What is Colloquialism?

What is Colloquialism

The use of informal words or phrases. Colloquialisms make dialogue more realistic and believable.

Rather than: “Good afternoon, Father. I regret to admit I have not completed the chores you assigned me,” try: “Hey, Dad, sorry I didn’t finish the chores.”



“I didn’t want to go back no more. I had stopped cussing, because the widow didn’t like it; but now I took to it again because pap hadn’t no objections… But by-and-by pap got too handy with his hick’ry, and I couldn’t stand it.” — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain


“You keep away from Curley, Lennie.”

“Sure I will, George. I won't say a word.”

“Don't let him pull you in — but — if the son-of-a-bi*ch socks you, let

'im have it.”

“Let 'im have what, George?”

“Never mind, never mind. I'll tell you when. I hate that kind of a

guy. Look, Lennie, if you get in any kind of trouble, you remember

what I told you to do?” — Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Colloquial Phrases

  • “Break the ice” – instead of “get things started”
  • “Go bananas” – instead of “went insane”
  • “Take a rain check” – instead of “let’s reschedule”
  • “Wanna” – instead of “want to”
  • “To each his own” – instead of “you’re entitled to your opinion”
  • “Gonna” – instead of “going to”
  • “Y’all” – instead of “all of you”
  • “Take it with a grain of salt” – instead of “this may or may not be true”
  • “Feeling blue” – instead of “feeling sad”
  • “Buzz off” – instead of “go away”
  • “Spill the beans” – instead of “tell the secret”

Colloquialism vs. Slang

Slang or jargon refers to words used by specific social groups, such as teenagers, hipsters, or soldiers.

Colloquial language may include slang but mostly consists of informal words and phrases.

Click here to go back to the literary devices homepage.