Vocabulary in the city is changing at a rapid pace, with a shift towards Multicultural London English (MLE) meaning Cockney could be wiped out in as little as 20 years. The new dialect is a result of a variety of different ethnicities and languages coming together to create a common tongue.

Although MLE has been used since at least the 1980s, its usage and vocabulary is increasing in areas where there are a range of multilingual people. Growing up in North London, I would hear words like ‘butterz’ to describe someone unattractive, but when speaking to family or friends outside of London, they usually wouldn’t know what it meant.

Similarly, there are now hundreds of words and phrases that are common to Londoners, and some of these words are only common to certain regions in London.

Here are 13 words and phrases you would only hear in London:

  1. Booky – To describe something strange or suspicious.
  2. Akh – Stemming from the Arabic word for brother as a term of endearment
  3. Yout – Child or young person
  4. Pree – To stare at something or to check up on something
  5. Come through – An invitation to a social gathering
  6. Motive – A social gathering amongst friends
  7. Rags – Mostly used in East London, to describe something as cool or great
  8. Calm – A way of saying you agree, ‘yeah that’s calm’
  9. Moist – Wet/emotional
  10. Us man – We
  11. Yard – Home/house
  12. Lips – To kiss
  13. Endz – My neighbourhood, area which I live in

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In research conducted by David Adger, David Hall and Jenny Cheshire it was found that “linguistic diversity means that the local London vernacular is no longer the main English variety that children encounter at school”.


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