Many place-names echo the languages of the Yankton and Santee Sioux Indian tribes and of the incoming Algonkian-language Ojibwa, or Chippewa, from whom most of the Sioux fled to Dakota Territory. Such place-names as Minnesota itself, Minnetonka, and Mankato are Siouan in origin; Kabetogama and Winnibigoshish, both lakes, are Ojibwan.

English in the state is essentially Northern, with minor infiltration of Midland terms because of early movement up the Mississippi River into southern Minnesota and also up the Great Lakes into and beyond Duluth. Among older residents, traces of Scandinavian intonation persist, and on the Iron Range several pronunciation features reflect the mother tongues of mine workers from eastern Europe.

Although some minor variants now compete in frequency, on the whole Minnesota speech features such dominant Northern terms as andirons, pail, mouth organ (harmonica), comforter (tied and filled bedcover), wishbone, clingstone peach, sweet corn, angleworm (earthworm), darning needle or mosquito hawk (dragonfly), and sick to the stomach . Minnesotans call the grass strip between street and sidewalk the boulevard and a rubber band a rubber binder, and many cook coffee when they brew it. Three-fourths of a sample population spoke root with the vowel of put; one third, through school influence, pronounced /ah/ in aunt instead of the usual Northern short /a/, as in pants . Many younger speakers pronounce caller and collar alike.

In 2000, 4,201,503 Minnesotans—91.5%—five years old or older spoke only English at home.

The following table gives selected statistics from the 2000 census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over. The category "African languages" includes Amharic, Ibo, Twi, Yoruba, Bantu, Swahili, and Somali. The category "Scandinavian languages" includes Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish.


Population 5 years and over 4,591,491 100.0
Speak only English 4,201,503 91.5
Speak a language other than English 389,988 8.5
Speak a language other than English 389,988 8.5
Spanish or Spanish Creole 132,066 2.9
Miao, Hmong 41,673 0.9
German 35,072 0.8
African languages 24,747 0.5
Vietnamese 16,503 0.4
French (incl. Patois, Cajun) 15,744 0.3
Scandinavian languages 12,722 0.3
Chinese 12,578 0.3
Russian 9,629 0.2
Laotian 7,987 0.2