A Baltimore accent, also known as Baltimorese and sometimes humorously spelled Bawlmerese[1] or Ballimorese,[2] is an accent or sub-variety of Delaware Valley English (a dialect whose largest hub is Philadelphia) that originates among blue-collar residents of Baltimore, Maryland, United States. It extends into the Baltimore metropolitan area and northeastern Maryland.[3][4][5]

At the same time, there is considerable linguistic diversity within Baltimore, which complicates the notion of a singular "Baltimore accent".[1] According to linguists, the accent of white blue-collar Baltimoreans is different than the African-American Vernacular English accent of black Baltimoreans.[6] White working-class families who migrated out of Baltimore to the northwestern suburbs brought local pronunciations with them.


The Baltimore accent that originated among white blue-collar residents closely resembles blue-collar Philadelphia-area English pronunciation in many ways. These two cities are the only major ports on the Eastern Seaboard never to have developed non-rhotic speech among European American speakers; they were greatly influenced in their early development by Hiberno-English, Scottish English, and West Country English. Due to the significant similarity between the speeches of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Delaware and southern New Jersey, sociolinguists refer to them collectively as the Mid-Atlantic regional dialect.[7] In Baltimore accents, sounds around /r/ are often "smoothed" or elided. For example, a word like bureau is commonly pronounced /ˈbiroʊ/ (e.g., Federal Beer-o of Investigation) and mirror is commonly pronounced /mir/ ("mere"); the related mare–mayor merger also exists.


/æ/ raising in North American English[11]
New York City,
New Orleans[13]
Midland US,
New England,
Western US
Canada, Northern
Mountain US
Great Lakes
/m, n/
fan, lamb, stand [ɛə][15][A][B] [ɛə][15] [ɛə~ɛjə][18] [ɛə][19] [ɛə][20]
/m, n/
animal, planet,
/ŋ/[21] frank, language [ɛː~eɪ~æ][22] [æ~æɛə][18] [ɛː~ɛj][19] [~ej][23]
bag, drag [ɛə][A] [æ][C] [æ][15][D]
Prevocalic /ɡ/ dragon, magazine [æ]
/b, d, ʃ/
grab, flash, sad [ɛə][A] [æ][D][25] [ɛə][25]
/f, θ, s/
ask, bath, half,
Otherwise as, back, happy,
  1. ^ a b c d In New York City and Philadelphia, most function words (am, can, had, etc.) and some learned or less common words (alas, carafe, lad, etc.) have [æ].[16]
  2. ^ In Philadelphia, the irregular verbs began, ran, and swam have [æ].[17]
  3. ^ In Philadelphia, bad, mad, and glad alone in this context have [ɛə].[16]
  4. ^ a b The untensed /æ/ may be lowered and retracted as much as [ä] in varieties affected by the Low Back Merger Shift, mainly predominant in Canada and the American West.[24]
  5. ^ In New York City, certain lexical exceptions exist (like avenue being tense) and variability is common before /dʒ/ and /z/ as in imagine, magic, and jazz.[26]
    In New Orleans, [ɛə] additionally occurs before /v/ and /z/.[27]



The following is a list of words and phrases used in the Baltimore area that are used much less or differently in other American English dialects.

African-American Baltimore English includes the words lor for "little",[31] rey for ready (associated with Baltimore users of Black Twitter),[32] and woe for a close friend.

African-American variations

According to linguists, the "hon" dialect that is popularized in the media and that derives historically from the speech of by white blue-collar residents of South and Southeast Baltimore is not the only accent spoken in the region. There is also a particular Baltimore accent found among Black Baltimoreans: a sub-type of African-American Vernacular English.[33]

For example, among Black speakers, Baltimore is pronounced more like "Baldamore" /ˌbɔldəˈmɔr/, as compared to "Bawlmer" /ˈbɔlmər/. Other notable phonological characteristics include vowel centralization before /r/ (such that words such as "carry" and "parents" are often pronounced as "curry" or "purrents", and "Aaron earned an iron urn" might sound like "Urrun urned an urn urn") and the mid-centralization of /ɑ/, particularly in the word "dog," often pronounced like "dug," and "frog" as "frug."[1][33] The African-American Baltimore accent, or a variation thereof, is also shared by many African Americans throughout Maryland and the Washington metropolitan area.

Although the white Baltimore accent has historically been analyzed and popularized in media more than the African-American Baltimore accent, the latter has since gained fame on the internet through internet memes spread through social media, such as the "Baltimore accent challenge" and a video of a Baltimorean barber speaking and singing in an exaggerated Baltimore accent that has become popular as a meme on YouTube.[citation needed]

Notable examples of native speakers

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Lifelong speakers

In popular culture


The films of John Waters, many of which have been filmed in and around Baltimore, often attempt to capture the Baltimore accent, particularly the early films. For example, John Waters uses his own Baltimore accent in the commentary during his film Pink Flamingos.[34] John Travolta's character in the 2007 version of John Waters's Hairspray spoke with an exaggerated Baltimore accent. Likewise, several of the films of Barry Levinson are set in and around Baltimore during the 1940s-1960s, and employ the Baltimore accent. Michael Tucker who was born and raised in Baltimore, speaks with a West Baltimore accent.


Television drama series Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire are both set in Baltimore and in some cases include actors who are native white and black Baltimoreans.[35] In the early Homicide: Life on the Street episode "Three Men and Adena", a suspect, Risley Tucker, describes how he can tell whereabouts in or around the city a person comes from simply by whether they pronounce the city's name as "Balti-maw", "Balti-moh", or "Bawl-mer".[36]

In Season 4, Episode 7 of The Tracey Ullman Show, Baltimore actor Michael Tucker portrays the father of Ullman's character JoJo. The skit is set in a Baltimore row house. Tucker advises Ullman to "take a Liverpool accent and Americanize it." The episode called "The Stoops" begins with Tracey washing her marble stoops, which are the most common small porches attached to most Baltimore town homes (called row houses in Baltimore).[37]

In the 30 Rock episode, "I Do Do", Elizabeth Banks parodies the accent by portraying Avery Jessup, the spokesperson for the fictional Overshoppe.com in a flashback scene.[38]

Kathy Bates' character on the "Freak Show" season of American Horror Story was inspired by a Baltimore accent.[39][40][41][42]

Whether it was on his ESPN Radio show or SportsCenter at Night, Scott Van Pelt always ended his segments with Tim Kurkjian by mentioning names in a Baltimore accent featuring at least one fronted 'o'.[43]


Singer-songwriter Mary Prankster uses several examples of Baltimore slang in her song, "Blue Skies Over Dundalk," from the album of the same name, including, "There'll be O's fans going downy ocean, hon."


Jason La Canfora, host of the B-More Opinionated[44] podcast with Jerry Coleman and resident of Dundalk, regularly discussed events of the National Football League for The Tony Kornheiser Show podcast and will end the segment plugging his own podcast in a heavy Baltimore accent. The accent is so distinct that his dog, Copper, will react to it, barking constantly because he knows it is time for a walk.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Hold up, 'Hon': Baltimore's black vernacular youthful, dynamic if less recognized than 'Bawlmerese'".
  2. ^ Leggett, Debbie A. (2016) "Drinking Natty Boh and speaking Ballimorese ‘Hon." Tipsy Linguist. Tipsy Linguist.
  3. ^ Labov, William (2007) "Transmission and Diffusion", Language June 2007 p. 64
  4. ^ Malady, Matthew J.X. (2014-04-29). "Where Yinz At; Why Pennsylvania is the most linguistically rich state in the country". The Slate Group. Retrieved 2015-06-12.
  5. ^ "The Relevatory Power of Language". Maryland Humanities Council. April 14, 2017.
  6. ^ Jones, Taylor (2020). Variation in African American English: The great migration and regional differentiation (Doctoral dissertation), University of Pennsylvania, pp. 158, 239.
  7. ^ "Phonological Atlas of North America". www.ling.upenn.edu. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  8. ^ "Dew as you dew: Baltimore Accent and The Wire". Word. The Online Journal on African American English. 2012-08-15. Archived from the original on 2013-07-08.
  9. ^ New York City and the Mid-Atlantic States
  10. ^ Ash, Sharon. 2002. “The Distribution of a Phonemic Split in the Mid-Atlantic Region: Yet More on Short a.” In “Selected Papers from NWAV 30,” edited by Sudha Arunachalam, Elsi Kaiser, Daniel Ezra Johnson, Tara Sanchez, and Alexander Williams. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 8.3: 1–15. http:// repository.upenn.edu/pwpl/vol8/iss3/2.
  11. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 182.
  12. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), pp. 173–174.
  13. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), pp. 173–174, 260–261.
  14. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), pp. 173–174, 238–239.
  15. ^ a b c Duncan (2016), pp. 1–2.
  16. ^ a b Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 173.
  17. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 238.
  18. ^ a b Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), pp. 178, 180.
  19. ^ a b Boberg (2008), p. 145.
  20. ^ Duncan (2016), pp. 1–2; Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), pp. 175–177.
  21. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 183.
  22. ^ Baker, Mielke & Archangeli (2008).
  23. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), pp. 181–182.
  24. ^ Boberg (2008), pp. 130, 136–137.
  25. ^ a b Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), pp. 82, 123, 177, 179.
  26. ^ Labov (2007), p. 359.
  27. ^ Labov (2007), p. 373.
  28. ^ a b Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2005). The Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology and Sound Change. Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-020683-8.
  29. ^ Rizzo, M. (2010). Hon-ouring the past: play-publics and gender at Baltimore's HonFest. International Journal Of Heritage Studies, 16(4-5), 337-351.
  30. ^ Stotko, E. M., & Troyer, M. (2007). A new gender-neutral pronoun in Baltimore, Maryland: A preliminary study. American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Usage, 82(3), 262.
  31. ^ "How Baltimore talks". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on 2022-08-07. Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  32. ^ Jones, T. (2015) Toward a description of African American Vernacular English dialect regions using “Black Twitter.” American Speech, 90(4): 403-440. doi:10.1215/00031283-3442117
  33. ^ a b DeShields, Inte'a (17 May 2011). "Baldamor, Curry, and Dug': Language Variation, Culture, and Identity among African American Baltimoreans". Podcast. Retrieved 17 July 2011.
  34. ^ "Pink Flamingos/Fun Facts - The Grindhouse Cinema Database". www.grindhousedatabase.com. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  35. ^ Kaltenbach, Chris. "21 actors who appeared on both 'Homicide' and 'The Wire'". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  36. ^ Manas Burna (2016-02-27), Homicide S01E05 Three Men and Adena, archived from the original on 2021-12-22, retrieved 2017-12-02
  37. ^ "The Stoops". The Tracey Ullman Show. Archived from the original on 2021-12-22.
  38. ^ "I Do Do". 30 Rock. Archived from the original on 2021-12-22.
  39. ^ Bartel, Jordan (October 15, 2014). "'American Horror Story': The curious case of Kathy Bates' Baltimore-ish accent". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  40. ^ Schremph, Kelly (October 8, 2014). "Kathy Bates' Accent on 'AHS: Freak Show' Is an Enigma That Needs to Be Unraveled". Bustle. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  41. ^ Bates, Kathy [@MsKathyBates] (9 October 2014). "@gliattoT People online. Just to clear up the mystery, my accent is Baltimore not "broad Canadian." :-)" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  42. ^ "Kathy Bates's accent is the strangest on TV. So we asked a linguist to place it". Vox. Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  43. ^ "Scott Van Pelt uses his Baltimore accent to turn Tim Kurkjian into a giggling child". For The Win. 2015-09-15. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  44. ^ "B-More Opinionated! – B-More Opinionated Podcast". 2019-02-03. Archived from the original on 2019-02-03. Retrieved 2020-08-11.