From Dodos to Dee Dars

From Dodos to Dee Dars

There are countless nicknames for people who hail from different areas of the UK. They even have their own collective name: demonyms. Jill Morris investigates

Header Image: Cartoons by Dave Sutton

Jill Morris, is a regular writer for Discover Your Ancestors Periodical.

Jill Morris

is a regular writer for Discover Your Ancestors Periodical.


Most people will know that Geordies hail from Newcastle and Scousers from Liverpool, but what of Loiners and Lobbygobblers, Dabbers and Dee Dars? Where did these names for sons and daughters of Britain’s towns and cities – collectively known as demonyms – come from, and what do they mean? While this short article can’t hope to do much more than scrape the surface of this fascinating yet little-researched topic, hopefully it will go some way to introducing its historical richness and our forebears’ inventiveness in coining monikers based on others’ roots.

While some demonyms clearly derive from places’ Latin names – Cantabrigians from Cambridge, Mancunians from Manchester, Oxonians from Oxford – it is the more esoteric and humorous that capture our attention. Although many can trace their origins via local legends, industries or sports team nicknames, often demonyms’ roots have become so lost in the annals of time that they are now the subjects of fierce arguments, and it may well be that you have heard accounts that differ from those below.

Often demonyms’ roots have become so lost in the annals of time that they are now the subjects of fierce arguments, and it may well be that you have heard accounts that differ from those below


North of Englanders have been industrious in naming their geographical nearest and dearest, Lancastrians and Greater Mancunians – sometimes known as Yonners in celebration of their pronunciation of ‘up yonder’ as ‘up yonner’ – especially so. Blackburn’s folk are officially Blackburnians, but they are locally referred to as Dodos thanks to an apparent habit of saying Yes, we do do that. Try saying ‘do do’ with Lancashire’s flatter vowel sounds and you’ll understand the rationale. Inhabitants of Leigh are Leythers or Lobbygobblers. Lob, or lobby, was a stew made in times of hardship from anything that could be ‘lobbed’ into a pan – presumably nearby townspeople believed Leythers to be poorer than they.

Westhoughton Keawyeds, or Cowheads, commemorate a local legend, although the name’s exact origins have, as is so often the case, become mired in the sands of time. Some locals have it that the beast in question was an ox, roasted in celebration of the end of the Napoleonic Wars, but others narrate a tale of a cow getting its head stuck in a fence.

Inhabitants of Padiham, near Burnley, are Thick Necks: historically, goitre was endemic in the area due to low iodine in people’s diets. Morecambe’s, and occasionally Blackpool’s, locals are known as Sandgronians, a designation with unclear, beach-related roots.

A wall in Middlesbrough celebrating the name ‘Ironopolis’. The name for people from the ’Boro, ‘Smoggies’, is a contraction of Smog Monster, which was originally a pejorative term referring to the pollution caused by the town’s famous industries. It has now been largely reappropriated and is used with pride from those hailing from the banks of the Tees

Merseyside is home to Liverpudlians or Scousers, recalling ‘lobscouse’, a stew made with salted meat, onions, pepper and – in bygone days – ships’ biscuits. This was a popular, cheap dish with the sailors who frequented the docks. (Other sources mention ‘blind scouse’, eaten at the end of the week when workers were ‘skint’, and made with no meat.)

Tales attest to St Helens folk, Liverpudlians’ traditional arch-rivals, being so unwilling to use the term that they refer to scouse as lob, in avoidance of the ‘s’-word.

Another common Merseyside demonym is Woollyback, which may refer to Liverpool dockers wearing wool-padded covers on their backs; alternatively, the name may recall the woollen bales they carried leaving strands on their clothing.

However, some say that Woollyback is a term for someone specifically not from Liverpool, but another surrounding area!


Stepping northwards into Cumbria, in Whitehaven a term for someone from Workington is a Jam Eater, the implication being that they’re too poor to afford a better class of sandwich. Conversely, in Workington, a term for someone from Whitehaven is – a Jam Eater. Initially disparaging, being a Jam Eater is now for many a source of pride. Another Whitehaven term, ‘Marra’, appears to be a Cumbrian-accented greeting meaning friend or mate, which in turn has become a designation for someone from this north-west sea port.

South Shields
South Shields’ Sandhaven beach. Natives are often simply called Geordies, but someone from South Shields is rightly a Sandancer, which, like many demonyms, has confused origins. Some accounts describe locals ‘sand dancing’ while helping to free ships; others cite the French term ‘sans danger’, in reference to smuggling French contraband
Yorkshire and North-East

Yorkshire and North-East
The size of Yorkshire suggests that demonyms will be plentiful, and they are. Again, while some are logical – Rotherham, Rotherhamian; Kingston upon Hull, Hullensian; York, Ebor (from the Latin), Yorkie or Yorker – others require a little explication.

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Let’s start in the south. In Yorkshire, Sheffielders are Dee Dars. This comes from a true Sheffielder’s pronunciation of ‘thee’ and ‘tha’ (you and yours), in which the ‘th’ takes on a ‘d’ sound. Not many in Sheffield speak like that now, da knows… yet this is precisely why we need to take note and save our demonyms’ origins from fading into obscurity.

Moving slightly northwards, Barnsley fellows are Colliers, in reference to the area’s mining background; Leeds born and bred are Loiners, from Loidis, an old name for the city, or mock-Classical Leodensians .

On no account should Geordies and Mackems be confused. Geordies are from the banks of the Tyne, around Newcastle; Mackems are from those of the Wear, around Sunderland. Despite Geordie being such a familiar term, its origins remain unclear. It’s possible that it was a pet form of the popular first name George, or comes from miners referring to their safety lamps, designed by George Stephenson, as ‘Geordies’, but these theories remain conjecture. The Toon’s fine folk are properly Novocastrians. Mackem has similarly hazy origins, but is likely connected to the Wear’s shipbuilding industry, ‘mack-’em’ being dialect for ‘make them’. The north east also is home to Pit Yakkers (from mining villages) and Farm Yakkers (sometimes applied to farmlands in North Yorkshire). Codheads (Cod’eeds) hail from fishing villages along the north-eastern coast, and Hartlepudlians are famously Monkey Hangers thanks to an alleged incident of the townspeople hanging a monkey, shipwrecked during the Napoleonic Wars, as a French spy.


The aforementioned Woollyback is also a term for a native of Leicester, which in medieval times had a booming woollen industry; Leicestrians are also known as Rat-eyes, from the city’s Roman name, Ratae Coritanorum. A more recent reference to Leicestrians as Chisits, from their pronunciation of ‘How much is it?’ when shopping, is amusing, but doesn’t as yet have a great deal of credence! Another Leicestershire nickname is Beanbelly, and an old saying Shake a Leicestershire yeoman and you’ll hear the beans rattleattests to the bean-based diet of the area’s agricultural labourers.

Many a demonym has origins in industry (Northampton’s Cobblers, named after the area’s once-booming shoemaking production, would perhaps be best known). Nantwich in Cheshire is home to Dabbers. Some theorise that the name was a term for builders of the town’s early wattle and daub constructions; others connect it to the area’s tanning industry and argue that dabbing was a leatherworking technique. Nearby Warrington’s Wire Pullers are named after the town’s wire manufacturing businesses. Staffordshire’s Stoke-on-Trent is home to Potters, Clay Heads and Jug Heads, all of which derive from the famous potteries; Nuneaton in Warwickshire is home to Treacle Towners and spurious stories of a treacle manufacturer abound, although these appear to be pure fiction. (Nuneatoners are also Codders, the origins of which are equally mysterious and probably nothing to do with oft-cited fish theft.) Saddlers, from Walsall, are named after the area’s saddle-making workshops. Staying in the West Midlands, Wolverhampton’s Yam Yams have to thank a regional pronunciation of ‘you are’ as ‘yow am’. Meanwhile, Brummie – the accent and the demonym – is a derivation of Brummagem, an historical variant of Birmingham.

Donkey Lashers
People from Blackpool are – especially to Preston North End football fans – sometimes known as Donkey Lashers, which refers to the donkeys on Blackpool beach

While Lancashire has its Yonners, Yorkshire its Tykes and Kent its Long-Tails (a name thought to hark back to a Continental European belief that the English had such appendages), Wiltshire is home to Moonrakers. Local lore has it that when smuggling was a veritable industry in rural England, Wiltshire’s location meant that people often hid contraband. Some would be stored in ponds and raked out at night. On being caught by the authorities, one group of locals’ excuse was that they were trying to catch the large cheese. Astoundingly, the revenue men believed this unlikely tale and sought to make arrests elsewhere.

Wiltshire boasts perhaps the most creative demonyms which, like Moonraker, are a mix of legend and historical fact. Elsewhere in the county, Malmesbury’s Jackdaws are called after the avian inhabitants of the abbey walls; a fish-shaped weather vane in Bradford-on-Avon names indigenous Bradford Gudgeons; Trowbridge residents are Knobs thanks to a ball-shaped feature on a roof; villagers from Aldbourne are Dabchicks, after a mysterious eponymous bird; and Upavon Jacks are those born within sight of the village’s Jackdaw-populated church tower. Perhaps Wiltshire’ greatest demonym, though, is Hoof Polisher. The story behind this baffling term for someone from Colerne tells of a vicar leaving his donkey in the charge of local men. When the donkey died during his absence, the men were worried that the vicar would think they had sold it. The poor creature was interred upside down, its hooves protruding from the ground, as proof that it had not been exchanged for beer money.

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Les Crapauds
Statue of un crapaud – a toad – in Jersey’s capital, St Helier

Other regions
If you hail from the Isle of Wight you’re a Caulkhead (after the caulking – sealing – of boats); Jersey islanders are Les Crapauds after a species of toad (crapaud in French) found there; and Guernsey adopts Les Ânes, humble donkeys, as its demonym. While those from Guernsey say this is due to their strength of character, Les Crapauds cite stubbornness.

Demonyms for which it has been harder to establish a backstory include Lowestoft ‘Puds’, which possibly originates from onion puddings made on fishing boats. A Lincolnshire Yellowbelly may recall a so-coloured native frog, or yellow waistcoats worn by an army regiment; likewise, the roots of a Copthorne, West Sussex, Yellowbelly are also unclear, but could be connected to a local charcoal-burning industry and its habit of turning workers’ skin a yellowish hue.

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