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Location of Merseyside within England

Scouse (; 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 as far as Flintshire in Wales, Runcorn 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]

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 what was informally named Merseyside and later to become officially known as Merseyside in 1974.[10] 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 are called Liverpudlians or Liverpolitans but are more often described by the colloquialism "Scousers".[13]


  • Etymology 1
  • Origins 2
  • Phonology 3
  • Lexicon and syntax 4
  • International recognition 5
  • Notable people with scouse accents 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


The word "scouse" is a shortened form of "lobscouse", derived from the Norwegian lapskaus, Swedish lapskojs and Danish labskovs (or the Low German Labskaus), a word for a meat 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. Outsiders tended to call these people "scousers".

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 starting in 1965 featured a Liverpudlian socialist and a Cockney conservative in regular argument.[14]


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. The Scandinavians introduced the dish Scouse.

Until the mid-19th century, the dominant local accent was similar to that of neighbouring areas of Lancashire. The influence of Irish and Welsh incomers, combined with European accents, contributed to a distinctive local Liverpool accent.[15] The first reference to a distinctive Liverpool accent was in 1890.[16] 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.[17]


Monophthongs of Scouse (from Watson (2007:357)).
Diphthongs of Scouse (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.

There are variations on the Scouse accent, with the south side of the city adopting a softer, more lyrical tone, and the north a rougher, more gritty accent. Those differences, though not universal, are most notable in the pronunciation of the vowels.

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, Dublin English and the English used in Scotland. 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.[18]

Written English RP English Scouse
'book' [bʊk] [bʉːx]
'cook' [kʰʊk] [kʰʉːx]

Oddly enough words such as 'took' and 'look', unlike some other accents in northern towns, revert to the type and are pronounced 'tuck' and 'luck'. Not all Liverpudlians are brought up to speak with this variation but this does not make it any less Scouse.

The Scouse accent of the early 21st century is markedly different in certain respects from that of earlier decades, The Liverpool accent of the 1950s and before was more a Lancashire-Irish hybrid. But since then, as with most accents and dialects, Scouse has been subject to phonemic evolution and change.

One could compare the way John Lennon spoke in the old Beatles films such as A Hard Day's Night with modern Scouse speakers such as Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. Harrison pronounced the word 'fair' more like the standard English 'fur' – as Cilla Black did (it could be argued that Brian Epstein's influence led to his artists adopting a softer Liverpool accent to appeal to a wider audience). This is a pure Lancashire trait but modern Scousers do it the other way round pronouncing 'fur' like 'fair'.

Changes have taken place in Scouse vowels, which show length and exaggeration at times in words like 'read', conversely shorter than standard in a word like 'sleep'. A final 'er' is a sound that, although pronounced as a schwa in surrounding Lancashire and Cheshire, is emphasised as strongly as the 'e' in 'pet' /pɛt/. In a strong Scouse accent, the phoneme /k/ can be realised at the ends of some words as [x] or sometimes [k͡x].

RP English Old Scouse Modern Scouse
[ɜː] as in 'fur' [ɜː] [ɛː]
[ɛə] as in 'square' [ɜː] [ɛː]
[riːd] as in 'read' [iː] [iːi̯]
[sliːp] as in 'sleep' [iː] [i]
[ˈbʌtə] as in 'butter' [ˈbʊθ̠ə] [ˈbʊθ̠ɛ]
[fɔːk] as in 'fork' [fɔːx] [fɔːx]
[bɑːθ] as in 'bath [bɑθ̠] [bɑθ̠]

Even if Irish accents are rhotic, meaning that they pronounce /r/ at the end as well as at the beginning of a syllable, 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 ˈflɔːr ɪz ˈdɛːtɪ], while "the floor... is dirty" is pronounced [ðə ˈflɔː | ɪz ˈdɛːtɪ]. See linking R.

Rhotic Accent Scouse
[flɔːr] as in 'floor' [flɔː]
[wɝd] as in 'word' [wɛːd]

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 similarly to the fricatives /s/ and /z/.

The loss of dental fricatives, /ð/ and /θ/, is commonly attributed to Irish English influence. They are realised as [] and [] respectively. However, in the younger generation, in some areas but by no means all, this feature is being outnumbered by those who realise them as labiodental fricatives.

  • /θ/ becomes /f/ in all environments. [θɪŋk] becomes [fɪŋk] for "think."
  • /ð/ becomes /v/ in all environments except word-initially, in which case it becomes /d/. [ˈdɪðə] becomes [ˈdɪvɛ] for "dither"; [ðəʊ] becomes [dəʊ] for "though."

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". An exception occurs when "my" is emphasised: for example, "That's my book you got there" (and not his).

Other Scouse features in common use include such examples as:

  • The use of 'giz' instead of 'give us'.
  • 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

Voice of John Bishop from the BBC programme Desert Island Discs, 24 June 2012.[19]

Problems playing this file? See .

Scouse is highly distinguishable from other English dialects and because of this international recognition on 16 September 1996 Keith Szlamp made a request[20] to IANA to make it a recognised Internet dialect. After citing a number of references,[21][22][23][24][25] 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". Many natives of northern Europe, and especially the Scandinavian region, have suggested that Scousers 'sound like they sing when they talk' due to the flowing rhythm and pitch.

Notable people with scouse accents

Notable people
Fictional characters

See also

Other northern English dialects include:


  1. ^ Watson (2007:351–360)
  2. ^ Collins, Beverley S.; Mees, Inger M. (2013), "5 Scouse (Liverpool)", Practical Phonetics and Phonology: A Resource Book for Students (3rd ed.), Routledge,  
  3. ^ Coupland, Nikolas (1990), English in Wales: Diversity, Conflict, and Change, Multilingual Matters Ltd, p. 7,  
  4. ^ Howard, Jackson; Stockwell, Peter (2011), An Introduction to the Nature and Functions of Language (2nd ed.), Continuum International Publishing Group, p. 172,  
  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. ^ Chris Roberts, Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme, Thorndike Press, 2006 (ISBN 0-7862-8517-6)
  14. ^ Alan Crosby, The Lancashire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore, 2000, entry for word Scouser
  15. ^ , BBC Liverpool, 11 January 2005The origins of ScousePaul Coslett, . Retrieved 6 February 2015
  16. ^ , Liverpool Daily Post, 9 August 2008The Scouse accent: Dey talk like dat, don’t dey?Peter Grant, . Retrieved 18 April 2013
  17. ^ , 29 June 2007Scouse: the accent that defined an eraTimes Higher Education, . Retrieved 6 February 2015
  18. ^ Peter Trudgill, The Dialects of England, page 71, Blackwell, Oxford, 2000
  19. ^ "John Bishop".  
  20. ^
  21. ^ Frank Shaw, Fritz Spiegl, Stan Kelly, Lern Yerself Scouse Volume 1: How to Talk Proper in Liverpool., Scouse Press (ISBN 978-0901367013)
  22. ^ Linacre Lane, Fritz Spiegl, Lern Yerself Scouse Volume 2: The ABZ of Scouse., Scouse Press (ISBN 978-0901367037)
  23. ^ Brian Minard, Lern Yerself Scouse Volume 3: Wersia Sensa Yuma?, Scouse Press (ISBN 978-0901367044)
  24. ^ Fritz Spiegl, Ken Allen, Lern Yerself Scouse Volume 4: The Language of Laura Norder., Scouse Press (ISBN 978-0901367310)
  25. ^ Szlamp, K.: The definition of the word 'Scouser', Oxford English Dictionary


  • Watson, Kevin (2007), "Liverpool English" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association 37 (3): 351–360,  

Further reading

  • , Liverpool University Press, 2012Scouse: A Social and Cultural HistoryTony Crowley,
  • Black, William. (2005). The Land that Thyme Forgot. Bantam. p. 348  
  • Honeybone, P (2001). "Lenition inhibition in Liverpool English". English Language and Linguistics 5 (2): 213–249.  
  • Marotta, G. and Barth, M., Acoustic and sociolingustic aspects of lenition in Liverpool English, Studi Linguistici e Filologici Online 3.2, pp377–413. Available online PDF (978 KB) (including sound files).
  • Shaw, F. and Spiegl, F. and Kelly, S., (1966). How to Talk Proper in Liverpool (Lern Yerself Scouse S.) Liverpool:Scouse Press. ISBN 0-901367-01-X
  • Wells, J. C. (1982). Accents of English 2: The British Isles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-28540-2.

External links

  • Sounds Familiar: Birkenhead (Scouse) – Listen to examples of Scouse and other regional accents and dialects of the UK on the British Library's 'Sounds Familiar' website
  • 'Hover & Hear' Scouse pronunciations, and compare with other accents from the UK and around the World.
  • Sound map – Accents & dialects in Accents & Dialects, British Library.
  • BBC – Liverpool Local History – Learn to speak Scouse!
  • A. B. Z. of Scouse (Lern Yerself Scouse) (ISBN 0-901367-03-6)
  • tagen-scouseIANA registration form for the
  • IETF RFC 4646 – Tags for Identifying Languages (2006)
  • Dialect Poems from the English regions
  • Visit Liverpool The official tourist board website to Liverpool
  • A Scouser in New York A syndicated on-air segment that airs on Bolton FM Radio during Kev Gurney's show (7pm to 10pm – Saturdays) and Magic 999 during Roy Basnett's Breakfast (6am to 10am – Monday thru Friday).
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