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Alternative formsEdit


Attested since 1835[1][2] as Kanuk (in US writings) and 1849 as canuck (in Canadian writings). Of unknown origin, often hypothesized to derive from the name or speech of an early Canadian minority, later broadened to denote all Canadians.[3]

  • Some dictionaries suggest it is an alteration of Canada,[4][5] which in any case ensured the spelling Can-,[3] or that word's etymon Laurentian kanata (village), or a related word kanuchsa meaning "villager" in that or another Iroquoian language.[6]
  • Some sources connect the ending to Inuktitut inuk (man, person),[7] from Chinook (Aboriginal people of the U.S. Pacific Northwest),[8] or another First-Nation language ending like -uc, -uq, or -oc.
  • Since 1975, many scholars have come to think the name is from Hawaiian kanaka (man),[1][5][9] a self-appellation of indentured colonial canoemen and Hawaiian sailors working off the Pacific Northwest, Arctic, and New England coasts,[10] via French canaque or (more likely) American whalers'[10] pidgin, and then been re-interpreted[1] as Can(adian) + a suffix. Compare English Kanak and French canaque (black person), German Kanake.
  • Fanciful suggestions include German genug von Canada (enough of Canada) (allegedly uttered by German mercenaries during the American War of Independence),[10] or French quelle canule (allegedly uttered by the French during a siege of Quebec),[10] or the surname Connaught /ˈkɑ.nəxt/ (supposedly a French-Canadian nickname for the Irish).[10]


  • IPA(key): /kə.ˈnʌk/, /kə.ˈnʊk/
  • Hyphenation: Can‧uck
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌk


Canuck (plural Canucks)

  1. (Canada, US, informal, sometimes derogatory) A Canadian, sometimes especially a French Canadian.
    • 1835, Henry Cook Todd, Notes Upon Canada and the United States, page 92:
      Jonathan distinguishes a Dutch or a French Canadian, by the term Kanuk.
    • 1849, James Edward Alexander, L'Acadie; or, Seven Years' Explorations in British America, v 1, London: Henry Colburn, pp 272–3:
      We saw a few partridges: we also met a lusty fellow in a forest road with a keg of whisky slung round him, who called to us ‘Come boys and have some grog, I'm what you call a canuck:’ a (Canadian).
    • 1889, John G. Donkin, Trooper and Redskin in the Far North-West: Recollections of Life in the North-West Mounted Police, Canada, 1884-1888, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, page 148:
      It is a pity these Canadian militiamen spoilt the good work they had done by never-failing bluster. But for pure and unadulterated brag I will back the lower-class Canuck against the world. The Yankee is a very sucking dove compared to his northern neighbour.
  2. The French-Canadian dialect.
    • 1904, Holman Francis Day, “Song of the Men o' the Ax: Verse Stories of the Plain Folk Who Are Keeping Bright the Old Home Fires Up in Maine”, in Kin o' Ktaadn, page 145:
      On the deacon-seat in the leapin' heat / With the corn-cobs drawin' cool and sweet, / And timin' the fiddle with tunkin' feet, / A hundred men and a chorus. / “Roule, roulant, ma boule roulant,” / all Canuck but a good song; / Lift it up then, good and strong, / for a cozy night's before us.
  3. (rare) A thing from Canada.
    • 1887: Grip (Toronto), 19 February, page 3:
      Who'll buy my caller herrin'? / Cod, turbot, ling, delicious herrin', / Buy my caller herrin', / They're every one Kanucks!
  4. (US, obsolete) A Canadian pony or horse.
    • 1860, Josiah Gilbert Holland, Miss Gilbert's Career: An American Story, page 25:
      I'll sit here and blow till he comes round with his old go-cart, and then I'll hang on to the tail of it, and try legs with that little Kanuck of his.
  5. (ice hockey) A member of the Vancouver Canucks professional NHL ice hockey team.
  6. The Avro Canada CF-100 fighter-interceptor.

Usage notesEdit

In Canada, the term is not derogatory, and is considered to apply to all Canadians. When used by non-Canadians, especially in the United States, the term is often considered derogatory, particularly when applied to French Canadians in New England.


Derived termsEdit



Canuck (comparative more Canuck, superlative most Canuck)

  1. (informal, occasionally construed as derogatory) Canadian.
    • 1887, Grip (Toronto), 5 March, pp 1–2:
      Well, what do you think of the Canuck elections?


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Canuck” in Dictionary.com Unabridged, Dictionary.com, LLC, 1995–present.
  2. ^ Canuck”, in Merriam–Webster Online Dictionary.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Irving Lewis Allen, Unkind Words: Ethnic Labeling from Redskin to WASP, pages 59 and 61–62 (1990, New York: Bergin & Garvey, →ISBN)
  4. ^ Canuck”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Canuck”, in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition, Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, →ISBN.
  6. ^ Bill Casselman, Casselman's Canadian Words (1995, →ISBN)
  7. ^ W. W. Schuhmacher, “Once More Canuck” in American Speech, volume 64, number 2 (Summer), 1989, page 149
  8. ^ Douglas Harper, “Canuck”, in Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2021.
  9. ^ Canuck” in the Collins English Dictionary
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Stefan Dollinger, “Towards a fully revised and extended edition of the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles (DCHP-2): background, challenges, prospects” in Historical Sociolinguistics/Sociohistorical Linguisics (Leiden, NL), volume 6