Woman sitting in front of a Minnesota mural that says You Betcha (we love it here)

37 Minnesotan phrases and what they mean: Minnesota slang from a Minnesotan

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Are you planning on visiting Minnesota or even considering moving there? Despite the unique accent of native Minnesotans, there are several things Minnesotans say that will need deciphering. I’m a born and raised Minnesotan and have spent over 37 years there. I’m going to break down some unique Minnesotan phrases and Minnesotan sayings. So you know precisely what they mean and you aren’t completely confused. Let’s jump in!

Spoon and cherry sculpture located at Walker art center sculpture garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Spoon bridge & cherry, Walker Art Center Minneapolis

1. Oh for cute!

This Minnesotan saying can be altered in different ways. Other variations of this that are commonly used include Oh for stupid! or Oh for dumb! It’s just a way to really emphasize that you think something is cute, dumb, or stupid. You’ll hear Minnesotans use this phrase oftentimes in an exaggerated manner with a Minnesotan accent that sounds more like Oh fer cute! (Some may even write it this way as an ode to their accent and display their Up North pride.)

2. Ope!

Ope is a Minnesotan expression or phrase that’s used when you bump into someone. It’s a quick reaction or exclamation that can mean sorry or excuse me in most situations. Sometimes Ope will be used as Ope, Sorry! Reinforcing the Minnesota nice demeanor that these northerners are known for. 

3. Let me squeeze right past ya

This phrase is usually used in conjunction with Ope! You’re in a crowded place, maybe a local VFW or dive bar and you’re in close quarters wanting to get through. A perfectly acceptable thing to say in Minnesota would be, “Ope! Let me squeeze right past ya.” This is used as a sorry, excuse me I’m just trying to get by here. (But in a polite Minnesota nice kind of way.) This is probably one of my favorite Minnesotan expressions or Minnesotan phrases.

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4. You Betcha!

Other variations of this expression include, Yeah you betcha or you bet! This is an affirmative expression showing enthusiasm. This is one of the most stereotypical Minnesota phrases which leads one to wonder what is the meaning of the phrase you Betcha. The meaning of You Betcha is “Absolutely!” or “You can count on that.” 

Woman sitting in front of a Minnesota mural that says You Betcha (we love it here)
Wander Wisely

5. Uff Da (Oof-Duh)

This is an expression commonly used to communicate surprise, relief, and exhaustion. In Norweigan culture, Uff da would be used instead of swearing. This Minnesotan phrase is Scandinavian in origin. This often-used MN word can mean many things. Usually, it’s used in a situation of exasperation or surprise.

6. Oh for sure!

Minnesotans are known for adding an Oh to the beginning of any expression or saying it to add extra emphasis. (Drawing it out for an even more dramatic addition to any conversation.) As noted in number 1, Oh for cute and oh for stupid are really common phrases used in Minnesota by locals. It’s a Minnesota ism at its finest! 

7. Yeah no yeah

This Minnesotan phrase can be extremely confusing and sometimes frustrating for outsiders to understand. There are several variations of the “yeah no yeah” that mean completely different things. 

For example, yeah no yeah means I’m sorry but the answer to what you’re referring to is actually yes. Whereas, “Yeah No” means No. “No yeah no” means you’re fine, but the answer is yes. These phrases are classic Midwestern passive-aggressive. Even if the answer is no, you’re trying to beat around the bush and not be too straightforward.

Woman leaning against the star mural wall located downtown Minneapolis, MN at the First Avenue concert venue
First Ave, Minneapolis, MN

8. Duck duck grey duck

In Minnesota, it’s duck duck grey duck. You cannot convince a true Minnesotan otherwise. This Minnesotan phrase is in our blood.

In other states, (well pretty much anywhere other than Minnesota) it’s the childhood game known as duck duck goose. Tomato, tomatoe but in Minnesota do not, I repeat do not call it duck duck goose! (You’ve been officially warned!)

9. Holy buckets!

This expression is used when you’re trying to convey oh my goodness or I can’t believe that! It’s an exclamation to show astonishment that is used often in Minnesota. Another similar Minnesotan phrase is Holy Cow! Both of these phrases are just a more wholesome way to show surprise without actually cursing.

10. Geez, Louise!

Geez Louise is another exclamation. This Minnesota phrase is commonly used to show shock or surprise by a situation. Throughout this list of Minnesota phrases and slang expressions, there are many exclamations and different ways to communicate surprise.

Geez is definitely one of those MN words that you get weird looks when you use it elsewhere. 

11. Budge

When a line or a queue forms somewhere to get into a restaurant or store in Minnesota, if someone goes in front of you when they weren’t there before, you would be budging in line. This Minnesotan phrase can be confusing as other places refer to this scenario as cutting in line. If you’re talking Minnesotan you would say that someone budged in front of you.

12. Skol!

This Minnesotan phrase can otherwise be written as skaal or skål. In Minnesota, SKOL is known as the Minnesota Vikings NFL football team war chant. Which is a traditional Viking battle cry, hence the use for the football team in Minnesota whose mascot is a Viking. If you’re ever able to take in a game at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, be sure to do the Skol chant when the Gjallarhorn sounds. 

Inside the Minnesota Vikings US Bank stadium in Minneapolis, MN. View of the US football field with a purple lighting.
US Bank stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings

13. Ish (or Ish da!)

This Minnesota expression is equivalent to saying gross or yuck! It’s Norwegian in origin and an exclamation that something is not pleasing and really distasteful. This Minnesota ism isn’t as well known as You Betcha, but it has a similar origin. Adding this common Minnesotan phrase with a northern Minnesota accent can be quite funny.

14. Oh (or Aww) Geez!

If you’ve ever seen the TV series, Fargo you’ll know that this phrase is used a lot. However, it isn’t an exaggeration this is a commonly used Minnesotan phrase for many. Usually said when something unfortunate happens as an exasperation.

15. Dontcha know

This is a very old Minnesotan phrase that is still commonly used. It’s just the really drawn-out and exaggerated Minnesota accent saying “don’t you know”. 

Generally, when someone uses this phrase it’s at the end of a story or sentence to confirm understanding by the other party.

16. Hot dish

In Minnesota, a hot dish means the same thing as a casserole. Hot dish is a winter staple when it gets cold in Minnesota.

The most famous Minnesota hot dish is Tater Tot Hot Dish. The base of the hot dish is a mix of ground meat (usually turkey or ground beef), and a can of one of the “cream of soups”. Such as cream of mushroom or cream of chicken. Then a mixed veggie blend is added to this mix. Usually, a frozen vegetable medley works just fine! All of these are mixed together and make up the base of this hot dish (casserole) and it is put into a pan and then topped with frozen tater tots. Then in the oven, to be cooked.

Tots as in, Napoleon Dynamite would be proud. Don’t knock it until you try it! It’s amazing comfort food. 

17. Top the Tater

Top the tater graces many Minnesota gatherings where the Minnesota goodbye is a plenty. This is a very versatile condiment. It’s perfect for a baked potato, but generally amazing on some classic and salty ridged Old Dutch potato chips. (Preferably the Original style that comes in the box with two separate shiny bags inside.)

A tub of Top the Tater dip sitting on the counter in Minnesota
Family size or bust!

18. The Cities

This is definitely a Minnesotan phrase in everyone’s vocabulary, especially if you grew up somewhere other than “The Cities”. Another term Minnesotans will frequently use to describe people who live in “The Cities” is a 612er. The main Minneapolis zip code is 612.

When anyone from Minnesota uses the term, “The Cities” they’re referring to the only metro area in the state of the combined cities of Minneapolis & St. Paul. Another common term is the Twin Cities as the two cities are similar in size.

19. Pop

In Minnesota, we call it pop. In other states, it’s referred to as soda. But, if it’s a carbonated beverage with artificial flavoring in the state of Minnesota it’s called pop. It’s one of the most endearing Minnesota words because it causes a lot of confusion to non-Minnesotans.

A variation of this Minnesotan phrase and a term my grandfather used frequently was “barley pop” in which he was referring to a beer.

20. For Pete’s sake!

Another variation of this exclamation is inserting pete’s for cripes. It means the same thing. Generally, this is a Minnesotan phrase to use when someone says something outlandish or extremely shocking. For good measure, you can even add an Oh to the beginning to show emphasis. Oh, for Pete’s sake! Has a great ring to it.

21. Good grief

This phrase may not seem like it’s an overly Minnesotan phrase due to the frequent use by the cartoon Charlie Brown. The creator of The Peanuts, Charles Schultz has roots in Minnesota. He was born in Minneapolis and spent much of his life in the nearby twin city of St. Paul. There are many Peanuts statues all over the Minneapolis & St. Paul metro area celebrating the beloved cartoon.

22. Gosh, darn it!

This Minnesotan phrase is used to display disappointment in a situation. It’s used as an alternative to swearing and using the Lord’s name in vain. So, a PG substitute for God Dammit. 

23. Oh for cryin’ out loud!

Either oh for cryin’ out loud or if you’re really emphasizing a Minnesotan accent “Oh fer cryin’ out loud!” would be the appropriate way to say it. This Minnesotan phrase is to display irritation or annoyance at something. 

a photo of a dark and snowy downtown Minneapolis featuring the elevated indoor skyway walkways and metro transit crossing the street
Downtown Minneapolis

24. Darn tootin’!

This is used in place of saying Hell yeah or Damn right! Solidifying the statement or sentiment that has been communicated to be absolutely correct or supported by the person exclaiming it. If you need an intro course on how to talk Minnesotan, I’d be hard-pressed to say this would definitely be included. It’s definitely a classic Minnesotan phrase. 

25. Interesting

This is a Minnesotan phrase used when you’re not quite sure what to say. Basically, it’s a passive-aggressive polite way of saying I don’t really like that or I don’t know what to think about it. But, you don’t really want to outright say you don’t like it.

26. It’s fine

Another variation of this phrase is you’re fine. Basically showing nonchalance or brushing it off. However, a lot of the time this Minnesotan phrase is used but it really actually isn’t fine, they just are being passive-aggressive about it not actually being okay.

juicy lucy burger in the southwest metro area of twin cities of minnesota
Juicy lucy burger

27. Juicy (or Jucy) Lucy

Jucy Lucy’s were invented in Minnesota. A jucy lucy is a cheese-stuffed burger. In the Minneapolis & St. Paul area there are many restaurants that claim to have the best (or that they invented the Jucy Lucy. You definitely need to try a few at some divey bars to determine which one is the best juicy lucy burger in Minnesota

A Minnesotan phrase would be, let’s go down to the bar to have a jucy lucy and a beer.

28. The Great Minnesota Get Together

This Minnesotan phrase is what we refer to the Minnesota state fair as. It’s been the marketing theme for a long time. If you’ve ever been to the state fair in Minnesota you know what I’m talking about. 

For Minnesotans, this is a yearly tradition to try out all of the new craft beers that are exclusive to the Minnesota State Fair and sample all of the latest offerings for food. Check out more in-depth information in The Ultimate guide to the Minnesota State Fair.

Entrance to the Minnesota State Fair. Ultimate guide on what to eat and drink while visiting the state fair of MN.
Entrance to the Minnesota State Fair at the fair grounds

29. Meat raffle

This doesn’t necessarily come across as a Minnesotan phrase. But, a meat raffle is a very midwestern thing. Most people when they hear about a meat raffle for the first time are incredibly confused and really not sure what to think. Minnesota Meat raffles happen usually at your local VFW or a homey dive bar. 

How it works is you purchase a raffle ticket (usually for $1-2) then they raffle off certain cuts of meat. The meat is usually donated and the money made from all of the raffle tickets goes to a local charity. 

30. Oh yeah!

Oh yeah, Oh ya (or Oh yah!) is probably more true taking a Minnesotan accent into account is a common Minnesota phrase. It’s used as an acknowledgment to someone. Or just stating something in a matter-of-fact way. Used both as an affirmative statement and also as a question.

31. Cripes!

Cripes is an exclamation used to substitute for saying, Christ. Another variation of this exclamation includes “For Cripes Sake!” Cripe’s meaning is to replace a curse or swear word. Showing displeasure or disgust in a situation or something someone said. 

32. Up North

A Minnesotan phrase commonly used is “Up North”. This is used in reference to the mid-state portion (about St. Cloud, MN, or Brainerd, MN, and north.) Most of this area of the state has the same area code of 218. 

In the summer, this is the glorious part of the state where many spend extended periods of time on the abundant lakes. Up North weekends usually consist of lake days, beers, lawn games, staying in a cabin or camping with a travel trailer or tent, and nights by the bonfire. If you’re lucky enough you can hear the call of the state bird, the common loon. 

sun setting out over a Minnesota lake with the state bird loon floating on top of the water
Classic Up North Minnesota image

33. You guys

Another variation of this is yous guys, which I have to admit makes me cringe a bit but I have heard people actually use it. You guys is similar to the use of the southern word y’all meaning everyone or a group of people.

34. Anywho

It’s really common in Minnesota to use the phrase anywho. This is used as a substitute for any way or anyhow. This saying is commonly used in other midwestern states as well but is definitely a Minnesota phrase worth noting. This is commonly used when you’re really ready to leave a gathering but a Minnesota goodbye is occurring. 

35. Bags

I could go on and on about how Minnesotans pronounce certain things. (Bag & boat are words Minnesotans get ridiculed for a lot!) But, this is another game-related reference. The lawn game many refer to as cornhole, in Minnesota we call it bags. 

So, if you’re at a bbq or better yet a weekend up north at someone’s cabin and you are asked if you want to play bags that’s what it means. Don’t be confused by this Minnesotan phrase. 

36. Beer back

This refers to when you order a bloody mary. In Minnesota (also sometimes in Wisconsin.) you will receive a small pour of a light beer on the side of your bloody mary. The technical term for it is a snit but in Minnesota, it can be referred to as a beer back, chaser, or beer bump. Whatever Minnesotan phrase you use to describe the little pour of beer, they all mean the same thing.

It’s meant to compliment the spiciness of the drink and tone it down a little bit. The first time I ordered a bloody mary in Texas I realized I was no longer in the land of the beer chaser! (Insert sad face!) 

Bloody Mary with olives and cheese sitting on a table with a beer back how they're served in Minnesota.
a Bloody Mary with a beer back, how they’re served in Minnesota

37. North Shore

When Minnesotans refer to the North Shore it means the most gorgeous part of this northern state. From the city of Duluth, MN along the rugged shore of Lake Superior to Grand Portage Canada is what a Minnesotan calls the North Shore. There is a lot to do in Duluth, Minnesota but leaf peeping in the fall and waterfall season in the spring is gorgeous as you continue further north to Two Harbors or Grand Marais. There are many state parks and hikes to take in the beauty of this part of the state.

Minnesotan phrases

Now that you’re versed in Minnesota slang and the common things people might say you’re ready to head to the north country and try out some of your shiny new vocab. You’re ready to head up north, order a bloody mary with a chaser and maybe even play a yard game of bags. 

You betcha there are many awesome places to visit in Minnesota. Beyond just visiting the Twin Cities of Minneapolis & St. Paul metro area, start planning your Minnesota vacation now!

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