Brummie Slang Words, Phrases & Accent (a Local’s Guide)

birmingham

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The Brummie dialect, otherwise known as the Birmingham dialect, is spoken by the residents of the second-largest city in the United Kingdom, Birmingham, famous for its world-class curry houses.

The term Brummie is also the name of the inhabitants of this city.

As well as having their own dialect, the city’s inhabitants also have their own unique Brummie accent, that sounds strange to outsiders, and not only to foreign visitors from abroad, but also to British people in neighbouring towns and counties too!

Did you know: Historically, Birmingham was originally known as Beormingaham, after the Anglo-Saxon tribe that settled in the region in 600 AD. It was recorded in the Domesday Book as Bermingeham in the 11th century, and over time, the name changed slightly to Brummagem or Bromwhichham, which is still in use many centuries later.

For more fun facts about the city, I’ve put together a post of 38 Interesting Facts about Birmingham

In this post I’ve put together a detailed guide of the most commonly used Brummie slang words and phrases, their meanings, and how they are used in conversation. Plus, how to speak in a Brummie accent, a video guide, and a list of some hilariously rude terms and their meanings.

Scroll on to read my Brummie Slang Words, Phrases & Accent (a Local’s Guide)

Contents

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Brummie Slang Words, Phrases & Accent (a Local's Guide)

Brummie meaning: Definitions and brief history of the Dialect

Since Birmingham has been known as Brummagem to the locals for several centuries, it gave rise to the terms Brum (short for Brummagem), and Brummie which is the collective name of the city’s inhabitants, their accent and dialect.

The term Brummie is often mistakenly used to refer to all accents and peoples of the West Midlands region, though the people of the Black Country, which sits adjacent to Birmingham, are a proud people with their own dialect, a different accent, and even their own flag, and thus, they do not identify as Brummies. As such, the two should not be confused with one another.

birminhgam canals

What’s the difference between a Brummie and Black Country?

A Brummie refers strictly to the residents of the city of Birmingham, while the Black Country is the industrial region that surrounds Birmingham to the north and west, that consists of Walsall, Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Dudley. The people of the Black Country are known as ‘yam yams.’

There are similarities between the accents of the Brummies and yam yams, but they are not the same, and both have their own dialects.

Commonly used Slang Words

What are Brummie words? Here’s a collection of the most commonly used dialect and phrases still in use by today’s Brummie population:

  • Ain’t – it is not.
  • Ar – yes, or to agree with something.
  • Ark at that – listen to that!
  • Ackee – the popular playground game known as tag.
  • Bab – endearing term, like dear or love.
  • Bawlin– to shout and scream at someone- “bawlin and shoutin”
  • Big tyma – same as ‘big timer’, a person who is known and respected, knows what he’s talking about, and always makes big moves in life.
  • Bonce – a head.
  • Bost – it’s broken.
  • Buzz – the bus.
  • Brumting – an object that has connotations of Birmingham
  • Cack-handed – doing something in a clumsy way.
  • Deff off – to not do something.
  • Ee-yar – here you are.
  • Ent – it is not.
  • Entry – the alley between terraced houses.
  • Garage – a petrol or gas station.
  • Island – a traffic roundabout.
  • It’s raining in – rain is getting inside the house, close the window.
  • Leg it – run away.
  • Mither/Myther – pestering someone.
  • Mom – mother. Unlike the rest of the UK, Brummies call their mothers “mom” instead of “mum”. While the word “mom” is commonly used all over the USA and elsewhere in the world, it has its origins in the Midlands region of England, first written in 1867.
    Mooch – have a look around.
  • Munch – to hug/cuddle.
  • Outdoor – the off licence / newsagents. Example: “I’m just poppin’ down the outdoor” means going to the off licence.
  • Rezza – the reservoir, most likely Edgbaston.
  • Going round the Wrekina popular local phrase. It means taking the long way round to a destination, or taking a long time to get to the point of a story. The Wrekin is also a hill in Shropshire.
  • Ta-ra a bit – Goodbye for now / see you later.
  • Tea – dinner, around 6/7pm.
  • The cut – the canal.
  • The Bull – a bronze statue outside the Bullring, and a general meeting place in town.
  • Tip top – a long, fruit flavoured ice lolly.
  • Tot – an alcoholic drink.
  • Town – Birmingham city centre.
  • Wench – an affectionate term for a young woman.
  • Wicked – something that is cool, great, fun, awesome etc.

In the Brummie Urban Dictionary algorithm, the top 5 slang words for “Birmingham” are: Brummie, Brum, Birmz, Lozells, and Bostin.

Digbeth street art 2
The Digbeth area of the city is packed with impressive graffiti art.

A-Z of Brummie Slang Words & Phrases

Below is a compilation of more Brummie dialect and phrases still in use in Brum today:

  • Ackers – a word used in Brum meaning money.
  • Aggin’ – complaining or moaning.
  • Any road up – anyway or anyhow.
  • Ar kid – a phrase for a younger brother or sister. Can also refer to any younger relative, friend or colleague. “Come on ar kid, let’s get the bus into town.”
  • Barmy – mad or insane. Example: “He was driving me barmy.”
  • Bawl – cry loudly, such as the noisy wailing and sobbing of an upset child.
  • Black over Bill ’s mother’s – meaning the sky is dark and black clouds are coming. Bill is William Shakespeare, and his mother Mary Arden of Stratford. It means the rain clouds are coming from Stratford-upon-Avon.
  • Blarting – crying or sobbing.
  • Bobowler – a West Midlands name for a large moth.
  • Chobbling – a word for chomping or munching loudly. Youngsters crunching on sweets and candies might well be told to “stop chobbling yer rocks.”
  • Clarting about – a local word for messing around.
  • Cob – the word for a bread roll, supposedly because the small round loaves resemble street cobbles.
  • A couple or three – when a person talks about “a couple or three”, they just mean two or more, a few but not many.
  • Donnies – a way of saying hands. Example: “Give us your donnies” is what a mom might say to a child, meaning “Hold my hand.”
  • Face as long as Livery Street – a person who looks miserable. Livery Street is a very long street in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.
  • Fittle – a local term for food, and therefore ‘bostin’ fittle‘ is a way of saying great food. It’s also the name of a restaurant in Dudley.
  • ‘Go and play up your own end‘ – a phrase shouted at children who are being a nuisance in the street, telling them to go away and play outside their own homes instead.
  • ‘Got a bob on himself/herself’ – when someone is said to have “got a bob on himself” it means they think they are better than others.
  • ‘Well go to the foot of our stairs!’ – often used as an exclamation of shock or surprise.
  • Gambol – a forward roll.
  • Gully – an alleyway, or space round the back of houses.
  • Having a Benny – to throw a strop.
  • Lamp – to hit or beat someone up. Example: “I’m going to lamp you if you carry on”, or “He gave him a right lamping.”
  • Nause – a person who makes a mess of something.
  • ‘Never in a rain of pigs pudding‘ – an expression meaning that something will never happen.
  • Noggy – meaning old-fashioned or outdated.
  • Oil tot – an old saying for when someone feels satisfied and happy, as in “I’m in my oil tot”. It’s from the days when working men would have a tot of olive oil before drinking beer, believing that it would line their stomachs and stop them getting very drunk.
  • One bomb – to knock someone out with one punch.
  • Peaky blinder – a flat cap worn by the Birmingham gang in the 1900s.
  • Piece – meaning a slice of bread and butter, sometimes also describes a sandwich.
  • Pop – any fizzy soft drink, such as a lemonade or a Coke.
  • Rocks – hard sweets/candies
  • Scrage – to scratch, scrape or graze the skin.
  • Snap – means food, or a meal. Example: “I’m off to get my snap” is what a Brummie might say when they are going to get their dinner.
  • This ain’t getting’ the babby a frock and pinny – the phrase means “this is getting us nowhere, we’re wasting our time.”
  • Half-soaked – a person who is stupid or slow-witted.
  • Wagging it – (or wagging school) when a child plays truant, or skips a class on purpose.
  • Wooden hills – old expression for stairs.
  • Yampy – a well-known Midlands word used to describe someone who is daft, mad, or losing the plot.
  • You’ll ‘ave it dark – a phrase accusing someone of being too slow in doing something, suggesting that it will be night by the time they’ve finished the task.
  • 0121 – used to tell someone to get lost. Example: “0121 do one”. (0121 is the dialling code for Birmingham).

What does Bostin mean?

One of the most popular and iconic words in the Brummie Slang dictionary is the word “Bostin”. It’s a well-known term that means amazing, awesome, brilliant, or excellent. The shorter word “Bost” (similar to the word bust), is slang for broken, so you could use the word bostin to describe something that’s smashing.

This word is also popular in the Black Country Dialect.

Weird, Rude and Funny Terms, Euphemisms and Phrases

Naturally, the Brummie dialect would be incomplete without its share of imaginative rude words, phrases and euphemisms. I’ve compiled a mini urban dictionary below of the most commonly used Brummie insults and outrageous definitions (*warning: some of these are quite vulgar*).

  • Ameson – a common type of prostitute that hangs around Birmingham, known for their anal sex.
  • Back of Rackhams – mainly used as an insult, this wretched hive of scum and villainy makes Mos Eisley look like Moseley. The phrase had its origins in the red-light spot once at the back of Rackhams department store (now House of Fraser) in Birmingham town centre. “She’ll be round the back o’ Rackhams” may be said of someone accused of being promiscuous.
  • Birmingasm – the sensation of going to Birmingham, or when something good happens to you while in the city (ie: to meet friends, go shopping, or party on Broad Street)
  • Chaventry – slang word for the nearby city of Coventry
  • Chawittabu – used to describe someone who is masturbating in the toilets at Birmingham University
  • Dirty Curtis – a curry, usually of dubious quality, eaten in the early hours of the morning in a backstreet emporium, after a long night of partying and large alcohol consumption. Named after Curtis Davies, a sportsman who has been spotted around Birmingham enjoying this kind of meal.
  • Etap – a cheap hotel in the city, used for a quick ‘bang’
  • Knob scratcher – a barber/hairdresser
  • Lozzells – a ghetto area of Birmingham, home to gangs and crime
  • Merry Hell – slang for Merry Hill, a town in the neighbouring Black Country region
  • Northern monkey – anyone north of Brum who walks like they’re the toughest creature on the planet
  • Poppybrown – originating from Selly Oak, slang for a woman who sleeps with numerous men and ives for one-night stands.
  • Raaa – meaning ‘wow’ or ‘oh my god’, commonly used by young Black and Asian minority people from the Handsworth area of Brum
  • Weasel – meaning male or female genital parts, commonly referred to the vagina.
birmingham central library
Birmingham Central Library

My post Birmingham Map: Tourism & Travel Guide has a collection of free and useful downloadable PDF maps of Birmingham, from rail and bus network maps, to landmarks, shopping malls, restaurants and cafes.

The Brummie Accent

The so-called ‘British accent’ is recognised all around the world due to hit TV dramas and blockbuster movies, often prevalent among protagonist/villain characters in Hollywood.

However, what many don’t realise is, there is actually no such thing as a British accent!

What people outside the UK are hearing is technically known as Received Pronunciation (RP) – the accent of the elite, also known as the Queen’s English.

Whats more, there are actually many different regional accents all over the UK, some of which are specific to individual cities even. And believe it or not, these accents sound very different from each other – some are soft, melodious, and easy on the ear. Others are cheery and optimistic-sounding, like the Liverpudlian accent.

Some, like Scottish and north English regional accents, sound cold and, to the untrained ear, make the speaker come across as unfriendly and hostile even. And then there are some accents like the Geordie, that sound funny, odd, and incomprehensible even to other regional accent users!

The Brummie accent, spoken by natives of Birmingham (like myself), is perhaps the most ridiculed of all the regional accents in Britain. Why this is, I’m not sure. But to my ears, this accent reminds me of home, and friendly people.

How do you talk like a Brummie?

The Brummie accent is unique from most regional accents due to the downward intonation at the end of each spoken sentence, meaning the voice lowers in pitch and the sound of the last word fades away slowly. By contrast – accents like the Scouse (Liverpool accent) and the Northern Irish, have an upward intonation, and thus, an increase in pitch during talking, making those accents sound vibrant and cheerful.

As such, the Brummie accent is rather monotone, usually hitting a single, low note, and staying with it no matter what. This may be the reason why it has a negative reputation in the UK. Moreover, when a Brummie is portrayed on TV, they come across as dull, unimaginative, and idiotic. Hopefully this unfair stereotype will change, following the worldwide success of the gangster TV series Peaky Blinders.

Acob’ refers simply to a bread roll, ‘got a cob on’ means to be in a foul mood. Example: “He’s got a right cob on this morning.”

Video: Learn how to Speak Brummie

 

Here’s a great video that’s useful in explaining how to accurately pronounce words a Brummie accent:

General Information about Birmingham

 
  • Area: 267.8km squared
  • Weather: 8C (winter), 24C (summer)
  • Population: 1.1 million (2nd in UK)
  • Founded: 600AD
  • International Airport: Birmingham (BHX)
  • Famous Residents: Ozzy Osbourne, Led Zeppelin & UB40 (musicians), David Edgar (poet), Benjamin Zephaniah (writer)

Frequently Asked Questions

Donnies – a way of saying hands. Example: “Give us your donnies” is what a mom might say to a child, meaning “Hold my hand.”

‘Babby’ means a young child, but the shortened version Bab’ is a variation of baby, generally an expression of endearment meant for those you love and know quite well, similar to saying ‘hun’ or ‘dear’. Example: “How are ya bab?”

A Brummie refers strictly to the residents of the city of Birmingham, while the Black Country is the industrial region that surrounds Birmingham to the north and west, that consists of Walsall, Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Dudley. The people of the Black Country are known as ‘yam yams.’

There are similarities between the accents of the Brummies and yam yams, but they are not the same, and both have their own dialects.

A Brummie is a term given to the name of the inhabitants of the city of Birmingham, England. Since Birmingham has been known as Brummagem to the locals for many centuries, it gave rise to the term ‘Brummie’, as well as ‘Brum’ (short for Brummagem).

Since Birmingham has been known as Brummagem to the locals for several centuries, it gave rise to the terms Brum (short for Brummagem), and Brummie which is the collective name of the city’s inhabitants, their accent and dialect.

Unlike the rest of the UK, Brummies call their mothers “mom” instead of “mum”. While the word “mom” is commonly used all over the USA and elsewhere in the world, it has its origins in the Midlands region of England, first written in 1867.

This makes buying birthday and Mothers Day cards highly frustrating for Brummies in the UK, as virtually all cards will have either “Mum” or “Mummy” on them.

Due to the sound of the accent and a dialect that people from outside the city are unfamiliar with, the Brummie twang gets a lot of stick around the country. indeed, it was voted the least attractive in the UK. Hopefully this will change, following the popularity of its use by Cillian Murphy’s main character in Peaky Blinders.

While it may be good enough for Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders, the Brummie twang has been voted the least attractive in the country. And just to rub it in, the Wolverhampton accent has placed five places higher in the list.

The Brummie accent originated many centuries ago in the Midlands town formerly known as Brummagem, that is today known as Birmingham, the UK’s second city.

The Brummie dialect, otherwise known as the Birmingham dialect, is spoken by the residents of Birmingham, the second-largest city in the United Kingdom. The term Brummie is also the name of the inhabitants of Birmingham.

The word pop has several definitions: on its own, it means squash (ie: orange squash, Ribena). Although some use it to mean fizzy drinks also. Fizzy pop means soda / fizzy drinks (ie: lemonade, Coke). And Council pop just means tap water. ‘Council’ implies a person is too poor/broke to afford normal pop, stereotypically associated with people who live on Council estates.

Thank you for reading my post: Brummie Slang Words, Phrases & Accent (a Local’s Guide)

I hope you enjoyed this post and learned some cool new slang, and that it inspires you to visit my hometown someday. Leave a comment below!

 


 

 

Further Reading: UK Travel

 

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UK Facts & General Knowledge Posts

Book Your Trip to England: Budget Tips & Tricks

 

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Billy

Billy

Lover of epic adventures, slow travel, and great coffee. When not travelling, Billy teaches dance, and creates performances on commissioned projects.

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Hey there! I’m Billy, the guy behind BRB | Gone Somewhere Epic. I’ve been travelling around the world for nine years, having an absolute blast going on epic adventures, without breaking the bank. Click here to read more about the art of budget travel.

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