“Canuck” is a slang term for a Canadian. 

The origins of the word are uncertain. The term “Kanuck” is first recorded in 1835 as an Americanism, originally referring to Dutch Canadians or French Canadians. By the 1850s, the spelling with a “C” became predominant. Today, many people use “Canuck” as a mostly affectionate term for any Canadian. 

The Montreal Gazette wrote: “When we celebrate Canada Day, we’re actually celebrating Village Day. The French explorer Jacques Cartier heard the name spoken by two indigenous boys on his 1535 expedition up the St. Lawrence River — they told him the way to ‘kanata’.” The boys didn’t mean the entire region but merely the next village.

According to the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, the true origin of “Canuck” lies in Hawaii. In the early 1800s, sailors from Hawaii worked on many whaling ships, and the Hawaiian word for a person — kanaka — jumped into American English.

“Johnny Canuck” developed around 1860 and often appeared as a burly lumberjack, but  was also portrayed as a farmer, a rancher, and a soldier. As a personification of Canada, he appeared in political cartoons of the 1860s, resisting Uncle Sam’s bullying. Johnny Canuck was revived in 1942 by Leo Bachle to defend Canada against the Nazis.

In 1900, composer Henry Herbert Godfrey wrote both Johnny Canuck’s the Lad and When Johnny Canuck Comes Home.

“Canuck” is a nickname for three Canadian-built aircraft from the 1900s: the Curtiss JN-4C training biplane; the Avro CF-100 jet fighter; and the Fleet 80 Canuck. The name was also used for a brand of firearms engineered and distributed by O’Dell Engineering Ltd since 2014: Canuck 1911, Canuck Over Under, Canuck Shotgun.

In 1975, in comics by Richard Comely, Captain Canuck is a super-agent for Canadians’ security, and had enhanced strength and endurance thanks to being bathed in alien rays during a camping trip. The captain was reintroduced in the mid-1990s, and again in 2004.

Then, the Canada national rugby union team (men’s) is officially nicknamed “Canucks,” and we have the Crazy Canucks, Canadian alpine ski racers who competed successfully on the World Cup circuit in the ’70s. And let’s not forget the Vancouver Canucks, a professional ice hockey team.

Go, Canucks!

  One thought on “Canuck

  1. Sheila Whipple
    September 21, 2021 at 4:40 pm

    Well, I did not know any of that

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 21, 2021 at 5:06 pm

      Glad I could pass on the information!


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