Newfoundland Phrasebook Part 1

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Because of it’s island culture and general isolation, language evolved differently in Newfoundland and Labrador when compared with the rest of Canada. Yes, English is the main language and it’s no problem to communicate, but you will stumble across strange terms and dialect differences that will leave you scratching your head and feeling puzzled. Here’s a list of top Newfoundland terms and how to quickly understand what your new Newfoundland friend is really trying to say.

Dinner vs Supper 

If it’s 1pm and someone’s asking “What did you have for dinner?” They’re talking about lunch not supper. To make things more confusing, if it’s 7pm and someone offers you a lunch, it means they’re offering you a snack. A lunch is a snack, dinner is lunch, and supper happens anytime after 5pm


Hungry and want to sit down for a satisfying meal? What you really want to have is a Scoff. A Scoff is another word for a satisfying meal.

Hove Off

“I’m going to be hove off today” is another way of saying “I’m going to chill out and relax”

What are you at?

On your Newfoundland adventure you’re guaranteed to have someone ask you “What are you at?”. They’re just asking you “What are you up to?”. The standard response is “This is it”, followed by a reply of “What are you at?” to which a person will probably respond with “This is it”. It’s like a fancy game of verbal tennis. If you want step up your game a notch, try throwing in a few “Yeah” (breath in)

Yeah (breath in)

Most words are spoken when a person is breathing out, but in Newfoundland there’s one special word that is spoken while breathing in. “Yeah” (while breathing in) is a relaxed way of agreeing with a person while being sympathetic to what they’re saying. Give it a try, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it

Dock vs. Wharf

If you say “I’m going to tie my boat off at the dock” you may get a response like “You mean you’re going to dock your boat at the wharf?”. Docking is something you do. The thing you tie your boat up to is called a wharf.

Forest vs. Woods

If you say “I’m going for a walk in the forest” you might get a funny look. People in Newfoundland call wooded areas “The Woods”.

Bridge vs. Porch

If a Newfoundlander tells you “I’m going outside on the bridge” they don’t mean they’re going to stand on a structure that crosses water. Bridge is another word for front porch. In fact, if you say “I’m going out onto the porch” people will think you’re referring to the mud room.

Have a yarn

“We’re just having a yarn” is another way for saying “We’re just having a chat”. In Newfoundland it’s common to pop over to your neighbour’s or friend’s place for no specific reason. Just walk on in without knocking, sit down at the kitchen table and have a yarn.

Mug Up

When you’re visiting Newfoundland, if you get invited for a mug up be sure to say yes. Having a mug up means having a cup of tea and a snack, usually something like a molasses bun. We always look forward to having a mug up after being outside on a colder day.

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