[kok-nee] /ˈkɒk ni/

noun, plural cockneys.
(sometimes initial capital letter) a native or inhabitant of the East End district of London, England, traditionally, one born and reared within the sound of Bow bells.
(sometimes initial capital letter) the pronunciation or dialect of cockneys.

(sometimes initial capital letter) of or relating to cockneys or their dialect.
(often capital) a native of London, esp of the working class born in the East End, speaking a characteristic dialect of English. Traditionally defined as someone born within the sound of the bells of St Mary-le-Bow church
the urban dialect of London or its East End
(Austral) a young snapper fish
characteristic of cockneys or their dialect of English

c.1600, usually said to be from rare Middle English cokenei, cokeney “spoiled child, milksop” (late 14c.), originally cokene-ey “cock’s egg” (mid-14c.). Most likely disentangling of the etymology is to start from Old English cocena “cock’s egg” — genitive plural of coc “cock” + æg “egg” — medieval term for “runt of a clutch,” extended derisively c.1520s to “town dweller,” gradually narrowing thereafter to residents of a particular neighborhood in the East End of London. Liberman, however, disagrees:

[I]n all likelihood, not the etymon of ME cokeney ‘milksop, simpleton; effeminate man; Londoner,’ which is rather a reshaping of [Old French] acoquiné ‘spoiled’ (participle). However, this derivation poses some phonetic problems that have not been resolved.

The accent so called from 1890, but the speech peculiarities were noted from 17c. As an adjective in this sense, from 1630s.


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