I've been hearing 'kewl' for a long time excessively on social media (mostly used by Americans). I wondered what accent it came from. I searched, but only found the following information about it:

  • Kewl - /kjuːl/ (adjective): non-standard spelling of cool (fashionably attractive or impressive)

Origin: 1990s representing an affected or exaggerated pronunciation of cool - Lexico

  • Generally restricted to the colloquial meaning of popular, and therefore this spelling is useful to distinguish this word from the standard meaning of cool. With this particular meaning it has been adopted into other languages - Wikitionary

I also searched vowels in American accents and dialects, but didn't find any helpful information.


So what accent did it originate from? Is there any accent which turns /uː/ to /juː/?

  • 5
    This is closely associated with Valley Girl (California) speak, and my guess as to ground zero. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valley_girl and listen to the Frank Zappa single "Valley Girl" for the pronunciation of his daughter (Moon Unit).
    – rajah9
    May 7, 2020 at 13:37
  • When I read it it feels like the pronunciation of "cool" by someone with a Liverpool accent. Is it possible that it was picked up in California from John Lennon and the other Beatles?
    – BoldBen
    Sep 23, 2022 at 8:16
  • As far as I know, there is no accent that pronounces cool with a yod: /kjul/. (There are some Americans who insert yods in words with /du/, like do or doom.) So it's just a deliberate mispronunciation, probably inspired by American yod-dropping. Sep 23, 2022 at 11:45

2 Answers 2


The OED appears to attest the usage from 1990, while other sources suggest a later usage mainly in internet chats which, probably, made the term more visible.

As for the pronunciation, it appears that the /ju:/ vs /u:/ is not a question of local accent but rather an exaggerated, informal way to pronounce cool.

See the following sources:


[cool adj.]

(US teen) a general term of approval.

  • 1997–2000 [US] College Sl. Research Project (Cal. State Poly. Uni., Pomona) [Internet] Kewl (adj.) Cool; very good.

(Green’s Dictionary of Slang)

PC.net comments that the term kewl is used:

Online Only (chat, messaging, e-mail)

A phonetic way of writing "cool." Used primarily by kids in informal communication.

BusinessInsider.com posted the following comments regarding the inclusion of the term kewl and its affected or exaggerated pronunciation in the OED:

Having been used throughout the 1990s, gradually finding its way into Internet chat room after Internet chat room, "kewl" has been placed alongside the words in the Oxford English Dictionary (via the Quick and Dirty).

The bastardized spelling of "cool" also is said to have a slightly different pronunciation, with the dictionary listing two: "kjul" and "kul."

According to the online Oxford English Dictionary, "kewl" was first used in 1990. By 1995 it had been used in New Scientist magazine and has also been seen in New York Magazine and New Musical Express.

Now, the Oxford English Dictionary has deemed it a word in its own right. However, it has labeled it as slang. The dictionary listed the word as one of 163 new additions to the online edition this month.

  • 1
    It should be noted that KEWL is an FM radio station in Texas. It apparently adopted that call sign in 1995.
    – Hot Licks
    May 7, 2020 at 16:49

I've been using kewl and kewlies since 1985.

I started with kewlies, but when my father picked it up I shortened it to kewl and didn't use that word around him.

Technically speaking the word came from Kawoolies but even I found that annoying.

As for where I used it... The Balloon Works bbs and my father's own bbs Closer to Home. To those that don't know, BBS stands for Bulletin Board System.

I believe the first person I know of that started using it was Linda "the mouse" Kesner back in 87 or 88. Back when Lands of Devestation was a popular post-apocalyptic dungeon crawler bbs game.

Was born in 77 and been online since 1982.

I highly doubt I was the first one to come up with kewl or kewlies. If I am, it was a spin on surfer talk from movies. Cool was the norm, gnarly didn't sound right since I'm from Ohio, so...

On my father's bbs I was under the handle of Blackwing and on the balloon works I was under the same name for a lil while, but eventually switched to Baskar (rhymed with Nascar, lol). Gotta love the inventiveness of an 8 year old...oi, now I really feel old.

In whatever case, 1990 is most definitely not the earliest time it was being used.

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