Early French and English fur traders found in what is now Wisconsin several Indian tribes of the Algonkian family: Ojibwa along Lake Superior, Sauk in the northeast, Winnebago and Fox south of them, and Kickapoo in the southwest. Numerous Indian place-names include Antigo, Kaukauna, Kewaunee, Menomonie, Oshkosh, Wausau, and Winnebago.

Wisconsin English is almost entirely Northern, like that of the areas that provided Wisconsin's first settlers—Michigan, northern Ohio, New York State, and western New England. Common are the Northern pail, comforter (tied and filled bed cover), sick to the stomach, angleworm (earthworm), skip school (play truant), and dove as the past of dive . Pronunciation features are fog, frog, and on with the vowel sound /ah/; and orange, forest, and foreign with the /aw/ vowel sound. Northern fried cakes is now yielding to doughnuts, and johnnycake is giving way to corn bread. Milwaukee has sick in the stomach and is known for the localism bubbler (drinking fountain). A small exception to Northern homogeneity is the cluster of South Midland terms brought by Kentucky miners to the southwestern lead-mining district, such as dressing (sweet sauce for a pudding), eaves spout as a blend of eavestrough and Midland spouting, branch for stream, and fishworm for earthworm.

In 2000, 92.7% (down from 94.2% in 1990) of the state population five years old and older spoke only English in the 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 "Other West Germanic languages" includes Dutch, Pennsylvania Dutch, and Afrikaans. The category "Scandinavian languages" includes Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The category "Other Native North American languages" includes Apache, Cherokee, Choctaw, Dakota, Keres, Pima, and Yupik.


Population 5 years and over 5,022,073 100.0
Speak only English 4,653,361 92.7
Speak a language other than English 368,712 7.3
Speak a language other than English 368,712 7.3
Spanish or Spanish Creole 168,778 3.4
German 48,409 1.0
Miao, Hmong 30,569 0.6
French (incl. Patois, Cajun) 14,970 0.3
Polish 12,097 0.2
Chinese 7,951 0.2
Italian 6,774 0.1
Other West Germanic languages 5,870 0.1
Scandinavian languages 5,651 0.1
Russian 5,362 0.1