10 Of The Most Yorkshire Words & Phrases And Their Origins

10 Of The Most Yorkshire Words & Phrases And Their Origins

Yorkshire is a fascinating language and to those who don’t understand it, there may seem like we’ve just picked out words from the sky to replace the English language (which may be the case in certain circumstances). Still, there is an origin in certain words and phrases, and we’ve picked some of the most common for your reading pleasure. Whether you’re wanting to have a bit of pub ammo, or just to pass the time until hometime after lunch.

The words we are going to look at today are from a variety of languages including French, Norse origin, which is Norseman or Norse people who come were a ‘North Germanic ethnolinguistic group of the Early Middle Ages, which spoke the Old Norse Language.

1. Bairn/ Barn

“Put that bairn down now” You may have heard your mum shout when you start picking on your younger sibling.

It comes from the Old English word bearn, which has some alternatives across Yorkshire and other northern counties and Scotland.

2. Bait

“What you got for yer bait?”

Bait usually refers to a packed meal or contents of a lunchbox and comes from the Norse word beit.

3. Ee bah gum

A commonly used phrase up north it originally meant ‘oh by god’ and was used by people who did not want to swear similarly to if someone were to say fudge instead or the F-word and Sugar.

4. Ey Up

“Ey up, how’s thee gannin’?” You’d say to a friend, or anyone in the street for that matter.

It originally meant be careful and its origin is uncertain but some believe it could be from Old Norse greeting “Se upp” meaning ‘look up‘ or ‘watch out’. It was used as more or a warning than a greeting.

Get your EY Up t-shirt here.

5. Ginnel

“Tek a shortcut through the ginnel”

Derived from the 17th-century word “channel” meaning alleyway, there is debate about the correct term as other areas of Yorkshire use words like ‘snickle’, or ‘snicket’.

6. Gander

“Have a gander”

Derives from the Old English “gandra meaning male goose. But, how did it change to meaning have a look?

7. Kegs

“Where are me Kegs”

Kegs or keks means trousers or underwear and could have come from the early 20th-century respelling of now obsolete kicks ‘trousers’.

8. Laik/ Laikin’

“He laikin’?” Meaning ‘is he playing?’, when asking where one of your mates might be.

It comes from the Old Norse word Leika which means to play. It’s also used for days off or not having any work to do.

9. Nowt

“What do you want?”


It means nothing and comes from Old English naught, nought, naht, nawiht.

10. Sackless

“Labour is bloody sackless”

A way to say someone is ineffective, simple or lazy, and can also mean innocent and comes from the Norse word saklauss.

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