The Kiwi ‘ay’ versus the Canadian ‘eh’

This post is for fun.  If you want something reliable read a journal on linguistics.  If you want to have a giggle, keep reading.

Kiwi’s and Canadians share a common desire to add one syllable vowel like sounds to the end of our sentences occasionally.  What I have noticed is there is a difference between the way they are used.

At first it had me flummoxed, I had expected the Canadian ‘eh’ to naturally fall into the gap where the kiwi ‘ay’ (pronounced like the letter A, some say it’s also spelt ‘eh’.  But eh who cares)  would have been, but instead every time I heard it, I was caught off guard.

So what’s the dif?

In New Zealand you may hear some one say.

“Strewth Gazza, its bloody hot today, ay?”

in other words “My goodness Gavin, the weather is rather hot in temperature, don’t you think?”

The use of the word ‘ay’ replaces the words ‘isn’t it’ or ‘don’t you think’.

It can also be a question on its own.

“Ay?”  Meaning ‘what?’, ‘what the?’ or ‘what on earth?’

Or to emphasize opinion

“Yeah, nah, ay.” Meaning ‘I don’t think so.’

‘ay’ saves a lot of time, and we Kiwi’s prefer to say things with one syllable where possible.

Take this conversation for example

“Yep” “Ay?” “Yeah” “yeah, nah” “nup” “She’ll be right.” “True” “Chur bro”

Clearly, these two gentlemen were discussing their concerns over New Zealand’s economic state.

And this is the key to where the difference lies.

From what I have observed, the Canadian ‘Eh’ is used for so much more.

For instance while a kiwi would say

“That chick Sharon shez really choice, ay?” (seeking agreement)

A Canadian could reply

“Yes she’s a good-looking girl, eh.” (providing agreement)

There is a Wikipedia about it of course,

But I’m not too sure about what it has to say.

It said the Canadian’s use it to check the listener is paying attention and as a way to gain agreement.

It also said that the New Zealand ‘eh’ is used as a measure of social class. hmm, yeah nah, ay.

I much prefered this website’s explanation


… an all-inclusive word, is the fundamental basis of Canadian communications. It can be used with other words or simply by itself. The tone differentiates its meaning making it extremely versatile and reducing the need to grasp the high-flying words of the English language.”

State Opinion:  “Nice weather, eh?”

Request Opinion: “What do you think, eh?”

To show emotion “When are you coming, eh?” (nice)

To show emotion “When are you leaving, eh?” (nasty)

Fear/Anxiety: “I’m pregnant, eh.”

Punctuation “End this sentence, eh.”

A Narrative: “I was just driving down the road, eh, and this other car came right out of nowhere, eh, and crashed right into the driver’s side, eh. Indifference I don’t care, eh.”

Accusation: “You took my toque, eh”.

Confirmation: “Sure, eh.”

So there you have it.  I claim no real knowledge and I know some Canadians who read this blog, so would love you to post your incite on this clearly important topic.


My travel blog series has come to an end (because no one is interested in blogs anymore, and who wants to write about being on holiday while on holiday).  I am a poet and writer I also occasionally do terribly drawn cartoons.  To see more of my work please go to

14 thoughts on “The Kiwi ‘ay’ versus the Canadian ‘eh’

  1. Isn’t aye pronounced like “eye” or “I”? I thought it was just stupid people that actually spell eh “aye”

  2. I was interested to read this; I found it searching for the exact spelling of the “eh” vowel sound in New Zealand. I’m currently captioning a show called Outrageous Fortune, and certain characters say it quite a bit.

    I wanted to make sure I got the spelling right, so I looked it up. Wikipedia says “eh”, but you seem to be a New Zealander and you spell it “aye”. Do you happen to know if either are correct?

    1. Hi, really sorry, somehow your comment stayed in limbo for over a year. I am sure you got your answer. I am no expert on how to spell it, it sounds like the letter ‘A’, I have written it as ‘aye’ to differentiate it from the Canadian pronunciation.

      1. Less of the “we”, thanks.
        “Aye” is pronounced “eye” and makes me think of shipboard lingo for “yes”.
        The more well-read of us spell it “eh”.

        In contrast to the Canadians’ alleged use of it as a multi-functional sentence ending, we tend to use it as more of an affirmation-seeker, e.g. “She’s pretty hot today, eh?”, meaning “The weather today is remarkably warm, isn’t it?”

      2. This blog post I wrote 8 years ago as a joke. I wasn’t expecting it to take on so much debate. Ok I get your point…. No more ,’Aye’, but still need to differentiate it from Eh (that’s just not how we say it). But as I say at the end of the post…I claim no expertise.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s