Northern British Sayings #4: Thee/Thou/Thy/Thine

As a kid, growing up in Yorkshire, and especially when I moved to the town of Barnsley, it was typical for people to use the following words:

  • Thee. Meaning, “you”. Example, “Does that belong to thee?” Does that belong to you?
  • Thou. Meaning, “you”. Usually abbreviated to “tha” (like the a in “cat”) or “thar” (similar the arr in “arrow”). Example, “What tha/thar doin’?” Or, what are you doing?
  • Thy. Meaning, “your”. Usually abbreviated/pronounced “thi” (like the i in “pig”). Example, “Put thi coat on.” Or, put your coat on.
  • Thine. Meaning, belonging to you, “yours”. Example, “Is that thine?” Is that yours?

When I have related this information to friends in the US, I think typically people think I am exaggerating, or even making it up. Growing up in Barnsley in 1970’s and 1980’s, I swear that it was the norm to use these forms rather than you/your/yours.

Interestingly, in Sheffield these words tend to be pronounced as “dee” instead of “thee” and “dar” instead of “thar”. This leads Barnsley folks to refer to Sheffield natives as “dee-dars“.

Wikipedia has a page on these (generally) archaic forms, going into the technical distinctions.

Posted by Steve Wetherill

3 comments

aye – fair do’s

I am from Wombwell originally.
Perhaps I could add to the discussion.
Use of Thy and Thi.
Is Thi mother coming? ( the stress is on mother)
Is thy mother coming (stress on Thy, where the suggestion is that other mothers may be present).

The protocol for the use of Thee and you is similar to most European languages. French tu and vous..
This varies within families. We never used Thee to females.

Thanks for your note!

That makes sense to me, I definitely remember both forms being used, “is that thy car?” vs, “where’s thi car?”

Leave a Reply to mimi Cancel reply