Scouse (/sks/; also, in academic sources, called Liverpool English[1] or Merseyside English)[2][3][4] is an accent and dialect of English found primarily in the Metropolitan county of Merseyside, and closely associated with the city of Liverpool. The accent extends through Birkenhead and all along the North Wales coast, from Flintshire and Wrexham where it is strongest in Wales, to as far west as Prestatyn, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay, Penmaenmawr and Bangor where the surrounding accents have a distinct overlap between Welsh and Scouse English. In some cases Scouse can also be heard in Runcorn and Widnes in Cheshire and Skelmersdale in Lancashire.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

The Scouse accent is highly distinctive, and has little in common with those used in the neighbouring regions of Cheshire and Lancashire.[8] The accent itself is not specific to all of Merseyside, with the accents of residents of St Helens and Southport, for example, more commonly associated with the historic Lancastrian accent.[5][6][7][8][9][11]

North of the Mersey, the accent was primarily confined to Liverpool until the 1950s when slum clearance in the city resulted in migration of the populace into new pre-war and post-war developments in surrounding areas of Merseyside.[10] South of the Mersey, Scouse spread very early to Birkenhead in the 19th century but much later to the rest of the Wirral.[13] The continued development of the city and its urban areas has brought the accent into contact with areas not historically associated with Liverpool such as Prescot, Whiston and Rainhill in Merseyside and Widnes, Runcorn and Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.[10]

Variations within the accent and dialect are noted, along with popular colloquialisms, that show a growing deviation from the historical Lancashire dialect[10] and a growth in the influence of the accent in the wider area.[5][6][7][8][9][11]

Inhabitants of Liverpool can be referred to as Liverpudlians, Liverpolitans or Wackers but are more often described by the colloquialism "Scousers".[14]


The word "scouse" is a shortened form of "lobscouse", whose origin is uncertain.[15] It is related to the Norwegian lapskaus, Swedish lapskojs and Danish labskovs and the Low German Labskaus, and refers to a stew commonly eaten by sailors. In the 19th century, poorer people in Liverpool, Birkenhead, Bootle and Wallasey commonly ate "scouse" as it was a cheap dish, and familiar to the families of seafarers. Outsiders tended to call these people "scousers".[16]

In The Lancashire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore, Alan Crosby suggested that the word only became known nationwide with the popularity of the programme Till Death Us Do Part, which featured a Liverpudlian socialist, and a Cockney conservative in regular argument.[17]


Originally a small fishing village, Liverpool developed as a port, trading particularly with Ireland, and after the 1700s as a major international trading and industrial centre. The city consequently became a melting pot of several languages and dialects, as sailors and traders from different areas, and migrants from other parts of Britain, Ireland and northern Europe, established themselves in the area.

Until the mid-19th century, the dominant local accent was similar to that of neighbouring areas of Lancashire. The influence of Irish and Welsh migrants, combined with European accents, contributed to a distinctive local Liverpool accent.[18] The first reference to a distinctive Liverpool accent was in 1890.[19] Linguist Gerald Knowles suggested that the accent's nasal quality may have derived from poor 19th-century public health, by which the prevalence of colds for many people over a long time resulted in a nasal accent becoming regarded as the norm and copied by others learning the language.[20]

Academic research

The period of early dialect research in Great Britain did little to cover Scouse. The early researcher Alexander John Ellis said that Liverpool and Birkenhead "had no dialect proper", as he conceived of dialects as speech that had been passed down through generations from the earliest Germanic speakers. Ellis did research some locations on the Wirral, but these respondents spoke in traditional Cheshire dialect at the time and not in Scouse.[21] The 1950s Survey of English Dialects recorded traditional Lancastrian dialect from the town of Halewood and found no trace of Scouse influence. The phonetician John C Wells wrote "The Scouse accent might as well not exist" in the context of The Linguistic Atlas of England, which was the Survey's principle output.[22]

The first academic study of Scouse was undertaken by Gerald Knowles at the University of Leeds in 1973. He identified the key problem being that traditional dialect research had focused on developments from a single Ursprache (e.g. West Saxon in the work of AJ Ellis), but Scouse (and many other urban dialects) had resulted from interaction from an unknown aggregate of Ursprachen. He also noted that the means by which Scouse was so easily distinguished from other British accents could not be adequately summarised by traditional phonetic notation.[23]


Monophthongs of Scouse (from Watson (2007:357)).
Diphthongs of Scouse (part 1, from Watson (2007:357))
Diphthongs of Scouse (part 2, from Watson (2007:357))

Scouse is notable in some circumstances for a fast, highly accented manner of speech, with a range of rising and falling tones not typical of most of northern England.

Words such as 'book' and 'cook' can be pronounced with the same tenser vowel as in GOOSE, not the one of FOOT. This is true to other towns from the midlands, northern England and Dublin English. The use of a long /uː/ in such words was once used across the whole of Britain, but is now confined to the more traditional accents of Northern England and Scotland.[24]

Written English RP English Scouse
'book' [bʊk] [bʉːx]
'cook' [kʊk] [kʉːx]

Words such as 'took' and 'look' are more likely to be heard with /ʊ/ in Scouse, unlike some other accents in northern towns (e.g. Bolton). Not all Liverpudlians are brought up to speak with this variation but this does not make it any less Scouse.

In a strong Scouse accent, the phoneme /k/ can be realised at the ends of some words as [x] or sometimes [k͡x].

Scouse is a non-rhotic accent, pronouncing /r/ only at the beginning of a syllable and between vowels, but not at the end of a syllable. The last condition may not apply if the next word begins with a vowel and is pronounced without a pause, so the sentence "the floor is dirty" is often pronounced [ðə ˈflɔːɾɪz ˈdeːti], while "the floor... is dirty" (with a pause) is pronounced [ðə ˈflɔː ɪz ˈdeːti]. The sentence "the floor IS dirty" (with the emphasis on "is") would also be pronounced without the /r/: [ðə ˌflɔː ˈʔɪz ˌdeːti]. See linking R. Oftentimes, Scouse uses an alveolar tap [ɾ] for /r/.

The use of the glottal stop as an allophone of /t/ can occur in various positions, including after a stressed syllable. This is called T-glottalisation and is particularly common amongst the younger speakers of the Scouse accent. The letter /t/ may also be flapped intervocalically (in between vowels), /t/ and /d/ are often pronounced as fricatives that are somewhat reminiscent of the sibilants /s/ and /z/, but they are never confused.

The loss of dental fricatives, /ð/ and /θ/, is commonly attributed to Irish English influence. They are realised as [] and [] respectively.

Lexicon and syntax

Irish influences include the pronunciation of the name of the letter "H" as /heɪtʃ/ and the second person plural (you) as 'youse/yous/use' /juːz/.

The use of me instead of my is also attributed to Irish English influence: for example, "That's me book you got there" for "That's my book you got there".[dubious ] An exception occurs when "my" is emphasised: for example, "That's my book you got there" (and not his (or hers) ).

Other Scouse features in common use include such examples as:

  • The use of 'giz' instead of 'give us'. This became famous throughout the UK through Boys from the Blackstuff in 1982.
  • The use of the term 'made up' to portray the feeling of happiness or joy in something. For example, 'I'm made up I didn't go out last night'.
  • The terms 'sound' and 'boss' are used in many ways. They are used as a positive adjective such as 'it was sound' meaning it was good. It is used to answer questions of our wellbeing, such as 'I'm boss' in reply to 'How are you?' The term can also be used sarcastically in negative circumstances to affirm a type of indifference such as 'I'm dumping you'. The reply 'sound' in this case translates to the sarcastic use of 'good' or to 'yeah fine', 'ok', 'I'm fine about it', 'no problem' etc.

International recognition

Scouse is highly distinguishable from other English dialects. Because of this international recognition, on 16 September, 1996, Keith Szlamp made a request[26] to IANA to make it a recognised Internet dialect. After citing a number of references,[27][28][29][30][31] the application was accepted on 25 May 2000 and now allows Internet documents that use the dialect to be categorised as 'Scouse' by using the language tag "en-Scouse".

Scouse has also become well known as the accent of the international rock band The Beatles.[32] The members of the band are famously from Liverpool;[33] however, their accent is no longer viewed as "Scouse" because of how much Scouse has changed since the "Beatlemania" period of the 1960s.[32]

See also

Other northern English dialects include:


  1. ^ Watson (2007:351–360)
  2. ^ Collins, Beverley S.; Mees, Inger M. (2013) [First published 2003], Practical Phonetics and Phonology: A Resource Book for Students (3rd ed.), Routledge, pp. 193–194, ISBN 978-0-415-50650-2 
  3. ^ Coupland, Nikolas; Thomas, Alan R., eds. (1990), English in Wales: Diversity, Conflict, and Change, Multilingual Matters Ltd., ISBN 1-85359-032-0 
  4. ^ Howard, Jackson; Stockwell, Peter (2011), An Introduction to the Nature and Functions of Language (2nd ed.), Continuum International Publishing Group, p. 172, ISBN 978-1-4411-4373-0 
  5. ^ a b c Julie Henry (30 March 2008). "Scouse twang spreads beyond Merseyside". The Telegraph. 
  6. ^ a b c "Geordie and Scouse accents on the rise as Britons 'look to protect their sense of identity'". Daily Mail. 4 January 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c Nick Coligan (29 March 2008). "Scouse accent defying experts and 'evolving'". Liverpool Echo. 
  8. ^ a b c d Dominic Tobin and Jonathan Leake (3 January 2010). "Regional accents thrive against the odds in Britain". The Sunday Times. 
  9. ^ a b c Chris Osuh (31 March 2008). "Scouse accent on the move". Manchester Evening News. 
  10. ^ a b c d Patrick Honeybone. "New-dialect formation in nineteenth century Liverpool: a brief history of Scouse" (PDF). Open House Press. 
  11. ^ a b c Richard Savill (3 January 2010). "British regional accents 'still thriving'". The Telegraph. 
  12. ^ John Mullan (18 June 1999). "Lost Voices". The Guardian. 
  13. ^ Knowles, Gerald (1973). "2.2". Scouse: the urban dialect of Liverpool (PhD). University of Leeds. Retrieved 2 December 2017. 
  14. ^ Chris Roberts, Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme, Thorndike Press, 2006 (ISBN 0-7862-8517-6)
  15. ^ "lobscouse" at Oxford English Dictionary; retrieved 13 May 2017
  16. ^ "Scouse" at Oxford English Dictionary; retrieved 13 May 2017
  17. ^ Alan Crosby, The Lancashire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore, 2000, entry for word Scouser
  18. ^ Paul Coslett, The origins of Scouse, BBC Liverpool, 11 January 2005. Retrieved 6 February 2015
  19. ^ Peter Grant, The Scouse accent: Dey talk like dat, don’t dey?, Liverpool Daily Post, 9 August 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2013
  20. ^ Times Higher Education, Scouse: the accent that defined an era, 29 June 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2015
  21. ^ Knowles, Gerald (1973). "2.2". Scouse: the urban dialect of Liverpool (PhD). University of Leeds. Retrieved 2 December 2017. 
  22. ^ Review of the Linguistic Atlas of England, John C Wells, The Times Higher Education Supplement, 1 December 1978
  23. ^ Knowles, Gerald (1973). "3.2". Scouse: the urban dialect of Liverpool (PhD). University of Leeds. Retrieved 2 December 2017. 
  24. ^ Peter Trudgill, The Dialects of England, page 71, Blackwell, Oxford, 2000
  25. ^ "John Bishop". Desert Island Discs. 24 June 2012. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  26. ^ "LANGUAGE TAG REGISTRATION FORM". IANA.org. 25 May 2000. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  27. ^ Shaw, Frank; Spiegl, Fritz; Kelly, Stan. Lern Yerself Scouse. 1: How to Talk Proper in Liverpool. Scouse Press. ISBN 978-0901367013. 
  28. ^ Lane, Linacre; Spiegl, Fritz. Lern Yerself Scouse. 2: The ABZ of Scouse. Scouse Press. ISBN 978-0901367037. 
  29. ^ Minard, Brian. Lern Yerself Scouse. 3: Wersia Sensa Yuma?. Scouse Press. ISBN 978-0901367044. 
  30. ^ Spiegl, Fritz; Allen, Ken. Lern Yerself Scouse. 4: The Language of Laura Norder. Scouse Press. ISBN 978-0901367310. 
  31. ^ Szlamp, K.: The definition of the word 'Scouser', Oxford English Dictionary
  32. ^ a b "CLEAN AIR CLEANING UP OLD BEATLES ACCENT". abcnews.go.com. 23 Feb 2002. Retrieved 29 December 2017. 
  33. ^ Unterberger, Richie. Scouse at AllMusic. Retrieved 5 July 2013.


Further reading

External links