In these days when traditional dialects throughout Britain have been decimated by television and radio, it is often in farming communities where one can hear the strongest remnants of the older ways of talking and this is certainly the case here in Cumbria. As a result, it’s interesting to look at dialect which specifically relates to farmers and farming, although some of the words below are now ancient and out of use. On the other hand, some non-dialect, English farming words have also been included here so that people with no knowledge of agriculture hopefully won’t be left puzzled by those other words, either.
My trigger for creating this website’s dialect lists was to make it easy for anyone to understand the dialect that I am using in my series of Cumbria Police Novels but I hope this guide to the old ways of talking in Cumbria gets used much more broadly than just for the novels.
Despite good progress, many more dialect words are still to be added. Please bear with me; it takes time! And please do submit any suitable (i.e. farming-related) dialect words that aren’t yet shown here. Simply use the e-mail address shown at my ‘Contact Us’ page.
Angleberries Excrescences on the under-parts of cattle [Ferg.] Also see ‘ianberries‘
Angs or Awns The beards of barley or other grain. [Ferg.]
Badger A travelling dealer in grain, meal, butter, etc. [Ferg.]
Baggin Provisions taken into the field for labourers.
Balk A ridge between two furrows (also a beam). [Ferg.]
Batter Dirt or mud. [Ferg.]
Beest Cattle – usually beef breeds
Beestins The first milk from a newly-calved cow. [Ferg.]
Berry To thrash [sic] corn. [Ferg.]
Boon-days Days on which ‘customary tenants’ were obliged to work without pay, for the . lord of the manor. Also gratuitous help given to a man moving into a new farm. . [Ferg.]
Boose A stall for a horse or cow. [Ferg.]
Boss A milkmaid’s cushion for her head. [Ferg.]
Braffam/Braugham A horse collar. [Ferg.]
Braid “A cow is said to braid during parturition.” [Ferg.]
Brandreth An iron frame for supporting the baking plate above the fire. [Ferg.]
Brossen When a cow, sheep or person is bloated through over-eating [Mark Johnston]
Brot Refuse corn, etc. [Ferg.]
Brot out Grain shed from over-ripeness is said to brot out. [Ferg.]
Bunsin cow A cow given to striking people. [Ferg.]
Butts The short ridges approaching the corner of a ploughed field. [Ferg.]
Byre A cow house. [Ferg.]
Cams The top row of stones along a dry stone wall. (See also: ‘hearting‘ and ‘throughs‘)
Carr A flat, marshy hollow. [Ferg.]
Cauf Calf [Thanks to Brian Charters]
Clammer A yoke for the neck of a cow to stop it jumping hedges. [Ferg.]
Cliart In cattle, the lungs adhering to the ribs. [Ferg.]
Clip To shear sheep – Old Norse: klippa. [Ferg.]
Clock-hen A hen determined to sit on eggs even if it has none. [Ferg.]
Clocker See “clock hen,” above.
Coo-clap The dried-out firm dung of a cow. [Ferg.]
Coo-swat (or -plat) The semi-fluid, fresh dung of cattle. [Ferg.]
Copy A three-legged, wooden milking stool.
Coup A small car that’s emptied by tipping it up. [Ferg.]
Cow’t-cow or Cowie A cow without horns. [Ferg.]
Cow’t dyke An earth bank (fence) with no bushes or trees growing on it. [Ferg.]
Crobbek or Crovvik A stomach disease in cattle, caused by a change of pasture. [Ferg.]
Crobs & crob-lambs The worst of the flock, [Ferg.]
Crock An old ewe, now past lambing. [Ferg.]
Croft A small field or enclosure, near the house. [Ferg.]
Crud The ‘older form’ of curd [Ferg.]
Crune A subdued roar of a bull “…when they want food, are pained, or dissatisfied on any . account soever.” [Ferg.]
Cumm’t milk Milk curdled with rennet and seasoned with spices. [Ferg.]
Cush A call for cattle. Old Norse: kussa, Iceland: kusa. [Ferg.]
Cwoly / Colie Collie
Deetin(g) 1. “Ta git t’ caff oot frae t’ grain.” [Kirk.]
. 2. The winnowing of grain in a through-draft of wind. [Roll. LTLD]
. 3. To winnow or dress corn. [Ferg., also Dksn.]
Dobbie st’yans Holed stones hung in byres to protect animals from sorcery. [Roll. LTLD]
Doon/Down hoose The service area of 18th-Century-style farmhouses. [Roll. LTLD]
Ear Kidney [Dksn.]
Ear brig The bar across the back end of a cart. [Dksn.]
Ear fat The fat surrounding the kidneys. [Dksn.]
Eckles Hackles [Dksn.]
E’e Eye [Dksn.]
Een Eyes [Dksn.]
End whol / woll The ventilation hole in the gable end of a barn. [Dksn.] Also see: ‘jenny woll’
Fire hoose (or House) The living room of 18th-Century-style farmhouses. [Roll. LTLD]
Fleam A blood-letting tool used in treating animals. [Roll. LTLD]
Gimmer A young female sheep (generally a yearling) before her first lamb. See ‘wether‘.
Grave To dig, usually for peats. [Roll. LTLD]
Hake A gathering of old dames or just a rustic gathering. [Roll. LTLD]
Hallan Passage running front-to-back in 18th-Century-style farmhouses. [Roll. LTLD]
Heaf Upland sheep pasture to which a flock is habituated and generally won’t leave.
Heafed Sheep that are habituated to one area of upland pasture.
Hearting Small stones used as in-fill, in the centre of a dry stone wall. [Roll. LTLD] . (See also: ‘cams‘ and ‘throughs‘)
Herdwick Lakeland’s own endemic breed of sheep (see also: Swaledale, and Rough Fell)
Hodden grey Cloth made of unbleached grey wool or a mix of black and white.
Hogg or Hogget Male or female lamb before its first shearing. [Roll. LTLD]
Hogg-wolls (holes) Rectangular holes in the bottom of dry stone walls to let hogs through.
Hoggus(t) A barn-like building giving winter shelter for sheep and sometimes cattle.
Ianberries Excrescences on the under parts of cattle, resembling raspberries. [Dksn.] . Also see ‘angleberries‘
Ing Common name for a meadowland in a moist or low situation. [Dksn.]
Intack / Inteck An enclosure of land on the edge of [common land]. [Dksn.]
Jenny whol / woll The ventilation hole in the gable end of a barn. [Dksn.] Also see: ‘end woll’
Kern supper Harvest supper. [Roll. LTLD]
Kessin A sheep lying on its back and unable to get up
Kist (or Ark) Chest used for storing oatmeal. [Roll. LTLD]
Lish Agile or fit.
Livering Days Query from Shirley Belle in the F/B ILTLD group (13 Feb)
Lug-marks Sections clipped from a sheep’s ear(s) to show ownership. (See ‘smit-marks’)
Mash vat Vessel for brewing ale. [Roll. LTLD]
Mell Short passage from the hallan (q.v.) into the fire-house (q.v.) [Roll. LTLD]
Merry neet Social get-together. [Roll. LTLD]
Milk churns Before the days of milk tankers…..
Nag rake or T’old Meare Horse-pulled drag rakes, used in haymaking. [Roll. LTLD]
Ootgang / Outgang A narrow strip of land connecting the farmyard or village with the common. . [Dksn.] (Also see: ‘ootrake‘) A good example in a Lakeland place name is . City Outgang, south west of Wythburn, Thirlmere, which used to be the outgang . for oddly-named hamlet of ‘City’ which was flooded by the building of the dam.
Ootrake A free way or outlet for sheep from the [fields] to the common. [Dksn. & . Ferg.] (Also see; ‘ootgang‘)
P & Q
Piggins A stave-built, wooden ladle with one stave longer, to act as a handle. Like a small bucket, with a capacity of about a quart. [compiled from Dksn., Ferg., Kirk. and Roll. LTLD]
Pursy (coo) Broken-winded, asthmatic (cow, or other animal).
Quey Heifer or young cow. [Dksn.] (Also see; ‘wheye‘)
Rabbit smoot A pit-type trap for rabbits, built into the base of a dry stone wall.
Raddle Coloured pigment used to mark sheep for various reasons. (See ‘Ruddle‘)
Rannel-balk Wooden beam over an open hearth, where ratten crooks (q.v.) hung. [Roll.]
Ratten crooks Adjustable pot hangers, suspended from rannel-balk (q.v.). [Roll. LTLD]
Ruddle Dye for marking sheep. [Roll. LTLD] (See ‘Raddle‘)
Sconce A fixed wooden bench under which firewood was stored.
Seives Rushes, usually Juncus conglomeratus, from which rushlights were made [Roll.]
Shippon Cow shed
Smit-marks Coloured daub marks on a sheep’s fleece, to show ownership (see ‘lug-marks’)
Stang Shaft (often of a cart)
Sucklin’ coo A cow still feeding her calf (Note: can be more dangerous to people than a bull!)
Swaledale A very common breed of sheep in Lakeland (see also: Herdwick, and Rough Fell)
Swill (or Spelk) basket
Thr’inter A three-winter sheep, the year after being a t’winter (q.v.)
Throughs Long stones that go right through a dry stone wall from one side to the other . to give strength and stability to the structure. (See also: ‘cams‘ and ‘hearting‘)
Tup A ram. Known in West Cumberland as a Tip.
T’winter After its first clipping, a ‘hogg’ (sheep) becomes a t’winter (“two-winter”)
Udder In Cumbrian, it means “other!” See ‘yooar‘.
W & X
Warridge The withers of a horse. [Dksn.]
Watter dyke A ditch wide and deep enough to form a fence. [Dksn.]
Weamm Womb [Dksn.]
Wesh dub A river pool where sheep were washed. [Dksn.]
Wesh foald Sheepfold near the dipping place
Wether A castrated male sheep. See ‘gimmer’.
Wheye Heifer or young cow. [Dksn.] (Also see: ‘quey‘)
Whik’t Fly-blown [Dksn.]
Wind egg An egg laid before the shell has hardened. [Dksn.]
Winter prawwd Winter wheat in too forward a state of growth. [Dksn]
Worchat / Wotchat Orchard [Dksn.]
Wrecklin The smallest of a litter. [Dksn.]
Y & Z
Yaad / Yoad / Yod Old mare. [Dksn.]
Yak cubbert Large oak cupboards built into the internal walls of old farmhouses. [Dksn.]
Yakker / Yikker An acre (4,840 sq. yards / 0.405 hectares) [Dksn.]
Yat / Yet Gate [Dksn.]
Yat- /Yet-stoop Gate stoop [Dksn.]
Yedder A long rod used in hedging; a binder. [Dksn.]
Yerdfasts Large stones firmly stuck in the ground and near the surface. [Dksn]
Yooar Udder (but note that the word ‘udder’ in Cumbrian, means ‘other’)
Yow / Yowe A ewe. A female sheep, old enough to bear lambs.
Yowe locks Tufts of wool clipped from the udder of a ewe to allow the lamb to get to the teat.
Dksn. – William Dickson; Cumberland Dialect Dictionary, 1878. Edited 2005, R. Byers
Ferg. – The Dialect of Cumberland, 1873. Republished 1998 (Llanerch).
Kirk. – Brigham Kirkby; Lakeland Words, 1898. Republished 1975 (EP).
Roll. LTLD – Prof. William Rollinson; Life and Tradition in the Lake District, 1981 (Dalesman).