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One of the coolest things about European soccer is how each club is tied to the place it calls home. While you could make that assertion about North American sports — part of the New York Knicks’ identity is, at least in theory, representing the Big Apple and its unique mix of toughness, status, and sports obsession — it’s not quite the same. When you’re talking about a club, rather than a team, whose central branding is just a location, there’s something unmistakable at hand. Take, for example, Newcastle United.

While those outside of England probably don’t know much of the northern city beyond the soccer team, Newcastle United puts their home on the global map. Whether you know them as the Geordies, the Magpies, or anything else, they’re a fixture on the Premier League landscape.

And, on the subject of those nicknames, what is a Geordie? And why is the name associated with Newcastle? Let’s break it down.

A Geordie is someone from Newcastle, but the specific origins of the term are a bit iffy

Eddie Howe (C) and his Newcastle team applaud their supporters.
Why are Newcastle United known as the Geordies? | Richard Sellers/Getty Images

As mentioned above, you’ll probably hear Newcastle United collectively referred to as either the Magpies or the Geordies. The former, in addition to meshing with the North American style of sports teams named after animals, makes sense since magpies are black and white, like the club’s home jersey. The latter, however, is a bit less obvious.

First and foremost, a Geordie is someone from Newcastle (there are various distances from the city and specifics, like being born north of the Tyne, that theoretically qualify you, but that’s an agreement for someone else). Since Newcastle United is representing the city, they’re referred to as Geordies. But where does that term itself originate from?

If you’re looking for a clean answer, it unfortunately appears that one doesn’t exist. Newcastle University’s library, however, does offer a few possible theories.

  • The term is simply a local dialect for “pitman” or “miner,” which was used in songs and poems in the 1800s and stuck.
  • Geordie stems from George, which was a common name for Northern coal miners and, over time, became a catch-all term.
  • While many coal miners used Davy lamps while working, those in the north relied on a lamp designed by George Stephenson. Those were known as Geordie lamps, and the name came to represent the men who used them.
  • During the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, the area around Newcastle supported King George. Consequently, the people of that region were Geordies, a name derived from George.
  • It’s also possible that a Geordie was a local insult meaning something along the lines of “fool.” It’s not clear, however, what prompted the term to be adopted as a positive identifier.

No matter what the actual origin is, though, the label of Geordie is unequivocally tied to Newcastle. And since the local football club is a key part of the city’s identity, there’s no escaping the moniker.

So, whether you like Newcastle United or not, now you’ll at least understand what their nickname means and where it (potentially) comes from.


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