Brogue (Speech)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Lucky Charms Brogue
For 30 years, Arthur Anderson was the voice of Lucky the Leprechaun, a mischievous cartoon redhead in a green coat. "Frosted Lucky Charms,” he’d sing, “they’re magically delicious.”. Jaimie Trueblood/Getty Images

Brogue is an informal term for a distinctive regional pronunciation, especially an Irish (or sometimes Scottish) accent. The term occasionally refers more specifically to the exaggerated speech patterns of the stage Irishman.

"The contemporary use of the label brogue is rather vague," says Raymond Hickey. "It implies a low-status accent of English in Ireland, typically a rural dialect. The term is not used by the Irish to refer to their general form of English because of its negative connotations" (Irish English: History and Present-Day Forms, 2007). 


From the Gaelic broce, "shoe, legging"

Examples and Observations

  • "A brogue is not a fault. It is a beauty, an heirloom, a distinction. A local accent is like a landed inheritance; it marks a man's place in the world, tells where he comes from. Of course, it is possible to have too much of it. A man does not need to carry the soil of his whole farm around with him on his boots. But, within limits, the accent of a native region is delightful."
    (Henry Van Dyke, Fisherman's Luck and Some Other Uncertain Things, 1905)
  • In The Irishman in London (1793), Mr. Connoolly, an inveterate snob... genteely despises his Irishness and foppishly emulates the London bon ton even to the point of ... hypercorrecting his brogue into a sillier anti-brogue. His silly pretence is constantly exploded by his blunt, honest, Irish servant:
    Mr. Connoolly: Why, you scoundrel, do you want to bring a mob about us? hold your tongue about Ireland, I say--Go wait at home for me, and don't be exposing--
    Murtagh Delaney: Exposing to talk of Ireland! Faith, Sir, begging your pardon, I think a man does not desarve to belong to any country, that's ashamed to own it. (J.T. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor-Ghael. John Benjamins, 1986)
  • "[T]here is a clear dividing line: when [Irvine] Welsh writes in his Scots brogue, his ear is unparalleled; when he writes ordinary third-person English prose, things get problematic."
    (Kevin Power, "Welsh Best With an Ear to His Home Ground." The Irish Times, July 29, 2009)

The Uncertain Origin of Brogue

"[Q]uite how the Irish accent came to be known as a brogue is unclear. The most plausible explanation is that the two meanings are related, perhaps in the sense that Irish speakers would often wear brogues, or were known for their use of the word brogue rather than shoe. Alternatively, it could just as plausibly be a metaphor, implying a particularly weighty or noticeable accent, or else the two words could be entirely unrelated, and the Irish brogue may actually be an Irish barróg, or 'embrace.'" (Paul Anthony Jones, Word Drops: A Sprinkling of Linguistic Curiosities. University of New Mexico Press, 2016)

Accept Prejudice and Endangered Dialects in North Carolina

"Whatever the reasons behind people's scorn for different dialects, the result is a strong pressure for brogue speakers to stifle their dialect. And even though a small group of middle-aged Ocracokers has managed to briefly revive the brogue among themselves, the speech patterns of younger residents reveal that the brogue in its traditional form is weakening as time goes by. In fact, the brogue is fading at such an alarming rate that it is now known as an endangered dialect ..."​
(Walt Wolfram and Natalie Schilling-Estes, Hoi Toide on the Outer Banks: The Story of the Ocracoke Brogue. University of North Carolina Press, 1997)

Speech Patterns in Humorous Writing

"No literature, indeed, was ever so taken up with matters of speech as ours was. 'Dialect,' which attracted even our serious writers, was the accepted common ground of [American] popular humorous writing. Nothing in social life seemed so remarkable as the different forms which speech could take--the brogue of the immigrant Irish or the mispronunciation of the German, the 'affectation' of the English, the reputed precision of the Bostonian, the legendary twang of the Yankee farmer, and the drawl of the Pike County man." (Lionel Trilling, "Mark Twain's Colloquial Prose Style," 1950)

Pronunciation: BROG

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Brogue (Speech)." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). Brogue (Speech). Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Brogue (Speech)." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 23, 2023).