The term Cockney has both geographical and linguistic associations. Geographically and culturally, it often refers to working class Londoners, particularly those in the East End. Linguistically, it refers to the form of English spoken by this group. A traditional costume associated with Cockneys is that of the pearly King (or pearly Queen) worn by London costermongers who sew thousands of pearl buttons onto their clothing in elaborate and creative patterns.
2. Cockney area
3. Migration and evolution
4. Cockney speech
5. Cockney characters in drama, fiction and poetry
6. Famous Cockney people
7. Famous Cockney performances
8. See also
11. External links
The earliest recorded use of the term is 1362 in The vision of William concerning Piers Plowman by William Langland and it is used to mean a small, misshapen egg, from Middle English coken (of cocks) and ey (egg) so literally ‘a cock’s egg’. In the Reeve’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer (circa 1386) it appears as “cokenay”, and the meaning is “a child tenderly brought up, an effeminate fellow, a milksop”.By 1521 it was in use by country people as a derogatory reference for the effeminate town-dwellers.
The term was used to describe those born within earshot of the Bow Bells in 1600, when Samuel Rowlands, in his satire The Letting of Humours Blood in the Head-Vaine, referred to ‘a Bowe-bell Cockney’. Traveller and writer Fynes Moryson stated in his work An Itinerary that “Londoners, and all within the sound of Bow Bells, are in reproach called Cockneys.” John Minsheu (or Minshew) was the first lexicographer to define the word in this sense, in his Ductor in Linguas (1617), where he referred to ‘A Cockney or Cockny, applied only to one born within the sound of Bow bell that is in the City of London’. However, the etymologies he gave (from ‘cock’ and ‘neigh’, or from Latin incoctus, raw) were incorrect.
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A pearly King and Queen
The sense of a cockney being someone born within earshot of the Bow Bells has persisted. It refers to the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow church in Cheapside in the City of London (which is not itself in the East End).
However, the bells were silent from the outbreak of World War II until 1961. Also, as the general din in London has increased, the area in which the bells can be heard has contracted. Formerly it included the City, Clerkenwell, Finsbury, Shoreditch, Hoxton, Stepney, Bethnal Green, Limehouse, Mile End, Wapping, Whitechapel, Shadwell, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Surrey Quays and The Borough, although according to the legend of Dick Whittington the bells could also be heard from as far away as Highgate. The association with Cockney and the East End in the public imagination may be due to many people assuming that Bow Bells are to be found in the district of Bow, rather than the lesser known St Mary-le-Bow church.
Francis Grose’s A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785) derives the term from the following story:
A citizen of London, being in the country, and hearing a horse neigh, exclaimed, Lord! how that horse laughs! A by-stander telling him that noise was called Neighing, the next morning, when the cock crowed, the citizen to shew he had not forgot what was told him, cried out, Do you hear how the Cock Neighs? Given the earlier meanings above, this story is probably apocryphal.
An alternative derivation of the word can be found in Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary: London was referred to by the Normans as the “Land of Sugar Cake” (Old French: pais de cocaigne), an imaginary land of idleness and luxury. A humorous appellation, the word “Cocaigne” referred to all of London and its suburbs, and over time had a number of spellings: Cocagne, Cockayne and, in Middle English, Cocknay and Cockney. The latter two spellings could be used to refer to both pampered children, and residents of London, and to pamper or spoil a child was ‘to cocker’ him. (See, for example, John Locke, “…that most children’s constitutions are either spoiled or at least harmed, by cockering and tenderness.” from Some Thoughts Concerning Education, 1693)
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2. Cockney area
The region in which “Cockneys” reside has changed over time, and is no longer the whole of London. As mentioned in the introduction, the traditional definition is that in order to be a Cockney, one must have been born within earshot of the Bow Bells. However, the church of St. Mary-le-Bow was destroyed in 1666 by the Great Fire of London and rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. After the bells were destroyed again in 1941 in The Blitz of World War II, and before they were replaced in 1961, there was a period when by this definition no ‘Bow-bell’ Cockneys could be born. The use of such a literal definition produces other problems, since the area around the church is no longer residential and the noise of the area makes it unlikely that many people would be born within earshot of the bells anymore.
A study was carried by the city in 2000 to see how far the Bow Bells could be heard, and it was estimated that the bells would have been heard six miles to the east, five miles to the north, three miles to the south, and four miles to the west.
Thus while all East Enders are Cockneys, not all Cockneys are East Enders. The traditional core neighbourhoods of the East End are Bethnal Green, Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Stepney, Wapping, Limehouse, Poplar, Millwall, Hackney, Hoxton, Shoreditch, Bow and Mile End. The area gradually expanded to include East Ham, Stratford, West Ham and Plaistow as more land was built upon.
Migration of Cockneys has also led to migration of the dialect. Ever since the building of the Becontree housing estate, the Barking & Dagenham area has spoken Cockney. As Chatham Dockyard expanded during the 18th century, large numbers of workers were relocated from the dockland areas of London, bringing with them a “Cockney” accent and vocabulary. Within a short period this famously distinguished Chatham from the neighbouring areas, including the City of Rochester, which had the traditional Kentish accent.
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In Essex, towns that mostly grew up from post-war migration out of London (e.g. Basildon and Harlow) often have a strong Cockney influence on local speech. However, the early dialect researcher Alexander John Ellis believed that Cockney developed due to the influence of Essex dialect on London speech. In recent years, there has been a move away from Cockney in the inner-city areas of London towards Multicultural London English whereas the eastern outskirts of Greater London have more speakers of the traditional Cockney dialect.
3. Migration and evolution
Today, certain elements of Cockney English are declining in usage within the area it is most associated with, displaced by a Jamaican Creole-influenced variety gaining popularity amongst young Londoners (sometimes referred to as “Jafaican” or “Multicultural London English”), particularly, though far from exclusively, those of Afro-Caribbean descent. Nevertheless, the glottal stop, double negatives, and the vocalization of the dark L (and other features of traditional Cockney speech), along with some rhyming slang terms are still in common usage. As cockneys have moved out of London, they have often taken their dialect with them. There may actually be more speakers of the Cockney dialect in Dagenham than in White chapel, even though the former is not in the traditional Cockney area.
4. Cockney speech
Cockney speakers have a distinctive accent and dialect, and frequently use rhyming slang. The Survey of English Dialects took a recording from a long-time resident of Hackney and the BBC made another recording in 1999 which showed how the accent had changed.
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John Camden Hotten, in his Slang Dictionary of 1859 makes reference to “their use of a peculiar slang language” when describing the costermongers of London’s East End. In terms of other slang, there are also several borrowings from Yiddish, including kosher (originally Hebrew, via Yiddish, meaning legitimate) and shtumm (/ʃtʊm/ originally German, via Yiddish, meaning quiet), as well as Romany, for example wonga (meaning money, from the Romany “wanga” meaning coal), and cushty (from the Romany kushtipen, meaning good).
A fake Cockney accent is sometimes called ‘Mockney’.
4. 1. Typical features
* Broad /ɑː/ is used when the letter a precedes /f/, /s/, /θ/ and sometimes /nd/ (in words such as bath, path, demand, etc.), which originated in London but has now spread across the south-east and into Received Pronunciation. However, there are exceptions to this rule; for example, the word maths or masculine. 
* T-glottalisation: Use of the glottal stop as an allophone of /t/ in various positions, [including after a stressed syllable. /t/ may also be flapped intervocalically.
* This feature results in Cockney being often mentioned in textbooks about Semitic languages while explaining how to pronounce the glottal stop.
* Glottal stops also occur, albeit less frequently for /k/ and /p/, and occasionally for mid-word consonants. For example, Richard Whiteing spelt “Hyde Park” as Hy’ Par’ . Like and light can be homophones. “Clapham” can be said as Cla’am.
* Loss of dental fricatives:
* /θ/ becomes [f] in all environments. [mɛfs] “maths”.
* /ð/ becomes [v] in all environments except word-initially when it is [d]. [bɒvə] “bother,” [dæɪ] “they.”
* Diphthong alterations: 
* /iː/ → [əi] or even [ɐi]: [bəiʔ] “beet”
* /eɪ/ → [æɪ] or even [aɪ]: [bæɪʔ] “bait”
* /aɪ/ → [ɑɪ] or even [ɒɪ] in “vigorous, dialectal” Cockney: [bɑɪʔ] “bite”
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* /ɔɪ/ → [oɪ]: [tʃoɪs] “choice”
* /uː/ → [əʉ] or a monophthongal [ʉː], perhaps with little lip rounding, [ɨ:] or [ʊː]: [bʉːʔ] “boot”
* /əʊ/ → this diphthong typically starts in the area of the London /ʌ/, [æ ̠~ɐ]. The endpoint may be [ʊ], but more commonly it is rather opener and/or lacking any lip rounding, thus being a kind of centralized [ɤ¨]. The most basilectal variant is [aʊ]: [ [kʰɐɤ¨ʔ] “coat”
* /aʊ/ may be [æə] or a monophthongal [æː~aː]: [ [tʰæən] “town”
* Other vowel differences include
* /æ/ → [ɛ] or [ɛɪ], with the latter occurring before voiced consonants, particularly before /d/: [bɛk] “back”, [bɛːɪd] “bad”
* /ɛ/ may be [eə], [eɪ], or [ɛɪ] before certain voiced consonants, particularly before /d/: [beɪd] “bed”
* /ɒ/ may be a somewhat less open [ɔ]: [kɔʔ] “cot”
* /ɑː/ has a fully back variant, qualitatively equivalent to cardinal 5, which Beaken (1971) claims characterizes “vigorous, informal” Cockney.
* /ɜː/ is on occasion somewhat fronted and/or lightly rounded, giving Cockney variants such as [ɜ ̟ː], [œ¨ː].
* /ʌ/ → [ɐ̟] or a quality like that of cardinal 4, [a]: [dʒamʔˈtˢapʰ] “jumped up”
* /ɔː/ → [oː] or a closing diphthong of the type [oʊ~ɔo] when in non-final position, with the latter variants being more common in broad Cockney:  [soʊs] “sauce”-“source”, [loʊd] “lord”, [ˈwoʊʔə] “water”
* /ɔː/ → [ɔː] or a centring diphthong of the type [ɔə~ɔwə] when in final position, with the latter variants being more common in broad Cockney; thus [sɔə] “saw”-“sore”-“soar”, [lɔə] “law”-“lore”, [wɔə] “war”-“wore”. The diphthong is retained before inflectional endings, so that board and pause can contrast with bored [bɔəd] and paws [pɔəz]
* /əʊ/ becomes something around [ɒʊ~ɔo] or even [aɤ] in broad Cockney before dark l. These variants are retained when the addition of a suffix turns the dark l clear. Thus a phonemic split has occurred in London English, exemplified by the minimal pair wholly [ˈhɒʊli] vs. holy [ˈhæʉli]. The development of L-vocalisation (see next section) leads to further pairs such as sole-soul [sɒʊ] vs. so-sew [sæʉ], bowl [bɒʊ] vs. Bow [bæʉ], shoulder [ˈʃɒʊdə] vs. odour [ˈæʉdə], while associated vowel neutralisations may make doll a homophone of dole, compare dough [dæʉ]. All this reinforces the phonemic nature of the opposition and increases its functional load. It is now well-established in all kinds of London-flavoured accents, from broad Cockney to near-RP.
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* Vocalisation of dark L, hence [mɪowɔː] for Millwall. The actual realization of a vocalized /l/ is influenced by surrounding vowels and it may be realized as [u], [ʊ], [o] or [ɤ]. It is also transcribed as a semivowel [w] by some linguists, e.g., Coggle and Rosewarne. Relatedly, there are many possible vowel neutralisations and absorptions in the context of a following “dark L” ([ɫ]) or its vocalised version; these include:
* In broad Cockney, and to some extent in general popular London speech, a vocalised /l/ is entirely absorbed by a preceding /ɔː/: i.e., salt and sort become homophones (although the contemporary pronunciation of salt /sɒlt/ would prevent this from happening), and likewise fault-fought-fort, pause-Paul’s, Morden-Malden, water-Walter. Sometimes such pairs are kept apart, in more deliberate speech at least, by a kind of length difference: [ˈmɔʊdn̩] Morden vs. [ˈmɔʊːdn̩] Malden.
* A preceding /ə/ is also fully absorbed into vocalised /l/. The reflexes of earlier /əl/ and earlier /ɔː(l)/ are thus phonetically similar or identical; speakers are usually ready to treat them as the same phoneme. Thus awful can best be regarded as containing two occurences of the same vowel, /ˈɔːfɔː/. The difference between musical and music-hall, in an H-dropping broad Cockney, is thus nothing more than a matter of stress and perhaps syllable boundaries.
* With the remaining vowels a vocalised /l/ is not absorbed, but remains phonetically present as a back vocoid in such a way that /Vl/ and /V/ are kept distinct.
* The clearest and best-established neutralisations are those of /ɪ~iː~ɪə/ and /ʊ~uː~ʊə/. Thus rill, reel and real fall together in Cockney as [rɪɤ]; while full and fool are [foʊ~fʊu] and may rhyme with cruel [krʊu]. Before clear (i.e, prevocalic) /l/ the neutralisations do not usually apply, thus [ˈsɪli] silly but [ˈsɪilɪn] ceiling-sealing, [ˈfʊli] fully but [ˈfʊulɪn] fooling.
* In some broader types of Cockney, the neutralisation of /ʊ~uː~ʊə/ before non-prevocalic /l/ may also involve /ɔː/, so that fall becomes homophonous with full and fool [fɔo].
* The other pre-/l/ neutralisation which all investigators agree on is that of /æ~eɪ~aʊ/. Thus, Sal and sale can be merged as [sæɤ], fail and fowl as [fæɤ], and Val, vale-veil and vowel as [væɤ]. The typical pronunciation of railway is [ˈræʊwæɪ].
* According to Siversten, /ɑː/ and /aɪ/ can also join in this neutralisation. They may on the one hand neutralise with respect to one another, so that snarl and smile rhyme, both ending [-ɑɤ], and Child’s Hill is in danger of being mistaken for Charles Hill; or they may go further into a fivefold neutralisation with the one just mentioned, so that pal, pale, foul, snarl and pile all end in [-æɤ]. But these developments are evidently restricted to broad Cockney, not being found in London speech in general.
* A neutralisation discussed by Beaken (1971) and Bowyer (1973), but ignored by Siversten (1960), is that of /ɒ~əʊ~ʌ/. It leads to the possibility of doll, dole and dull becoming homophonous as [dɒʊ] or [da̱ɤ]. Wells’ impression is that the doll-dole neutralisation is rather widespread in London, but that involving dull less so.
* One further possible neutralisation in the environment of a following non-prevocalic /l/ is that of /ɛ/ and /ɜː/, so that well and whirl become homophonous as [wɛʊ].
* Cockney has been occasionally described as replacing /r/ with /w/. For example, thwee instead of three, fwasty instead of frosty. Peter Wright, a Survey of English Dialects fieldworker, concluded that this was not a universal feature of Cockneys but that it was more common to hear this in the London area than anywhere else in Britain. This description may also be a result of mishearing the labiodental R as /w/, when it is still a distinct phoneme in Cockney.
* As with many urban dialects, Cockney is non-rhotic. A final -er is pronounced as [ə] or a lowered [ɐ] in broad Cockney.
* An unstressed final -ow is pronounced [ə]. This is common to most traditional, Southern English dialects except for those in the West Country.
* Grammatical features:
* Use of me instead of my, for example, “At’s me book you got ‘ere “. Cannot be used when “my” is emphasised (i.e., “At’s my book you got ‘ere” (and not “his”)).
* Use of ain’t instead of isn’t, am not, are not, has not, and have not
* Use of double negatives, for example “I didn’t see nothing.”
Most of the features mentioned above have, in recent years, partly spread into more general south-eastern speech, giving the accent called Estuary English; an Estuary speaker will use some but not all of the Cockney sounds.
4. 2. Attitudes towards Cockney English
The Cockney accent has long been looked down upon and thought of as inferior by many. In 1909 these attitudes even received an official recognition thanks to the report of The Conference on the Teaching of English in London Elementary Schools issued by the London County Council, where is stated that “[…] the Cockney mode of speech, with its unpleasant twang, is a modern corruption without legitimate credentials, and is unworthy of being the speech of any person in the capital city of the Empire”. On the other hand, however, there started rising at the same time cries in defence of Cockney, which, besides, seem to have a more scientific foundation, as, for example the following one: “The London dialect is really, especially on the South side of the Thames, a perfectly legitimate and responsible child of the old Kentish tongue […] the dialect of London North of the Thames has been shown to be one of the many varieties of the Midland or Mercian dialect, flavored by the East Anglian variety of the same speech […]”.Since then, the Cockney accent has been more accepted as an alternative form of the English Language rather than an ‘inferior’ one; in the 1950s the only accent to be heard on the BBC was RP, whereas nowadays many different accents, including Cockney or ones heavily influenced by it, can be heard on the BBC. In a survey of 2000 people conducted by Cool brands in autumn 2008, Cockney was voted equal fourth coolest accent in Britain with 7% of the votes, while The Queen’s English was considered the coolest, with 20% of the votes. Brummie was voted least popular, receiving just 2%. This shows that although speaking with a Cockney accent is not considered as bad as in the past, old attitudes towards RP still prevail.
4. 3. Spread of Cockney English
Studies have indicated that the heavy use of South East English accents on television and radio may be the cause of the spread of Cockney English since the 1960s.
4. 3. 1. Scotland
Studies have indicated that working-class adolescents in areas such as Glasgow have begun to use certain aspects of Cockney and other Anglicisms in their speech, infiltrating the traditional Glasgow patter. For example, TH-fronting is commonly found, and typical Scottish features such as the postvocalic /r/ are reduced. Researches suggest the use of English speech characteristics is likely the influence of London and South East England accents featuring heavily on television.
4. 3. 2. England
Th-fronting, L-vocalisation and T-glottalization can now be found in every county of England (with L-vocalisation being largely absent from Northern England), whereas before the 1960s the only feature that was common to all of England, excepting much of East Anglia and North East England, was H-dropping.
5. Cockney characters in drama, fiction and poetry
A television advertisement for Heineken beer in the 1980s showed a Sloane woman receiving elocution lessons in Cockney, parodying My Fair Lady. In the advert, she was being taught to say “The wa’er in Majorca don’ taste like wot it ough’ a”, but could only manage a rendition in Received Pronunciation of “The water in Majorca doesn’t taste quite how it should” (until, of course, she drank the beer).
More recently, the Geico automobile insurance company has used a gecko lizard in its television advertising campaign that speaks in a Cockney accent. The character is voiced by Jake Wood.