffee from Tim Hortons, they will say, “it’s a Timmies flex.”
Another word not specifically derived from a certain culture, “bare,” is used when someone indicates there is an abundance of something. For instance, an individual can say, “there was bare gyaldem at the party,” meaning there were a lot of women at the event.
13. Men Dem
This Jamaican term is generally used to refer to a group of males and is a combination of “man” and “dem,” which means “them” in Jamaican patois. For instance, a person can say, “Are you seeing the man dem today?”
Although some of these terms may have been around for several years, Toronto continues to create new phrases derived from various cultures while also transforming the context of regular English words. While there is a fine line between their appropriate use and cultural appropriation, these common Toronto slang words accessorise Toronto’s unique lexicon.