Arizona Accent: Origins, Words, and Slang

Travel anywhere in the United States, and you’ll be met with varying accents of all kinds. Many areas of the country have their unique dialect, slang, and drawls that let the listener know where the person might call home. Texas twangs, southern drawls, California Valley Girl, or the distinct accents of Boston, New York, or the Midwest are all part of America’s wonderful diversity.

One part of the country may have a less obvious accent, and that would be the southwest, specifically Arizona. With some Spanish/Mexican influence and some subtle differences in pronunciation and slang, Arizona accents may be harder to place but can still be different from other areas of the country

Arizona has become a sort of “melting pot” in recent years, with many new residents from all over the United States flocking to Arizona for its mild winters and relatively low cost of living compared to other states. Although the state’s population may be more diverse, long-time residents of the Grand Canyon State can have a slight difference in speech patterns which may only be noticeable to linguistic experts.

Let’s dive in!

Arizona Accent

Do Arizonans Have an Accent?

There is no simple “yes” or “no” answer to this question! Since Arizona is largely made up of transplants, or people who have moved from other states, a true Arizonan accent is harder to pick out among the crowd. However, linguistically, many different terms, phrases, and words are unique to Arizona that even newcomers can pick up on quickly. 

Like many states, the more rural towns in Arizona tend to have a more obvious southern-like twang, and they may use words such as “y’all” and “ain’t” or other common southern slang words that are typically associated with a rural setting. In the bigger cities, you’re more likely to hear less slang and instead, just slight variations in certain words and vowels.

The “Arizona Accent” can be a mix of Texan, Mexican, Navajo, or Southern Californian but without any obvious characteristics that would make the speech immediately easy to place. Arizonans also have an entire vocabulary that is unique to the state, and the pronunciations of certain words can tell you if someone grew up here or not.

What is Western American English?

Western American English is a dialect of standard English that encompasses all of the western states. Since the West was settled relatively later than the rest of the country, all of the languages and dialects eventually settled into what is thought to be the “flat” American accent.

Accents tend to vary slightly within WAE depending on if someone grew up in a rural or urban setting, but for the most part, there is almost a “lack” of accent within the western states. Arizona “accents” fall under this category. 

Arizona Accent Words, Slang, and Vocabulary

  1. Prescott: A city in northern Arizona. Out of towners will pronounce it “Preh-scott” while true Arizonans will pronounce it “Preh-scitt”. 
  2. Casa Grande: A small town in southern Arizona. The correct Spanish pronunciation is rarely heard when spoken by native Arizonans, and instead you’ll hear them say “Casa Grand” without any accent. 
  3. Javelina: Anyone who lives on the fringes of the desert will tell you to watch out for these wild pigs, especially at night! They have horrible eye sight and excellent sense of smell, and are notorious for attacking pet dogs. 
  4. Monsoons: Monsoon season is July-September and brings sudden and severe thunderstorms. A haboob is a dust storm kicked up by the strong outflow from these storms, but most native Arizonans simply call them dust storms. 
  5. Saguaro: The tall, many-armed cacti that are a classic symbol of Arizona. They are protected by state law! 
  6. Snowbirds: The bane of a lot of Arizonan’s existence. These (mostly older and retired) part-time residents move here for the winter to take advantage of our wonderful weather, and clog up Arizona’s roads and restaurants in the process! 
  7. Flag: Short for Flagstaff, a city in far northern Arizona and home to Northern Arizona University and Snowbowl Ski Resort. 
  8. The Rim: Refers to the Mogollon Rim country, a plateau that stretches across the middle of the state and has plenty of options for camping, fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities. Many flock to The Rim in the summer to escape the heat. 
  9. Chimi: Rumor has it that the chimichanga, or deep-fried burrito, was invented in Arizona. It’s a favorite of locals and visitors alike! 
  10. Cheese Crisps: An open-faced quesadilla topped with a variation of cheeses. 
  11. The Supes: Short for the Superstition Mountains, a sprawling mountain range east of Phoenix that is just as mysterious as the name suggests. 
  12. Humidity: Nonexistent. Anything over 10% humidity feels like a lot for Arizonans. The most common phrase you’ll hear when someone complains about the temperature is “But it’s a dry heat!” 
  13. The 101, The 202, The 303, The 10, The 60: The highway system in Arizona is one of the best, and Arizonans refer to them by name as “The 101”, etc. All of Arizona’s streets are on a handy grid system, with main streets spaced apart by exactly a mile. 
  14. Winter: Also known as: spring, hiking season, best time of year, 3 weeks long, pants season. 
  15. Summer: 10 months of the year. 
  16. Oven Mitts: Sometimes necessary for driving in the summer, when your steering wheel can quite literally burn your hands. 
  17. The Big Ditch: Slang for The Grand Canyon. You’d be surprised how many native Arizonans have never actually been to this national park, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. 
  18. Daylight Savings Time: Doesn’t exist here! Arizonans love to brag about how we don’t ever have to change our clocks. We’re one of two states that don’t follow the practice (the other is Hawaii). More about that here: Arizona Timezones

Conclusion

While some parts of the country have famous and very obvious accents (think Boston, New York, Alabama, etc), Arizona’s accent is much more subtle, and some may say doesn’t exist at all. What sets a native Arizonan apart from a transplant, however, is the pronunciation of certain words and places. 

Arizona accents can have a slight twang similar to Texas or Wyoming. Additionally, anyone who grew up in Arizona can say most Spanish words with the correct pronunciation since so many of our roads, towns, places, and plants have names from the Spanish language.

Since much of Arizona’s population is made up of people from all over the country (from California for example), and even the world, it can be hard to place a native Arizonan accent out of context. However, if you can get the slang and pronunciations down, you’ll be sounding like a long-term Arizona resident in no time!

More unique resources about Arizona: