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Mackem is a term that refers to the accent, dialect and people of the Wearsidemarker area, or more specifically Sunderlandmarker, a city in North East England. Spelling variations include "Mak'em", "Makem", and "Maccam".


Evidence suggests the term is a recent coinage. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, which carried out a well-publicised search for references, the earliest occurrence of it in print was in 1988, although the phrase "we still tak 'em and mak 'em" was found in a sporting context in 1973. This lends support to the theory that this phrase was the origin of the term Mackem, but there is nothing to suggest that "mak 'em" had come to be applied to people from Sunderland.

The term "we tak 'em and mak 'em" is often claimed to have been used by shipyard workers in the 19th century on the Tyne (see Geordie), to describe their Wearside counterparts. The Mackems would "make" the ship to be fitted out by the "Geordies", hence "mackem and tackem" ("make them" and "take them").However, without any substantiated use of the phrase prior to the 1970s, this may well be a folk etymology.

Other variants include Sunderland workers who were encouraged to move to Teesside's shipyards for work, where the Teesside-based employers would "mack-em" ("make them") build the ships, or the local brewers Vaux who brewed a bottled beer called "Double Maxim". People who drank the beer would ask for a "Mackem" pronouncing the X differently; a person would be called a Mackem who drank the local beer. The term could also be a reference to the volume of ships built during wartime on the River Wearmarker, e.g. "We mackem and they sink em". Alternatively, this phrase may refer to the making and tacking into place of rivets in shipbuilding, which was the main method of assembling ships until the mid-twentieth century.

The term has come to represent people who follow the local Premier League football team Sunderland AFC, and may have been invented for this purpose. In recent years, people from around the outer city areas have also come to be known as Mackems, such as those from Houghton-le-Springmarker, Peterleemarker, Boldon and Washingtonmarker.

The two cities have a history of rivalry beyond the football pitch, dating back to the early stages of the English Civil War, the rivalry following on industrial disputes of the 19th Century and more recently political rivalries with the 1974 creation of Tyne and Wear County, which covers both cities.


'Mackem' refers to both the people of Sunderland and their accent.

It is worth noting that there is a small but noticeable difference in pronunciation between the accents of North and South Sunderland, for the word something it is not uncommon to hear a Mackem speaker from north Sunderland use summat whereas a south Sunderland speaker may often prefer summik.

To people from outside the region the differences between Mackem and Geordie accents often seem marginal; this is especially the case between the younger generations of North East England, but there are many notable differences.

Some pronunciation differences and dialect words

  • In Newcastle, Haway is often spelled and pronounced as Howay. In Sunderland, it almost always is Ha'way or Haway. The local newspapers in each region use these spellings. (Ha'way or Haway means "Come on").

  • The word ending -own is pronounced [-ʌun] (cf. Geordie: [-uːn]).

  • Make and Take are pronounced [mak] and [tak]. This pronunciation variation is the supposed reason why Tyneside shipyard workers coined the insult 'Mackem'. This pronunciation is also used in Edinburghmarker.

  • School is split into two syllables, and a short [ə] sound is added after the oo sound to emphasise the L, i.e. [skʉəl]). Note: This is also the case for words ending in -uel such as 'cruel' and 'fuel' which are turned into [krʉəl] and [fjʉəl], although 'vowel-adding' in this way is also a component of Geordie ('school' becoming [skjʉːl], &c). This 'extra syllable' occurs in other words spoken in a Mackem dialect, ie. Film becomes [fɪləm] and poorly becomes [pʉəli]. This feature has led to some words being very differently pronounced in Sunderland. The word face, due to the inclusion of an extra [ə] and the contraction thereof, is often pronounced fyas. However, this is also prevalent within the Geordie dialect.

  • The word ending -re/-er is pronounced [-ə] as in Standard English (cf. Geordie [-æ]).

  • The term Dolling off or Dollin' off to mean playing truant is unique to Sunderland.

  • The word Wesh or Weshing for Wash or Washing. This feature is part of a wider regional dialectical trait which is reminiscent of Old English grammar, where stressed 'a' mutated to 'e'. This can also be observed in other modern Germanic languages, but it is particularly prevalent in German and Icelandic.

  • The word Dinnit (meaning don't) is used as opposed to divint in Geordie.

  • Claes to mean Clothes.

  • Wee or Whee in place of Who.

  • Whey or Wey in place of Why: "Whey nar!" (Why no!)

  • The word to is often pronounced as tae or tee in some sentences such as; where yae gawn tee? (translated to: where are you going to?)

  • The word we is often pronounced as wuh, such as; Wuh knew wuh'd win (translated to: we knew we'd win)

  • The use of the words "hyem" and "pyet" instead of "home" and "face" are used both in Mackem and Geordie dialects. "Am garn hyem tae wash me pyet", translated to "I am going home to wash my face".

Notable Mackems

See :Category:People from Sunderland


  1. UK phrases

External links

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