The Florida accent: Speech in the Sunshine State

The Florida accent: Speech in the Sunshine State

by Laura Jones

Updated March 30, 2023

In the latest edition of our American Accents series, we’re heading to Florida to bask in the speech and slang of the Sunshine State. But first, a disclaimer: there is no single Florida accent. The state can roughly be split across the middle, with different accents in the north and the south. And then there’s Miami, which has its own distinctive accent and slang owing to its large Latino population. So, what do Floridians sound like?

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The North Florida accent

In the northern part of Florida, the accent is similar to that in the Southern states of the US, like Alabama and Georgia (both of which happen to border Florida). 

You can hear this accent anywhere north of Gainesville, particularly around Tallahassee and the Florida Panhandle. It becomes more prominent as you move into more rural areas. You’re likely to hear words like “y’all” and other sounds characteristics of the Southern accent, like the pronunciation of the /e/ sound in “ten” as /ɪ/, like in “tin.” Hear the accent in this video

The South Florida accent

The further south you go in Florida, the less of a Southern accent you’ll hear. How does that work? One word: immigration. From the 1930s onward, people living in the northeastern states of the US and in Rust Belt cities like Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Detroit began moving to South Florida in search of sunshine. And they brought their accents with them. Nowadays, many people who live in the northern parts of the US and in Canada retire to Florida or fly south to spend the winters there (hence their migratory nickname: “snowbirds”). 

In Miami, the population doubled between 1930 and 1950 thanks to immigration from these northern states. Then, after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Miami became home to increasing numbers of people from Cuba and other Latin American countries. Fast-forward to today, and the city is 70% Latino. It’s no surprise, then, that the city has a unique accent and dialect heavily influenced by both English and Cuban Spanish. Watch this video to listen to some Miami Cubans speaking. 

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General Florida slang words

Here is some Florida slang you can use all over the state: 

no-see-umssmall blood-sucking flies that are difficult to see“I hate these no-see-ums!” 
park in Goofyto park far away, inspired by the Goofy parking lot at Walt Disney World, which is furthest away from the entrance“Mom! Why did you park in Goofy?”
jita child or anyone younger than you“That jit is so annoying!”
hundida hundred“Do you have a hundid?”
Florida bathto clean oneself in a pool, rather than in the bath or shower“I’m just going to have a Florida bath.”

Miami slang

These slang words are mainly heard around Miami, and either come from or are heavily influenced by Spanish: 

biha person, place or thing“What’s that bih over there?”
oyehi or hello“Oye, how you doing?”
dalehurry up or bye; also used to express support“Dale, let’s go!”
que boláwhat’s up?“Ana, que bolá?”
ligahair tie“It’s so windy. Do you have a liga?”
gettyget-together“I’m having a getty this weekend.” 

In Miami, you’ll also hear some phrases and idioms that have been directly translated from Spanish. For example, instead of “take a pill,” you’ll hear “drink a pill,” coming from the Spanish tomar una pastilla (tomar meaning “drink” or “take,” depending on the context). And, rather than “puncture” or “tear a hole,” you’ll hear “open a hole,” which comes from the Spanish abrir un hueco. For example: “That nail opened a hole in my tire.” 

Dale! Come to Florida

The beauty of visiting Florida is that you will come across many different accents as you travel across the state, from the Southern drawl of the Panhandle to the Spanish-inspired Miami accent. You’ll also get to learn some words in the Florida accent, such as jit and bih. And if you go anywhere near a pool to have a “Florida bath,” you’ll almost certainly start talking aboutno-see-ums.”

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Laura Jones

Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.

Laura Jones

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