Cumbrian Dialect image

Cumbrian Dialect

Cumbria is a large area with several relatively isolated districts, so there is quite a large variation in accent, especially between North and South or the coastal towns. 
The local dialect in the Lake District is rich in its Norwegian Viking and Celtic roots. It is clearly seen in place names and their meanings. See how many places have these words in their names:

  • howe = hill
  • holme = island
  • pike = peak
  • tarn = small lake
  • thwaite =clearing
  • tun = farm
  • -by = home
  • thorpe = settlement
  • grange = farm belonging to a monastery
  • firth = estuary (from 'fjord').

Just saying the names of some of the Cumbrian places brings us into immediate contact with the past: 

  • Wasdale means 'valley of the water'.
  • Bassenthwaite means 'Baston's clearing'. 
  • Helvellyn means 'yellow moorland'. 
  • Borrowdale means 'valley with a fort'. 

There are so many more names that allow the imagination into the minds of people of past millennia settling in the hills and mountains surrounding the Lakes, and slowly putting their stamp on them by giving them names that we still use today.


View of Bowness, Windermere


Linthwaite House façade


Diana by Otto du Plessis

Apart from place names, the people of modern Cumbria have a rich and varied vocabulary specific to this area. They can yatter away to their marras, no matter how claggy or clarty  they are after a day of hiking in the mountains, or a dook in their dockers in the lake, looking forward to doing absolutely nowt at yam later. Any road, no matter how you speak, the Lakes and their mountains speak their own language clearly and beautifully to whoever will stand and listen.

Word index: 

  • Marras: (a friend, companion, or workmate (often used as a form of address))
  • Claggy: (of weather: damp and overcast or misty - "a classic claggy day in the mountains spent getting soaked and not seeing anything")
  • Clarty: (bedaubed with sticky dirt : dirty, muddy also : sticky, gooey.)
  • Dook: to dip or plunge. 2. to bathe. 3. an instance of dipping, plunging, or bathing.
  • Dockers: a person who works at a port, putting goods onto and taking them off ships
  • “nowt at yam later”: “nothing at home later”