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Here are 31 Slang Terms You’ll Only Understand if you’re from Tennessee




Embark on a linguistic journey through the Volunteer State as we uncover 31 colloquial gems that add a distinctive melody to the Tennessee lexicon. From savoring the heat of “hot chicken” in Nashville to navigating the soulful rhythms of “Blues City” in Memphis, Tennessee’s slang reflects the diverse cultural tapestry of the region. Whether you’re a proud Vol or a curious outsider, join us in exploring the unique linguistic expressions that make Tennessee’s vernacular as rich and varied as its musical heritage.

Volunteer State

A nickname for Tennessee, reflecting the state’s history of volunteer soldiers, particularly during the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War.


Used in lieu of, “I’m going to,” or, “I will.”

Grits and Gravy

Refers to a strong Southern accent often associated with Tennessee residents.

Goo Goo

No, not a baby or a really bad pet name. It refers to the amazingly delicious Goo Goo Cluster, a Tennessee staple.

Hose Pipe

Just your regular ‘ol garden hose.

Sweet Tea

All tea in Tennessee. Ever. All tea is sweet because HOW ELSE WOULD YOU DRINK IT?!


A large biscuit. Cat Head Biscuits are so named because they are as big as a cat’s head!


No, we’re not talking about the cocktail sausages that are simmered in a crockpot! When Tennesseans talk about the “smokies,” they are usually referencing the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee.

Smoky Mountains

Refers to the Great Smoky Mountains, a prominent mountain range on the Tennessee-North Carolina border.

Biscuit Eater

A friendly term for someone from Tennessee, highlighting the Southern culinary tradition of enjoying biscuits.

Meat and Three

Classic southern dinner. A Meat & Three meal is Southern food at its very best. Choose a delicious meat dish, accompanied by three mouthwatering sides.

Honky Tonk

Planning a trip to Nashville soon? It’s time to get familiar with honky tonks. A honky tonk is a establishment that usually offers performances around the clock, casual bar cuisine and cold drinks. In Nashville, tourists can find a whole row of honky tonks on Broadway.


Elvis Presley’s iconic mansion in Memphis, often used to symbolize the King of Rock and Roll’s influence on Tennessee.


A term of endearment similar though not the same as, “sugar,” which northerners say.


An informal abbreviation for Tennessee, commonly used in conversation.

Hot Chicken

A spicy fried chicken dish originating from Nashville, known for its fiery flavor.


Sour milk. How locals describe sour or spoiled milk: “the milk is blinked!”

God love em’

Means that God better love ’em because I sure don’t

Soul Gravy

A metaphorical expression for the cultural richness and vibrancy of Tennessee, particularly in music and food.


Short for Volunteers, the University of Tennessee’s sports teams, including the football team.


Not a bear, but the Memphis basketball team.

Jitney Jungle

An outdated term for a grocery store, once used in the Memphis area.

Buckle on the Bible Belt

This refers to Nashville. Music City is the buckle, right in the middle of the religious south.


It’s a beanie! Not a sled.

Goo Goo

Candy bar. It refers to the amazingly delicious Goo Goo Cluster, a Tennessee candy bar that contains marshmallow nougat, caramel, and roasted peanuts covered in milk chocolate.

Banjo Country

A playful reference to the Appalachian region of Tennessee, known for its musical heritage.

East Tennessee

The eastern region of the state, distinguished by its mountainous terrain and distinct cultural characteristics.


Bills. This word means bills you get in the mail, such as electricity.


Refers to the central region of Tennessee, including cities like Nashville and Murfreesboro.

Blues City

A nod to Memphis, often called the “Home of the Blues,” reflecting the city’s significant musical contributions.


An amusement park in Pigeon Forge founded by Dolly Parton, showcasing Tennessee’s entertainment culture.

Currently residing in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and Pomeranian, Mochi. Leo is a lover of all things travel related outside and inside the United States. Leo has been to every continent and continues to push to reach his goals of visiting every country someday. Learn more about Leo on MuckRack.

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