They say you’ll find the sweetest and most hospitable people in the south. Who doesn’t love the countryside, anyway? The food is delicious and always fried, and they have the best tea, or sweet tea, in the country. Southerners love hosting and entertaining as well, so you’ll be treated in the best way possible.
If you haven’t been to the South, then it’s time you come up with a plan to visit soon. But, you should also learn how they talk to understand the locals better and to feel as if you are really part of the group.
If you are planning to go on a trip to the South, you can read these Southern slang words and phrases and learn how they talk. This way, you’ll have a smooth time while experiencing their culture. So, let’s learn the Southern slang words and phrases to sound like a local now!
Southern Slang Words & Phrases to Sound Like a Local (In Alphabetical Order)
Barking up the wrong tree
- Meaning: (Phrase) Barking up the wrong tree is a term used when you are talking to the wrong person.
- Example: You are barking up the wrong tree. She doesn’t find anyone as attractive as her.
Be back directly
- Meaning: (Phrase) The Southern saying “Be back directly” is a saying when a person is telling another to go back right away.
- Example: Make sure you be back directly once you’re done with the project.
Bless your heart
- Meaning: (Expression) The expression “bless your heart” is a Southern-style slang that women use when speaking ill about somebody.
- Example: I don’t like her style, bless her heart. Maybe your daughter could teach her a thing or two about dressing appropriately.
- Meaning: (Noun) In the Southern states, a buggy is another word used for a shopping cart.
- Example: Why do you need a buggy? We’ll only get milk and tea.
Can’t carry a tune in a bucket with the lid on it
- Meaning: (Phrase) This phrase is used when a person cannot carry a tune when singing.
- Example: My ears hurt because he can’t carry a tune in a bucket with the lid on it.
- Meaning: (Noun) A clodhopper is a word used to call or describe a person who is boring.
- Example: Stop it, you’re being a clodhopper. It’s not helping anyone.
- Meaning: (Noun) The word “coke” became a Southern expression for any kind of carbonated drink, even if it’s not Coke.
- Example: I’m heading out to get a coke. Do you want anything?
- Meaning: (Verb) A conniption fit is an action in which a person is angry at someone or something which he or she verbally shows.
- Example: Our boss had another conniption fit, so expect him to be in a bad mood the whole day.
Cotton pickin’ minute
- Meaning: (Phrase) “Cotton pickin’ minute” is an intensifier used as a Southern saying that means to move at a speed of how much time it is to pick a basketful of cotton which is around 1.31 minutes.
- Example: Move at a cotton pickin’ minute if you won’t want to be late for the game!
Cut that out
- Meaning: (Phrase) “cut that out” is another phrase to use when a person is misbehaving.
- Example: Will you cut that out or am I gonna’ leave you here?
Cute as a button
- Meaning: (Phrase) The term “cute as a button” is used for a person, mostly a child, who is small and adorable.
- Example: You are cute as a button, and apparently a bright student!
Deader than a DOORNAIL
- Meaning: (Phrase) Deader than a doornail is a phrase used when a person is already deceased.
- Example: I heard he was deader than a doornail. Poor boy! He’s so young.
- Meaning: (Noun) A ding-dong is a person who lacks common sense because he or she is mentally challenged.
- Example: Are you a ding-don or are you just pretending?
Don’t get your feathers ruffled
- Meaning: (Phrase) The term “don’t get your feathers ruffled” is used when a person is about to get mad or annoyed.
- Example: Don’t get your feathers ruffled over petty gossip. That nonsense came out of a pig’s lips!
Don’t hold water
- Meaning: (Phrase) The term “don’t hold water” is Southern slang that means something that is not logical or invalid.”
- Example: Stop explaining and don’t hold water. Bless your heart, dear.
Fine and dandy
- Meaning: (Phrase) “Fine and dandy” is used sarcastically, meaning he or she is not fine at all.
- Example: I am fine and dandy even uder the Southern summer heat.
Fit to be tied
- Meaning: (Phrase) When a person is extremely mad to a point where he or she needs to be restrained, he or she is fit to be tied.
- Example: Of course, he’s fit to be tied! Who wouldn’t be that way when your life is on the line?
- Meaning: (Phrase) One of the Southern phrases used when a person is about to do something or is in the middle of doing it is “fixin’ to.”
- Example: Is she fixin’ to the garden? Some pests messed it up last night.
Flew off the handle
- Meaning: (Phrase) The term “flew off the handle” is used when someone goes out of control.
- Example: I flew off the handle yesterday. I just couldn’t take it anymore!
Gettin’ on my last nerve
- Meaning: (Phrase) One of the most popular Southern expressions today is “gettin’ on my last nerve” because it is used worldwide. This phrase means a person was pushed to his or her limit and can get angry any time soon.
Gimme some sugar
- Meaning: (Phrase) This Southern phrase is used when a person is asking for a kiss.
- Example: Come here and give me some sugar! You’ve grown a few inches!
- Meaning: (Noun) Gizzard is one of the weirdest yet cleverest Southern words today. It is used to describe the human anatomy like the heart.
- Example: Who knows what’ll happen to your gizzards when you drink like there’s no tomorrow?
Go outside and get me a switch
- Meaning: (Phrase) One of the most used Southern sayings “go outside and get me a switch” means that a child should find something his or her parents would use to spank him or her for doing something wrong.
- Example: Go outside and get me a switch now! And bring me something useful if you don’t want me to find something else!
Goin’ to hell in a hand basket
- Meaning: (Phrase) The phrase “goin’ to hell in a handbasket” is a phrase used for someone who is hopeless and will deteriorate because of endless problems.
- Example: He sure is goin’ to hell in a handbasket if he doesn’t help himself.
Goin’ to town
- Meaning: (Phrase) Goin’ to town is one of the locals’ favorite southern sayings, which means giving everything you’ve got when doing something.
- Example: Wow, he really is goin’ to town for that new girl of his.
Gonna get a lickin’
- Meaning: (Phrase) As a child that follows the culture of Southern living, when his or her parents say they are “gonna get a licking” it means they’ll be spanked using a belt.
- Example: Why are you so rowdy? If you won’t stop, you’re gonna get a lickin’!
- Meaning: (Expression) Goodness gracious is an expression used when a person is shocked by something he or she learned about.
- Example: Goodness gracious! What happened to you?!
Happier than a dead pig in the sunshine
- Meaning: (Phrase) The phrase “happier than a dead pig in the sunshine” refers to the feeling of bliss. It can also refer to a person without a care in the world.
- Example: Look at him! He’s happier than a dead pig in the sunshine.
Heaven’s to Betsy!
- Meaning: (Exclamation) The Southern expression “heaven’s to Betsy” is often used when a person is shocked or surprised.
- Example: Heaven’s to Betsy! You scared me!
High as a kite
- Meaning: (Phrase) If a person is using drugs and is high, the slang term for that is “high as a kite.”
- Example: You two are high as a kite! What did you do?
- Meaning: (Phrase) A hissy fit is a tantrum done by a child who does not know how to control and direct his or her emotions.
- Example: No more hissy fit in the mall today. Got it?
- Meaning: (Phrase) The term “hog wild” is a term used in Southern living that describes a person living wildly and without a care.
- Example: That’s too much. You act like a hog wild!
Hold your horses
- Meaning: (Phrase) The South Carolina term “hold your horses” means to wait and be patient.
- Example: Hold your horses! Everyone will get a piece of cake.
Hotter than hell
- Meaning: (Phrase) When a person is found to be very attractive or hot, he or she is hotter than hell.
- Example: Wow, you are hotter than hell, aren’t ya?
How’s yer mama ‘n them?
- Meaning: (Expression) The expression “how’s yer mama ‘n them?” is a sign of respect for a family and should be used even when you already know the answer to this question.
- Example: Hi! It’s been a long time. How’s yer mama ‘n them?
Hug yer neck
- Meaning: (Phrase) “Hug yer neck” is a term used by older people when they want to hug the kids.
- Example: Come over here and I’ll hug yer neck!
- Meaning: (Onomatopoeia) These Southern words mean that a person should keep quiet or stop talking.
- Example: Hush up now! We’re lost in the deep south. I need to figure this out.
- Meaning: (Phrase) I reckon is a quintessential southern phrase for “I suppose.”
- Example: Our children are going on a trip. I reckon you still want to go with them?
- Meaning: (Exclamation) In the Southern way of things, swearing is bad. Therefore, people, mostly children, use “I suwanne!” to emphasize that he or she is telling the truth.
- Example: I never touched the crock pot. I suwanne!
If it had been a snake, it’d a bit you
- Meaning: (Phrase) This phrase is used when a person can’t see what he’s looking for even when it’s right in front of him.
- Example: I can’t believe you couldn’t find your phone. If it had been a snake, it’d bit you.
In a month of sundays
- Meaning: (Phrase) A month of Sundays is a hyperbole and Southern slang phrase that means “a very long time.” It was first used in 1832 when it was forbidden to do anything on Sundays.
- Example: You mean to say he’ll be back at Christmas time? That’s in a month of Sunday!
Jerk a knot in your tail
- Meaning: (Phrase) When a person says “jerk a knot in your tail” it means to stop being unruly. This is one of the Southern sayings used to correct a child’s behavior.
- Example: Jerk a knot in your tail if you don’t want to be reprimanded in the middle of the supermarket!
KNEE-HIGH to a bullfrog
- Meaning: (Phrase) The term “knee-high to a bullfrog” is a term used to describe the age difference between two people talking.
- Example: How have you been? Do you remember me? I’ve known you since you were knee high to a bullfrog, but that was ages ago!
Like a bull in a china shop
- Meaning: (Phrase) When you caused trouble or is caught in the middle of it, then you are like a bull in a China shop.
- Example: He’s like a bull in a China shop. He won’t stop!
Like white on rice
- Meaning: (Phrase) “Like white on rice” is an American south saying so old, that nobody knows when it came out. This phrase refers to two people that have a close relationship, they stick together all the time.
- Example: I’m so happy you two got along the first day you met. Now, you’re like white on rice!
Little Miss Priss
- Meaning: (Phrase) This phrase is used to describe a girl that loves to look at herself in the mirror or is a girly-girl.
- Example: Hello, little miss priss. I love your dress!
Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise
- Meaning: (Phrase) This phrase is often used as a prayer and a way to avoid jinxing oneself.
- Example: Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be there to support you!
Lying like a dawg on a rug
- Meaning: (Pun) This phrase is a pun for a liar.
- Example: You made this pecan pie? Don’t be lying like a dog on a rug.
Madder than a wet hen
- Meaning: (Phrase) When chickens get wet, they get extremely mad. Therefore, Southerners call this kind of act from a person “madder than a wet hen.”
- Example: You shouldn’t be acting like you’re madder than a wet hen in public. Bless your heart.
Mind your P’s and Q’s
- Meaning: (Expression) “Mind your P’s and Q’s” is often used to remind a person about his or her manners.
- Example: Mind your P’s and Q’s. We have guests.
NervousNot the sharpest tool in the shed
- Meaning: (Phrase) The term “not the sharpest tool in the shed” means a person is not smart enough.
- Example: She might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but she definitely has potential.
- Meaning: (Exclamation” The exclamation “oh, foot!” is a term used to show frustration because you forgot something.
- Example: Oh, foot! I lost my keys! Can you help me find them?
Once in a blue moon
- Meaning: (Phrase) The Southern saying “once in a blue moon” has been popularized and used worldwide. The phrase means a situation is rare, just like a blue moon.
- Example: Come on! It’s only once in a blue moon we get to hang out. We’ll be home on Saturday night.
- Meaning: (Phrase) Over yonder means “over there” in Southern slang.
- Example: Wow, I’m jealous of where you’ve been! I wish I could go over yonder.
- Meaning: (Phrase) Playin’ possum has a more serious meaning compared to other Southern expressions. It means that a person is acting innocently trying to hide something in order for him or her to deceive others.
- Example: She keeps playin’ possum even though we know the things she has done.
Plumb tuckered out
- Meaning: (Phrase) Plumb tuckered out is used when a person is dead-tired because of physical exertion.
- Example: He’s always plumb tuckered out, come Saturday mornings, so we can’t do anything during summer afternoons.
Pinch a plug out of you
- Meaning: (Hyperbole) The term “pinch a plug out of you” is low key, telling a child to behave, especially during mass.
- Example: I will pinch a plug out of you if you don’t stop running around as if you’re inside an empty house.
- Meaning: (Adjective) The word “precious” means adorable but can also mean “pathetic, depending on the situation.
- Example: Aren’t you a precious little girl? Where’s your mama?
Proud as a peacock
- Meaning: (Phrase) The phrase “proud as a peacock” is a saying about a person who is proud and full of him/herself.
- Example: You’re proud as a peacock, yet you can’t prove anything!
Quit bein’ ugly
- Meaning: (Phrase) This phrase is another slang used in the South to tell a person to stop misbehaving.
- Example: Qui bein’ ugly and sit down.
Quit your bellyachin’
- Meaning: (Phrase) This phrase is used when a person won’t stop complaining.
- Example: If you have common sense, you wouldn’t be in this situation. I suggest you quit your bellyachin’!
- Meaning: (Adjective) Ragamuffin is a term used when a person is unkempt.
- Example: You’re a ragamuffin today. You sure you could go to work?
- Meaning: (Phrase) In the South, if you are raisin’ cane, you are conjuring up trouble.
- Example: We told you that it’s not good to use swear words even if you think you’re cool. You’ll e raisin’ cane if you don’t stop.
Sick as a dawg
- Meaning: (Phrase) “Sick as a dawg” dates back to the 17th century when they use this phrase to emphasize a very ill person.
- Example: Careful, now. You’re as sick as a dog and we don’t want you to get too tired.
Slap you silly
- Meaning: (Hyperbole) The term “slap you silly” is hyperbole for someone who is mad and can slap another person.
- Example: Wow, are you testing me? I could slap you silly!
Slow as molasses
- Meaning: (Phrase) The Southern phrase “slow as molasses” is used when comparing a slow person to how molasses is cooked in a slow cooker.
- Example: Good heavens, child! You are slow as molasses! Please move faster.
Spit a spell
- Meaning: (Phrase) When Southern people say “spit a spell” it means to take a seat for a minute before leaving or doing something.
- Example: Spit a spell and drink some sweet tea I prepared before you continue with work.
Stinks to high heavens
- Meaning: (Phrase) The phrase “stinks to high heavens” means that a person has done something bad.
- Example: What you did stinks to the high heavens! You should think about your actions.
- Meaning: (Noun) Sug is short for “sugar” and is used as a term of endearment in South Carolina. This term is commonly used in restaurants and bars.
- Example: Hey, sug, can you give me a slice of chocolate cake to-go, please?
Suits your fancy
- Meaning: (Phrase) The phrase “suits your fancy” is another term for “do what you want” or “do as you please.”
- Example: If it suits your fancy, definitely go for it.
- Meaning: (Exclamation) The term “Supper time!” is used when dinner is ready and it’s time to call the members of the family to eat.
- Example: Supper time, kids! Come down here with clean hands, okay?
Take your own sweet time
- Meaning: (Phrase) The Southern words “take your own sweet time” means to not rush when doing something.
- Example: Are you almost done with school work? Take your own sweet time and I’ll call you when supper’s ready.
- Meaning: (Phrase) the term “tickled pink” is used in a more positive thinking way, meaning a person is delighted.
- Example: I am tickled pink to see my new picket fence! My house is finally finished.
Too big for yer britches
- Meaning: (Phrase) The Southern phrase “too big for yer bitches” means that a person is so conceited that he or she gets too big or airy.
- Example: In this crazy world, you can’t get too big for yer bitches or you won’t make it.
Up and at ’em!
- Meaning: (Exclamation) The exclamation “up and at ’em” is a term used when a person is telling another to get up and start working.
- Example: Up and at ’em! Those paperwork won’t get filed by themselves!
Well, I’ll be
- Meaning: (Exclamation) “Well, I’ll be” is an expression used when a person is surprised. This phrase is usually followed by an adjective or a descriptive noun.
- Example: Well, I’ll be shocked to know you are graduating
well, I declare
- Meaning: (Expression) “Well, I declare” is an express used when a person is shocked.
- Example: Well, I declare! I can’t believe you’re home!
What in Tarnation?
- Meaning: (Exclamation) “What in tarnation” is a Southern slang expression; originated from the words “damnation” and “tarnal.” This expression dates back to the 18th century and is used when irritated or surprised.
- Example: What in tarnation happened in your room? Clean this mess right now!
What in the Sam hill?
- Meaning: (Exclamation) Sam Hill was a store owner who sells a variety of things. The term then was used when there is something odd or unfamiliar in the community.
- Example: What in the Sam Hill are you wearing?
Wound tighter than a clock
- Meaning: (Phrase) The phrase “wound tighter than a clock” refers to a person so stressed out that it’s beyond healthy measures.
- Example: Why do you worry so much? You are wound tighter than a clock!
- Meaning: (Noun) Y’all is a combination of two words “you” and “all” which makes it a unique Southern word.
- Example: Y’all need to quit fighting about some dumb girl.
You ain’t right
- Meaning: (Phrase) You ain’t right is a term used for a person acting like he or she is mentally challenged.
- Example: You ain’t right. What you did is out of the question!
You weren’t raised in a barn
- Meaning: (Phrase) When someone says this phrase to you, he or she is telling you to have better manners.
- Example: Children, be on your best behavior when the guests arrive. You weren’t raised in a barn.
Your ears must’ve been burnin’
- Meaning: (Phrase) This phrase is used when a person you are talking about suddenly appears.
- Example: Woah, I didn’t see you there. Your ears must’ve been burnin’.
Your face is gonna freeze like that
- Meaning: (Phrase) If a person says “your face is gonna freeze like that,” he or she means that if you are angry enough, the angry face you have will freeze forever.
- Example: Are you seriously mad right now while there’s a storm blowin? Your face is gonna freeze like that.