Manx English
Native toIsle of Man
Early forms
Latin (English alphabet)
English Braille, Unified English Braille)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Location of the Isle of Man between Ireland and Great Britain.

Manx English (Manks English), or Anglo-Manx (Anglo-Manks; Manx: Baarle Ghaelgagh), is the historic dialect of English spoken on the Isle of Man, though today in decline. It has many borrowings from Manx, a Goidelic language, and it differs widely from any other variety of English, including dialects from other areas in which Celtic languages are or were spoken, such as Welsh English and Hiberno-English.

Early Anglo-Manx contained words of Gaelic and Old Norse origin, but also came to be influenced by the speech of Liverpool and Lancashire in North West England. The Manx historian and linguist Arthur William Moore noted that the dialect varied slightly from parish to parish but that the same turns of phrase and the same stock of words pervaded the whole island. Moore's A Vocabulary of the Anglo-Manx Dialect (Oxford University Press, 1924) and W. Walter Gill's Manx Dialect Words and Phrases (J.W. Arrowsmith, 1934) document the high-water mark of this dialect.

The poet T. E. Brown was one of the first authors to use the Manx dialect in his work.

In the early 20th century, poems and plays in the dialect were written by Cushag, J. J. Kneen, Christopher R. Shimmin and Juan Noa. In the mid-20th century, Kathleen Faragher wrote poetry in the dialect.

Immigration and cultural influences from elsewhere, particularly the United Kingdom, have caused the disappearance of the dialect, with the exception of a few words and phrases.


Manx English has been unusually well-researched. In the 19th century, Kirk Christ and Kirk Patrick were covered by surveyors working for Alexander John Ellis's work On Early English Pronunciation. In the 20th century, sites on the Isle of Man were covered by both the Survey of English Dialects and the Linguistic Survey of Scotland. The two sites for the former were Andreas and Ronague; the recordings of the local dialects are now accessible for free online via the British Library.[1]

University of York alumnus James Heathcote published his undergraduate dissertation on 'Sociolinguistic Variation and Change on the Isle of Man'; a copy is stored in the Manx National Heritage Library & Archives.

Modern Anglo-Manx lexicon

Some of the following terms surviving from the original Anglo-Manx dialect are still in occasional use today.[citation needed] The task of identifying dialectal usage is complicated by the large cross-over between Manx Gaelic, idiomatic usage and technical/administrative terms such as "advocate" and "deemster".

Manx loanwords

Words of Manx Gaelic origin frequently cropped up in the original dialect, as did patterns of speech derived from Gaelic usage. In modern usage, much fewer words of Gaelic origin are used, symptomatic of the decline of Manx Gaelic in its later years.

Norse origin

Superstitions and word replacement

V'eh mee-lowit dy enmys mwaagh er boayrd, as conning, marish roddan as kayt. Va'n mwaagh 'fer yn chleaysh vooar', as yn conning 'pomet', as yn roddan 'sacote', as yn kayt 'scraverey'.

— Neddy Beg Hom Ruy 1831–1908, Skeealyn 'sy Ghailck

It was forbidden to name a hare on board, or a rabbit, or a rat or a cat. The hare was 'the big-eared fellow', and the rabbit 'pomet', and the rat 'sacote', and the cat 'scratcher'.

— Edward Faragher 1831–1908, Skeealyn 'sy Ghailck

Because of the unpredictable nature of weather in the Irish Sea, fishing could be a dangerous business – sailors were consequently very superstitious and it was considered taboo to use certain words or behaviours (using the word conney for rabbit, or whistling, for example) whilst on board ship. Some names were substituted for others – "rat" became "sacote" or "long-tailed fellow", amongst other names.

This has evolved into a modern superstition in which the word "rat" (roddan in Manx) is considered unlucky, even when not used aboard ship. Although this particular sea-taboo was one amongst many and was not held to apply on land, it has become a popular modern belief that the word is somehow unlucky, and the sea-taboo has been adopted by some as a typical Manx practice, even though the old Manx people had no qualms in using the word, or its Manx equivalent, roddan. In modern times, even non-local and unsuperstitious people will refrain from using the word "rat", perhaps in an effort to fit in with those who take it seriously, or in an attempt to sound folksy. In reality this is a rather warped version of the original sea-taboo.

Alternative words for rat in neo-Anglo-Manx dialect include longtail, iron fella, Joey, jiggler, queerfella, ringie, and r-a-t (a more recent expression).

Anglo-Manx phrases

A few phrases have survived to become common parlance, amongst these (all of Gaelic origin):

See also

Other English dialects heavily influenced by Celtic languages


  1. ^ Andreas Ronague
  2. ^ a b c Gill, W.W. (1934). Manx Dialect Words and Phrases. J.W. Arrowsmith.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az Moore, A.W. (1924). A Vocabulary of the Anglo-Manx Dialect. Oxford University Press.
  4. ^ Bumbee Cages
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Kelly, Phil. "Manx-English Dictionary". Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  6. ^ "Crosh Cuirn | Culture Vannin | Isle of Man".