Scouse (/sks/; formally known as Liverpool English[2] or Merseyside English)[3][4][5] is an accent and dialect of English associated with Liverpool and the surrounding county of Merseyside. The Scouse accent is highly distinctive; having been influenced heavily by Irish, Norwegian, and Welsh immigrants who arrived via the Liverpool docks,[6] it has little in common with the accents of its neighbouring regions or the rest of England.[7] Scouse is also a general term for this pan-ethnic community or Liverpudlians in general. The accent is named after scouse, a stew eaten by sailors and locals.

Liverpool English / Merseyside English
Merseyside UK locator map 2010.svg
Native toLiverpool
Early forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3

The development of Liverpool since the 1950s has spread the accent into nearby areas such as the towns of Runcorn and Skelmersdale.[8] Variations within Scouse have been noted: the accent of Liverpool's city centre and northern neighbourhoods is usually described as fast, harsh, and nasal,[9] while the accent found in the southern suburbs of Liverpool is typically referred to as slow, soft, and dark.[10] Popular colloquialisms have shown a growing deviation from the historical Lancashire dialect that was previously found in Liverpool,[8] as well as a growth in the influence of the accent in the wider area.[7][11][12][13][14] Natives and residents of Liverpool are formally referred to as Liverpudlians, but are more often called Scousers.[15][16][17][18]

The northern variation of Scouse has appeared in mainstream British media but, until the 2010s, often served only to be impersonated and mocked in comedy series such as Harry Enfield & Chums and its Scousers sketch.[16] It is consistently voted one of the least popular accents in the UK.[19] Conversely, the Scouse accent as a whole is usually placed within the top two friendliest UK accents, alongside that of Newcastle upon Tyne.[20]


The word scouse is a shortened form of lobscouse, the origin of which is uncertain.[21] It is related to the Norwegian lobscouse, Swedish lapskojs, and Danish labskovs (skipperlabskovs), as well as the Low German labskaus, and refers to a stew of the same name 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, and familiar to the families of seafarers. Outsiders tended to call these people scousers.[22] In The Lancashire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore, Alan Crosby suggested that the word only became known nationwide with the popularity of the BBC sitcom Till Death Us Do Part (1965–1975), which featured a Liverpudlian socialist and a Cockney conservative in a regular argument.[17]


Originally a small fishing village, Liverpool developed as a port, trading particularly with Ireland. After the 1700s, it developed 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 (alongside migrants from other parts of Britain, Ireland, and northern Europe) established themselves in the area. Until the mid-19th century, the dominant local accent was similar to that of neighbouring areas of Lancashire. The comedian and actor Robb Wilton (1881–1957), who was born in the Everton district of Liverpool, spoke with a dry Lancashire accent rather than a Scouse accent.[23][better source needed]

The influence of Irish (especially Dublin Irish) and Northern Welsh migrants, combined with other European accents, contributed to a distinctive local Liverpool accent.[24] The first reference to a distinctive Liverpool accent was in 1890.[25] 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.[26]

Academic researchEdit

The period of early dialect research in Great Britain did little to cover Scouse. The early researcher Alexander John Ellis said that Liverpool and Birkenhead "had no dialect proper", as he conceived of dialects as speech that had been passed down through generations from the earliest Germanic speakers. Ellis did research some locations on the Wirral, but these respondents spoke in traditional Cheshire dialect at the time and not in Scouse.[27] The 1950s Survey of English Dialects recorded traditional Lancastrian dialect from the town of Halewood and found no trace of Scouse influence. The phonetician John C Wells wrote that "the Scouse accent might as well not exist" in The Linguistic Atlas of England, which was the Survey's principal output.[28]

The first academic study of Scouse was undertaken by Gerald Knowles at the University of Leeds in 1973. He identified the key problem being that traditional dialect research had focused on developments from a single proto-language, but Scouse (and many other urban dialects) had resulted from interactions between an unknown number of languages.[29]


The phonemic notation used in this article is based on the set of symbols used by Watson (2007).


Monophthongs of Scouse (from Watson (2007:357)). /eː/ and /ɑː/ show considerable allophonic variation.[30]
Diphthongs of Scouse (part 1, from Watson (2007:357))
Diphthongs of Scouse (part 2, from Watson (2007:357)). /ɛʉ/ has a considerable allophonic variation.[30]
Vowels of Scouse[31]
Front Central Back
Short Long Short Long Short Long
Close ɪ ʉː ʊ
Mid ɛ ə ɔː
Open a ɒ ɑː
Diphthongs eɪ   aɪ   ɔɪ   aʊ   ɛʉ   iɛ
  • The square-nurse merger in Scouse renders minimal pairs such as fair-fur, stare-stir and pair-purr homophonous as /feː/, /steː/ and /peː/. The actual realization is variable, but the current mainstream pronunciation is close to [], as shown on the vowel chart. Other allophones include [ɛː], [ɪː], [ɘː], [əː] and [ɜː] as well as the rounded [œː] and [ɵː], with all but [ɪː] being more conservative than []. In addition to those, there also exist the diphthongal variants [ɛə] and [əɛ]. Middle class speakers may differentiate SQUARE from NURSE by using the front [ɛː] for the former (so that fair, stare and pair are rendered [fɛː, stɛː, pɛː]) and the central [ɜː] for the latter (so that fur, stir and purr are rendered [fɜː, stɜː, pɜː]), much like in RP.[30][32][33][34][35]
  • As other Northern English varieties, Scouse lacks the foot-strut split, so that words like cut /kʊt/, luck /lʊk/ and up /ʊp/ have the same /ʊ/ phoneme as bull /bʊl/, foot /fʊt/ and put /pʊt/. Speakers attempting to distinguish between the two typically use a stressed /ə/ for the former set: /kət, lək, əp/, resulting in a Welsh English-like strut-schwa merger. However, this often leads to hypercorrection, so that good luck may be pronounced [ˌɡəd ˈlʊk].[36][37]
  • Words such as grass, path and sample have a short /a/, rather than the long /ɑː/ due to the lack of the trap-bath split: /ɡɹas, pat̪, ˈsampəl/. As with the foot-strut split, an attempt to use /ɑː/ in an RP-like way may lead to hypercorrections such as [ˌblɑːk ˈkʰasl̩] (RP [ˌblak ˈkʰɑːsl̩]).[36][37]
  • The words book, cook and look are typically pronounced with the vowel of GOOSE rather than that of FOOT, which is true within Northern England and the Midlands. This causes minimal pairs such as look and luck, and book and buck. The use of a long /ʉː/ in such words is more often used in working-class accents; however, recently this feature is becoming more recessive, being less found with younger people.[30]
  • The weak vowel merger is in transition, so that some instances of the unstressed /ɪ/ merge with /ə/, so that eleven /ɪˈlɛvən/ orange /ˈɒrɪndʒ/ are pronounced [əˈlɛvən] and [ˈɒɾəndʒ].[38] The typical g-dropped variant of ing is [ən], which is subject to syllabic consonant formation (as in disputing [dɪsˈpjʉːʔn̩]). As in Geordie, [ɪ] for standard [ə] may also occur, as in maggot [ˈmaɡɪθ̠].[39]
  • /ʉː/ is typically central [ʉː] and it may be even fronted to [] so that it becomes the rounded counterpart of /iː/.[30]
  • In final position, /iː, ʉː/ tend to be fronting/backing diphthongs with central onsets [ɨ̞i, ɨ̞u]. Sometimes this also happens before /l/ in words such as school [skɨ̞ul].[40]
  • The HAPPY vowel is tense [i] and is best analysed as belonging to the /iː/ phoneme.[38][41]
  • There is not a full agreement on the phonetic realisation of /ɑː/:
  • The NEAR vowel /iɛ/ typically has a front second element [ɛ].[31]
  • The FACE vowel /eɪ/ is typically diphthongal [eɪ], rather than being a monophthong [] that is commonly found in other Northern English accents.[43]
  • The GOAT vowel /ɛʉ/ has a considerable allophonic variation. Its starting point can be open-mid front [ɛ], close-mid front [e] or mid central [ə] (similarly to the NURSE vowel), whereas its ending point varies between fairly close central [ʉ̞] and a more back [ʊ]. The most typical realisation is [ɛʉ̞], but [ɛʊ, eʉ̞, eʊ, əʉ̞] and an RP-like [əʊ] are also possible.[30] John Wells also lists [oʊ] and [ɔʊ], which are more common in Northern English. To him, variants with central or front onsets sound 'inappropriately posh' in combination with other broad Scouse vowels.[40]
  • The PRICE vowel /aɪ/ can be monophthongised to [äː] in certain environments.[30] According to Wells (1982) and Watson (2007), the diphthongal realisation is quite close to the conservative RP norm ([aɪ]),[31][44] but according to Collins & Mees (2013) it has a rather back starting point ([ɑɪ]).[37]
  • The MOUTH vowel /aʊ/ is [aʊ], close to the RP norm.[31][44]


  • H-dropping, as in many other varieties of Northern England English. This renders hear /hiɛ/, high /haɪ/ and hold /hɛʉld/ variably homophonous with ear /iɛ/, I /aɪ/ and old /ɛʉld/.[45]
  • NG-coalescence is not present as with other Northern English accents, for instance realising along as [əˈlɒŋɡ].[45]
  • Like many other accents around the world, G-dropping also occurs, with [ən] being the most common realization of the sequence.[45]
  • /t/ has several allophones depending on environment:
    • Intervocalically (including at word boundaries), it is typically pronounced [ɹ] or [ɾ], which is found in several other Northern English varieties.[46]
    • Pre-pausally, it may be debuccalised to [h], with older speakers only doing this in function words with short vowel: it, lot, not, that, what, pronounced [ɪh, lɒh, nɒh, d̪ah, wɒh] respectively. On the other hand, younger speakers may further debuccalise in polysyllabic words in unstressed syllables, hence aggregate [ˈaɡɾɪɡɪh].[46] This is not differentiated from [θ̠] in this article.
    • T-glottalisation is rarer than in the rest of England, with [ʔ] occurring before /l/ and syllabic consonants.[46]
  • Fricatisation of voiceless plosives /p, t, k/:
    • Affrication of /t/ as [ts] word-initially and lenition to [θ̠] intervocalically and word-finally. The latter type of allophony does not lead to a loss of contrast with /s/ as the articulation is different; in addition, /s/ is also longer. For female speakers, the fricative allophone of /t/ is not necessarily [θ̠] but rather a complex sequence [hsh], so that out is pronounced [aʊhsh], rather than [aʊθ̠].[47] In this article, the difference is not transcribed and ⟨θ̠⟩ is used for the latter two allophones.
    • /k/ can turn into an affricate or a fricative, determined mostly by the quality of the preceding vowel.[46] If fricative, a palatal, velar or uvular articulation ([ç, x, χ] respectively) is realised. This is seen distinctively with words like book and clock.[46][44]
    • /p/ can be fricatised to [ɸ], albeit rarely.[46]
  • As with other varieties of English, the voiceless plosives /p, t, k/ are aspirated word-initially, except when /s/ precedes in the same syllable. It can also occur word- and utterance-finally, with potential preaspirated pronunciations [ʰp, ʰt, ʰk] (which is often perceived as glottal noise or as oral friction produced in the same environment as the stop) for utterance-final environments, primarily found in female speakers.[45]
  • The voiced plosives /b, d, ɡ/ are also fricatised, with /d/ particularly being lenited to the same extent as /t/, although the fricative allophone is frequently devoiced.[31]
  • Under Irish influence, the dental stops [, ] are often used instead of the standard dental fricatives [θ, ð], leading to a phonemic distinction between dental and alveolar stops. The fricative forms are also found, whereas th-fronting is not as common.[45]
  • The accent is non-rhotic, meaning /r/ is not pronounced unless followed by a vowel. When it is pronounced, it is typically realised as a tap [ɾ] particularly between vowels (as in mirror [ˈmɪɾə]) or in initial clusters (as in breath [bɾɛt̪]), and approximant [ɹ] otherwise, sometimes also instead of the tap.[45]

Lexicon and syntaxEdit

A notable Irish influence include the second person plural "you" as "yous" /jʉːz/. The use of "me" instead of "my" is also present, i.e. "that's me book you got there" instead of "that's my book you've got there".[dubious ] An exception occurs when "my" is emphasised in an example such as "that's my book (not your book)". Other common Scouse features include the use of "giz" instead of "give us", which became famous throughout the UK through Boys from the Blackstuff in 1982; the use of the term "made up" to mean "extremely happy", such as in "I'm made up I didn't go out last night"; and the terms "sound" for "okay" and "boss" for "great", which can also be used to answer questions of wellbeing such as "I'm boss" in reply to "How are you?" and can also be used sarcastically in negative circumstances (the reply "sound" in the case of being told bad news translates to the sarcastic use of "good" or "okay").

International recognitionEdit

Scouse is highly distinguishable from other English dialects. Because of this international recognition, Keith Szlamp made a request to IANA on 16 September 1996 to make it a recognised Internet dialect.[48] After citing a number of references,[49][50][51][52][18] 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".

Scouse has also become well known as the accent of the Beatles, an international cultural phenomenon.[53] While the members of the band are famously from Liverpool,[54] their accents have more in common with the older Lancashire-like Liverpool dialect found in the southern suburbs; the accent has evolved into Scouse since the 1960s, mostly in the centre and northern areas of the city, with some identifying the improvement of air quality as a potential factor.[53]

See alsoEdit

Other northern English dialects include:


  1. ^ "John Bishop". Desert Island Discs. 24 June 2012. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  2. ^ Watson (2007:351–360)
  3. ^ Collins & Mees 2013, pp. 193–194.
  4. ^ Coupland, Nikolas; Thomas, Alan R., eds. (1990), English in Wales: Diversity, Conflict, and Change, Multilingual Matters Ltd., ISBN 1-85359-032-0
  5. ^ Howard, Jackson; Stockwell, Peter (2011), An Introduction to the Nature and Functions of Language (2nd ed.), Continuum International Publishing Group, p. 172, ISBN 978-1-4411-4373-0
  6. ^ "The origins of Scouse".
  7. ^ a b Dominic Tobin and Jonathan Leake (3 January 2010). "Regional accents thrive against the odds in Britain". The Sunday Times.
  8. ^ a b Patrick Honeybone. "New-dialect formation in nineteenth century Liverpool: a brief history of Scouse" (PDF). Open House Press.
  9. ^ Bona, Emilia (29 September 2019). "11 funny differences between north and south Liverpool". Liverpool Echo.
  10. ^ "BBC News - London 2012: A 12-part guide to the UK in 212 words each". Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  11. ^ Julie Henry (30 March 2008). "Scouse twang spreads beyond Merseyside". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  12. ^ Nick Coligan (29 March 2008). "Scouse accent defying experts and 'evolving'". Liverpool Echo. Archived from the original on 13 October 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
  13. ^ Chris Osuh (31 March 2008). "Scouse accent on the move". Manchester Evening News. Archived from the original on 11 January 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
  14. ^ Richard Savill (3 January 2010). "British regional accents 'still thriving'". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  15. ^ Chris Roberts, Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme, Thorndike Press, 2006 (ISBN 0-7862-8517-6)
  16. ^ a b Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Harry Enfield - The Scousers Visit The Beach" – via
  17. ^ a b Alan Crosby, The Lancashire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore, 2000, entry for word Scouser
  18. ^ a b Szlamp, K.: The definition of the word 'Scouser', Oxford English Dictionary
  19. ^ Bona, Emilia (17 August 2015). "Scouse ranked second-least attractive accent in the country". Liverpool Echo.
  20. ^ "News". Archived from the original on 26 April 2010.
  21. ^ "lobscouse" at Oxford English Dictionary; retrieved 13 May 2017
  22. ^ "Scouse" at Oxford English Dictionary; retrieved 13 May 2017
  23. ^ Robb Wilton, character comedian born Robert Wilton Smith in Liverpool 1881. Spoke in Lancashire dialect & delivered monologues. Died 1957 Postcard. 1881–1957.
  24. ^ Paul Coslett, The origins of Scouse, BBC Liverpool, 11 January 2005. Retrieved 6 February 2015
  25. ^ The Vauxhall and other dock lands areas of the city in particular retained a strong Irish character setting it apart from other areas.Peter Grant, The Scouse accent: Dey talk like dat, don’t dey?, Liverpool Daily Post, 9 August 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2013
  26. ^ Times Higher Education, Scouse: the accent that defined an era, 29 June 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2015
  27. ^ Knowles, Gerald (1973). "2.2". Scouse: the urban dialect of Liverpool (PhD). University of Leeds. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  28. ^ Review of the Linguistic Atlas of England, John C Wells, The Times Higher Education Supplement, 1 December 1978
  29. ^ Knowles, Gerald (1973). "3.2". Scouse: the urban dialect of Liverpool (PhD). University of Leeds. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h Watson (2007), p. 358.
  31. ^ a b c d e Watson (2007), p. 357.
  32. ^ Wells (1982), pp. 361, 372.
  33. ^ Roca & Johnson (1999), p. 188.
  34. ^ Beal (2004), p. 125.
  35. ^ Gimson (2014), pp. 118, 138.
  36. ^ a b Watson (2007), pp. 357–358.
  37. ^ a b c d Collins & Mees (2013), p. 185.
  38. ^ a b Wells (1982), p. 373.
  39. ^ Watson (2007), pp. 352–353.
  40. ^ a b Wells (1982), p. 372.
  41. ^ Gimson (2014), pp. 92, 115.
  42. ^ Gimson (2014), p. 125.
  43. ^ Beal (2004), p. 123.
  44. ^ a b c Wells (1982), pp. 372–373.
  45. ^ a b c d e f Watson (2007), p. 352.
  46. ^ a b c d e f Watson (2007), p. 353.
  47. ^ Watson (2007), pp. 353, 355.
  48. ^ "LANGUAGE TAG REGISTRATION FORM". 25 May 2000. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  49. ^ Shaw, Frank; Spiegl, Fritz; Kelly, Stan (September 1966). Lern Yerself Scouse. Vol. 1: How to Talk Proper in Liverpool. Scouse Press. ISBN 978-0901367013.
  50. ^ Lane, Linacre; Spiegl, Fritz (June 1966). Lern Yerself Scouse. Vol. 2: The ABZ of Scouse. Scouse Press. ISBN 978-0901367037.
  51. ^ Minard, Brian (July 1972). Lern Yerself Scouse. Vol. 3: Wersia Sensa Yuma?. Scouse Press. ISBN 978-0901367044.
  52. ^ Spiegl, Fritz; Allen, Ken (December 1989). Lern Yerself Scouse. Vol. 4: The Language of Laura Norder. Scouse Press. ISBN 978-0901367310.
  53. ^ a b "CLEAN AIR CLEANING UP OLD BEATLES ACCENT". 23 February 2002. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  54. ^ Unterberger, Richie. Scouse at AllMusic. Retrieved 5 July 2013.


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit