14. June 2023

Yorkshire words & phrases I still use after 19 years living abroad

It'll be reet badge Yorkshire dialect

When it comes to certain Yorkshire words, the old adage holds true: you can take the lass out of Yorkshire but you can’t take the Yorkshire out of the lass.


This September, it will be 19 years since I packed my suitcase and went to live in Vienna, which quickly became my adopted home. I love living in Vienna and have no intention to leave. Yet it is true what they say: home is where the heart is and mine — or at least a half of it — remains forever in Yorkshire where I was born and grew up.

Yorkshire folk are known for being proud and a bit of a law unto themselves, with a distinctive character and outlook on life. We also have a whole treasure chest of native Yorkshire words and phrases that fox any outsider coming in and fancying themselves a local.

Now, living abroad does mean being a bit sensitive and not confusing your non-native conversation partners unnecessarily with high-level Yorkshire terminology. But there’ll always be a place in my heart (and my speech) for these words/phrases from God’s own country.

1. It’ll be reet!

Can be abbreviated even further to “be reet!”

Translation: Do not fear, it is all going to work out alright in the end.

I say this all the time. I even have a badge with the phrase engraved on it which I wear on my favourite winter coat (see picture).

There is no other phrase that exemplifies the economy Yorkshire folk apply to their language as well as this. Whatever has happened to you — it’ll be reet! No further elaboration or encouragement is required. The addressee of the respective “be reet!” is expected to pull themselves together sharpish and get on with it without further complaint.

2. Love

Translation: “My dear”.

Term of endearment, to be sprinkled liberally across conversation, even with people you don’t know from Adam and will probably never see again.

“Hiya, love y’alriiiight?” is a greeting you will hear everywhere across Yorkshire from the cashier at Marks & Spencer to close friends you haven’t seen for years.

3. Croggy

“Croggy” or “going croggy” means riding on the back of someone’s pushbike while they pedal.

“Giz a croggy on’t bike will yer” was a common expression we used to cadge a ride home from the pub after having imbibed one too many alcoholic beverages. Not that I am in this kind of situation often anymore, but I do use it to describe other people exhibiting the relevant behaviour (“Ooo, look at ‘im, going croggy on’t busy road — he’ll come a cropper, that one”).

4. I reckon

Translation: I think.

Also one I use a lot.

“It’s another three miles to the station I reckon”; “I reckon we’ve got about another hour before the rain starts”.

5. “Summat”

Translation: something.

Admittedly, this is less of a dialect than a pronunciation issue…and it’s sloppy pronunciation at that! But I say it all the same.

6. You don’t get owt for nowt

Literal translation: “You don’t get anything for nothing”.

Means: If you want something good, you’d better be prepared to work/pay a decent price for it. Yorkshire realism at its very best.

Alternative meaning: An expression of suspicion if something good is being offered very cheaply or for free.

7. Parky

Translation: chilly, cold.

“It’s a bit parky out, innit?”

Equivalent word: nitherin’.

8. Mardy

Translation: to be in a bad mood, to be grumpy/miserable/sulky.

“Yer a right mardy so-and-so today, what ‘appened to yer?”

Equivalent phrases which I also like but aren’t understood by anyone who isn’t a Yorkshire native (i.e. everyone I ever interact with in Vienna): to have a cob/monk on.

“I ‘ad an awful day at work. I ‘ad a right cob on when I got home”.

9. Mashing

Moving on to that great British institution, the cup of tea. I think most other Brits would refer to the phase when the tea is in the water as “brewing”. In Yorkshire (and possibly also in Derbyshire), one refers to the tea “mashing”. I am not sure why.

At any rate, this word is a firm fixture in our British-Luxembourgish household and I was sure to teach it to The Other Half very quickly upon moving in.

For Brits, mastery of tea terminology = essential for survival.

10. Wang

Translation: to throw vigorously, to pass (sth.)

Indispensable. Whether you are asking someone to pass you something (“Wang it o’er will yer?”), commenting on a torrential downpour (“Bloomin’ ‘eck, it’s wangin’ it down out there!”), or engaging in a spot of welly wanging*, “wang” is one of the greatest Yorkshire words and I love it.

[*Also known as welly-wopping.]

11. Snicket

What a British person calls a small alleyway, passage or shortcut (most commonly between two properties) is a dead giveaway as to their origin, as there are significant regional differences in the words used.

In Yorkshire, we call them “snickets” — or “snickleways” if they are in the City of York. Ginnel is also common in Yorkshire, but I’ve never said that.

(Because my parents are from Derbyshire and I’ve picked up a lot of speech patterns from them, I also use the word “jitty”).

12. Flaggin’

Translation: to be running low on energy, to get tired.

It is quite common for me to be on a night out and have to whisper into The Other Half’s ear: “I think I’ll ‘ave to head home soon, I’m flaggin’”.

13. Ta, love

The classic Yorkshire way of saying “thank you, dear”.

14. Yerd meck a better door than a winder!

Literal translation: You’d make a better door than a window.

Meaning: You are standing right in my line of view, please move.

Of all the Yorkshire words and phrases listed here, this is my favourite, as it combines both the dry humour and the no-nonsense directness which are so typical of Yorkshire folk. Most often used when having one’s view of the TV obscured by a family member oblivious to the fact that, as human beings, they are not fully transparent.


Related articles:

15 fabulous British slang words

What a kerfuffle! 10 funny words in British English

Americanisms: from the sublime to the ridiculous. A British perspective.

Going back to Britain – the joys and frustrations of returning to the mother ship

The Battle of Flamborough Head: American History in Yorkshire