Geordies are for the most part descended from a mix of the indigenous Brittonic-speaking Celtic people and the Germanic settlers who came during Late Antiquity, along with some later Irish (who, while relatively small in numbers, influenced Geordie phonology from the early 19th century onwards)  and Scottish admixture. In more recent years (20th century to present) the North East area has seen migrants from the rest of the world as well.
In many respects Geordie speech is a direct continuation and development of the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxon settlers of this region. They were mercenaries employed by the ancient Brythons to fight the Pictish invaders after the end of Roman rule in Britannia in the 5th century; the Angles, Saxons and Jutes who thus arrived became over time ascendant politically and – through population transfer from tribal homelands in Northern Europe – culturally over the native British. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that emerged during the Dark Ages spoke largely mutually intelligible varieties of what is now called Old English, each varying somewhat in phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon. This linguistic conservatism can be seen today to the extent that poems by the Anglo-Saxon scholar the Venerable Bede translate more successfully into Geordie than into Received Pronunciation. Thus in northern England and the Scottish borders, then dominated by the kingdom of Northumbria was found a distinct "Northumbrian" Old English dialect.
The term itself, using Brockett, originated from all the North East coal mines. Depending on who is using it, the catchment area for the term "Geordie" can be as large as the whole of North East England or as small as the city of Newcastle upon Tyne and the metropolitan boroughs of Tyneside.
Just as a Cockney is often colloquially defined as someone "born within the sound of the Bow bells", the term Geordie is sometimes defined as "within spitting distance of the Tyne" and thus Geordieland could be thought of as the watershed and bioregion of the River Tyne, and Geordies as its inhabitants.
A number of rival theories explain how the term came about, though all accept that it derives from a familiar diminutive form of the name George, "a very common name among the pitmen" (coal miners) in the northeast of England; indeed, it was once the most popular name for eldest sons in the region.
One explanation is that it was established during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. The Jacobites declared that the natives of Newcastle were staunch supporters of the Hanoverian kings, in particular of George II during the 1745 rebellion. This contrasted with rural Northumbria, which largely supported the Jacobite cause. If true, the term may have derived from the popular anti-Hanoverian song "Cam Ye O'er Frae France?", which calls the first Hanoverian king "Geordie Whelps", a play on "George the Guelph".
Linguist Katie Wales also dates the term earlier than does the Oxford English Dictionary; she observes that Geordy (or Geordie) was a common name given to coal mine pitmen in ballads and songs of the region, noting that such usage turns up as early as 1793. It occurs in the titles of two songs by songwriter Joe Wilson (1841–1875): "Geordy, Haud the Bairn" and "Keep your Feet Still, Geordie". Citing such examples as the song "Geordy Black", written by Rowland Harrison of Gateshead, she contends that, as a consequence of popular culture, the miner and the keelman had become icons of the region in the 19th century, and "Geordie" was a label that "affectionately and proudly reflected this," replacing the earlier ballad emblem, the figure of Bob Crankie.
Newcastle publisher Frank Graham's Geordie Dictionary states:
The origin of the word Geordie has been a matter of much discussion and controversy. All the explanations are fanciful and not a single piece of genuine evidence has ever been produced.
In Graham's many years of research, the earliest record he found of the term's use was in 1823 by local comedian Billy Purvis. Purvis had set up a booth at the Newcastle Races on the Town Moor. In an angry tirade against a rival showman, who had hired a young pitman called Tom Johnson to dress as a clown, Billy cried out to the clown:
Ah man, wee but a feul wad hae sold off his furnitor and left his wife. Noo, yor a fair doon reet feul, not an artificial feul like Billy Purvis! Thous a real Geordie! gan man an hide thysel! gan an' get thy picks agyen. Thou may de for the city, but never for the west end o' wor toon.
(Rough translation: "Oh man, who but a fool would have sold off his furniture and left his wife? Now, you're a fair downright fool, not an artificial fool like Billy Purvis! You're a real Geordie! Go on, man, and hide yourself! Go on and get your picks [axes] again. You may do for the city, but never for the west end of our town!")
Graham is backed up historically by John Camden Hotten, who wrote in 1869: "Geordie, general term in Northumberland and Durham for a pitman, or coal-miner. Origin not known; the term has been in use more than a century.". Using Hotten as a chronological reference then Geordie has been documented for at least 245 years as meaning the whole of the North East of England.
Bad-weather Geordy was a name applied to cockle sellers:
As the season at which cockles are in greatest demand is generally the most stormy in the year – September to March – the sailors' wives at the seaport towns of Northumberland and Durham consider the cry of the cockle man as the harbinger of bad weather, and the sailor, when he hears the cry of 'cockles alive,' in a dark wintry night, concludes that a storm is at hand, and breathes a prayer, backwards, for the soul of Bad-Weather-Geordy.
—S. Oliver, Rambles in Northumberland, 1835
Travel writer Scott Dobson used the term "Geordieland" in a 1973 guidebook to refer collectively to Northumberland and Durham.
Geordie is non-rhotic, like most Anglo-English dialects. This means speakers do not pronounce /r/ unless it is followed by a vowel sound in that same phrase or prosodic unit. The rhotic sound (/r/) in Geordie is pronounced as [ɹ].
There is some differentiation in pronunciation in the Geordie dialect based upon the speaker's sex. For example, English sound /aʊ/, pronounced generically in Geordie as [əʊ], may also have other, more specific pronunciations depending upon whether one is male or female. Males alone often pronounce the sound /aʊ/ as [uː], for example, the word house (/haʊs/) pronounced as [huːs]. Females, on the other hand, will often pronounce this sound as [eʉ], thus: [heʉs].
/ɪŋ/ appearing in an unstressed final syllable of a word (such as in reading) is pronounced as [ən] (thus, reading is [ˈɹiːdən]).
/ər/ appearing at the end of a word (such as in sugar) is pronounced as [a] (thus, sugar is [ˈʃʊɡa]).
Yod-coalescence in both stressed and unstressed syllables (so that dew becomes [dʒuː]).
T glottalization, in which /t/ is realised by [ʔ] before a syllabic nasal (e.g. button as [ˈbʊʔn]), in absolute final position (get as [ɡɛʔ]), and whenever the /t/ is intervocalic so long as the latter vowel is not stressed (pity as [ˈpɪʔi]).
/æ/ specifically in the words had, have, has and having is pronounced as [ɛ].
/ɛ/ specifically in words with the spelling "ea" (such as bread and deaf) may be pronounced as [iː].
/əʊ/ specifically at the ends of words, with the spelling "ow" (such as in throw and follow) is pronounced as [a] in monosyllabic words (thus, throw as [ˈθɹa]) and [ə] in polysyllabic words (window as [ˈwɪndə]).
Howay is broadly comparable to the invocation "Come on!" or the French "Allez-y!" ("Go on!"). Examples of common use include Howay man!, meaning "come on" or "hurry up", Howay the lads! as a term of encouragement for a sports team for example (the players' tunnel at St James' Park has this phrase just above the entrance to the pitch), or Ho'way!? (with stress on the second syllable) expressing incredulity or disbelief. The literal opposite of this phrase is haddaway ("go away"); although not as common as howay, it is perhaps most commonly used in the phrase "Haddaway an' shite" (Tom Hadaway, Figure 5.2 Haddaway an' shite; 'Cursing like sleet blackening the buds, raging at the monk of Jarrow scribbling his morality and judgement into a book.').
Another word, divvie or divvy ("idiot"), seems to come from the Co-op dividend, or from the two Davy lamps (the more explosive Scotch Davy used in 1850, commission disapproved of its use in 1886 (inventor not known, nicknamed Scotch Davy probably given by miners after the Davy lamp was made perhaps by north east miners who used the Stephenson Lamp), and the later better designed Davy designed by Humphry Davy also called the Divvy.) As in a north east miner saying 'Marra, ye keep way from me if ye usin a divvy.' It seems the word divvie then translated to daft lad/lass. Perhaps coming from the fact one would be seen as foolish going down a mine with a Scotch Divvy when there are safer lamps available, like the Geordie, or the Davy.
Bill Griffiths, in A Dictionary of North East Dialect, points to the earlier form, the Old Englishníd; he writes: "MS locates a possible early ex. "Robert Hovyngham sall make... at the other end of his house a knyttyng" York 1419, in which case the root could be OE níd 'necessary'". Another related word, nessy is thought (by Griffiths) to derive from the Modern English "necessary".
A poem called "Yam" narrated by author Douglas Kew, demonstrates the usage of a lot of Geordie words.
The dialect was also popularized by the comic magazine Viz, where the dialect is often conveyed phonetically by unusual spellings within the comic strips. Viz magazine was founded on Tyneside by two locals, Chris Donald and his brother Simon.
The Steve Coogan-helmed BBC comedy I'm Alan Partridge featured a Geordie named Michael (Simon Greenall) as the primary supporting character and de facto best friend of the eponymous hero, despite Partridge's referring to Michael at one point as 'just the Work Geordie' and having great difficulty understanding what he says.
Mike Neville and George House (aka Jarge Hoose), presenters of the BBC local news programme Look North, in the 1960s and 1970s, not only incorporated Geordie into the show, albeit usually in comedy pieces pointing up the gulf between ordinary Geordies and officials speaking Standard English, but were responsible for a series of recordings, beginning with Larn Yersel' Geordie which attempted, not always seriously, to bring the Geordie dialect to the rest of England.
The creator of Larn Yersel' Geordie was local humorist Scott Dobson, who wrote several booklets on the theme in the early 1970s, including History O' the Geordies,Advanced Geordie Palaver,The Geordie Joke Book (with Dick Irwin) and The Little Broon Book (Bringing out The New Little Broon Book in 1990).
In the lyrics of the song "Sailing to Philadelphia" by Mark Knopfler, Jeremiah Dixon describes himself as a "Geordie boy. Jeremiah Dixon, surveyor of the Mason-Dixon line". Knopfler also includes a "Geordie" reference in the song "5:15 am," from the album Shangri-La: "the bandit man / came up the great north road / up to geordieland / to mine the motherlode." In an earlier live album and video, Alchemy: Dire Straits Live, the band are seen in a pub – on the wall hangs a scoreboard for darts featuring "Geordies" vs. "All Others."
Dorfy, real name Dorothy Samuelson-Sandvid, was a noted Geordie dialect writer who once wrote for the South Shields Gazette.
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was a popular fictional British comedy-drama series about three Geordies (Dennis, Oz and Neville) leaving England to go and find work in Germany during the heights of unemployment in Thatcher's Britain. Finding work on a building site in Düsseldorf, they lived there on-site in a basic wooden hut (not dissimilar from ones seen in a WWII-era POW camp) as part of a group of seven British migrant construction workers: the other four were Wayne from London, Bomber from somewhere in the West Country, Barry from the West Midlands, and Moxey from Liverpool. The three Geordie characters were supposed to be from Birtley Co. Durham (Dennis, played by Tim Healy), Gateshead (Oz, played by Jimmy Nail), and North Shields (Neville, played by Kevin Whately) and all three actors who played them were Geordies themselves.
The character "Geordie Georgie", as portrayed by Catherine Tate in her eponymous TV show, is a Geordie, complete with a thick affected accent, and is portrayed regularly taking part in (mostly ridiculously ambitious) sponsored events for a North East based charity – the charity in question usually has a website with an outrageous domain name, for instance, the site for the charity she supports for battered husbands is "www.chinnedbythemissus.co.uk". The sketches usually conclude with her remonstrating her co-worker Martin, sometimes by violent means, for his apparent non-support of her charitable crusades.
Richard Adams novel The Plague Dogs features a fox who speaks 'Northumbrian' Geordie, with a pronunciation guide and glossary. Scott Dobson provided assistance on the dialect. Actor Robson Green is a Geordie. Standup comic Ross Noble, a Newcastle native, has been known to make jokes about being Geordie.
Capitalizing on pride in speaking Geordie, a number of objects are sold that highlight Geordie speech and culture, such as a "Borth Sortificat for a genuine Geordie", coffee mugs, etc.
^ abcBrockett, John Trotter (1829). A Glossary of North Country Words in Use with Their Etymology and Affinity to Other Languages, and Occasional Notices of Local Customs and Popular Superstitions. E. Charnley. p. 131. "GEORDIE, George-a very common name among the pitmen. "How! Geordie man! how is't""
^ abDobson, Scott (1973). A Light Hearted Guide to Geordieland. Graham. ISBN978-0-902833-89-0. "Plus Geordieland means Northumberland and Durham"
^ abBrockett, John Trotter (1846). A Glossary of North Country Words (revised ed.). p. 187. "GEORDIE, George – a very common name among the pitmen. 'How! Geordie man! How is't' The Pitmen have given the name of Geordie to Mr George Stephenson's lamp in contra-distinction of the Davy, or Sir Humphry Davy's Lamp."
^Smiles, Samuel (1862). "chapter 8". The lives of the engineersIII.
^ abSmiles, Samuel (1859). The Life of George Stephenson, Railway Engineer. p. 120. "As to the value of the invention of the safety lamp, there could be no doubt; and the colliery owners of Durham and Northumberland, to testify their sense of its importance, determined to present a testimonial to its inventor."
^Katie Wales (2006). Northern English: A Cultural and Social History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 134–136. ISBN978-0-521-86107-6.
^Colls, Robert; Lancaster, Bill; Bryne, David; Carr, Barry; Hadaway, Tom; Knox, Elaine; Plater, Alan; Taylor, Harvey; Williamson; Younger, Paul (2005). Geordies. Northumbria University Press. p. 90. ISBN978-1-904794-12-7. "Hadaway an' shite; 'Cursing like sleet blackening the buds, raging at the monk of Jarrow scribbling his morality and judgement into a book.'"
^IMS: Customer Satisfaction: BIP2005 (Integrated Management Systems). BSI Standards. 2003. p. 10. ISBN978-0-580-41426-8. "An early example, which may be remembered by older readers was the Co-op dividend or 'divvie'. On paying their bill, shoppers would quote a number recorded ..."
^Henderson, Clarks. "NEIMME: Lamps – No. 14. SCOTCH DAVY LAMP.". Retrieved 2 December 2007. "CONSTRUCTION. Gauzes. Cylindrical, 2 ins diameter. 41/2" high with conical top, a double gauze 1 ins. in depth at the peak. 24 mesh iron. Light. Candle."
^ abcdGriffiths, Bill (1 December 2005). A Dictionary of North East Dialect. Northumbria University Press. p. 122. ISBN978-1-904794-16-5. "Netty outside toilet, Ex.JG Annfield Plain 1930s. "nessy or netty" Newbiggin-in-Teesdale C20/mid; "outside netties" Dobson Tyne 1972; 'lavatory' Graham Geordie 1979. EDD distribution to 1900: N'd. NE 2001: in circulation. ?C18 nessy from necessary; ? Ital. cabinette; Raine MS locates a possible early ex. "Robert Hovyngham sall make… at the other end of hys house knyttyng" York 1419, in which case root could be OE nid 'necessity'. Plus "to go to the Necessary" (public toilet) Errington p.67 Newcastle re 1800s: "lav" Northumbrian III C20/2 re Crawcrook; "oot back" G'head 2001 Q; "larty – toilet, a children's word, the school larties'" MM S.Shields C20/2 lavatory"
^ abcTrotter Brockett, John (1829). A glossary of north country words, in use. From an original manuscript, with additions.. Oxford University. p. 214. "NEDDY, NETTY, a certain place that will not bear a written explanation; but which is depleted to the very life in a tail-piece in the first edition of Bewick's Land Birds, p. 285. In the second edition a bar is placed against the offending part of this broad display of native humour. Etymon needy, a place of need or necessity."
^ ab"Netty". "although some theories suggest it is an abbreviation of Italian gabbinetti, meaning 'toilet'"
^ abcWainwright, Martin (4 April 2007). "Urinal finds museum home". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 8 October 2007. "the urinals have linguistic distinction: the Geordie word "netty" for lavatory derives from Roman slang on Hadrian's Wall which became "gabinetto" in Italian"
^Saunders, Rod. "Italian Migration to Nineteenth Century Britain: Why and Where, Why?". anglo-italianfhs.org.uk. Retrieved 3 September 2008. "They were never in great numbers in the northern cities. For example, the Italian Consul General in Liverpool, in 1891, is quoted as saying that the majority of the 80–100 Italians in the city were organ grinders and street sellers of ice-cream and plaster statues. And that the 500–600 Italians in Manchester included mostly Terrazzo specialists, plasterers and modellers working on the prestigious, new town hall. While in Sheffield 100–150 Italians made cutlery."