Iowa may be a humble state, but it has a strong sense of community. Because of the strong connections between locals, there’s a small range of slang words that have developed there specifically.
Whether you’re from Iowa and want to see how accurate the list is, or you’re going there and want to learn about their terms, we’ve created this list of Iowa slang words and sayings for you. Let’s take a closer look at some things you might hear only in Iowa…
Iowa Slang Words (in Alphabetical Order)
Clear Over There
- (Expression): Anything that’s at a far distance from you but is usually still visible.
- Example: “I live in that bungalow clear over there.”
- (Noun): A fun lawn game in which you toss small bags into holes. Some also just call it Bags.
- Example: “My grandkids always love to play cornhole out in the yard whenever they visit.”
- (Noun): Nickname for the Iowan city of Cedar Rapids.
- Example: “Beth was born in Crapids, but now she lives in Iowa City.”
- (Noun): This is what an Iowan might call a small stream of water.
- Example: “You can’t really drown in a crick, but we wouldn’t recommend falling in one, anyway.”
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Got the Holler Tail
- (Expression): You say someone has “got the holler tail” when they’re cranky or in a foul mood.
- Example: “Why are you frowning? Do you got the holler tail?”
- (Verb): Someone is going gravel when they’re traveling by back country roads as opposed to using more well-traveled main roods.
- Example: “Grandma goes gravel a lot because she likes to avoid traffic.”
Knee-High by the 4th
- (Expression): This isn’t a phrase used as much anymore in Iowa, but back in the day, it referred to a cornfield’s growth. It would ideally be knee-high by the fourth of July.
- (Noun): Iowan slang for port-a-potties.
- Example: “Can someone show Bill where the kybo is so he can relieve himself?”
- (Noun): A type of meat sandwich similar to a sloppy joe.
- Example: “I love me a good maidrite in the summer.”
- (Noun): A silly game you play in the car. If you pass a car with only one working headlight, you shout, “padiddle!”
- (Noun): This is what Iowans call a multi-tiered parking lot or parking garage. You’ll hear this one a lot across the Midwest in general.
- Example: “I can’t find where I parked in the parking ramp!”
- (Noun): Another slang word that’s common across the Midwest. This is what most people in Iowa call soda.
- Example: “The waitress brought six glasses of pop to the table.”
- (Noun): This might sound derogatory, but it’s actually desirable to be crowned the Pork Queen or Pork Princess. It’s kind of like winning a beauty contest, except only women who either work in or are related to someone who works in the local pork industry can enter.
- (Noun): A well-known bookstore in Iowa. It’s often visited by famous authors.
- (Noun): Delicious snack made from chocolate, peanut butter, powdered sugar, and cereal.
- Example: “I packed some puppy chow for us to snack on today.”
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- (Noun): An annual bike ride that goes across the whole state of Iowa. The letters stand for Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.
- (Noun): Rural Iowan slang word for squirrels.
- Example: “I wish those dang squinnies would stop eating from my bird feeders.”
- (Noun): A presidential straw poll that Iowa Republicans take.
- (Verb): Accented way of saying, “wash.” This is another popular rural word.
- Example: “Make sure you warsh your clothes when they get dirty.”
Iowa might not be a huge population center like California or New York, but it still has its own slang vernacular that has developed over the years. Should you ever go to Iowa, listen to what the locals say and see if you hear anything on this list!