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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term Cockney has both geographical and linguistic associations. Geographically and culturally, it often refers to working class Londoners, particularly those in the East End. Linguistically, it refers to the form of English spoken by this group.



A costume associated with Cockneys is that of the pearly King (or pearly Queen) worn by London costermongers who sew thousands of pearl buttons onto their clothing in elaborate and creative patterns.

The earliest recorded use of the term is 1362 in The vision of William concerning Piers Plowman by William Langland and it is used to mean a small, misshapen egg, from Middle English coken (of cocks) and ey (egg) so literally 'a cock's egg'.[1] In the Reeve's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer (circa 1386) it appears as "cokenay",[2] and the meaning is "a child tenderly brought up, an effeminate fellow, a milksop".[1][3][4] By 1521 it was in use by country people as a derogatory reference for the effeminate town-dwellers.[1][5] The term could also be used for a young male prostitute; in this the progression exactly mirrors that of punk and gunsel in America.

The term was used to describe those born within earshot of the Bow Bells in 1600, when Samuel Rowlands, in his satire The Letting of Humours Blood in the Head-Vaine, referred to 'a Bowe-bell Cockney'.[6] Traveler and writer Fynes Moryson stated in his work An Itinerary that "Londoners, and all within the sound of Bow Bells, are in reproach called Cockneys."[7] John Minsheu (or Minshew) was the first lexicographer to define the word in this sense, in his Ductor in Linguas (1617), where he referred to 'A Cockney or Cockny, applied only to one born within the sound of Bow bell, that is in the City of London'.[8] However, the etymologies he gave (from 'cock' and 'neigh', or from Latin incoctus, raw) were incorrect.

Francis Grose's A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785) derives the term from the following story:

A citizen of London, being in the country, and hearing a horse neigh, exclaimed, Lord! how that horse laughs! A by-stander telling him that noise was called Neighing, the next morning, when the cock crowed, the citizen to shew he had not forgot what was told him, cried out, Do you hear how the Cock Neighs?[9][10]

Given the earlier meanings above, this story is probably apocryphal.


An alternative derivation is from the word Cockaigne, a term for a mythical luxurious country, first recorded in 1362.[11] This was then used humorously to refer to London, and over time had a number of spellings: Cocagne, Cockayne, Cocknay and Cockney. The latter two spellings could be used to refer to both pampered children, and residents of London, as to pamper or spoil a child was 'to cocker' him.[12]

Cockney area

The region in which "Cockneys" are thought to reside is not clearly defined. A common belief is that in order to be a Cockney, one must have been born within earshot of the Bow Bells. However, the church of St Mary-le-Bow was destroyed in 1666 by the Great Fire of London and rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. After the bells were destroyed again in 1941 in The Blitz of World War II, and before they were replaced in 1961, there was a period when by this definition no 'Bow-bell' Cockneys could be born.[13] The use of such a literal definition produces other problems, since the area around the church is no longer residential and the noise of the area makes it unlikely that many people would be born within earshot of the bells anymore.[14]

A study was carried out by the city in 2000 to see how far the Bow Bells could be heard,[citation needed] and it was estimated that the bells would have been heard six miles to the east, five miles to the north, three miles to the south, and four miles to the west. According to the legend of Dick Whittington the bells could once be heard from as far away as Highgate.[15] The association with Cockney and the East End in the public imagination may be due to many people assuming that Bow Bells are to be found in the district of Bow, rather than the lesser known St Mary-le-Bow church.

Thus while all East Enders are Cockneys, not all Cockneys are East Enders. The traditional core districts of the East End are Bethnal Green, Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Stepney, Wapping, Limehouse, Poplar, Millwall, Hackney, Hoxton, Shoreditch, Bow and Mile End. "The Borough" to the south of Waterloo, London and Tower Bridge were also considered Cockney before redevelopment all but extinguished the local working class areas, and now Bermondsey is the only Cockney area south of the Thames, although Pearly Kings and Queens can be found as far out as Peckham and Penge. The area north of the Thames gradually expanded to include East Ham, Stratford, West Ham and Plaistow as more land was built upon.

Migration of Cockneys has also led to migration of the dialect. Ever since the building of the Becontree housing estate, the Barking & Dagenham area has spoken Cockney. As Chatham Dockyard expanded during the 18th century, large numbers of workers were moved from the dockland areas of London, bringing with them a "Cockney" accent and vocabulary. Within a short period this famously distinguished Chatham from the neighbouring areas, including the City of Rochester, which had a Kentish accent.

In Essex, towns that mostly grew up from post-war migration out of London (e.g. Basildon and Harlow) often have a strong Cockney influence on local speech. However, the early dialect researcher Alexander John Ellis believed that Cockney developed due to the influence of Essex dialect on London speech.[16] In recent years, there has been a move away from Cockney in the inner-city areas of London towards Multicultural London English whereas the eastern outskirts of Greater London have more speakers of Cockney dialect.[17]

Migration and evolution

Today, certain elements of Cockney English are declining in usage within the area it is most associated with, displaced by a Jamaican Creole-influenced variety popular among young Londoners (sometimes referred to as "Jafaican"), particularly, though far from exclusively, those of Afro-Caribbean descent.[citation needed] Nevertheless, the glottal stop, double negatives, and the vocalization of the dark L (and other features of Cockney speech), along with some rhyming slang terms are still in common usage. As cockneys have moved out of London, they have often taken their dialect with them. There may actually be more speakers of the Cockney dialect in Dagenham than in Whitechapel, even though the former is not in the traditional Cockney area. However despite the fact that the Jafaican accent is becoming ever more prominent and spreading among white middle class youngsters as well as ethnic minorities, some white working class teenagers, especially in inner London still retain the cockney accent and as of the late 2000s it can be seen that the cockney accent in inner London is undergoing a revival among the white working class.

Cockney speech

Cockney speakers have a distinctive accent and dialect, and frequently use rhyming slang. The Survey of English Dialects took a recording from a long-time resident of Hackney and the BBC made another recording in 1999 which showed how the accent had changed.[18][19]

John Camden Hotten, in his Slang Dictionary of 1859 makes reference to "their use of a peculiar slang language" when describing the costermongers of London's East End. In terms of other slang, there are also several borrowings from Yiddish, including kosher (originally Hebrew, via Yiddish, meaning legitimate) and stumm (/ʃtʊm/ originally German, via Yiddish, meaning quiet),[20] as well as Romany, for example wonga (meaning money, from the Romany "wanga" meaning coal),[21] and cushty (from the Romany kushtipen, meaning good). A fake Cockney accent is sometimes called 'Mockney'.

Typical features

  • As with many accents of England, Cockney is non-rhotic. A final -er is pronounced [ə] or lowered [ɐ] in broad Cockney. As with all or nearly all non-rhotic accents, the lexical sets commA and lettER are merged. Thus, the last syllable of words like cheetah can be pronounced [ɐ] as well in broad Cockney.[22][23][24]
  • Broad /ɑː/ is used when the letter a precedes /f/, /s/, /θ/ and sometimes /nd/ (in words such as bath, path, demand, etc.). This originated in London but has now spread across the south-east and into Received Pronunciation. However, there are exceptions to this rule; for example, the word maths or masculine.[25] See Trap-bath split for more information.
  • T-glottalisation: Use of the glottal stop as an allophone of /t/ in various positions,[26][27] including after a stressed syllable. Glottal stops also occur, albeit less frequently for /k/ and /p/, and occasionally for mid-word consonants. For example, Richard Whiteing spelt "Hyde Park" as Hy' Par' . Like and light can be homophones. "Clapham" can be said as Cla'am.[25] /t/ may also be flapped intervocalically. London /p,t,k/ are often aspirated in intervocalic and final environments, e.g., upper, utter, rocker, up, out, rock, where RP is traditionally described as having the unaspirated variants. Also, in broad Cockney at least, the degree of aspiration is typically greater than in RP, and may often also involve some degree of affrication. Affrication may be encountered in initial, intervocalic, and final position.[28][29]
  • Th-fronting:[30]
    • /θ/ can become [f] in any environment. [mɛfs] "maths".
    • /ð/ can become [v] in any environment except word-initially when it can be [ð,ð̞,d,l,ʔ,Ø]. [bɒvə] "bother," [dæɪ] "they."[31][32]
  • H-dropping. Sivertsen considers that [h] is to some extent a stylistic marker of emphasis in Cockney.[33][34]
  • Diphthong alterations:[35]
    • /iː/[əi~ɐi]:[36][37] [bəiʔ] "beet"
    • /eɪ/[æɪ~aɪ]:[38] [bæɪʔ] "bait"
    • /aɪ/[ɑɪ] or even [ɒɪ] in "vigorous, dialectal" Cockney. The second element may be reduced or absent (with compensatory lengthening of the first element), so that there are variants like [ɑ̟ə~ɑ̟ː]. This means that pairs such as laugh-life, Barton-biting may become homophones: [lɑːf], [bɑːʔn̩]. But this neutralisation is an optional, recoverable one.:[39] [bɑɪʔ] "bite"
    • /ɔɪ/[ɔ˔ɪ~oɪ]:[40] [tʃoɪs] "choice"
    • /uː/[əʉ] or a monophthongal [ʉː], perhaps with little lip rounding, [ɨː] or [ʊː]:[36][41] [bʉːʔ] "boot"
    • /əʊ/ → this diphthong typically starts in the area of the London /ʌ/, [æ ̠~ɐ]. The endpoint may be [ʊ], but more commonly it is rather opener and/or lacking any lip rounding, thus being a kind of centralized [ɤ¨]. The broadest Cockney variant approaches [aʊ].:[42] [kʰɐɤ¨ʔ] "coat"
    • /aʊ/ may be [æə] or a monophthongal [æː~aː]:[43] [tʰæən] "town"
  • Other vowel differences include
    • /æ/ may be [ɛ] or [ɛɪ], with the latter occurring before voiced consonants, particularly before /d/:[24][44] [bɛk] "back", [bɛːɪd] "bad"
    • /ɛ/ may be [eə], [eɪ], or [ɛɪ] before certain voiced consonants, particularly before /d/:[24][45][46][47] [beɪd] "bed"
    • /ɒ/ may be a somewhat less open [ɔ]:[24] [kɔʔ] "cot"
    • /ɑː/ has a fully back variant, qualitatively equivalent to cardinal 5, which Beaken (1971) claims characterizes "vigorous, informal" Cockney.[24]
    • /ɜː/ is on occasion somewhat fronted and/or lightly rounded, giving Cockney variants such as [ɜ ̟ː], [œ¨ː].[24]
    • /ʌ/[ɐ̟] or a quality like that of cardinal 4, [a]:[24][48] [dʒamʔˈtˢapʰ] "jumped up"
    • /ɔː/[oː] or a closing diphthong of the type [oʊ~ɔo] when in non-final position, with the latter variants being more common in broad Cockney:[49][50] [soʊs] "sauce"-"source", [loʊd] "lord", [ˈwoʊʔə] "water"
    • /ɔː/[ɔː] or a centring diphthong of the type [ɔə~ɔwə] when in final position, with the latter variants being more common in broad Cockney; thus [sɔə] "saw"-"sore"-"soar", [lɔə] "law"-"lore", [wɔə] "war"-"wore". The diphthong is retained before inflectional endings, so that board and pause can contrast with bored [bɔəd] and paws [pɔəz][50]
    • /əʊ/ becomes something around [ɒʊ~ɔo] or even [aɤ] in broad Cockney before dark l. These variants are retained when the addition of a suffix turns the dark l clear. Thus a phonemic split has occurred in London English, exemplified by the minimal pair wholly [ˈhɒʊli] vs. holy [ˈhɐɤ¨li]. The development of L-vocalisation (see next section) leads to further pairs such as sole-soul [sɒʊ] vs. so-sew [sɐɤ¨], bowl [bɒʊ] vs. Bow [bɐɤ¨], shoulder [ˈʃɒʊdə] vs. odour [ˈɐɤ¨də], while associated vowel neutralisations may make doll a homophone of dole, compare dough [dɐɤ¨]. All this reinforces the phonemic nature of the opposition and increases its functional load. It is now well-established in all kinds of London-flavoured accents, from broad Cockney to near-RP.[51]
  • Vocalisation of dark L, hence [mɪowɔː] for Millwall. The actual realization of a vocalized /l/ is influenced by surrounding vowels and it may be realized as [u], [ʊ], [o] or [ɤ]. It is also transcribed as a semivowel [w] by some linguists, e.g., Coggle and Rosewarne.[52] Relatedly, there are many possible vowel neutralisations and absorptions in the context of a following "dark L" ([ɫ]) or its vocalised version; these include:[53]
    • In broad Cockney, and to some extent in general popular London speech, a vocalised /l/ is entirely absorbed by a preceding /ɔː/: i.e., salt and sort become homophones (although the contemporary pronunciation of salt /sɒlt/ [54] would prevent this from happening), and likewise fault-fought-fort, pause-Paul's, Morden-Malden, water-Walter. Sometimes such pairs are kept apart, in more deliberate speech at least, by a kind of length difference: [ˈmɔʊdn̩] Morden vs. [ˈmɔʊːdn̩] Malden.
    • A preceding /ə/ is also fully absorbed into vocalised /l/. The reflexes of earlier /əl/ and earlier /ɔː(l)/ are thus phonetically similar or identical; speakers are usually ready to treat them as the same phoneme. Thus awful can best be regarded as containing two occurrences of the same vowel, /ˈɔːfɔː/. The difference between musical and music-hall, in an H-dropping broad Cockney, is thus nothing more than a matter of stress and perhaps syllable boundaries.
    • With the remaining vowels a vocalised /l/ is not absorbed, but remains phonetically present as a back vocoid in such a way that /Vl/ and /V/ are kept distinct.
    • The clearest and best-established neutralisations are those of /ɪ~iː~ɪə/ and /ʊ~uː~ʊə/. Thus rill, reel and real fall together in Cockney as [rɪɤ]; while full and fool are [foʊ~fʊu] and may rhyme with cruel [krʊu]. Before clear (i.e., prevocalic) /l/ the neutralisations do not usually apply, thus [ˈsɪli] silly but [ˈsɪilɪn] ceiling-sealing, [ˈfʊli] fully but [ˈfʊulɪn] fooling.
    • In some broader types of Cockney, the neutralisation of /ʊ~uː~ʊə/ before non-prevocalic /l/ may also involve /ɔː/, so that fall becomes homophonous with full and fool [fɔo].
    • The other pre-/l/ neutralisation which all investigators agree on is that of /æ~eɪ~aʊ/. Thus, Sal and sale can be merged as [sæɤ], fail and fowl as [fæɤ], and Val, vale-veil and vowel as [væɤ]. The typical pronunciation of railway is [ˈræʊwæɪ].
    • According to Siversten, /ɑː/ and /aɪ/ can also join in this neutralisation. They may on the one hand neutralise with respect to one another, so that snarl and smile rhyme, both ending [-ɑɤ], and Child's Hill is in danger of being mistaken for Charles Hill; or they may go further into a fivefold neutralisation with the one just mentioned, so that pal, pale, foul, snarl and pile all end in [-æɤ]. But these developments are evidently restricted to broad Cockney, not being found in London speech in general.
    • A neutralisation discussed by Beaken (1971) and Bowyer (1973), but ignored by Siversten (1960), is that of /ɒ~əʊ~ʌ/. It leads to the possibility of doll, dole and dull becoming homophonous as [dɒʊ] or [da̱ɤ]. Wells' impression is that the doll-dole neutralisation is rather widespread in London, but that involving dull less so.
    • One further possible neutralisation in the environment of a following non-prevocalic /l/ is that of /ɛ/ and /ɜː/, so that well and whirl become homophonous as [wɛʊ].
  • Cockney has been occasionally described as replacing /r/ with /w/. For example, thwee instead of three, fwasty instead of frosty. Peter Wright, a Survey of English Dialects fieldworker, concluded that this was not a universal feature of Cockneys but that it was more common to hear this in the London area than anywhere else in Britain.[55] This description may also be a result of mishearing the labiodental R as /w/, when it is still a distinct phoneme in Cockney.
  • An unstressed final -ow may be pronounced [ə]. In broad Cockney this can be lowered to [ɐ].[23][24] This is common to most traditional, Southern English dialects except for those in the West Country.[56]
  • Grammatical features:[33]
    • Use of me instead of my, for example, "At's me book you got 'ere ". Cannot be used when "my" is emphasised (i.e., "At's my book you got 'ere" (and not "his")).
    • Use of ain't instead of isn't, am not, are not, has not, and have not
  • Use of double negatives, for example "I didn't see nothing."[57]

Most of the features mentioned above have, in recent years, partly spread into more general south-eastern speech, giving the accent called Estuary English; an Estuary speaker will use some but not all of the Cockney sounds.[citation needed] Some of the features may derive from the upper-class pronunciation of late 18th century London, such as the use of "ain't" for "isn't" and the now lost reversal of "v" and "w" (as noted by Dickens regarding Sam Weller/Veller). This element of Cockney as parody is often underestimated, it dates to a time when Cockneys earned much of their income from the rich, who they then derided at home or in the pub.

Attitudes towards Cockney English

The Cockney accent has long been looked down upon and thought of as inferior by many. In 1909 these attitudes even received an official recognition thanks to the report of The Conference on the Teaching of English in London Elementary Schools issued by the London County Council, where is stated that "[…] the Cockney mode of speech, with its unpleasant twang, is a modern corruption without legitimate credentials, and is unworthy of being the speech of any person in the capital city of the Empire".[58] On the other hand, however, there started rising at the same time cries in defence of Cockney as, for example the following one: "The London dialect is really, especially on the South side of the Thames, a perfectly legitimate and responsible child of the old kentish tongue […] the dialect of London North of the Thames has been shown to be one of the many varieties of the Midland or Mercian dialect, flavoured by the East Anglian variety of the same speech […]".[58] Since then, the Cockney accent has been more accepted as an alternative form of the English Language rather than an 'inferior' one; in the 1950s the only accent to be heard on the BBC was RP, whereas nowadays many different accents, including Cockney or ones heavily influenced by it, can be heard on the BBC.[59] In a survey of 2000 people conducted by Coolbrands in autumn 2008, Cockney was voted equal fourth coolest accent in Britain with 7% of the votes, while The Queen's English was considered the coolest, with 20% of the votes.[60] Brummie was voted least popular, receiving just 2%. This shows that although speaking with a Cockney accent is not considered as bad as in the past, preference towards RP still prevail.

Spread of Cockney English

Studies have indicated that the heavy use of South East English accents on television and radio may be the cause of the spread of Cockney English since the 1960s.[61][62][63][64]


Studies have indicated that working-class adolescents in areas such as Glasgow have begun to use certain aspects of Cockney and other Anglicisms in their speech,[65] infiltrating the traditional Glasgow patter.[66] For example, TH-fronting is commonly found, and typical Scottish features such as the postvocalic /r/ are reduced.[67] Researches suggest the use of English speech characteristics is likely the influence of London and South East England accents featuring heavily on television.[61][62][63][64]


Th-fronting, L-vocalisation and T-glottalization can now be found in every county of England (with L-vocalisation being largely absent from Northern England),[68][69][70][71][72] whereas before the 1960s the only feature that was common to all of England, except for much of East Anglia and North East England, was H-dropping.[73][74][75]

Cockney characters in drama, fiction and poetry

A television advertisement for Heineken beer in the 1980s showed a Sloane woman receiving elocution lessons in Cockney, parodying My Fair Lady. In the advert, she was being taught to say "The wa'er in Majorca don' taste like wot it ough' a", but could only manage a rendition in Received Pronunciation of "The water in Majorca doesn't taste quite how it should" (until, of course, she drank the beer).

More recently, the Geico automobile insurance company has used a gecko lizard in its television advertising campaign that speaks in a Cockney accent. The character is voiced by Jake Wood.

Famous Cockney people

Famous Cockney performances

See also


  1. ^ a b c Oxford English Dictionary (Second ed.). Oxford University Press. 1989. Retrieved 2009-03-24. 
  2. ^ Cumberledge, Geoffrey. F. N. Robinson. ed. The Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Oxford University Press. p. 70. 
  3. ^ Cumberledge, Geoffrey. F. N. Robinson. ed. The Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Oxford University Press. p. 1063. 
  4. ^ Hotten, John Camden. "Cockney". A dictionary of modern slang, cant and vulgar words. p. 22.,+Cant+and+Vulgar+Words&cd=1#v=onepage&q=&f=false.  Cockney: a native of London. An ancient nickname implying effeminacy, used by the oldest English writers, and derived from the imaginary fool's paradise, or lubberland, Cockaygne.
  5. ^ This cokneys and tytyllynges..[delicati pueri] may abide no sorrow when they come to age..In this great cytees as London, York, Perusy and such..the children be so nycely and wantonly brought up..that comonly they can little good (Robert Whittington, Vulgaria (1520))
  6. ^
  7. ^ Bow Bells
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Grose, Francis. "A classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue". Project Gutenberg e-text. Retrieved 2009-03-24. 
  11. ^ (Second ed.). Oxford University Press. 2009. 
  12. ^ " … I shall explain myself more particularly; only laying down this as a general and certain observation for the women to consider, viz. that most children's constututions are spoiled, or at least harmed, by cockering and tenderness." Locke, John (1695). Some thoughts concerning education (Third ed.). p. 7. 
  13. ^ J. Swinnerton, The London Companion (Robson, 2004), p. 21.
  14. ^ Wright (1980:11)
  15. ^
  16. ^ Ellis (1890:35, 57, 58)
  17. ^ October entry
  18. ^ Survey of English Dialects, Hackney, London
  19. ^ British Library Archival Sound Recordings
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Wright (1980:133-135)
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h Wells (1982b:305)
  25. ^ a b Wright (1980:136-137)
  26. ^ Sivertsen (1960:111)
  27. ^ Hughes & Trudgill (1979:34)
  28. ^ Sivertsen (1960:109)
  29. ^ Wells (1982b:323)
  30. ^ Sivertsen (1960:124)
  31. ^ Wright & 1980 (137)
  32. ^ Wells (1982b:329)
  33. ^ a b Linguistics 110 Linguistic Analysis: Sentences & Dialects, Lecture Number Twenty One – Regional English Dialects English Dialects of the World
  34. ^ Wells (1982b:322)
  35. ^ Hughes & Trudgill (1979:39-41)
  36. ^ a b Matthews (1938:78)
  37. ^ Wells (1982b:306)
  38. ^ Wells (1982b:307-308)
  39. ^ Wells (1982b:308, 310)
  40. ^ Wells (1982b:308, 310)
  41. ^ Wells (1982b:306-307)
  42. ^ Wells (1982b:308-310)
  43. ^ Wells (1982b:309)
  44. ^ Hughes & Trudgill (1979:35)
  45. ^ Sivertsen (1960:54)
  46. ^ Wells (1982a:129)
  47. ^ Cruttenden (2001:110)
  48. ^ Hughes & Trudgill (1938:35)
  49. ^ Matthews (1938:35)
  50. ^ a b Wells (1982b:310-311)
  51. ^ Wells (1982b:312-313)
  52. ^ Sivertsen (1960:132)
  53. ^ Wells (1982b:313-317)
  54. ^
  55. ^ Wright (1980:135)
  56. ^ Wright (1980:134)
  57. ^ Wright (1980:122)
  58. ^ a b Attitudes towards Cockney
  59. ^ BBC English
  60. ^ "RP still most popular accent". September 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  61. ^ a b Soaps may be washing out accent - BBC Scotland
  62. ^ a b 'We fink, so we are from Glasgow' - Times Online
  63. ^ a b Scots kids rabbitin' like Cockneys - Sunday Herald
  64. ^ a b [1] - Faculty of Arts, University of Glasgow
  65. ^ Is TV a contributory factor in accent change in adolescents? - ESRC Society Today
  66. ^ Cockney creep puts paid to the patter - Evening Times
  67. ^
  68. ^ Millennium Memory Bank, Chatham, Kent
  69. ^ Millennium Memory Bank, Plymouth, Devon
  70. ^ Millennium Memory Bank, Leeds, West Yorkshire
  71. ^ Millennium Memory Bank, Withernsea, East Yorkshire
  72. ^ Millennium Memory Bank, Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria
  73. ^ Survey of English Dialects, Gwinear, Cornwall
  74. ^ Survey of English Dialects, Bolton, Lancashire
  75. ^ Survey of English Dialects, Great Chesterford, Essex


  • Cruttenden, A. (2001), Gimson's Pronunciation of English (6th ed.), London: Arnold 
  • Ellis, Alexander J. (1890), English dialects: Their Sounds and Homes 
  • Hughes, Arthur; Trudgill, Peter (1979), English Accents and Dialects: An Introduction to Social and Regional Varieties of British English, Baltimore: University Park Press 
  • Matthews, William (1938), Cockney, Past and Present: a Short History of the Dialect of London, Detroit: Gale Research Company 
  • Sivertsen, Eva (1960), Cockney Phonology, Oslo: University of Oslo 
  • Wells, J.C. (1982a), Accents of English 1: An Introduction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 
  • Wells, J.C. (1982b), Accents of English 2: The British Isles, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 
  • Wright, Peter (1981), Cockney Dialect and Slang, London: B.T. Batsford Ltd. 

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

COCKNEY, a colloquial name applied to Londoners generally,. but more properly confined to those born in London, or more strictly still to those born within the sound of the bells of St Mary-le-Bow church. The origin of the word has been the subject of many guesses, from that in John Minsheu's lexicon,. Ductor in linguas (1617), which gives the tale of the town-bred child who, on hearing a horse neigh, asked whether a "cock neighed" too, to the confusion of the word with the name of the Utopia, the land of Cockaigne. The historical examination of the various uses of "Cockney," by Sir James Murray (see Academy, 10th of May 1890, and the New English Dictionary, s.v.) clearly shows the true derivation. The earliest form of the word is cokeney or cokeney, i.e. the ey or egg, and coken, genitive plural of "cock," "cocks' eggs" being the name given to the small and malformed eggs sometimes laid by young hens, known in German as Hahneneier. An early quotation, in Langland's Piers Plowman, A. vii. 272, gives the combination of "cokeneyes and bacon to make a" collop,"or dish of eggs and bacon. The word then applied to a child overlong nursed by its mother,. hence to a simpleton or milksop. Thus in Chaucer, Reeve's Tale,. the word is used with daf, i.e. a fool. The particular application of the name as a term of contempt given by country folk to town-bred people, with their dandified airs and ignorance of country ways and country objects, is easy. Thus Robert Whittington or Whitinton (fl. 1520), speaks of the" cokneys "in such" great cytees as London, York, Perusy "(Perugia), showing the general use of the word. It was not till the beginning: of the 17th century that" cockney "appears to be confined to, the inhabitants of London.

The so-called" Cockney "accent or pronunciation has varied in type. In the first part of the 1.9th century, it was chiefly characterized by the substitution of a v for a w, or vice versa.. This has almost entirely disappeared, and the chief consonantal variation which exists is perhaps the change of th to f or v, as in." fing "for thing, or" favver "for father. This and the vowelsound change from ou to ah, as in" abaht "for" about,"are only heard among the uneducated classes, and, together with _ other characteristic pronunciations, phrases and words, have been well illustrated in the so-called" coster "songs of Albert Chevalier. The most marked and widely-prevalent change of vowel sound is that of ei for ai, so that" daily "becomes" dyly and "may" becomes "my." This is sometimes so marked(that it almost amounts to incapacity to distinguish the vowels a and i, and is almost universal in large classes of the population of London. The name of the "Cockney School of Poetry" was applied in 1817 to the literary circle of which Leigh Hunt was the principal representative, though Keats also was aimed at. The articles in Blackwood's Magazine, in which the name appeared, have generally, but probably wrongly, been attributed to John Gibson Lockhart.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Alternative forms


  • (UK) IPA: /ˈkɒ, SAMPA: /"
  • Rhymes: -ɒkni


Cockney (not comparable)


not comparable

none (absolute)

  1. From the East End of London.

Proper noun



Cockney (plural Cockneys)

  1. Any native of London who was born within the sound of Bow Bells, St Mary-le-Bow church Cheapside, in the City of London.
  2. The dialect or accent of such natives.

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