Lakeland Dialect in Farming and Agriculture

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.

.                                                                                A modernized, 18th Century farm in Northern Lakeland

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.

Go the main Cumbria Dialect index 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.]


Caff                                 Chaff

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 ewes

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.]

In-by                              x

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]


Ley                                  Scythe

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]

Meader                           Meadow

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

Pastter                           Pasture

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 ewe

Swaledale                       A very common breed of sheep in Lakeland (see also: Herdwick, and Rough Fell)

Swill (or Spelk) basket


Tatie Pot


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‘.


Varment                         Vermin

Veeal                               Veal

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.

Go the main Cumbria Dialect index page


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).

Go the main Cumbria Dialect index page