The Michigan Words And Slang You Need To Know - The Awesome Mitten 2

A Vernacular Spectacular of Michigan Words, Slang, and Pronunciations

If you’re visiting Michigan, you might hear some terms that you’re not used to. We have our own language, and some of us don’t even know it. Michigan words, slang, and pronunciations have become part of who we are.

Michigan Map - Grand Rapids Public Museum
Grand Rapids Public Museum | photo via Leah Tenant

Talking Like a Michigander

In 2015, Creator Team Writer, Kati Bethuy shared her thoughts on talking like a Michigander:

Mackinac. Livernois. Gratiot. How do you know you’re a Michigander? You can pronounce these words.

In 1995, a joke by Eric Weaver turned into multiple articles, interviews, and a website,, all discussing the Michigan accent. Many Michiganders don’t even realize they have an accent. But one look at Weaver’s website and it slowly becomes clear we have a major accent!

As a native Michigander myself, I never really thought about having an accent unique to my state. I just figured I had some midwestern accent, nothing exclusive to Michigan. Then I moved out of state and I realized just how different I sound compared to others around me.

It goes far beyond the “soda” versus “pop” battle and even includes something known as the glottal stop.

According to Weaver’s website, there are three core requirements for nailing the Michigan accent.

First, you must talk very quickly. Let’s be real, all Michiganders do!

Second, you must slur all of your words together. For example, “come here” can often become “c’meer” like it’s all one big word.

Lastly, there’s the glottal stop. The glottal stop is simply when us Michiganders don’t put the ‘t’ at the end of words. So, “apartment” becomes “aparmeh’ meh’” instead. We also tend to make a ‘t’ in the middle of a word into a ‘d’. “Nothing”, for example, becomes “nuddin”, because we also forget to add ‘g’s’ to the end of words. Think about it, you know you do this!

Don’t forget, as well, the Michigan way of telling time. In other parts of the country that I’ve been to, 1:45 would be “quarter of two”. But, us Michiganders replace ‘of’ with ‘to’, making 1:45 “quarter to two” or, in our accent” quartertatwo”.

Aside from all our quirky accent “rules”, there are also words that just don’t seem to be used outside of Michigan.

Take Euchre, for example. How many people do you know of outside of Michigan that know what this card game is (and play it by the same rules!)?

Then there’s the glovebox in your car. Everyone I’ve met outside of Michigan calls it a glove compartment yet, I have to say, I’ve never heard it called that back home. Heck, even my autocorrect says it’s not a word!

Also, if you go outside of Michigan, and ask for a party store, you will get sent to Party City, not a store with liquor like you really meant.

Aerial Photo Of Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island, not to be confused with Mackinaw City

As if all that wasn’t enough, Michigan is full of just downright strange words. Let’s think back to that word Mackinac, shall we? Mackinac, Mackinaw.

Two different spellings, two different places, one pronunciation. I wonder how many out-of-towners we’ve confused with that one!

Then there’s the Michigan Left that confuses so many non-Michigan natives when they try to travel through our state.

And, while on the subject of driving, did you know we’re the only ones who go to the Secretary of State for our vehicle needs?

When we moved out of Michigan, I bought a new car. I had no idea what the DMV was until someone explained to me that’s where you go when you don’t live in Michigan.

Michigan License Plate 1948
get your Michigan license plate from the Sectary of State

All in all, we Michiganders have a very fun and unique accent. The next time you go on vacation outside of Michigan, listen to the people around you. Pay attention to how they talk and you might find yourself very surprised to learn that, hey, you have quite the Michigan accent!

–Kati Bethuy, Contributing Writer

Not only do we Michiganders have our own words, but we have our own way of pronouncing words that others use. It is quite ridiculous – and so very enjoyable! Read on to see if you recognize any spectacular vernacular idioms.

Top 10 Michigan Slang Words to Sound Like a Local

  1. Troll
  2. Yooper
  3. Ope
  4. Michigan Left
  5. The Bridge
  6. Mitten
  7. Coney
  8. Pop
  9. Thumb
  10. UP

Keep reading to find out their definitions and how to accurately use them and sound like a true Michigander/Michiganian!

Heritage Route Us-23 - Northern Michigan Fall Scenic Drives
Mackinac Bridge | photo via @michiganartistprints

Michigan Slang Words

  • The Bridge — When Michigan locals use this term, we’re referring to Mackinac Bridge. Although the state has tons of bridges, Mackinac Bridge is one of the largest in the country and connects our state’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas.
  • Bumpy Cake — Created by Sanders Chocolates in Detroit, this dessert is devil’s food cake. The difference is that it’s topped with buttercream “bumps” and then with chocolate ganache.
  • Cabrewing — This Michigan word is a combination of two summer activities that many locals love — canoeing and drinking beer. Usually, we do these two activities on a river in canoes and in a large group of people.
  • Cherry Capital — Traverse City is known around the world for its cherries. Even international cities have Traverse City Cherry flavors of gelato and ice cream.
  • Chook or Chuke — Rather than referring to chicken like in Australia, “chook” or “chuke” is Michigan slang for a hand-knit hat, typically with a tassel.
  • Choppers — Traditionally used to refer to helicopters — such as in the show “M.A.S.H.” — this word refers to a deerskin mitten with wool inside.
  • Clicker — While a “clicker” is a keychain device that makes clicking noises in other states, it also refers to a television remote control in Michigan.
  • Coney or Coney Island — Most of the country knows the entertainment peninsula in New York — Coney Island. In Michigan, though, it’s both a restaurant and a beef hot dog in a bun that’s topped with meat sauce, mustard, and onions.
  • The Cottage — This term often refers to an old wooden cabin. Instead, it means any vacation spot in the UP where locals go for summer or winter vacations.
  • Deer Camp — No, a “deer camp” isn’t a summer camp for deer or deer hunting. It’s a place where hunters go, mostly to drink beer.
  • Doorwall — In Michigan, a “doorwall” is what locals call a sliding-glass door. Maybe we chose this word so that we wouldn’t forget that we can’t pass through it without opening it first.
  • Holy Wah — There’s no definition for what “wah” means, but we use this phrase to express awe, disbelief, delight, excitement, and surprise.
  • Kiddy Corner — Don’t confuse this term with “catty corner.” We use it in Michigan to describe something right around the corner.
  • The Mitten — We use this term in place of Michigan sometimes. It describes how the state appears on the map. The Lower Peninsula is shaped like a mitten.
  • Michigan Left — Michiganders don’t simply turn left because of state road design. At intersections where we can’t turn left, we have to make U-turns via a special lane. Afterward, we can turn right.
  • Michigan Sauce — Although known for its cherries, that’s not what Michigan sauce refers to. Actually, it’s the meat that goes on top of our Coney Island hot dog.
  • Mushroom Hunting — This term is just how it sounds — looking for morel mushrooms in the woods during the spring.
  • Ope — As opposed to saying “oops,” we use the Michigan slang “ope.”
  • Opening Day — This real holiday celebrates the first day of rifle season for hunting deer. Kids even get the day off from school in many rural districts.
  • Party Store — Pretty much everywhere, a “party store” is a one-stop shop for all of your party essentials. In Michigan, it’s a store where you buy alcohol.
  • Pasty — Generally, a pasty is a flaky crust filled with meat. This savory meal is most popular in the UP, but you can find it in the Lower Peninsula as well. Some pasties are filled with fruit for dessert. They are a delicious and filling meal. It is a legal requirement for every Michigan resident to eat one before they die. Don’t look it up, just trust me.
  • Pop — People might call it “soda” or “Coke” in other parts of the U.S., but that’s just crazy talk. We Michiganders call the sugary, carbonated beverages “pop.” It’s said that this Michigan word comes from the sound that opening a soft drink bottle makes.
  • Shining — It’s common for couples on dates to go into the woods with large flashlights in search of deer during the fall. This activity is shining.
  • The Soo — In the UP, the Sault Ste. Marie area is the home of the Soo Locks — a maritime marvel. We shorten references to the area to The Soo.
  • Thumb — No other place in the country refers to a geographical area as a “thumb.” In the Lower Peninsula, it’s the thumb part of the Mitten.
  • The UP — We seldom say “the Upper Peninsula” in Michigan. We use this shorter version instead. We might use the term “Up North” too.
  • Vernors — The best ginger ale. Furthermore, the brand does not matter. All ginger ale is Vernors in Michigan. Canada Dry? The second-best kind of Vernors. Red Rock? What a great Vernors.
Petoskey Stones - Things To Do In Petoskey
Petoskey Stones | photo via @greatlakes_goddess

Michigan Words That Refer to Locals & Tourists

Citiots — It’s not the nicest Michigan slang, but this word is what locals of small beach towns call visitors from big cities — idiots from the city.

FIP and FOP — In Southwestern Michigan, locals use these terms to refer to visitors from Illinois and Ohio — “Friendly Illinois Person” and “Friendly Ohio Person.” Sometimes, though, the visitors are rude, so locals will trade the first word for an expletive.

Flatlanders — This word is what UP residents call visitors from the Lower Peninsula.

Fudgies — This is a nickname that locals — particularly those on Mackinac Island — call tourists who visit to buy and eat fudge.

Michigander — If you’re wondering, “What do you call a person from Michigan?”, the obvious answer used to be “Michigander.” However, there’s some contention over the use of “Michigander,” as others prefer a different term (see entry below). This may cause a semi-heated debate in the right circles.

Michiganian — Others prefer Michigander to refer to someone from Michigan, but this word could be used as well… unless it can’t.

Pank — In most parts of the nation, you may compress, flatten, or pack something. But in Northern Michigan, we pank it. We usually use this word when building snowmen.

Townies — Unfortunately, this is a derogatory term that visitors use in reference to locals.

Troll — UP residents use this Michigan slang for residents of the Lower Peninsula. It comes from the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” fairy tale in which the troll lives under the bridge. In this case, the bridge is, of course, the Mackinac Bridge.

Yooper — Anyone who lives in the UP is called a Yooper. And yoopers have their own set of words and Upper Peninsula slang that they don’t share with trolls.

Detroit Michigan Statue
Photo courtesy of Hayley Serr

Michigan Pronunciation & Combined Words

Cloze — You might think that this pronunciation means “close,” but it actually means “clothes.”

Didja — We like to combine words in Michigan, and this word is a short way to ask “did you?”

Jeet — Rather than asking “did you eat?”, we shorten this common phrase to “jeet?”

Lookit — Another shortened phrase, this one means “check this out” or “look at this.”

Secretariah State — That’s not a misspelling. It’s just how we save time when saying “Secretary of State” which is our version of the DMV.

Yuh Guys — Whether we’re speaking to men or women, we use “yuh guys” instead of “y’all” or “you guys.”

Nukyuhler — With this Michigan pronunciation, we change the syllable in the middle of the word “nuclear.”

Kroger’s, Meijer’s, Walmart’s, etc. — We Michiganders like to add an “s” at the ends of names to make them possessive.

Realuhter — We don’t just pronounce “realtor” as it’s meant to be pronounced. We add a syllable in the middle.

Hamtramck Disneyland - Hamtramck, Michigan
Hamtramck Disneyland | photo via @chicandthecityrach

Michigan Destinations You’re Probably Mispronouncing

The State of Michigan offers a comprehensive database of pronunciations for cities, townships, street names, and even notable people. It even includes brief audio files so you can hear how things are actually said in Michigan.

Charlotte — Unlike the girl’s name or the North Carolina city, this small town near Lansing is “shar-lot.

Dowagiac — The “i” in this small southwest town’s name only affects the “g” but is otherwise silent: “doe-wah-jak”.

Gratiot — A popular fort to visit in Detroit, we forgot our French lessons again: “grash-it”.

Hamtramck — This Detroit neighborhood was on our 2021 #MIAwesomeList summer bucket list for its art scene, but did you know there’s a hidden syllable in its name? “Ham-tram-ick”.

Houghton — With multiple Michigan destinations bearing this name, you’ll want to know that it’s pronounced “HOE-ten.

Keweenaw — Flip-flip the long “e” in the first two syllables of this peninsula on the Upper Peninsula’s northern shores: “kee-we-naw”.

Kitch-iti-kipi — Keep the “i”s short, except for the last one: “kitch-iti-kip-ee”. Bonus if you’ve been there!

Lake Gogebic — This largest inland lake in the Upper Peninsula’s name gets frequently slaughtered by non-Michiganders. You’ll want to know that it’s “goh-GE-bick”.

Lake Orion — Forget what they taught you in astronomy. This northern Detroit suburb is “Lake Oh-REE-en”.

Mackinac/Mackinaw — The city, the bridge, and the island – while they may have different spellings, their pronunciations are the same: “mack-in-awe”.

Milan — We’re not in Italy, we’re in Michigan. So we’ll say this our own way: “My-linn”.

Ocqueoc — The largest waterfall in the Lower Peninsula, you’ll want to plan a summer trip to splash in the pools at “ah-key-ock.

Okemos — Just east of downtown Lansing, this town’s name is “O-kuh-mus.

Ontonagon — Home to Michigan’s mountain range, this Michigan county’s name is pronounced: “on-ton-ogg-on.

Sault Ste Marie — Nope, there’s no salt in this city’s name: “sue saint marie.

Ypsilanti — Also known as Ypsi (“ip-see”), this Ann Arbor neighbor is pronounced “ip-sill-ann-tee.

Differences With the Michigan Accent

Crayon — Our accent makes “crayon” sound like “crans.”

For — We make this word sound like “fir,” as in that of an animal.

Fire — Most locals don’t pronounce “fire” the right way. We say “fyer.”

Mirror — You really hear “meer” when we say this word.

Milk — When Michiganders use this word, it comes out sounding like “melk.”

The Letter “T” — With the Michigan accent, a “t” in the middle of a word often has a “d” sound. So, “city” becomes “ciddy.” If it’s at the end of a word, the “t” is silent. So, “Detroit” becomes “Detroi.” Although, there are exceptions — “kitten” tends to come out as “kih’ihn,” while “button” becomes “buh’uhn.”

Little Caesars Arena, Detroit - Spring In Metro Detroit
Little Caesars Arena | photo via @jbrunelle213

Sports-Related Terms

The Joe — This affectionate nickname is a reference to Joe Louis Arena. It’s demolished now, but it was the home of the Detroit Red Wings for a long time.

Little Brother University of Michigan fans have given this nickname to the football team at Michigan State University. This stems from Michigan’s lopsided win record against the Spartans. Michigan’s 2007 running back, Mike Hart, first uttered this phrase at a press conference.

Octopus — Typically, “octopus” only refers to the cephalopod with eight tentacles that you find in the ocean and some North American rivers. In Michigan, though, some locals sneak octopus into Little Caesars Arena to throw onto the ice during hockey games.

Walmart Wolverine — Michigan State University fans use this controversial nickname for those they think are bandwagon fans. It comes from the extensive collection of merchandise that the supermarket chain carries.

More Michigan Slang and Words

This was an expansive look into some very interesting Michigan words, pronunciations, and slang. These only make our state and Michiganders more endearing. However, we probably missed some.

Tell us which ones we missed and which ones are your favorites in the comments.

Thanks to Jennifer Hamilton and Gabe Aikins for contributing to this article.


    1. Born and raised and lived here in Michigan my whole life. Never have I said slang as listed. I know how to pronounce all our streets and ities, and as a Detroit er never do I say Detroi, without a T. Unless saying it in French.

  1. When we need to turn around in the car we say ” We need to flip a bitch” and this is usually done making a u-turn anywhere we can turn around, even if it is illegal.

  2. I’ve lived in and around Detroit my whole 30 years of life and I always hear/feel like I’m using a hard T at the end?

  3. Yes, we have distinct dialects here in regions of Michigan. I found out I had a dialect when I moved to the Dayton area of Ohio and was “corrected” over and over for a few words and sayings common here in Michigan, but never used in the Dayton Area. Later, as a Speech Pathologist in the Cleveland Public Schools, I took a class in “dialects” with other Cleveland public school Speech Pathology teachers at Ohio University and learned that Ohio had 4 distinct “dialect” regions. From that time, I understood how our English differs not only state to state, but that each state has it’s own dialectal regions. Certainly “Da U P” does! And Detroit has more nasality. So I”ve learned to respect “dialects” and not be critical, as they are merely regional and historical adaptations of language sounds. And yes, languages do change over the years! Check this out in a big Webster Dictionary or try to read a very old version of English literature from Chaucer’s time.
    Another story I heard is that many Scottish immigrants came to the Ohio Appalachian area south of the Ohio river, back about 150 years ago. Then the Scottish Language pronunciation changed. However the Scottish families in the USA did not make the same sound changes in the way they spoke here in the USA hills/mountains as was done abroad in the British Isles simply because folks here in the USA were then isolated from hearing language sound changes abroad. Then, when the later Scottish/English immigrants arrived, they spoke English with many different pronunciations. Since they came with more money than the locals in Appalachia, they began to make fun of them, and belittle them as being uneducated etc. That’s how it came to be that if you spoke the “Appalachian” dialect, you were dumb, unlearned, and lower class here in the USA.
    Also, we speech pathologists like to say that the play/musical “My Fair Lady” is the story of a Speech Pathologist. “My Fair Lady” was recruited from the poorer regions of Landon and England and simply spoke an older form of the English Language which set her apart from the “upper class” who had deliberately changed the way they pronounced English to set them apart as the “upper class”. So her “boy friend” of the upper class simply taught her the “wealthy” form of English and she was accepted.
    I also saw a very good series of TV programs on 5 unique dialects of English in the world: USA, S. Africa, Great Britain, Australia, India! We Speech Pathologists certainly do work with dialects if clients wish to adapt the way they speak English. I certainly did it in certain schools in the Cleveland District upon request. In a school of predominantly African American heritage students, I merely taught “Business English” and the boys went right along comfortably with this idea!

  4. Wull – “Well” used at the beginning of sentences, especially in eastern Michigan and also when feeling cranky.
    “Wull, I’m not driving back to Meijers again today!”
    “Wull, we’re almost out of milk!”
    “Wull, you shoulda said something when we were there!”
    Also, don’t forget use of UpNorth as one word.

  5. I have lived in southwestern Michigan all my life (59 years-Portage, Kalamazoo, Vicksburg). I must live in a different Michigan. I have never referred to a sliding glass door as a doorwall. A slider, yes. I have never used FIP or FOP nor has anyone I’ve ever known. Carbonated drinks are “soda” to me because “pop” is my dad. Milk is pronounced milk because it is spelled m-i-l-k, not m-e-l-k. A button is a button, Detroit is Detroit, kitten is kitten…not buh-uhn, detroy, or kih-uhn. While a mirror might not be meer, I have always pronounced it meer-er. A realtor is a real-tor, not a realuhter. I have never heard of a bumpy-cake, nor a chook or chuke. I spell catty-corner kitty-corner, not kiddy-corner. A cottage is a place on a lake; a cabin is a place in the woods, regardless whether it’s in the upper or lower peninsula. Vernors is a name brand, I call ginger ale, ginger ale, unless I’m referring to Vernors specifically. I say oops, not ope. I have never said “jeet” although I do say “didja”. I may say “lookatthis” (quickly, as one word) but never “lookit”. I had a friend who called K-Mart K-Marts, but never Walmarts, Krogers, etc. I’ve never heard of cidiots or cabrewing. I am not alone. I have never heard my friends, acquaintances or strangers in a long line use these terms/pronunciations. A couple that were missed however, were “own-pen”, for “open” (drives me crazy, there is no “w” or middle “n” in open). Also, “senence” for “sentence”; as in, “he was senenced to 2 years probation…”

    1. I totally agree with you. I was born in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and have lived here for almost 82 years and the majority of that article does not pertain to my family and friends.

  6. I’m in Kalamazoo too, I’ve definitely used ope, call soda pop fir as long as I can’t remember, and I relatives who say melk lol, and the realuhtor hit wayyy to close to home 🤔I definitely felt targeted lol. As for doorwall and foo I have no idea what the heck the heck those are, but we all most definitely gonna say, “You guys!” Gun to our head we Michiganders, can’t skip this one, Also Vernors is Boss periodt. Oh yehh and definitely have said look it, and so has my work friends when they get excited to show me something.

  7. Some of these I don’t use, but I use most of them. I literally burst into laughter after realizing how much of an accent I have- I feel targeted. 🤣

  8. Sposta = Supposed to
    Wotzit = What is it
    Woopty-woo, Woop woop woop, or woo woo = Yadda Yadda Yadda, whatever- a way to gloss over possibly a very important part of the story

  9. You did a good job, but forgot to include the word “pillow”.
    In Michigan-ese it is pronounced as “pellow”
    Also, I consider myself a Michiganiac (a Michigan person who is a maniac…..are not all Michigan people extremely passionate about Michigan?). I don’t consider myself a Michigander or Michiganian.
    Finally, when in a conversation with someone that you agree with, you can get the final word “in” with the sentence/question: “Ya, sure, youbetcha, eh?”

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