Toronto Slang and Where it Actually Comes From
Toronto icons Drake and Lily Singh have been repping the 6ix in mainstream media — sparking a conversation on Toronto slang. But in a city that brands itself as multicultural and diverse, where does that Toronto slang actually come from? This language we’ve normalized and enjoy comes from Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana and other specific communities within the Greater Toronto Area — and we’re providing the necessary context you need if you’re going to include these terms in your daily.
From “ting” to “bucktee” and beyond, we’re talking about Toronto slang (that’s seemingly on the rise), what it means and where it comes from.
Toronto slang: FamIf you think this is short for “family” then you are exactly right. But unlike the traditional meaning of family, fam speaks to your inner circle — your close friends, your people. This one is a pretty safe slang word to use without context.
Where “fam” comes fromWhile many of us have shortened “family” to refer to our relatives, fam used in the slang context actually goes back to the early 2000s and was used in Black English communities — and was also known and used amongst the urban British as slang too.
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Toronto slang: Ting1. Like thing but we dropped the “h.” 2. Also a term to describe a woman someone is seeing, but isn’t serious about. (My ting came over last night).
Where “ting” comes fromA Jamaican abbreviation for “thing.” Fun fact: Jamaicans don’t really pronounce h’s, especially when they’re the first letter of a word.
Toronto slang: Wagwanwah-gwon
A fun greeting that’s basically to say “what’s going on”.
Where “wagwan” comes fromEspecially popular in South London, this Jamaican English slang is used commonly in communities with Jamaican folks who live outside Jamaica.
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Toronto slang: Wallahiwall-ah-hee
It means “I swear” — and/or “I promise”. “Wallahi, I didn’t touch your things.”
Where “wallahi” comes fromThis term is actually an Arabic word for “I swear” often used by Muslim folks. In the GTA specifically, it has evolved into slang commonly used in public schools throughout.
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Toronto slang: Ahlieah-lie
Can be used as a question, meaning “am I lying?” Or as a statement of disbelief, meaning “that has to be a lie!” (“I look nice, ahlie? Or “Ahlie! She didn’t say that!”)
Where “ahlie” comes from“Ahlie” is a term that comes from Jamaican patois that literally translates to “a lie.”
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Toronto slang: Nize itni-ze-it
A cooler and arguably trendier way to tell someone to shut up.
Where “nize it” comes fromThe word “nize” is a Jamaican word for “noise.” The term “nize it” isn’t commonly used in Jamaica. More often they say “stop di nize,” which means “stop the noise.”
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Toronto slang: BuckteeIt’s actually a derogatory slang term meaning homeless person but often used interchangeably with “crackhead”. Sadly, very popular in the 6ix (sad because we know better than to name call).
Where “bucktee” comes fromIt’s a Somali word for homeless people that has evolved into Toronto slang.
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Toronto slang: Man Demman-dem
Used to refer to a group of males. (I’m chilling with the man dem today.)
Where “man dem” comes fromA Jamaican term made from the combination of “man” and “dem” — which means “them” in Jamaican patois. So, the term refers to multiple men.
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Toronto slang: Limelime
It’s not the fruit and it’s not the alkaline powder you mix into — to lime is the art of doing nothing — with limers. A lime is a get together with friends, family, coworkers or strangers at either your house, their house, the beach, by the river or on a street corner. Sometimes at work. (Look, Trinidadians can lime anywhere at any time — it’s a gift.) It’s usually accompanied by food, drink and ol’ talk (picong). The best limes just happen: your friends or family show up (usually without an invite because, Trinidadians) and you lime.
Where “lime” comes fromOrigin (disputed): English sailors in Trinidad were called limeys, who were noted for liming in bars.
Toronto slang: Dotish/DotishnessIf someone called you dotish or said you were suffering from dotishness, then you’ve basically done something stupid or incompetent and annoyed them.
Where “dotish” comes fromOrigin: from the British word ‘Doltish’ and made popular in communities within Trinidad and Tobago.
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Toronto slang: BattyriderIf you’re wearing battyriders (short shorts and sometimes even a mini skirt), your butt cheeks are hanging out. Often worn during summer, at fetes or whenever you feel like.
Where “battyrider” comes fromOrigin: from the Jamaican word “batty” meaning bottom. It’s also used in Trinidad and Tobago.
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