Thanksgiving Phrases: What Americans Say to Each Other on This Holiday

Tori Tornreviewed bySana Liashuk / more about Editorial Process9 min
Created: Nov 2, 2022Last updated: Feb 5, 2024
Thanksgiving Phrases

When all the spine-chilling and uncanny decorations from streets, houses, and shops are gone, the Halloween season is officially over in the US. But there is still quite some time before the Christmas lights turn on and the movie Home Alone is to be watched. And that holiday between two the most expensive and most profitable holidays in North America is called Thanksgiving Day. We bet you've definitely heard of it before, at least because no popular American series is complete without an episode about Thanksgiving family dinner. 

If you want to be a real pro in American English, there is no way you can skip the history of Thanksgiving Day and Thanksgiving words and phrases. Being able to operate themed vocabulary is essential when it comes to integration into the new language and culture. That is why we have prepared a fire text about phrases for Thanksgiving. But trust us, it hits differently. 

Thanksgiving Day: Short History Of The Holiday

Today, Thanksgiving is one of the most treasurable holidays in the US culture. It's that day of the year when family and friends gather together to express their gratitude and say what they are thankful for. Although Thanksgiving doesn't have a fixed day for celebration, people celebrate the holiday on the last Thursday of November. So, it can fall for any date from November 22 to 28. 

Nowadays, Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the USA, so people there have a day off to spend with their families. But how it all started? So let's dive a bit deeper into history for a moment. 

It is believed that the first official Thanksgiving in the US was held on November 1621. It all started with Piligrims and Indians. A year later, after a small ship with English Protestants called Puritans got to the land of the "New World," they decided to celebrate their first feast. So, Governor William Bradford invited a group of Native Americans, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit, for dinner. In such a way, Piligrims, as they are known now, wanted to express their gratitude to Native Americans for saving them from starvation, teaching them to fish in the rivers, growing corn, extracting sap from maple trees, and avoiding poisonous plants. That celebration lasted for three days and included not only dinner but also dancing and playing games.

During the Civil War in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln initially declared two national Thanksgivings. But today, people celebrate only the one in November, giving thanks for "general blessings."

Thanksgiving is a kind of laidback holiday with no traditional activities. People stay at home to spend some time with their families. But there are still some traditions that cannot be forgotten. Your Thanksgiving to-do list should include the following:

  1. Eating a traditional holiday dinner.
  2. Sharing what you are thankful for.
  3. Watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
  4. Breaking the wishbone for good luck.
  5. Watching an American football game and learning some Thanksgiving words and phrases.
  6. And we can help with the last item from that list right here and right now. Let's do it!

Thanksgiving Phrases: Basic Holiday Vocabulary 

Since Thanksgiving Day is built around a tradition of gathering all family and friends at the dinner table, the basic holiday vocabulary will mainly focus on food. You need to know what people traditionally eat on Thanksgiving to ask for more of that food on your plate. 

So, among the food that is traditionally served on the Thanksgiving table, you can find:

  • acorn squash
  • apple cider
  • apple pie
  • biscuits
  • butternut squash
  • candied carrots
  • candied yams
  • corn
  • corn casserole
  • corn on the cob
  • corn salad
  • cornbread
  • cranberry sauce
  • creamed corn
  • dressing
  • gravy
  • green bean casserole
  • ham
  • hash browns
  • hubbard squash
  • macaroni and cheese
  • macaroni salad
  • mashed potatoes
  • pumpkin bread
  • pumpkin pie
  • roast pumpkin
  • rolls
  • stuffing
  • sweet potato hash
  • sweet potatoes
  • three bean salad
  • turkey

Thanksgiving Words And Phrases: What About Idioms

Thanksgiving wouldn't be an actual holiday in English speaking country without idioms related to it. Among all Thanksgiving terms and phrases, idioms are the funniest and most useful ones. So, here are 10 Thanksgiving idioms to boost your vocabulary this November. Spoiler alert: yes, they are primarily about food. 

  • To be stuffed 

Meaning: to feel full after eating and be unable to eat another bite

Example: Monica, it was the best Thanksgiving dinner ever; I'm so stuffed, I think you killed us. 

  • To stuff your face

Meaning: to eat too much at once

Example: I couldn't believe he could stuff his face so much. 

  • A stuffed shirt 

Meaning: a serious person who behaves in a very formal way 

Example: My new boss turned out to be a stuffed shirt; I'm not too fond of such a type. 

  • To go cold turkey 

Meaning: to wholly and immediately end up with a bad habit and suffer because of it at the beginning

Example: Right before Halloween, I decided to quit eating sweets by going cold turkey. That was not proper timing. 

  • To talk turkey

Meaning: to discuss something in a serious manner 

Example: If you want to save our marriage, you must stop lying to me and start talking turkey.

  • To be easy as a pie

Meaning: when something is too easy and does not require putting effort

Example: I know you are worried, but the task is easy as pie. 

  • To gobble up

Meaning: to eat very fast and swallow without really chewing

Example: This eating competition was absolute madness. I have never seen people gobbling up so many hotdogs in my life. 

  • To count your blessings 

Meaning: to be thankful and express gratitude for good things

Example: Despite all difficulties, we managed to be healthy and safe today so let's not forget to count our blessings.

  • A blessing in disguise

Meaning: when something bad happened but turned out to be a good thing later 

Example: I was so upset that I missed my train that day in Naples. But it was a blessing in disguise; that day, on another train, I met Lorenzo. 

  • A mixed blessing 

Meaning: something that has its pros and cons

Example: Being short can be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I can feel comfortable in economy class on the plane, but on the other hand, I need help to get my luggage from the shelf.

What To Say: Phrases For Thanksgiving Wishes 
thanksgiving words and phrases

Unfortunately, Thanksgiving itself doesn't have a lot of special greetings. However, there are a few traditional ones, such as: 

  • Happy Thanksgiving!
  • Happy Thanksgiving Day!
  • Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Nonetheless, with friends and family, you can become creative and say what you are thankful to them for. Start with being grateful for having them in your life, by your side, every step of the way. Thank them for their unconditional love, support, and trust in you. Remember to mention what their qualities you cherish the most and remind them of a life situation where they showed themselves. 

Quotes About Thanksgiving: Be Iconic In November

As we mentioned before, no great tv series would be complete without a Thanksgiving episode. Characters experience all kinds of emotions when it comes to Thanksgiving Day. So, we are offering you some lit quotes about Thanksgiving from movies and series to understand the vibe of the holiday better and to be able to express yourself as your favorite iconic character. Stay legendary!

"You can't have Thanksgiving without turkey. That's like the Fourth of July without apple pie or Friday with no two pizzas." — Joey Tribbiani, Friends.

"We're just gonna watch football, drink beer, and then we're going to Best Buy later for Black Friday." —Nick, New Girl.

"It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a little emotional scarring." — Friends.

"I'm sorry. Did you just say Canadian Thanksgiving was, and I'm quoting, "the real Thanksgiving"? What do Canadians even have to celebrate about?"—Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother.

Amy Farrah Fowler: "Are you honestly comparing going to Thanksgiving dinner at Mrs. Wolowitz's house to one of the worst tragedies in human history?" Sheldon Cooper: "Yes." – The Big Bang Theory.

"Here's a tip: Don't cook Thanksgiving dinner for five people in 14 hours. Here's another tip: Don't ask a guy out for a first date on the least sexy holiday in America." — Schmidt, New Girl.

"The Thankstini: a fun and delicious new novelty drink I invented. Cranberry juice, potato vodka, and a bouillon cube. Tastes just like a turkey dinner." — Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother.

"It's not too much food. This is what we've been training for our whole lives. This is our destiny; this is our finest hour." —Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls.

Chandler: "So, when's the big game gonna start?" Phoebe: "You don't have to do that; Ross and Joey aren't here — you can watch the parade." – Friends.


How can I learn Thanksgiving Phrases And Words with Promova?

The Promova platform is a perfect tool for learning new words and phrases for any topic you might need. We have many bite-size lessons about holidays, festivals, and traditions, so you will stay energized. If you want to learn more useful vocabulary for Thanksgiving Day, start with a basic food list and slowly but confidently move forward to food idioms, for instance. Once you remember them, you can shoot them for many different occasions. Using them is not limited only to Thanksgiving. 

Another great thing about the Promova platform is individual classes with native-like tutors. You can pick a tutor for any learning purpose, like gaining an American accent or speaking practice, and ask for a themed lesson. Just let your tutor know that you are interested in learning more about Thanksgiving, and they will shed light upon traditions and vocabulary for a holiday. Remember that for American tutors Thanksgiving might be a day off, so plan your lesson before and after that. Having themed lessons is always entertaining. 


Now you are fully packed with the Thanksgiving vocabulary, which means you won't lose face when someone asks you about the holiday. You can go to a real Thanksgiving dinner in the US and don't feel like a black sheep. Yes, you will still need to adjust to all the traditions, but you already know what to wish, what to offer your help with in the kitchen, and how to make a joke with a movie quote. Don't be shy! Celebrate Thanksgiving Day, and don't forget to thank you for putting all the effort into English learning!


Do people in UK and Australia celebrate Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is considered a unique holiday. Since it isn't related to any religious people who do not come from North America, don't celebrate the holiday. Why? Simply, they hadn't to be thankful for discovering new lands, a good ocean trip, and their new homeland. However, Americans and Canadians who moved to other countries still celebrate Thanksgiving almost the same way they would at home. They can invite their friends and communities for a festival dinner and spread their culture and traditions outside their countries. There is nothing wrong with discovering another occasion to celebrate and say thank you to your friends and family. 

When is a Canadian Thanksgiving?

Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving Day a whole month and a half before Americans. It comes on the second Monday of October. So, in 2022 Thanksgiving is celebrated on October 10. 

Americans often make jokes about Canadian Thanksgiving Day and call it fake because it is celebrated much earlier. But why so? Because of the natural seasonal shift. Canada is situated further north, and the harvest season comes earlier. So, it makes more sense to celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the middle of October when it is still a real fall and not so cold outside. 

What is the most associated word with Thanksgiving?

If you ask any American what one word they associate with Thanksgiving, the answer won't be "thanks." It may sound weird, but the first word that comes to mind when talking about Thanksgiving Day is, actually, a turkey. A turkey is the main food for the holiday. In addition, people associate Thanksgiving with festive dinner and making a turkey that takes lots of time and energy. So, naturally, turkey is the first word that appears in your head when people mention Thanksgiving Day. 

What words can you spell with Thanksgiving?

According to the Word Maker website, it is possible to build 348 words from Thanksgiving. The longest terms would be vanishing, antikings, thinkings, and knighting, and the shortest would be at, in, it, hi, as, etc. you can check out the complete list here


Lara JohnstonOct 3rd, 2023
nice 👍
Alisha RodgersJul 4th, 2023
What a wonderful compilation of Thanksgiving phrases! Thanks)