pronunciation: now [Northern Ireland]


Senior Member
UK English
Could anyone give me any tips about how to say "now" as it is said in Northern Ireland. I've often tried to say it, but somehow it never comes out right. Where does one put one's tongue, for example. Is it a combination of two dipththongs?
I can pronounce names like Llandudno and can turn on a Dundee accent if I want, but this word I find too difficult.

I assume that this question is allowed! :)
  • sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Well, to my ears, "now" with a Northern Ireland accent sounds like my (English) pronunciation of "nigh". (I am sure someone with more knowledge of the matter will be along soon to say "That's rubbish" or "That's just certain people in Belfast" or something like that. :D)


    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Wikipedia tells us:

    The diphthong /aʊ/ is pronounced approximately [əʉ], but wide variation exists, especially between social classes in Belfast
    The [ʉ] symbol represents a close central vowel between and with lip rounding. It's that vowel which stands out for me. If you like, it's further the front than the now in most other accents.


    Senior Member
    UK English
    Nigh is not quite right, but goes some way to helping.
    I have seen suggestion now-ee, which sometimes seems to work, but only first time I say it!

    I haven't been able to find an audio file to illustrate the sound, unfortunately. As far as I know, the sound in question is different in Dublin to what it is in Belfast.


    Senior Member
    English English
    I'm rubbish at accents and wouldn't normally attempt it, but if I did, I'd use the vowel of baa followed by the vowel of bee (but a lot shorter).
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    English (Ireland)
    It depends on what accent you're putting on. The Mallone Road Belfast accent would be similar to saying "Noy" and a really strong Northern accent would be similar to saying "Niy"
    The middle left and right of your tongue should be pressed to your molars for the duration of the pronunciation.


    Senior Member
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I once lived with a Czech student whose party piece was to pronounce "How now brown cow" with a perfect Belfast accent :)

    There is a link in the sticky at the top of this page:
    Accents of English from around the world - hear them and see the IPA at this University of Edinburgh site.

    It doesn't have "now", but it does have "cow".
    Select "cow" from the column at the right.
    The relevant entries are at the bottom of the fourth column.
    I would be very surprised to hear the "Antrim TRAD" version these days, but the other three are common, and reflect how "now" is pronounced.

    There are certain parts of Belfast where you would hear the "almost nigh" version.

    Another link in the sticky is to BBC Voices.
    Listen to the second recording here, voice clip 2:
    You will hear Belfast women talking about a "brown" sink, from about 0:30.

    This link no longer works, though see Wordsmyth's post below.
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    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    Well, to my ears, "now" with a Northern Ireland accent sounds like my (English) pronunciation of "nigh". (I am sure someone with more knowledge of the matter will be along soon to say "That's rubbish" or "That's just certain people in Belfast" or something like that. :D)

    That's pretty spot on. "Noyy" is how I've always heard it. Of course, it will be stronger or softer depending on area (generally the further north you go, the stronger it gets).

    (If you want to hear a flawless Northern accent, check out Harry Enfield's William Ulsterman sketch on Youtube) :D


    Senior Member
    UK English
    Thanks for all the suggestions and to Panjandrum for the audio links.

    If I say "nigh" followed by a short "ee" I sometimes have the feeling that I have got it right. (I also have the same feeling with Ewie's sheep + bee suggestion.)
    But the next time I try, it goes away. I have yet to experiment with my tongue touching my molars.


    New Member
    Thanks so much for the 1st link!!!
    I've been trying to pronounce "now' with Belfast accent for ages, now I am a bit closer.
    The 2nd link is not valid any more :-(



    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Hi Panj. The BBC Voices recordings are available on the British Library website, at They're listed in alphabetical order of county, and the six counties of Northern Ireland are under C (County Antrim, County Armagh, etc).

    I did have a problem using Chrome (the recordings play, but I couldn't fast-forward or jump to a particular point in a recording), but that may be something to do with my particular plugins rather than the browser itself. Using Internet Explorer 11, I had no problem at all.

    I don't know which one, if any, might correspond to your original link; there was no mention of 'sandyrow' in the BL links.

    [Edit]: The British Library site has other recordings (some of which appear to be more specifically Belfast-related) under The Listening Project, at, under the sub-heading 'BBC Radio Ulster'.

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