Welcome to Pennsylvania. Home to the Philadelphia Eagles, Phillies, Pittsburgh Penguins, Steelers, and so much more. Pennsylvania is a large state with varying cultures depending on which side of the state you are on. Here’s a guide to multiple Pennsylvania slang terms you need to know if you’re going to be spending any time in the Keystone State.
Other than the sports teams, PA has the Amish, Pennsylvania Dutch, the Poconos, Allegheny Mountains, and the beautiful Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
When thinking of Pennsylvania, most people think of two things: Philadelphia, and the Amish. Contradictory to what people believe, the entire state is not Amish or Mennonite, and Philadelphia is not the whole state.
Philly, Lancaster, and the Pocono Mountains are in Eastern PA. In the middle of the state, the Allegheny Mountains, miles of farmland, and college towns are King. If you keep driving straight on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, eventually, you will hit Western Pennsylvania. This is home to the 412, or as it is well known, Pittsburgh.
There’s a dividing line between Eastern Pennsylvania slang and stereotypes and Western Pennsylvania slang and stereotypes, so it’s important to realize where you’ll be traveling. Ask for a Wawa in Allegheny County and you’ll be run out of town!
What We Cover
- Pennsylvania Slang Terms You Need to Know
- Eastern Pennsylvania Slang Terms
- Lehigh Valley Slang Terms
- PA Dutch/Amish and Lancaster
- Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania Slang Terms
- Pennsylvania Stereotypes to Know
- Other Fun Facts and Pennsylvania Sayings Terms to Know
- What are some common Pennsylvania slang words?
- What are some Pennsylvania-specific idioms and expressions?
- How do people in Pennsylvania use the word yinz?
- Are there any slang words or phrases unique to Philadelphia?
Pennsylvania Slang Terms You Need to Know
Eastern Pennsylvania Slang Terms
Starting with the biggest in Pennsylvania… Philadelphia.
Philadelphia is known as Philly or the City of Brotherly Love. It is synonymous with the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Rocky Steps, and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Philly is known for their cheesesteaks, and while there is some local competition for who makes the best cheesesteak, just ask a local, and they will send you off to John’s Roast Pork, Dalessandro’s, or maybe even Donkey’s.
Some slang terms you should be familiar with before wandering Reading Terminal Market or heading out on Passayunk Street:
- Passayunk, to start. It’s pronounced pash-yunk.
- Youse guys – the Eastern PA way of saying “you all.”
- Jawn – pretty much anything. Best demonstrated in context: “You see that jawn over there?” “Aw, that’s my jawn.”
- MAC (Money Access Center) – an older way of saying an automated teller machine or ATM. An example of this: “I’ve gotta tap MAC so I can pick up that jawn from Brad.”
- Go birds! – chant for the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s a traditional greeting, way to show excitement, or way to show comraderie. If someone holds the door open for you at a Wawa, the correct response is “Go birds!”
- Wooder – this is water. Wooder ice is a common summertime treat, sort of like a slushie, but better.
- Hoagie – other places in the country call these “subs,” and they’re wrong. Any cold-cut sandwich on a long roll is a hoagie.
- Jimmies – sprinkles, like for ice cream. Usually the chocolate ones are jimmies, and the rainbow ones are sprinkles.
If you’re going to Philidelphia, you’ll want to make note of the best restaurants in town. Philly is a hugely underrated foodie city, and places like Zahav and the Moushulu will have you raving about your meals.
Old City is a great place for a walking tour of Philadelphia, if you want to see some history in between cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, and gourmet meals.
See Related: Things to Do in New Jersey
Lehigh Valley Slang Terms
Once you are done with Philadelphia and go north, you will come across the Lehigh Valley, with the biggest towns being Allentown and Bethlehem. The valley was a huge center for manufacturing (until they closed all of the factories down…) during the early 1900s. This area has some infusion of cultures from the Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish, which are located south of the Lehigh Valley, in addition to some influence from Philidelphia.
Here are some Pennsylvania slang terms to know about the Lehigh Valley:
- Grutzy – cranky and tired
- Blue Route – 476, the northeast extension of the PA Turnpike
- 22 – refers to Route 22. “Take 22 to the right or the left.”
- Say or Say now – means what about doing this or something else. Also used to begin a conversation with someone – “Say now, what if you wore blue shoes instead of the red ones?”
- The plural of hair is hairs – “Did you get your hairs cut today at the salon?”
- Musikfest – a music festival that happens once a year in the Leigh Valley that runs for a week.
- Shush – Shusssh, quiet down, or be quiet
See Related: Best Summer Music Festivals
PA Dutch/Amish and Lancaster
Now moving to the southwest across the state, you come across Lancaster next. Lancaster is known for tourism and the Amish. This is PA Dutch Country where the portions are big and everything is closed by five on the weekends.
Here are some PA Dutch/Amish and Lancaster slang terms to know.
- Road apples – horse poop normally found in the middle or on the side of a country road.
- Peachy keen – it is all good.
- Firehouse wedding – a wedding and reception inside a fire station. Big events in the small towns.
- Long Johns – this word has two meanings that are very different from each other:
- They are a type of doughnut that is long and rectangular in shape. It has icing on the top normally in one of three flavors: chocolate, vanilla, or peanut butter. Achenbachs is the premier brand of Long Johns.
- Long Johns are also the type of pants that you wear over the top of your underwear but below your jeans or sweatpants. They are normally brought out during the cold winters to keep people warm during their time outside. They can be fleece-lined or a thick thermal material like flannel. Normally used whether that be working outside or playing in the snow. Also known as thermal underwear in stores.
- Courting season – it is a specific time of the year when the Amish boys try to impress and date the Amish girls. This season normally lasts the course of a few months during the summer and into fall. When it is over, big Amish weddings happen.
- A buggy – also known as a horse and buggy. It is what the Amish use to travel around and get where they need to get.
See Related: Different Types of Traditional Dutch Food
Amish Slang Food Terms
Here are some well-known Pennsylvania slang terms for food.
- Scrapple – “everything but the oink.” A combination of pork fat and trimming with flour and seasoning baked in a loaf.
- Faustnaut – a special type of doughnut made only for Fat Tuesday or Shove Tuesday. It’s specifically sold by the half dozen and dozen. The powdered kind is the best.
- Dippy eggs – eggs that you can dip your toast in.
See Related: Weird, Bizarre Foods from Around the World
Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania Slang Terms
When traveling westward across the state, you come across mountain towns that are built into the Allegheny Mountains. Keep driving west, and eventually, you will hit the city of Pittsburgh. This section is all about how to talk like a Pittsburgh local and the western Pennsylvania slang terms to know.
City of Pittsburgh Slang
- Yinz – the Western PA way of saying “you all”
- Yinzer – the people of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas
- Sweeper – another word for vacuum
- Creek – pronounced “crick.” It is a body of water.
- Stillers – the local professional football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers
- Pittsburgh salad – a salad with fries inside of it
- Primanti’s – going to Primanti Bros and getting a sandwich. French bread, meat, fries, coleslaw, tomatoes. People might look at you weirdly if you take items off the sandwich.
- H2P (Hail to Pitt) – this is the University of Pittsburgh slogan, along with the Panther Pit.
- Buggy – it’s a shopping cart
- Gutchies – it’s underwear; a gender-neutral old-school phrase
- Pop – another word for soda. All soda is pop, and all pop is soda.
See Related: Interesting Spanish Curse Words
Locations in Pittsburgh
- Point – refers to Point State Park, which is located in downtown Pittsburgh. It is also the home to Fort Pitt. It has beautiful water features and a fountain.
- North Shore – refers to the part of the city where the Steelers play at Acrisure Stadium
- Southside – it’s where a road of bars is located
- The Strip – it is like a farmers’ market with stores and restaurants. Wholey’s is a well-known fish market that sells all types of meat, seafood, and other goods, also known as Robert Wholey & Co.
- Take the T – the underground train that you can ride for free around the city and go places out of the city for a low fare.
- Dahn-tahn – refers to the entirety of downtown Pittsburgh
- PPG Paints – it is the sports arena where the Pittsburgh Penguins play
- 412 – the area code for phone numbers and people in the area
- The incline – there are two inclines in the city of Pittsburgh. One is the Duquesne Incline and the Monongahela Incline. They both take you up Mount Washington and give you a breathtaking view of the city from above. It is best at night to see the city all lit up.
See Related: Best Stargazing Places in the World
Pennsylvania Stereotypes to Know
They are not necessarily accurate, but everywhere in the world has them for good or for bad. In addition, a good part of them started through the silver screen.
- Despite what you see on television and in movies, not everyone in Central Pennsylvania is Amish.
- In Lancaster, only the tourists eat the the buffets and smorgasbord. It’s not really the local cuisine
- The Amish have adapted to modern living more than they’ll admit. It’s not too uncommon to see cell phones and other “forbidden” technology out in Amish country.
See Related: Common Misconceptions of Germany
- Philadelphia is proud of the “No one likes us, we don’t care” stereotype. Eagle’s center Jason Kelce even sang about it during the team’s first Super Bowl parade.
- There’s a lot of organized crime history in the city – but don’t worry, most of that is long gone, and you don’t have to worry about witnessing an assassination when you’re out to dinner all that much.
- Everyone wants to run up the same steps that Rocky did at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Just do it.
- Yes, we do take cheesesteaks seriously. Geno’s and Pat’s are tourist traps – but you better order your steak wit wiz.
- While everyone thinks we’re obsessed with Wawa, it’s honestly run its course. The food isn’t that good anymore and there are a million other places to get a great hoagie.
See Related: Best Museums in the United States
Art exhibition in PPG place displaying three dinosaurs that describe Pittsburgh
- Furthermore, in Pittsburgh, everyone does not yell “yinzer” at each other while eating perogies and waving a terrible towel. People are die-hard fans and extremely passionate about the local football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- If you walk around downtown on game day before the game subsequently, you will hear the Pittsburgh Black and Yellow song, as well as a few other Pittsburgh-themed songs.
See Related: Inspiring Songs About Traveling for Your Next Trip
Other Fun Facts and Pennsylvania Sayings Terms to Know
In addition, here are some general fun Pennsylvania slang terms to know, such as weird town names and how to pronounce them:
- Schuylkill (River) – SKOO-kill
- Bala Cynwyd – Bala KIN-wood
- Reading – Redding
- Monongahela (River) – muh-NON-guh-HEE-lah
- Duquesne (university) – doo-KANE
- Wilkes-Barre – Wilkes Berry or Wilkes Barry, depending on who you ask
What are some common Pennsylvania slang words?
Hoagies, Yinz, Jawn, Youse Guys, and Go Birds! are some of the most common slang expressions you’ll hear in Pennsylvania.
What are some Pennsylvania-specific idioms and expressions?
Some PA-specific expressions include “tap MAC”, and dropping the words “to be” in phrases like “The car needs cleaned” or “The door needs fixed”.
How do people in Pennsylvania use the word yinz?
One might say, “Are yinz going to the game tonight?” Or, “Yinz should come over for dinner.”
Are there any slang words or phrases unique to Philadelphia?
Philly may has well have its own language. A “bul” is a male teenager or adult, a “hoagie” is a cold cut sandwich (sub), and “jawn” can be used to replace just about any noun.
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