14 words and phrases you’ll only hear in Portsmouth
Portsmouth Dockyard

Good ol’ Pompey, with its proud heritage of sailors, football and island city dialect.

But don’t be a squinny, help is at hand to navigate the choppy waters of dockyard oysters and skate bait, with 14 chosen words or phrases you are only likely to hear in Portsmouth, all roight mush?!

1. Pompey

The tunnel at Fratton Park

A photo posted by Pompey Supporters' Trust (@pompeysupporterstrust) on

Slang reference to the city of Portsmouth itself and the beloved football team. Its origins may have been lost in time but main theory is linked with the original players formed from the Royal Artillery, known as the Pompeys (taken from French word pompiers meaning fireman). Another story relates to entries on old navigation charts referring “Pom.P” as an abbreviation of Portsmouth Point or harbour. Or perhaps it’s taken from La Pompee, a captured French ship during Spithead Mutiny, renamed HMS Pompee and used as a prison hulk.

Use it in a sentence: Sung from the football terraces “Play up Pompey, Pompey play up!”

2. Scummers

Derogatory reference to neighbouring city Southampton, especially when it comes to football – although the cities are just 17 miles apart. Term scum is slang for worthless matter but may have been influenced from a naval term for merchant seaman floating on water.

Use it in a sentence: “There is much rivalry between Scummers and Pompey fans”

3. Matelot / Jack Speak

Both slang terms for sailor or Naval personnel usually junior ranks, matelot taken from Dutch word ‘mattenoot’ meaning literally bedmate. Jack speak relates to any words, phrases or traditions of Naval origins.

Use it in a sentence: “I can tell ya a matelot a mile off, you are soo Jack!!”

4. Skate Bait

Skate was then affectionate nickname given by the Portsmouth locals to the non-commissioned sailors. Skate bait were women who associated and went out with naval personnel, with the phrase usually uttered at the end of a drunken night to an amorous sailor…

Use it in a sentence: “Oi I aint no skate bait, don’t go thinking I’m going back to your place!”

5. The Hard

What a beautiful day. #portsmouth #southsea @phdockyard

A photo posted by Team Locals Portsmouth (@teamlocals) on

Meaning a foreshore or sloping stone jetty at the water’s edge, and the actual Portsmouth location which perfectly describes the physical water gateway – “the Hard” used by thousands of train and boat commuters travelling across to the city every year.

Use it in a sentence: “Meet you off the train down by the Hard for a few beers in Ship Anson!”

6. Mush

Pronounced moosh, it’s an old Romany term of address to mean man or mate. Translated as mate, said with a confidence and swagger.

Use it in a sentence: “All roight mush, how’s it going?!”

7. Weee!

Used in reference to something being totally amazing, or an exclamation of surprise / astonishment, and uttered in a long drawn out high pitched sound, like ahh wow! Not to be confused with the Scottish slang reference that means small.

Use it in a sentence: “Ahhh Weeeee! really cant believe it, he never said that!”

8. Dinlo / Dinny

Another gypsy word that translates as stupid or a person who is devoid of intellect.

Use it in a sentence: “Can’t believe he lost his car keys again, e’s a right dinlo!”

9. Squinny / Lairy

To moan or complain, used as a verb as in “don’t squinny” (complain) or an adjective as in “she’s well squinny” (she’s always complaining). Lairy means someone being cheeky or rude.

Use it in a sentence: “Stop squinnying and ‘ave a word with yourself!”

10. Mudlarks

This referred to the good ol’ days when young boys used to mess around in the mudflats of Portrsea harbour, crying out “dip me ‘ead for a sparsy”. A sparsy was either a sixpence or threepence thrown in by passers by coming off the train.

Use it in a sentence: “I remember children used to enjoy mudlarking, diving for money down by the pier.”

11. Dockyard Oyster

Not the kind you will be ordering at a seafood restaurant that’s for sure, but a more delightful local colloquialism describing a pool of phlegm spat onto the pavement… Bon Appétit!

Use it in a sentence: “Careful where you step, ya don’t wanna slip on that dockyard oyster!”

12. Turk Tain

The exotically named Turk Tain or town referred to Gosport. Rumour has it that two Turkish ships were refused entry to Portsmouth Harbour in 1850, and were instead accepted across the water in Gosport. However many of the crew died from tuberculosis, or were killed in training accidents and then later buried in local Haslar hospital cemetery.

Use it in a sentence: “You going round the hill ta Turk Tain?”

13. The Royal Navy School of Dancing

In its heyday, the infamous Joanna’s nightclub on South Parade, Southsea was an institution well known for its plastic trees, sticky carpet, and dodgy dancing. It was the definitive meeting place if you were a sailor out with your shipmates (skate) or if you wanted to pull one (skate bait). Unfortunately the club shut its doors in 2004, and the building would later burn down in 2011, but the memories still live on.

Use it in a sentence: “I could teach you the Matelot shuffle at the Royal Navy School of Dancing.”

14. The Lippy Tower

Lippy Tower or Lipstick Tower is the affectionate name locals give to the tower block that sits amidst the Gunwharf Quay development to the west of the city. Although designed to represent a ships funnel in line with the nautical theme, its appearance resembles a lipstick and the name has since stuck.

Use it in a sentence: “Check out those posh Gunwharf apartments at the Lippy Tower”.

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Main photo: Team Locals on Instagram