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Location of Barrow within England

Barrovian (or Barrow dialect) is an accent and dialect of English found in Barrow-in-Furness and several parts of the town's wider borough in Cumbria, England. Although technically a subgroup of the Cumbrian dialect, Barrovian is distinct in having more in common with the Lancashire dialect and influences of immigrant groups from Scotland and North East England.

Barrovian is also used as a demonym for inhabitants of Barrow.


  • Origins 1
  • Phonology 2
  • Phrases and lexis 3
  • Barrovian as a demonym 4
  • Recognition 5
  • Notable speakers 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8


Up until the mid-19th century Barrow was nothing but a small fishing village with the Cumbrian dialect prevailing throughout, huge growth however occurred between 1860 and 1880 spurred on by the introduction of the railway to the Furness peninsula and the rapidly expanding steelworks.[1] Barrow also became a major shipbuilding centre in the early 20th century. From a few thousand to 70,000 residents in under half a century, the majority of these were immigrants to the town drawn by the burgeoning industries.[1] Large influxes came from elsewhere in Lancashire, Ireland and Scotland, with existing shipubulding regions such as the Clyde and Tyneside providing a significant percentage of migrants in the early to mid-20th century. Barrow became a melting pot of accents and dialects and although it remains primarily Cumbria/Lancashire-orientated has strong influences from a wide geographical area.

Numerous place names in Barrow are of Old Norse and Celtic origin. Although they have long been Anglicised, many have had their pronunciation skewered over time by the aforementioned immigrant groups. One notable example being the suburbs of Roose which was settled by Cornish tin miners and is now pronounced locally with a 'z' in place of the 's'. The name Furness is also pronounced to sound like 'furnace'.


A 2005 study of the Barrovian dialect by the British Library found a number of traits common amongst the populace. Most of the observations made are similar to other Northern English dialects with the letter 'o' usually being pronounced 'u' (i.e. 'good' as 'gud'). Other observations made included frequent word final T-glottaling and frequent intervocalic and syllable initial T-glottaling. This translates in speech to the letter 't' being dropped from the middle and end of words.[2] Examples of this include the word 'cart' being pronounced as 'car', with a roll off of the letter 'r'. Alternatively the number 'twenty' could be spoken as 'tweny'.[2] The same study also found frequent NG-fronting, frequent H-dropping and frequent TH-fronting.[2] Again examples of these phonetics include the words 'freezing, exciting, sleeping' being pronounced 'freezin, excitin, sleepin', with a drop of the letter 'g' when an 'n' is present in front. The letter 'h' is also frequently dropped (i.e. 'happy' as 'appy' and 'hour' as 'our').[2] TH-fronting occurs when 'th' in words (e.g. 'through') being pronounced as an 'f' ('frough').[2]

Pronunciation of words ending with the letters 'ure' are another distinct indicator of the Barrovian dialect.[3] Some words drop the letter 'u' completely and invert the 're' to 'er', while others emphasise it and pronounce it as the capital letter 'u' would be said; while still inverting the 're'. Examples of the former include the word 'brochure' being pronounced 'broch-er', 'texture' as 'text-er' and 'figure' as 'fig-er'. Alternatively many words are also pronounced with a hard emphasis on the 'u', examples are 'cure' being pronounced 'c-you-er', 'insure' as 'ins-you-er', 'immature' as 'immat-you-er and 'secure' as 'sec-you-er'. There is little that dictates which words drop the letter 'u' and which emphasise it, with little correlation between word length and pronunciation.

Phrases and lexis

The words 'dead' and 'well' are often used in conversation to mean 'very' or make a strong point.[2] The word 'like' is frequently used with little meaning, as is the term 'and that' which roughly translates to the use of the term 'etc.' in a spoken conversation.[2] The list below contains common words and daily greetings in Standard English (left in bold) and their Barrovian equivalent (right in italics).[2]

Barrovian as a demonym

'Barrovian' is also used to refer to an individual hailing from Barrow. The term has become synonymous with local football team Barrow A.F.C.. The term 'Old Barrovian' was used in the 20th century to refer to alumni of the Barrow Boy and Girl Grammar Schools, which through a complicated history have become Furness Academy.


Outside of the North West England, Barrovian is relatively unknown in comparison to more widespread dialects. A poll conducted by Travelodge in 2014 resulted in Barrovian being placed sixth 'least favourite' of regional accents in the UK behind Essex, Brummie, Cockney, Belfast and Highland respectively.[4]

Notable speakers

See also


  1. ^ a b "History of Barrow-in-Furness". Visit Cumbria. Retrieved 23 September 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "BBC Voice Recordings Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria". British Library. Retrieved 23 September 2014. 
  3. ^ "PHD Student Studies Barrow Accent". North West Evening Mail. Retrieved 23 September 2014. 
  4. ^ "Barrow Dialect Polls as Least Favourite". North West Evening Mail. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
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