English Language Blog

“Howdy partner” and other cowboy vocabulary Posted by on Oct 29, 2013 in Culture, English Language


I’m sure you have seen and maybe heard cowboys in American films and on TV, but did you know that American cowboys have their own dialect or way of speaking? Well, they do. Today I thought I’d teach you some common cowboy phrases and sayings so that you can understand cowboy-speak next time you hear it.  So saddle up partner, because here we go!

Cowboy vocabulary:

howdy = hi

howdy partner = hi there friend

ya’ll = all of you
ya = you
giddy up = let’s go (often said while riding to a horse)

Head ’em up, move ’em out. = Let’s go. (Let’s move these cattle.)
a dude = a person who tries to dress like and talk like a cowboy, but really is a city person
wet your whistle = have a drink (usually alcohol)
hoedown = a dance
a half-wit = a stupid person
city-slicker = a person from the city
tenderfoot or greenhorn = a new person
hoosegow or calaboose= jail
namby-pamby = not brave
pony up =  hurry up
skedaddle = get out of here
the jig is up = the game is over; the truth has been exposed
He’s a goner. = He’s dead.
by hook or crook = any way possible
in cahoots = doing something in secret
yokel = a person from the country (not the city)
yonder = over there
saloon = bar/restaurant

Now, here is a brief conversation between two cowboys that uses some of this vocabulary from above to help you put these phrases in context.

A: Howdy.
B: Howdy partner.
A: Are you going down to wet your whistle at the saloon tonight?
B: Not me, that saloon over yonder is full of namby-pamby city slickers. I don’t go there anymore. I’m going to the hoedown tonight.
A: By hook or crook I think I’ll join ya! I’m tired of being around all those dudes at the saloon.
B: Well, we better head ’em up and move ’em out and get back to town. Pony up!
A: Giddy up, I’m right behind ya’.

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.


  1. tom clegg:

    really helpful; thanks!

  2. Felipe Santillan:

    This site was really helpful for me, so many thanks for your interest in us ESLs, greetings from Mexico City

  3. Maia Frister:

    Thanks! It’s very helpful. Had fun reading the cowboy chat!

  4. Maia Frister:

    Thanks! It’s very fun to check out. I loved reading the cowboy dialogue!!! Thanks again!

  5. kayden rafferty:

    this is very helpful for learning slang and cow boy language

  6. izac:

    well cut my legs off and call me shorty

  7. Paloma:

    How to say “girls” in cowboy slang??

  8. faliq khudadost:

    great post … is there any site where i can improve my listening skills .. I am a movie buff and having difficulty to follow dialogue which has contraction like these what’d that’d when’d why’d where’d when’ve when’s there’ll John’ll
    native speaker do use them a lot i wish to condition my ear to follow them in movie so i need kinda listening material where i could sharpen my listening

  9. Angel:

    Thanks..This helped me out some to prove to my friend that I knew what I was saying meant. But honestly I’m really curious. How do y’all know what this all means…Like who or what is your source?

  10. Morgan:

    Thanks this helped but who or what is y’all’s source? You know when doing anything sources are very important. I know you don’t need a source if something is common knowledge but I was just wondering what your source was.

  11. Keziahbel Hindang:

    I enjoyed it and it helps me a lot.thank you for this

  12. Yukiko Repass:

    I have a question about pony up.
    pony up = put money in
    Most American people know pony up mean put money up, is it correct?
    I am sorry my English is not good.

  13. Quinn Smith:

    Thanks a lot! Our school is having a Gold Rush day and we need to talk like cowboys. This was a big help. Thanks!

  14. jim boy:

    Howdy folks, real nice time talking to ya

  15. Anna:

    I added these terms into a story I’m writing.

  16. dian:

    Looking for western slang to write on my blog, I’m actually just starting up its going to be a good time, Thanks for your help! !

  17. Jeannie:

    I loved reading this. As a young girl I’d fantasize about being a cowgirl and watched all the Western TV shows. Bonanza, The Big Valley, and High Chaparral, were my favorites. I loved some of the words used like, ” dadburnit”, varmint, critter, mite, Sam Hill, dang, plumb, thunderation, vittles, yonder, gringo, skeddadle, !Aribba, Arriba! !Andale, Andale!, reckon, fixin, fetch, git, chuckwagon, buckaroo, vaquero, and many more! I’m fixin to lose some weight, so I can go out and buy me some new duds and boots. I’m much older now, but dadburnit; I reckon I can still pull it off!

  18. Steve Perrin:

    Dude didn’t mean someone from the city/pretending to be a cowboy.
    Dude was slang for anyone wearing overtly flamboyant clothing… even real cowboys.

    It derives from the Scottish word for clothing – duddies.

  19. Rebecca:

    Out in these parts, my favorite thing is to wear my shit-kickers, drive my rig down to my favorite honky-tonk, do a little boot-scootin’, talk a little bull with friends, throw back a Bud and leave before the cows come home.