Dialect words from the North East
A light-hearted selection of dialect words from the North East of England. Many are still in use or recalled by older dialect users. Most words here are familiar in Tyneside Geordie but some are unique to or more prevalent in other parts of the region. Phrases in bold are translated at the end of the page. Hev a gan yersel’ forst.
A: Aareet bonny lad / bonny lass?
Aa’l: I will. I’ll.
Aabut: Almost. “Aw aabut fell ower”.
Aad: Old. From the Anglo-Saxon eald. ‘Aad wife’ is an old woman.
Aad Fashint: Old-fashioned.
Aal / Ahrl: All. It can also be an ‘earl’ as in ‘Aal Grey’s tea’, though this might also occur as ‘Orl’.
Aal reet / Aareet: Alright. Mostly used as a term of greeting “Aareet?” in the same way as “hello” / “you ok?”.
Aal Tigithor: Altogether – like the folks o’ the Sheels. Huddled together (altogether perhaps like the people of North Shields and South Shields).
Addle: To earn.
Afore: Before, but much more common in the Scots dialect.
Agyen: Can mean again or against.
Ahint: Behind. probably from the Anglo-Saxon aethindan.
Aan or Ain: Own.
Akka: When someone is a a bit crazy in the head.
Ald: Variation of ‘Aad’.
Ald Nick or Aad Nick: The Devil also known as the De’il.
Amang: Among. Anglo-Saxon origin.
An all / An aal: As well. “Ye can come an aal”.
Ashet: A dish on which a pie is served. From the French ‘assiette’.
Aw: I – me. As in “Aw went te’ Blaydon Races“.
Axe / Aix / Ast: Ask from the Anglo-Saxon acsian to ask.
Axle Teeth: Molars. From a Viking word joxl.
Aye: Yes. From Anglo-Saxon meaning ‘ever-always’.
Ayont: Beyond. Anglo-Saxon a geont.
B: Bubblin‘ bairn’s booler’s brokken
Bad: Feeling unwell. “Aw’s bad t’iday”.
Baccy: Tobacco. As in the song Dance Ti’ Thy Daddy: “Come here me little Jacky, noo hev had me baccy, let’s hev a a bit o’ cracky till the boat comes in”. See also crack.
Bairn: A child. Anglo-Saxon (especially Angle) and Viking word. The phrase “shy bairns get nowt” is the Geordie version of “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”.
Bait / Bayut: Food taken to work, especially in the mining districts of County Durham. From the Old Norse beita. Please note that ‘Old Norse’ was the early language of Scandinavia spoken by the Vikings and does not refer to an old matron from Newcastle General Hospital.
Bank: A hill.
Baste: To trash or beat.
Batts: Flat land forming an island in a river or alongside a river.
Barney: Barnard Castle. A toon in Teesdale. A barney might also be a bit of a fight.
Bastle: A fortified farmhouse.
Baxter: A Baker.
Beck: Used in south and East Durham, Yorkshire and Cumbria. Beck is a Viking word for a stream. Becks feed the Tees, burns feed the Tyne. Both becks and burns feed the Wear.
Beclarted: To get dirty or mucky in the sense of needing a wash.
Belang: Belong as in a native of somewhere. “Aw belangs Jarra”; “aw belangs Sheels”; “aw belangs Sunlun“; “aw belangs Newcassel“.
Belta: Fantastic! Great! Often heard in the phrase “Pure belta”.
Beuk: A book.
Bezzums / Buzzeems: Brooms. Made from twigs and branches.
Bishop: Bishop Auckland.
Blaa Oot: Heavy drinking session. See also hoy.
Black and White: A Newcastle United football club supporter. See also Toon Army.
Blather / Blether: Talk nonsense. “What ye blatherin’ an aboot?” What are you talking about? From an Old Norse word blathra.
Blaydon Races: National Anthem of Tyneside.
Blather Skite: Someone who talks incessantly about nonsense.
Bleezer: Metal screen used to encourage the blaze in a coal fire.
Bobby Dazla: Bonny attractive person: “Reet Bobby Dazla”, though the phrase is not unique to the North East.
Bogie: A go-cart’
Boggle: A ghost or spectre.
Bonny: Beautiful, good looking. From the French bon – good.
Bonny Lad: Informal term of endearment or form of address “Y’areet bonny lad?” – “are you well my good chap?” Address from one male to another usually to a younger male or one of similar age.
Boody: Potware or plaster ware, especially an ornament of a dog.
Booler: Child’s iron hoop (pictured belaa). A toy of the kind seen in the schoolyard at Beamish Museum.
Boro or The Boro: Middesbrough Football Club or Middlesbrough itself even though Middlesbrough is not spelled ‘Middlesborough’.
Bourn: A stream (Burn) it is an Anglo-Saxon word, but now most commonly associated with Scotland. Used in Northumberland, Tyneside and the northern part of County Durham in preference to beck. See ‘Beck’. Of course, it can also mean to burn, set alight.
Brag: A goblin or sprite.
Brazen or Brazened: Bold or cheeky.
Bray: Hit, thump or beat. Old French word breier to pound.
Breeks: Breeches (trousers). From-Anglo-Saxon brec.
Brock: A badger.
Broon: Brown or Newcastle Brown Ale. (See also Dog)
Browt Up: Bring up – upbringing.
Bubble, Bubblin: Cry, Crying.
Bullet: A sweet – a word of French origin.
Bullyjock: A male turkey. More common in Scots.
Bumble Kite: Blackberry, though not of the kind you might make a call with.
Bummler: Bumble Bee.
Burn: A stream. See Bourn.
Burr (or Borr): The name given to the strange rolling Northumbrian pronunciation of the ‘R’ sound. Sometimes said to be an emulation of Harry Hotspur.
See the section BELOW about the Northumbrian Burr at end of this page.
But: A kind of spoken full stop or ‘period’. Sentences are often ended with the word ‘but’. For example, when describing someone a Geordie may say “she’s a canny lass but”. This means that she is a nice girl or perhaps an endearing or attractive girl. It doesn’t imply that there is some unspoken flaw in her character that the speaker is reluctant to reveal.
Butterloggy: A Teesside and Hartlepool word for a Butterfly. From a Viking word.
Translations and explanations – we hope
A – Aareet bonny lad / lass? :
Hello, are you keeping well sir / madam?
B – Bubblin’ bairn’s booler’s brokken :
Crying child’s metal toy hoop is broken. Oh Bless her. Tho’ hoo she brok it aw divvent knaa. It’s myed of iron.
In the ‘Geordie’ dictionary above we mention the curious Northumbrian ‘burr,’ or ‘borr’ which is a unique feature of North East dialect relating to the pronunciation of the ‘R’ sound. Geordie is in fact generally a non-rhotic dialect which means there isn’t really a special way of pronouncing the ‘R’. However, the Northumberland dialect is definitely rhotive in nature and has influenced Geordie.
Northumbrian is one of three ‘rhotic’ English dialects. The others are the ‘Ciderrr’-drinking West Country dialect of south west England and the burr that occurs in the traditional Lancashire dialect heard in places like Burrrnley where the ‘r’ sound is given particular emphasis. The Northumbrian ‘R’ is very different, however, as it is produced in the back of the throat. Scottish dialects are also rhotic but the ‘R’ sound produced in Scotland is a trill sound, quite different to Northumbrian.
The Northumberland burr is sometimes said to be an imitation of the Northumbrian hero Harry Hotspur who is said to have possessed this particular feature of speech. The burr does not seem to have any great antiquity and seems to be a remnant of a fashion of speech that spread across the country and survived in Northumberland. It was certainly seen as distinct to the county of Northumberland during the eighteenth century when it was remarked upon by Daniel Defoe.
The dialect historian, Richard Oliver Heslop included a sketch map plotting the extent of the Northumbrian burr with his Northumbrian Words of 1892. It includes much of Tyneside including places south of the Tyne and Derwent in County Durham with the burr extending south east to Birtley. South Shields and Tynemouth lay outside the area of the burr according to the map though there was some acknowledgement that the Tyneside dialect was slowly spreading towards Tynemouth.
Scott Dobson (who hailed from Blyth in Northumberland) in his not too-serious 1960s publication Larn Yersel’ Geordie talks of a Geordie ‘R’ that requires vibrating the tonsils in an anti-clockwise motion. This is very much a tongue (and tonsils) in cheek remark, but it is true that the Northumberland burr is not easy to imitate.
Perhaps the best description of the Northumbrian burr is that words like rain, roar and road sound something like arrain, arroar and arroad and to some ears the ‘R’ sounds like a ‘W’. This is distinctively Northumbrian but not really a feature of Geordie.
However, a remnant of this ‘R’ feature of speech is implied in Tyneside-Geordie pronunciations of words like early, bird, very, burst, first and sir which in Geordie are arly, varry, bord, borst, forst and sor. These words suggest Geordie may once have been rhotive and there are hints of this in Durham (which has many other features shared with Northumberland). In fact some accents and dialects in parts of north and north west Durham perhaps have a stronger resemblance to Northumberland dialects than they do to Tyneside.