Cockney is a dialect of British English. Although it originated in London, it’s generally associated with the working class in one part of the city. The pronunciation and unique rhyming slang make it an interesting dialect but difficult to understand. “True" Cockney is associated with those living in the East End of London. If you’re new to the dialect, you’ll certainly need a Cockney translator in the early days. Explore some wonderful resources.
Cockney Translators: Get to Know the Dialect
What Is Cockney?
Cockney describes both the people and dialect of an area in London. Those who speak "true Cockney" are found in the East End of London; however, the dialect and accent are used in London and the surrounding areas in various forms. An interesting rule of Cockney is that an individual must be born within hearing distance of the bells of Saint Mary-le-Bow to be considered a true Cockney. People outside the region might have a Cockney accent or understand Cockney insults, but their version of Cockney may not be considered true Cockney. To get a better grasp of this rhyme slang accent, explore a few fun features.
Features of Cockney
Some people think Cockney is just jumbled English. That’s far from true. Particular features make the Cockney accent different.
- The sound of many vowels is said in a deeper tone.
- The /th/ sound in words tends to morph into an “f.” For example, “mouth” may be pronounced as "mauf."
- The letter “t” often disappears from words. This is also known as a glottal stop. For example, “water” becomes “wa'er” and “city” becomes “ci'y.”
- The letter “h” is often dropped at the beginning of words. For example, “house” becomes “'ouse.”
One of the most interesting features of Cockney is the rhyming slang. This often uses two words or a phrase to mean one standard English word. For example, "apples and pears" means “stairs,” and "plate of meat" means "feet."
Examples of Cockney English
The Guardian is a British daily newspaper. Of course, it has expanded into global news, but its roots are in London. Explore a few expressions from The Guardian's ultimate guide to Cockney slang. It defines a lot of popular expressions and provides a brief history behind these popular sayings. Check out a few examples of this Cockney slang translator.
- "Basin of gravy" refers to a baby.
- “Bread and honey” refers to making money (a sweet, sweet thing).
- “Brown bread” means dead.
- “Bubble bath” means you’re having a laugh.
- “China plate” refers to a good mate or friend.
- “Coals and coke” means you’re flat broke.
- “Cut and carried” means you’ve gotten married.
- “Duck and dive” means skive (slang for avoiding work or a duty) or hide.
- “Lion’s lair” refers to an armchair.
- “Lump of ice” refers to the giving of advice.
- “On the floor” means you’re poor.
- “Scotch mist” means drunk (p*ssed).
- “Tumble down the sink” refers to an alcoholic drink.
- “Weep and wail” refers to the telling of a tale.
If you’re ready for some fun, take a look at Learn the Cockney Accent with Jason Statham on YouTube. Spoiler alert: they couldn’t afford the real deal. Instead, you’ll learn from a Cockney lookalike in this video.
Online Cockney Translators
Translating the Cockney accent can be easy with a translator. All you have to do is type in a word or phrase, and they’ll turn it into a Cockney expression for you. If you bookmark one of these pages, you’ll be sure to survive an afternoon in the East End of London where the dialect takes quite a different turn.
- Whoohoo Translator - In this translator, you can pop your expression into the box provided on the left-hand side of the screen and click the “translate” button. Or, as they put it, “Hairy Biscuits and Cheese type a phrase into the Charles Fox on the left, and learn 'a ter Rabbit and Pork like a true Londoner!”
- Cockney Rhyming Slang - This is another translator where all you have to do is type in what you’d like to say in standard English, and they’ll turn it into a bonafide Cockney expression.
- The Dialectizer - This site will translate a phrase or even an entire website for you. They offer other dialects, too, but you’ll certainly find Cockey in the dropdown menu.
- Kiat Cockney Translator - Like the others, this site encourages you to “use this, and you'll bleedin' speak loike a bloody Brit.”
The Wonders of London
The wonders of London never cease to abound. It’s a vibrant, bustling city where, from the east to the west, you’ll have to adjust your ears to a very different dialect depending on where you go. Ready for one more British dialect? Another intriguing regional accent with flair is the Brummie accent. Find out Brummie vs. Cockney distinctions.
No matter which side of town you make your home base, a list of British slang definitions can help you immerse yourself into the culture. Along with that, you might like to study these common UK expressions on the plane ride over. Wherever you go, we hope you’ll be “ave’n a bubble” all the way through!