A group of students surrounding a teacher with a backpack, engaged in conversation or seeking assistance.

7 Quebecois words to learn before your trip

April 27, 2024

Quebec is full of unique sayings. Before you leave for la Belle Province, learn and practise a few fun words to blend in with the local crowd. As for pronunciation, don’t be afraid to channel your inner Celine Dion and nail those nasal vowels!


Ayoye (ah-yoy)

The primary meaning of ayoye is “ouch.” But it can also mean “woah.” Like if you’re standing in front of the Montreal Cathedral or the Château Frontenac, you could say “ayoye” to express how amazed you are. But if you bump into someone while taking a picture and they shout “Ayoye!”, chances are you hurt them, so you should apologize.

Oupelaille! (ooh-pel-eye)

This one can be used to say “Oh boy!” or “Oops.” “Oupelaille, that beavertail looks tasty!” or “Oupelaille, I almost dropped my beavertail!” Use it anytime to express surprise when something unexpected comes up.

Yes, no, toaster (yes, no, toaster)

Yup, you read that right. This made-up English phrase is used by francophones in Quebec to say they don’t speak English. If you ask someone on the street if they speak English and they reply “Yes no toaster,” they aren’t just saying random words—they’re using a bit of humour to tell you they only speak about three words of English.

Two students that are looking away to a building.

Did you know, Québec comes from the Algonquin word kébec, meaning "place where the river narrows?

Frette (frrret)

Quebecois people have a particular word for when temperatures are colder than cold. When it’s below -20 degrees outside (which you might experience if you go to Carnaval), you’ll hear people saying “Y fait frette!” The colder it gets, the more guttural the “r” sound. Here’s the good news: because the French “r” comes from the throat, you can pronounce “frette” even when your mouth is frozen and your teeth are chattering.

Seize (size)

This one is really easy and fun. Seize means sixteen. In Quebec, it’s pronounced exactly like the English word size (think small, medium, large). So if somebody were to ask you “How many maple butter cones do you want?” and you replied “size,” they would give you sixteen cones and think you’re a local (and a big fan of maple cones).

Lâche pas la patate (lawsh-paw-lah-pah-tat)

Literally “Don’t drop the potato.” Say it to your friends when going up the 398 steps of the wooden Cap-Blanc stairs in Quebec City or learning new tricky French words. As you might have guessed, it means “Don’t give up!” And as a reward for not dropping the potato, you should totally buy yourself a potato reward (like poutine)!

Tiguidou (tee-guee-doo)

How adorable is that word? It’s like “bubbles” in English—you can’t say it in an angry voice. Quebecois people say “Tiguidou” when they’re happy about how things are going. It’s a bit like “Alright, cool!” or “Sounds great!”, but cuter.

Topics: Travel Tips, Tour Planning

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