Top Yorkshire sayings, slang, words, and phrases & what they mean

09 March 2022

Yorkshire is home to some popular attractions such as the North York Moors, Whitby Abbey, the Jorvik Viking Centre and, of course, Heartbeat; but another reason why Yorkshire is so special is for its unique accent.

Anyone planning to stay in hotels in Scarborough or another part of the county will soon hear the comforting twangs of the Yorkshire accent and according to an article on the Halifax Courier website, the Yorkshire accent is one of the nation’s favourites. The piece states that a study back in November 2014 discovered that Brits love the Yorkshire dialect and voted it their second favourite dialect in the whole of the UK, being narrowly beaten by the Geordie accent.


The Yorkshire accent was described as “warm” and “genuine” in the study and with celebrities such as former cricketer Sir Geoffrey Boycott and ex-Girl’s Aloud singer Kimberley Walsh both possessing strong Yorkshire accents, you can see why.

We spoke to true Yorkshire men and women for their favourite phrases.


There's nowt like a proper brew


Tea is a part of the culture up north but it is particularly important in Yorkshire. The Harrogate Girl explains how central tea is to people from God’s Own County:

“My favourite Yorkshire phrase has to be “There’s nowt like a proper brew.” Brew is a household word used frequently between friends and family. There’s no brew like a Yorkshire Tea brew and should someone offer me different there will be stern words to be had.”


Got any Spice


More likely to be heard amongst the older generation though still fairly prevalent across Yorkshire, Tom Vickers from The Yorkshire Gentleman was keen to recommend ‘Got any Spice’ as a likely phrase to come across. Spice means sweets and when specialist shops were still common, the store specialising in sweet treats would be called The Spice Shop.

It is unclear where the change in name comes from, there are speculations that it is from the old nursery rhyme ‘Sugar and spice and all things nice’ however others think it is a more technical term to differentiate between all the sweets that were produced in Sheffield factories.


Gi’us a croggy


Though maybe not a phrase that you will come across on your break in Ravenscar, it is one that will baffle anyone from over the border. ‘Gi’us a croggy’ is translated as ‘let me ride on the back of your bike’ and was another phrase suggested by Tom.

This would be heard often if you grew up in Yorkshire though the origins are unknown.


It’s lukin’ black ower Bill’s mothers. Ah’s off yam


As with anywhere in the UK, the weather is never guaranteed so this may be a saying you hear fairly often. Eric Scaife from The Yorkshire Dialect Society suggested these next few phrases as ones that are of interest. In the UK we have a few ways of commenting on the weather, from ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ to ‘good weather for ducks’.

This phrase, in typical Yorkshire fashion, alludes to the community that is so strong in that corner of the country. “It’s lukin’ black ower Bill’s mothers. Ah’s off yam” translates to ‘its looking black (cloudy) over Bill’s Mother’s house. I am off home’.


Ee cudna stop a pig in a ginnel


The British are very inventive when it comes to explaining how useless people are and there are many phrases along the lines of ‘as useful as a chocolate teapot’. This one however is Eric’s favourite. A ginnel means alley or small passage and being unable to stop a pig in a ginnel (which we must assume is an easy task) means not only are you useless, but also outwitted by a pig.


Ah's reet nitherd


Another one that is seasonal and about the British favourite topic of conversation- the weather. Though this appears confusing written down, said with a Yorkshire accent, the first part of the phrase becomes clear – ‘I is right’. Nitherd refers to great deprivation often meaning cold but it can also mean starving.


Ah's off bleggin'


To go ‘Off Bleggin’ is a pastime in the late summer that is coming back into prominence as more people are looking to forage to supplement their family shop. Going off to pick blackberries (which is what the phrase actually means) may seem like a suitably rural past time however it is great fun for all the family and even allows you to show off your new found Yorkshire sayings.


Ee lass, ah cud eat oven door if it wor butherd


Scabby horses aside – it seems no man is as hungry as a Yorkshire man! ‘Ee lass, ah cud eat oven door if it wor butherd’ translates to ‘Hello dear, I am so hungry, I would eat the oven door if it was buttered’ which is one of Ravenhall’s favourite from the list.

Eric also shared with us a poem in the Yorkshire Dialect and a little explanation to pronouncing the above phrases:

“Most words are pronounced phonetically in Yorkshire Dialect. Also we do not pronounce the H at the beginning of words or the  G  at the end.  Another peculiarity is the glottle stop which we use instead of `the`.  This is written as t’ but is more of a click sound of the opening and closing of the glottis than a pronounced tee.  Many of the northern languages use similar words, much of this from the Angles and Viking influences, and different dialects often come down to pronunciation.”


We’re a rare strange bunch ‘at live up ‘ere

But we’ve gradely grub an’ champion beer

An’ mony a famous name thou’l see

On Yorksheer own proud family tree.

Oor sportin’ ways are second ter none

Oor art an’ culture speak as yan

Us Yorksheer fowk ev Yorksheer ways

An’ when we say we laiks we plays.

Oor language is t’ English true

Oor thee, thou, tha’s are nothin’ new

Wi’ glottal stops an’ aitches dropped

The G at end is allus cropped.

So com’ thi ways to oor grand county

An’ sample sum o’ Yorksheers bounty

Oor ales are grand, oor looance too

An’ friendly fowk to welcome thoo.

Eric Scaife

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