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Top 75 Southern Sayings and Southern Dictionary

Please feel free to add any of your favorite Southern sayings or examples of how different word usage is from one part of the country to another.

I’ve heard my family use Southern colloquialism all my life. In South Mississippi, an opportunity to compare something using a Southernism is rarely missed out on- example, Obamacare is slicker than snot on a doorknob.  Some of my favorite Southern expressions:

1. Well, I never!!
2. Well, hush my mouth!
3. Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit!
4. Well, color me stupid!
5. Well, tie me to a pig and roll me in mud.
6. Bless your heart!
7. Meaner than a sack full of rattlesnakes.
8. Busier than a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest.
9. Wild as a hog.
10. So buck toothed he could eat corn on the cob through a key hole.
11. He/she fell out of the ugly tree hitting every branch on the way down!
12. Tough as whit leather.
13. That child’s been beat with a big ole ugly stick.
14. Slick as an eel.
15. Running away like a scalded dog.
16. Don’t pee down my back and tell me it’s raining!
17. Fat as a tub of lard.
18. On me like stink on a polecat!
19. Hotter than a 2 dollar pistol.
20. Nervous as a rooster in a hen house.
21. Like  a bull in a china shop.
22. Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room of rocking chairs.
23. Tougher than a one eared alley cat.
24. Faster than greased lightning.
25. Dumber than a box of rocks.
26. So ugly she/he’d run dog off a meat wagon
27. Sorry as a two dollar watch.
28. Colder than a witches tit.
29. Limp as a dishrag.
30. Rough as a cob.
31. Useless as tits on a boar.
32. Cut off my legs an call me shorty!
33. Full as a tick on a dog.
34. Knee high to a bull frog.
35. Finer than frog hair.
36. Can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
37. That’d make a preacher cuss.
38. He/she is about two sandwiches short of a picnic.
39. I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck yesterday.
40. Smart as tree bark.
41. One fry short of a Happy Meal. 
42. Champaign taste with a beer pocketbook.
43. On me like white on rice.
44. That dog wont hunt.
45. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear.
46. Ain’t got a pot to piss in.
47. Mad as a wet hen.
48. You can’t hold water.
49. Tell the truth and shame the devil.
50. Running around like a chicken with your head cut off.
51. Like a snowball’s chance in hell.
52. Rode hard and put up wet.
53. Sittin’ there like a bump on a log.
54. Counting your chickens before the eggs hatch.
55. He/she done bit off more than they can chew.
56. Barking up the wrong tree.
57. Two peas in a pod.
58. Circle the wagons.
59. Wound up tighter than an eight day clock.
60. Don’t let the tail wag the dog.
61. Fish or cut bait.
62. In a coon’s age.
63. Hold your horses.
64. Does a frog bump his butt?
65. Don’t go off half cocked!
66. I do declare!
67. In high cotton.
68. Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.
69. Acting too big for his/her britches.
70. Can’t get blood from a turnip.
71. Proud as punch.
72. Dead as a doornail.
73. Dumb as a post.
74. If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.
75. Once in a blue moon.

Various parts of the country have their own idioms and expressions. There is a certain charm to the Southern  talk, even if it isn’t “proper.” Thorough my adult travel and online socializing, I also discovered that many people don’t understand Southern speaking/ pronunciation . Many of the idioms are self explanatory, if for no other reason they are often compared to something common- She’s as proud as punch over that new house. However, the oral pronunciation definitely needs a Southernism dictionary. Even I admit that, taken out of the context of a sentence, some Southern speaking is confusing.

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User Comments
  1. hfj

    On April 19, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Good article and so true Jo. One saying that we say in the south referring to the looks, behavour, or IQ of a sibling is: “The apple never falls too far from the ole tree”. Well done friend.

  2. Jamie Myles

    On April 19, 2010 at 11:16 am

    So much fun! How about a new one. ” One cousin short of a Jerry Springer show”. Or an old one, ” Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face”.

  3. Phill Senters

    On April 19, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Southerners ain’t hard to unnerstand if’n you are one ! :)

  4. Amanda

    On April 19, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    That’s fascinating. Many of those are foreign to me, but some are standard in British English (”I reckon” is normal here, “I guess” sounds American, “chuck me that ball” is a common alternative to “throw” and “waited on” is standard, too) and others are nearly the same. Silk purse out of sow’s ear is a common saying here, for example.

  5. Yasua

    On April 19, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    This one I heard in Cleveland (Southern Canada):
    I used to could

  6. yasua

    On April 19, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Another one from Cleveland:
    It’s wrote in the Bible.

  7. Ruby Hawk

    On April 19, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Loved, Sounds just like my neck of the woods. Or the way it did years ago. The Southern way of speaking around here has about gone with the wind.

  8. iworkathome

    On April 19, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Fire sounds like far

    76. Hell far

    Another thing that us Southerns do different is that even as adults we still call our parents Momma and Daddy and grandparents Granny and Papaw.

    This post reminds me of when I was in school out west. We had to read Huck Finn in English Lit. No one could understand it. It ended up taking me twice as long to read it, because I had to translate for my roomate who eventually got FED UP and burnt his copy.

  9. chippers

    On April 20, 2010 at 8:36 am

    I love this article. There are a few there that I haven’t heard but not many. No wonder people are laughing at me all the time. I use this language and don’t think it is any different from anyone else.

  10. ken bultman

    On April 20, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Don’t forget, Yankees……you-all is plural. When we speak of one alone we say you like you-all.

  11. Nikita K

    On April 21, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Love this! As a Non American, I love the southern american accent and stuff…. two of my friends are obsessed with southern america so much, they talk in the accent all day at school and their southern american names are Byron and Randy :D Brilliant article!!!

  12. dawe9696

    On April 22, 2010 at 5:23 am


  13. dawe9696

    On April 22, 2010 at 5:27 am


  14. crucisis

    On April 22, 2010 at 6:11 am

    funny to read them all together. I am a writer and these nuances add on to stuff. Thanks for sharing. and mind i say good observation.

  15. PeoplesContent

    On April 22, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    I’m from the South, lol. I think you have forgotten “Over yonder”. (Northern translation: “Over there”). Don’t get me start on Southern Louisiana phrases. Took me YEARS to realize all Americans didn’t speak a mixture of Creole and English.

  16. Heather Dawn

    On April 23, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    I absolutely love your list. Tack an “eh” to the end of any of them and you’ll get along just fine in Canada.

  17. lokas123

    On April 23, 2010 at 2:46 pm

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  18. Tina Cassello

    On April 23, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    This was very interesting and I will use some of these when I write a character who is from the South.

  19. moneytn

    On April 24, 2010 at 4:28 am

    Awesome article

  20. Melody SJAL

    On April 24, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Truly enjoyed this, Jo. I often read about the Southern U.S. accents and phrases.

  21. patnoy1

    On April 24, 2010 at 11:02 am

    nice job! keep the great posts coming!

  22. atreyee

    On April 24, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Amazing compilation….great share…cheers!!!

  23. GWitt

    On April 25, 2010 at 1:14 am

    ROTF- this is a very good article- even the comments add quality to it. Funny- I loved it..Yall

  24. patofgold23

    On April 25, 2010 at 7:02 am

    awesome! im so cheered up

  25. Nina

    On June 14, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Just wondering – do only Southerners use the phrase “cut the light off/on”? I said it and some lady (don’t know where she was from) raised her eyebrows at me…

  26. snugglebunny

    On November 10, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    iron : iern, wash : warsh, light & right : lawt & rawt

  27. CLH

    On November 23, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Course there is always
    “He was being so nice. Butter would’t melt in his mouth!”

    Or Cute as a Bug in a Rug!

  28. christy eskridge

    On November 24, 2010 at 10:01 am

    I am from North Carolina and I have said so many of these I now live in Indiana. I met my neighbor and she asked how the unpacking was going and I said ” its fine but I am busier then a cat tryin to cover up crap on a marble floor” needless to say she looked at me like I was crazy.
    “slick as snot on a doorknob” “hit the light” “knock off traffic” getting stuck in day end traffic

  29. wilson

    On January 11, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Sweeter than Cherry Pie
    Refreshing like a cool breeze on a hot summer\’s day

  30. Lisa

    On January 18, 2011 at 12:21 am

    Hanging in there “like a hair in a biscuit”. KY, TN

  31. christy eskridge

    On February 2, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I am from North Carolina and I have tons of funny sayings…
    Bless your heart
    Ive got no dog in this fight
    do tell
    busier then a cat tryin to cover up crap on a marble floor
    off like a herd of turtles
    its like herding cats
    fish or cut bait
    one brick shy of a full load
    slicker then snot on a doorknob
    busier then a one legged man in a butt kickin contest
    dont piss on my leg and tell me its raining
    you know not!
    you can poop in one hand and wish in the other see which one gets full first

    ive grown hearing and using these now I live in Indiana and ppl look at me funny when I am out and about and my kids are acting up ill say
    “boys stop being ugly” :)

  32. Jeanette Quilliam

    On April 7, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    This is one that I heard quite often :
    You’re fixin’ to get a blisterin’. ( you’re about to get a spanking)

  33. Sydney

    On April 18, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    All hat and no cattle.
    Aren\’t you a tall glass of water?
    Tough wagon to pull.

  34. Kent Brashear

    On June 1, 2011 at 1:04 am

    I didn’t see “she’s kutrn a speckul pup under a red wagon” “she is cuter than a speckled pup (small dog) under a red wagon”

    meaning: a really good looking woman or girl

    I ustakud tak like theyat but than I went off ta college fer six ye-ars
    an now I k-ant. Now I’m fixin ta go read mu book.

    colder than a widder woman’s tit in a brass bra.
    Aint this stuff fun? And “stuff” is such a wonderful word, aint it?

  35. southerner

    On July 24, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Love it! Still laughing at the one that says “colder than a witches….”

    Here’s another list of quotes from the south:

  36. Angie

    On August 27, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Colder than a well diggers butt!

  37. KiRA

    On October 27, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Something I like to use alot is y’all I really dont like saying you all or even thinking it really it just feels wrong

  38. jenny

    On February 14, 2012 at 12:27 am

    Quicker then a cat coverin up crap on a frosty mornin, one ‘mater short of a garden, time to come in when the skeeters start bite-n, don’t come roun here peddlin bull s**t, mud on the tires is like money in the bank, to hell in a hand basket covered in barb wire, slicker then a greased turd, colder then a well diggers a**, hotter then two rats screwing in a wool sock, I’m gonna sign u up foe an a** whoopin, quit playing possum, I got swamp a** from ridin the tractor too long, sweatin like a whore in church, stinkin like a skunks a**, gotta pee so bad my eyes are floatin. I am sure I could sit here for days doing this. I was born and raised in south Alabama and my daddy and paw paw couldn’t go a day without sayin something funny! I say stuff to my little girl and she says it back with a rather nice long southern drawl. And yep she is a corn fed country girl!

  39. Rich

    On May 3, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Well, that’s all I have have to say about that…

    Y’all come back Ya Hear !

    Stop by anytime

    You done good

  40. Ashley

    On May 12, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Cotton pickin!

  41. Bama Girl

    On June 21, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Kick the devil out of \\\’em!!
    Woop the tar out of \\\’em!!!
    What in the tarnation?!!
    Light in the loafers!!
    When in a conversation about yankees, normally the phrase goodness gracious, go back where you came from, will come up at least once!!
    When a group of us gals are talkin\\\’ about yankee, too good girls, the phrase she needs to be smeared in the mud a few times, is said!!:)
    ,by the way I\\\’m from the Heart of Dixie…….. Alabama!:))))))))

  42. Nolan

    On July 31, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    “One fry short of a Happy Meal.”

    There was never any fast food in the old South when the idioms began… Fast food was killing a hen and frying her up… LOL

  43. cyTo

    On August 4, 2012 at 1:24 am

    That’s so cotton pickin’ good, Jo!!

  44. Jan B.

    On August 24, 2012 at 11:56 am

    In Number 42. ‘Champagne’ was misspelled.

    AND, most of the sayings, if not all of them used to be common sayings all over the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries. The South simply preserved the sayings better than the rest of the country, just as the South used to preserve spoken English more closely to what the British spoke in the 1700s. That’s all changed now.

    Two of my personal favorites from a friend in Georgia:

    a) Haint throwed a lick at a snake. aka, haven’t done anything yet. Useage; “it’s 9:00 in the morning and I haint thowed a lick at a snake yet.”

    b) “Happier than a dead hawg in the sun.”

  45. Jan B.

    On August 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    In Number 42, the word Champagne was misspelled.

    AND, most of the sayings, if not all of them used to be common sayings all over the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries. The South simply preserved the sayings better than the rest of the country, just as the South used to preserve spoken English more closely to what the British spoke in the 1700s. That\’s all changed now.

    Two of my personal favorites from a friend in Georgia:

    a) Haint throwed a lick at a snake. aka, haven\’t done anything yet. Useage; \”it\’s 9:00 in the morning and I haint thowed a lick at a snake yet.\”

    b) \”Happier than a dead hawg in the sun.\”

  46. Cathy

    On August 30, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    When one of my aunts from Mississippi was talking about someone who was not very bright, she said, “I believe all the butter done slid off his biscuit.”

    My favorite southern phrase ever.

  47. Britt

    On October 13, 2012 at 3:26 am

    You can kiss my grits.
    That’s finger lickin good.
    Well good gravy on rice!
    Well I’ll be
    Ain’t got to
    Do what? (instead of please repeat what you said)
    That’s bull honky!
    I could go on and on. I’m from Alabama and just moved to North Dakota, thought I talked normal til I moved up here…

  48. Debbie

    On October 17, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Well, I swanee!

  49. Debbie

    On October 17, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Well, I swanee!

  50. John

    On October 19, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    As soon as I’m finished fixin’ the car, I’m fixin’ to go to the store and get the fixin’s for supper. Momma is fixin’ my favorite meal tonight.

    I’m an American by birth, and Southern by the grace of God.

    I was in graduate school before I learned that “Damned Yankee” was two words!

    Why on God’s green earth did I add that?

    Of course, a big rain is a “frog strangler”

  51. Marcy

    On October 25, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Hey y’all, I’ve only seen one person in the comments mention this (partially), and it’s not on the list: … ‘y’all’ (you or you all) and ‘all y’all’ (all of you).

    “How y’all doing?” “All y’all coming out to the house?”

    also, I grew up with my mom repeating something my grandma (from SE Arkansas) said: “If you play with chicken shit, you get it on you.” Kinda self-explanatory; but usually in reference to dealing with someone bad.

  52. Jodie

    On January 22, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    It makes me smile. There’s no place like home!

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