spitting distance


Geordie is a regional nickname for a person from the Tyneside region of England, or the name of the dialect of English spoken by these people. Depending on who is using the term, the catchment area for Geordie can be as wide as the general north east of England, or as small as the city of Newcastle, or various ranges in between.

The Geordie dialect owes its origins to the langauge spoken by Anglo-Saxon mercenaries, that war employed by the Ancient Brythons to fight the Pictish invaders, after the end of Roman rule in Britannia, in the 5th century. The same language is the forebear of Modern English; but while the dialects of most other English regions have been much changed by the influences of other foreign languages, Norman-French and Norse in particular, the dialects of Northern England (including Geordie) still feature many characteristics of Old English, lost in Standard English.

The label of Geordie has sometimes been claimed as offensive to some people from the Sunderland region. This is also the case with anyone from the Teesside area.

In recent times "Geordie" has been used to refer to a supporter of Newcastle United football club however this use is not as common as with the use of Mackem for Sunderland fans and is not entirely popular due to the proportion of people from South Tyneside who self-identify as geordies but support Sunderland.

Derivation of the term

A number of rival theories explain how the term came about, though all accept that it derives from a familiar diminutive form of the name "George, with George (called Geordie, but written George) once being the most popular eldest son's name in families in the north east of England.

One explanation is that it was established during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. The Jacobites declared that the natives of Newcastle were staunch supporters of the Hanoverian kings, in particular of George II during the 1745 rebellion. This contrasted with rural Northumbria, which largely supported the Jacobite cause. If true, the term may have derived from a popular anti-Hanoverian song ("Cam ye ower frae France?"), which calls the first Hanoverian king "Geordie Whelps", meaning "George the Guelph".

Another explanation for the name is that local miners in the north east of England used "Geordie" safety lamps, designed by George Stephenson in 1815, rather than the "Davy lamps" designed by Humphry Davy which were used in other mining communities.

Using the chronological order of two John Trotter Brockett books:



Geordie was given to North East pit men, later Brockett acknowledges the pitmen christened their Stephenson lamp ‘Geordie’.

Wales also predates the Oxford English Dictionary, she observes that "Geordy" and "Geordie" was a common name given to pit-men in ballads and songs of the region, noting that one such turns up as early as 1793. It occurs in the titles of two songs by song-writer Joe Wilson (1841–1875): Geordy, Haud the Bairn and Keep your Feet Still, Geordie. Citing such examples as the song Geordy Black written by Rowland Harrison of Gateshead, she contends that, as a consequence of popular culture, the miner and the keelman had become icons of the region in the 19th century, and "Geordie" was a label that "affectionately and proudly reflected this", replacing the earlier ballad emblem, the figure of Bob Crankie.

Newcastle publisher Frank Graham's Geordie Dictionary states:

"The origin of the word Geordie has been a matter of much discussion and controversy. All the explanations are fanciful and not a single piece of genuine evidence has ever been produced."

In Graham's many years of research, the earliest record he has found of the terms use was in 1823 by local comedian, Billy Purvis. Purvis had set up a booth at the Newcastle Races on the Town Moor. In an angry tirade against a rival showman, who had hired a young pitman called Tom Johnson to dress as a clown, Billy cried out to the clown:

"Ah man, wee but a feul wad hae sold off his furnitor and left his wife. Noo, yor a fair doon reet feul, not an artificial feul like Billy Purvis! Thous a real Geordie! gan man an hide thysel! gan an' get thy picks agyen. Thou may de for the city, but never for the west end o' wor toon."
(Rough translation: "Oh man, who but a fool would have sold off his furniture and left his wife? Now, you're a fair downright fool, not an artificial fool like Billy Purvis! You're a real Geordie! Go, man, and hide yourself! Go and get your pick (axes) again. You may do for the city, but never for the west end of our town!")

Graham is backed up historically by Hotten (1869).

The definition of Geordie as around the Tyne communities was not always the case, as Geordie has been documented for at least 180 to 240 years as meaning the whole of the North East of England. (As referenced inCamden Hotten, John (1869). The Slang Dictionary, Or Vulgar Words, Street Phrases And Fast Expressions of High and Low Society. John Camden Hotten. . The book was reprinted in 2004.

BAD-WEATHER GEORDY. A name applied to cockle sellers. "As the season at which cockles are in greatest demand is generally the most stormy in the year - September to March -the sailors' wives at the seaport towns of Northumberland and Durham consider the cry of the cockle man as the harbinger of bad weather, and the sailor, when he hears the cry of 'cockles alive,' in a dark wintry night, concludes that a storm is at hand, and breathes a prayer, backwards, for the soul Of Bad-Weather-Geordy" - S. Oliver, Rambles in Northumberland, 1835.''

“Plus Geordieland means Northumberland and Durham” Dobson Tyne 1973

Geographical coverage

When referring to the people, as opposed to the dialect, dictionary definitions of a Geordie typically refer to "a native or inhabitant of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, or its environs", an area that encompasses North Tyneside, Newcastle, South Tyneside and Gateshead. However, just as a Cockney is often colloquially defined as someone "born within the sound of the Bow bells", a Geordie can be defined as someone born "within spitting distance of the Tyne". Another interpretation is the mining areas of the North East of England.

Although the dialects of North East of England were often grouped together as Geordie in modern times this is incorrect. This misconception is usually made by people from outside of the north east.

People from Sunderland have been nicknamed Mackems in recent generations. However, the earliest known recorded use of the term found by the Oxford English Dictionary occurred as late as 1988.

Geordie dialect


Geordie also has a large amount of vocabulary not heard elsewhere in England, though some are shared with (or similar to) Scots. The Geordie accent is often broader (heavily used) in Newcastle, other parts of the north east tend not to have a very strong accent, it all depends on how its grasped. Words still in common use by Geordie dialect speakers today include:

  • areet (/'a:lri:t/ a variation on alright or Hello
  • cannit 'can not'
  • canny for "pleasant" (the Scottish use of canny is often somewhat less flattering), or to mean 'quite'. Someone could therefore be 'canny canny'.
  • cuddy 'small horse or a pony'
  • geet for "very", also *muckle (used more in Northumberland)
  • hyem for "home"
  • deeky for "look at" *very rarely used*
  • kets for "sweets/treats"
  • knaa for "to know/know"
  • divint for "don't"/
  • bairn/grandbairn for "child/grandchild"
  • hacky for "dirty"
  • ya or yuh for you/your
  • gan for "to go/go"
  • hoy for "to throw"
  • pet a term of address or endearment towards a woman or a child
  • toon for "Town"
  • nettie for "toilet"
  • na/naa for "no"
  • aye for "yes"
  • neb for "nose" (nebby=nosey)
  • banter for "chat/gossip"
  • clart for "mud" as in "there's clarts on yar boots"
  • hadaway for "get away"
  • hinny a term of endearment - "Honey"
  • 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'
  • divvie for "stupid person"
  • tab for "cigarette"
  • chor "to steal" *very rarely used*
  • chiv for "knife" *very rarely used*
  • neva never
  • 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.
  • nowt for "nothing"
  • is/iz for "me", but you can't say "that is my ball > that is is ball".
  • me for my, and also works in myself > meself or mesel.
  • man Not realy got a translation, often used eg. "Give is it here now man"
  • wuh for "us"
  • a for I
  • ee used like oh, often in shock "ee neva"
  • doon down, own is often replaced with oon.
  • get awesh for "go away" *very rarely used*
  • wint for wont
  • doon for down
  • D/dee for do
  • chut/chutty chewing gum
  • Neva for never
  • N'ew Now, very hard to write. Prounounded like new, N 'ew
  • Lend often used for borrow, "lend is a pen" meaning "Can I borrow a pen".
  • Wo, Wa, Woh or wat or wot what

howay or haway is broadly comparable to the invocation "Come on!" or the French "Allez!" ("Go on!"). Examples of common use include Howay man! or Haway man!, meaning "come on" or "hurry up", Howay the lads! or Haway the lads! as a term of encouragement for a sports team for example, or Ho'way!? (with stress on the second syllable) expressing incredulity or disbelief. The 'a' and 'o' in howay/haway convey different strands of aggression, with the ‘a’ being the aggressive. The literal opposite of this word is "Haddaway" (go away), which is not as popular as Howay, but has found frequent use in the phrase "Haddaway an' shite" (Tom Hadaway, Figure 5.2 Haddaway an' shite; ’Cursing like sleet blackening the buds, raging at the monk of Jarrow scribbling his morality and judgement into a book.’).

Divvie or divvy seems to come from the Co-op dividend, or from the two Davy lamps (the more dangerous explosive Scotch Davy used in 1850, commission disapproved of its use in 1886. (inventor not known, and nicknamed Scotch Davy probably given by miners after the Davy lamp was made perhaps by north east miners who used the Stephenson Lamp), and the later better designed Davy designed by Humphrey Davy also called the Divvy.) As in a north east miner saying ‘Marra, ye keep way from me if ye usin a divvy.' It seems the word divvie then translated to daft lad/lass. Perhaps coming from the fact you’d be seen as foolish going down a mine with a Scotch Divvy when there are safer lamps out, like the Geordie, or the Davy.

The geordie word netty, meaning a toilet and place of need and necessity for relief or bathroom, has an uncertain origin,though some have theorised that it may come from slang used by Roman soldiers on Hadrian's Wall, which may have later become gabinetti in the Romanic Italian language (Such as this article about the Westoe Netty, the subject of a famous painting from Bob Olley. Another article about the Westoe Netty is featured here ). However gabbinetto is the Modern Italian diminutive of gabbia, which actually derives from the Latin cavea ("hollow", "cavity", "enclosure") the root of the loanwords that became the Modern English cave, cage, and gaol. Thus, another explanation would be that it comes from a Modern Romanic Italian form of the word gabinetti. Though only a, relatively, small number of Italians have migrated to the North of England, mostly during the 19th century.

Some etymologists connect the word netty to the Modern English word needy. John Trotter Brockett, writing in 1829 in his A glossary of north country words..., claims that the etymon of netty (and it's related form neddy) is the Modern English needy and need

Bill Griffiths, in A Dictionary of North East Dialect points to the earlier form, the Old English níd; he writes thusly "MS locates a possible early ex. "Robert Hovyngham sall make... at the other end of his house a knyttyng" York 1419, in which case the root could be OE níd 'neccesary'".

Another related word, nessy is thought (by Griffiths) to derive from the Modern English "neccesary".

A poem, called ‘YAM’ narrated by author Douglas Kew, demonstrates the usage of a lot of Geordie words

Related dialects

As well as Geordie, other Northern English dialects include:

Geordie in the media

In recent times, the Geordie dialect has featured prominently in the British media. Note however, that although the dialect appears, the dialect is toned down for comprehension of the general (non-Northumbrian) public. Television presenters such as Ant and Dec are now happy to use their natural dialect on air. Marcus Bentley, the commentator on the UK edition of Big Brother, is often perceived by southerners to have a Geordie dialect. However, he grew up in Stockton on Tees. Brendan Foster and Sid Waddell have both worked as television sports commentators.

The dialect was also popularized by the comic magazine Viz, where the dialect itself is often conveyed phonetically by unusual spellings within the comic strips. Viz magazine itself was founded on Tyneside by two local males, Chris Donald and his brother Simon.

When US President Jimmy Carter visited Newcastle he was given the Freedom of the city and told that he was now a geordie. Carter replied by saying 'howay the lads'.

The Steve Coogan-helmed BBC comedy I'm Alan Partridge featured a Geordie named Michael (Simon Greenall) as the primary supporting character and de facto best friend of the eponymous hero, despite Partridge's typically snobbish and patronizing demeanor sinking to new lows when referring to Michael (at one point referring to him as 'just the Work Geordie').

Mike Neville and George House (aka Jarge Hoose), presenters of the BBC local news program Look North, in the 1960s and 1970s, not only incorporated Geordie into the show, albeit usually in comedy pieces pointing up the gulf between ordinary Geordies and officials speaking Standard English, but were responsible for a series of recordings, beginning with Larn Yersel' Geordie which attempted, not always seriously, to bring the Geordie dialect to the rest of England.

The mastermind behind Larn Yersel' Geordie was local humorist Scott Dobson, who wrote several booklets on the theme in the early 1970s, including Histry O' the Geordies, Advanced Geordie Palaver, The Geordie Joke Book (with Dick Irwin) and The Little Broon Book (Bringing out The New Little Broon Book in 1990).

The Jocks and the Geordies was a Dandy comic strip running from 1975 to the early 1990s.

In the lyrics of the song "Sailing to Philadelphia" by Mark Knopfler, Jeremiah Dixon describes himself as a "Geordie boy. Jeremiah Dixon, surveyor of the Mason-Dixon line

Dorphy, real name Dorothy Samuelson-Sandvid, was a noted geordie dialect writer who once wrote for the South Shields Gazette.

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was a popular fictional British comedy-drama series about a group of seven British migrant construction workers: Wayne, Dennis, Oz, Bomber, Barry, Neville and Moxey, who, in Series 1, are living and working on a German building site. Three of the seven were Geordies. Dennis Patterson (played by Tim Healy) comes from Birtley Co. Durham; Leonard "Oz" Osborne (played by Jimmy Nail) comes from Gateshead; and Neville Hope (played by Kevin Whately) comes from North Shields.

The Hairy Bikers' Cookbook with Geordie Simon King and Dave Myers. The duo's lifestyle TV show is a mixture of cookery and travelogue.

In 1974, Alan Price’s Jarrow song reached number one in the old RNI International Service, and number 4 in the UK charts. Which brought to the attention once again of the Jarrow March.

The character Detective Inspector Robert "Robbie" Lewis (formerly Detective Sergeant) in the long-running ITV series Inspector Morse is a self-described Geordie. His speech variety serves as a foil to Morse's pedantry and RP.


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