English of Northumbria

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The Northumbrian language or Northumbria English is an English language [1] or dialect of English ("Northumbrian Language" may only refer to the broadly spoken Northumbrian whereas Northumbrian English may just refer to the Standard English as spoken in Northumbria and featuring various Northumbrian words and forms[1]), and a variant of Northern English with the Geordie dialect being one of the subsets of Northumbrian[1] the others being Northern (north of the River Coquet), Western (from Allendale through Hexham up to Kielder), Southern or Pitmatic (the mining towns such as Ashington and much of Durham) Mackem (Wearside), Smoggie (Teesside)[2] and possibly also Tyke (Yorkshire). It is spoken mainly if not exclusively in the modern day counties of Northumberland and Durham. Whilst all sharing similarities to the more famous Geordie dialect and most of the time not distinguishable by non-native speakers, there are a few differences between said dialects not only between them and Geordie but also each other.

Comparison with Geordie dialect[edit]

One of the main differences between the dialects of rural Northumberland and Durham and the Geordie dialect is the more frequent elongating of vowels in Northumbrian than in Geordie, the seaside town of Amble is most famous for this occurrence. Therefore words like "mam" (mother) are pronounced as "mairm" and can and tab become "cairn" and "tairb" etc. Sometimes however this vowel change is shorter, and becomes in effect like the letter "e" as in "to have a wesh" for "to have a wash". In addition this is true with "o", words like doorknob and no become doorknerb and ner thus adopting an "err" sound.

A further difference occurs in words like dirty, in Geordie it often turns into "darty" whereas in Northumbrian it can turn into "dorty". This occurs in words with "ir" "ur" and "er", anything representing the "err" sound. So certainly becomes "sortainly", "her" becomes hor, "surge" becomes sorge etc.

Some words containing "or" are pronounced as written therefore "work" becomes a homophone with "fork".

The letter "I" in words like find, blind or pint become as they are written like the "kind" in Kindergarten.

The letter "r" is used as a link between two words which end and start with vowels even when no "r" is ever present normally as in the phrase "get away" becomes "gerraway". This occurs in many English dialects as well.

When vowels come before the letter "n" (like in the gerund "-ing") they often become silent as in the word "shopping" becomes "shopp'n" (similar to the sound in giv[en]). This occurs in place names get shortened down such as "Ashington" [Ash-ing-tun] become [ash-'n-t'n] and Cramlington becomes [cram- l'n -t'n] and so on.

In common with Geordie the vowel sound "aw" as in "call" become "aa" so call, walk and talk become caall, waak and taak. Also in common with Geordie word with the "ou" ( as in down, town) becomes "oo" as in doon and toon. However some words with the same "ou" vowel sound in it become shortened to "u" so pound and found become pund and fund (a possible link with Old English and Germanic roots, compare "pfund" and "[ge]fund[en]" in German.

Comparison with Scots language[edit]

Northumbrian has a very close relationship with the Scots language[3] and both are sometimes considered as the same Anglian language or distinct but close relatives.[1] However, Scots is not universally regarded as a separate language from English but a group of dialects.[4]


Some Northumbrian words include:

  • a for I
  • aboot for about
  • alreet (/'a:lri:t/) a variation on alright or Hello (Some times used as areet mate)
  • aye for "yes"
  • bairn/grandbairn for "child/grandchild"
  • bari for "good" or "lovely"
  • banter for "chat/gossip
  • belta for "really good" used in the film Purely Belter
  • bess - "please ya bess" for "please yourself"
  • boule for "roll" however "to boule aboot" mean to "mess around"
  • cannit 'cannot'
  • canny for "pleasant" or like in Scots "quite" therefore someone could be "canny canny"
  • chud chewing gum
  • clart for "mud" as in "there's clarts on yar boots"
  • craic pronounced "crack", for good time/banter
  • cuddy 'small horse or a pony'
  • Dee for do
  • deeks for "look" as in "G'is a deeks" - "Gimme a look"
  • divint for "don't"
  • divvie for "stupid person"
  • doon down, own is often replaced with oon.
  • doon for down
  • ee used like oh, often in shock "ee neva"
  • fitha ir fatha for "father"
  • gaan for going
  • gadgie for man
  • gan for "go"
  • get awesh for "go away"
  • Geet for very. "there was this Geet big Getty".
*very rarely used*
  • g'is for "Give me", compare "Gimme"
  • haad for "hold" example: 'keep a hadd' is 'keep a hold' and 'had yer gob' becomes 'keep quiet'. That polite little notice in the parks aboot keepin' yor dog on a lead is 'ye cud hev keep a-hadden yor dog'[24]
  • ha'/ ha for "have" even in "having" becomes ha'in
  • hacky for "dirty"
  • hadaway for "get away"[25]
  • hairn (or hen) similar to hinny, below
  • hinny a term of endearment - "Honey"[24]
  • hoose for house
  • howair, howay or haway for "come on"
  • hoy for "to throw"[24]
  • hyairm/ yairm/ hyem for "home"
  • is for "me".
  • kets for "sweets/treats"
  • knaa for "to know/know"
  • lekky for "electric"
  • Lend often used for borrow, "lend is a bi" meaning "Can I borrow a pen?".
  • like used in many sentences; usually every other word, e.g. "like, is he like, on aboot me or like, summat, like?"
  • ma for "my"
  • mair for "more" (compare with German "mehr")
  • mam/ maa a variation of Mother
  • man Not really got a translation, often used e.g. "Giv is it ere now man". "ha way man"
  • marra - Friend. Used like "mate" - al'reet marra.
  • me for my, and also works in myself > meself or mesel.
  • mollycoddle overprotect, "wrap in cotton wool"
  • muckle - similar to "canny" in the sense of meaning "quite" and it can also mean big as in "That hoose had a muckle window" means "that house had a big window"
  • ner/ na/ nar for "no"
  • neb for "nose" (nebby=nosey)
  • neet for "nite"
  • nettie for "toilet"
  • neva never
  • N'ew Now, very hard to write. Pronounced like new, N 'ew
  • nowt for "nothing"[24]
  • owt for "anything"
  • pet a term of address or endearment towards a woman or a child
  • radge or radgie for "crazy"
  • sel for "self" as in masel/ mesel, yasel, hisel, horsel, waselves, thaselves
  • shutting for "shooting" thus simply shortening the "oo" vowel sound
  • summat for something
  • tab for "cigarette"
  • tiv for "to" usually used when two words together in a sentence end and begin with vowels as in "Thar's nowt tiv it" - " there's nothing to it"
  • the' for they as in " What are the' deein'?" meaning " What are they doing?"
  • toon for "Town"
  • wa for "our" used in a more general sense unlike "wor" below as in "Divvn't touch wa bags" means "Don't touch our bags"
  • willn't for "won't"
  • wor for "our", used mainly in the context of wor kid, meaning 'friend', one's sibling or literally 'our kid'. Used primarily to denote a family member.
  • wuh for "us" as in "What ya deein' to wuh?" means "What are you doing to us?"
  • ya for you/your
  • yee or 'ee for you as in "What are 'ee deein?" meaning "What are you doing?"
  • yem for home, similar to the Scottish hem


  1. ^ a b c d "The Northumbrian Language Society". Northumbriana.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-03-15. 
  2. ^ "North East dialect origins and the meaning of 'Geordie'". Northeastengland.talktalk.net. Retrieved 2013-03-15. 
  3. ^ "Newcastle English (Geordie)". Hawaii.edu. 2000-05-06. Retrieved 2013-03-15. 
  4. ^ "Can Scots be English? - BadLinguistics". Badlinguistics.posterous.com. Retrieved 2013-03-15.