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Scottish Words and Phrases

Updated on June 19, 2016

Scottish Words and Phrases

Scottish words and phrases can be a source of bewilderment to those who don't live there. Even native Scots can fail to understand some of them, due to regional variations of words and dialects. Upcoming generations, learning from tv imports and text-speak, are losing the ability to speak native Scots.

Here you'll find some common Scottish words and phrases, along with their meanings. Use them if you want to feel closer to your heritage, impress your Scottish acquaintances, or simply if you want to baffle your non-Scottish friends!

Common Scottish words A - E

Abune - above

Afore - before

Ahint - behind

A'place - everywhere

Auld - old

Ava' - at all

Baffies - slippers

Birl - twirl, spin

Blether - chatter

Bowk - retch or vomit

Brae - hill

Braw - excellent

Breeks - trousers (pants)

Canny - careful

Close - alley

Couthie - pleasant, nice

Cowp - tip over

Crabbit - bad tempered

Cratur - creature

Cried - named

Daunder - stroll

Dee - die

Dicht - wipe

Dreich - damp and dismal weather

Drookit - soaked through

Drouth - dry weather

Dunt - bump

Eejit - idiot

Een - eyes

Efter - after

Regional Variations

A few examples

Many non-Scots don't realise that the language of the country varies from region to region. A person born and bred in Aberdeen doesn't sound the same as someone from Glasgow, or Shetland, or Edinburgh, and so on.

Often, people from different areas will use different words for the same thing.

Take the number one for example. It can be wan, ane, een or yin. A small child tends to be a wean in the west, a bairn in the east.

In Aberdeenshire a girl is a quine, a boy a loon, but you won't hear those words in other parts of the country.

It really is a rich and varied language we have here in Scotland.

Books Featuring the Scots Tongue

Common Scottish words F - N

Fa' - fall

Feart - afraid

Fell - very

Fleg - a fright or to frighten

Flit - move house

Forbye - besides

Forkietail - earwig

Gaithert - gathered

Gang - go

Gey - very or rather

Girn - complain

Glaikit - stupid, foolish

Greet - weep

Guid - good

Hairse - hoarse

Haiver - talk nonsense

Hame - home

Haud - hold

Heft - lift up

Hurl - a ride

Isnae - is not

Ither - other

Jag - prick, injection

Jeely - jam (jelly)

Jyle - prison

Keek - peep

Keeker -black eye

Ken - know, understand

Kirk - church

Kist - chest

Laird - lord, landowner

Lang - long

Licht - light

Loon, loun - boy

Lug - ear

Lum - chimney

Mair - more

Makkit - made

Messages - shopping, usually groceries

Mind - remember

Muckle - large or a lot

My lane - on my own

Nane - none

Neb - nose

Nippin' - nagging

3 Different Scottish Dialects - Can you tell the difference?

Listen to three of the many Scottish regional accents, all markedly different. All are courtesy of the Scots Language Centre.

Scottish words in song

The first of these videos is a traditional song that almost every Scottish child learns. The second, a poem of love and heartbreak written by Robert Burns. The third was originally a drinking song, but is now used to say farewell.

Common Scottish Words O - Z

Oorsels - Ourselves

Orra - shabby, dirty

Ower - over

Oxters - underarms

Palaver - fuss

Peely-wally - pale, wan

Peerie - small

Pooch - pocket

Puckle - a few

Puddock - frog

Puggled - tired out after effort

Quine - young girl

Reek - stink or smoke

Reid - red

Roon - round

Sassenach - an English person

Scaffie - dustbin man, garbage collector

Scunnered - fed up with something

Shoogle - shake

Skelp - smack

Stoat - bounce

Taen - taken

Thole - put up with

Thrawn - stubborn

Trauchle - drudge

Twa - two

Wabbit - exhausted

Wad - would

Waur - worse

Wheech - zoom

Wheesht - shush, be quiet

Yon - that

Scottish Language Reference Books

Scottish Proverbs and Sayings

  • Lang may yer lum reek!

    A salutation wishing long life and prosperity. Literally, long may your chimney smoke.

  • Haste ye back.

    Come back to visit soon.

  • Awa' an' bile yer heid!

    Get lost! Literally, go and boil your head.

  • Givin' it laldy.

    Doing something with gusto.

  • Haud yer wheest!

    Be quiet!

  • Fit Like?

    An Aberdeen greeting, meaning how are you?

  • Dinnae fash yersel.

    Don't trouble yourself.

  • In the name of the wee man!

    Oh for goodness' sake.

  • You're a long time deid.

    Enjoy life now.

  • Up to high doh.

    In a state of anxiety.

  • Sic as ye gie, sic wull ye get.

    You'll get out of life as much as you put in.

  • Ye'll get yir heid in yir hauns an yir lugs ti pley wi.

    You'll get in big trouble. Literally, you'll get your head in your hands and your ears to play with!

  • It's a sair fecht.

    It's a hard life, or something that troubles or disappoints.

  • High heid yin.

    The boss; the highest in rank.

Scottish Toasts

Try to decipher these!

  1. Some hae meat, and canna eat,

    And some wad eat that want it;

    But we hae meat, and we can eat

    And sae the Lord be thankit.

  2. Here's tae the heath, the hill and the heather,

    The bonnet, the plaid, the kilt and the feather.

  3. May the best ye hae ivver seen be the warst ye'll ivver see.

    May the moose ne'er leave yer girnal wi a tear-drap in its ee.

    May ye aye keep hail an hertie till ye'r auld eneuch tae dee.

    May ye aye juist be sae happie as A wuss ye aye tae be.

  4. Where'er ye bide in the world sae wide,

    We wish ye a neuk on the sunny side,

    Wi' muckle o' love and little o' care,

    A wee bit pursie wi' siller to spare,

    Yer ain wee ingle when day is spent,

    In a wee bit housie wi' hearts content.

  5. Here's tae us; wha's like us?

    Gey few, and they're a' deid.

    Mair's the pity!

A Popular Nursery Rhyme in Scots

Wee WIllie Winkie

This is the original first verse, written in 1841 by Scot William Miller:

Wee Willie Winkie rins through the toun,

Up stairs and doon stairs in his nicht-goun,

Tirlin' at the window, cryin' at the lock,

'Are the weans in their bed, for it's noo ten o'clock?'

You can read the other 4 verses, along with translations of some of the words, at Rampant Scotland.

How To Pronounce The Word 'Highlander'

Few people outside Scotland get this right...:)

The emphasis is on the first syllable, with the second shortened, so it's:

HIGH-l'nder

Not

High -LANDER

Lowlander is much the same.

One Final Thing

People of Scotland are known as Scots or Scottish - not Scotch. Don't call us that, we hate it!

Do you have words to add? Leave them here, along with your comments!

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    • profile image

      FESA 9 years ago

      Lots of great information. I'm not sure that I'd win any prizes for my pronunciation of some of the words, proverbs or sayings and I might even be arrested for citing the 'Scottish Toast', but it was certainly an interesting read! I'm still laughing! Great lens! Thanks, Fran.

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 9 years ago from California

      Thank you! Well, I redeemed myself by knowing several of the rhymes, but this Nicholson obviously needs to brush up her vocabulary! A fun and informative lens.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 9 years ago from USA

      Interesting lens! 5 stars!

    • MacPharlain profile image

      MacPharlain 9 years ago

      Cool lens! Lang may yer lum reek!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 9 years ago

      Great lens! I'm planning to write a lens on my clan (Gunn) and will definitely use this as a reference. ~ Kim

    • profile image

      Oh Petit Bebe 9 years ago

      Your lens makes me want to go to Scotland and experience the language among the local people. How fun would that be. Kind thank you form a fellow Mom.

      Sara

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      I like your lens very much, Thank you so much for this valuable and nostalgic information about Scottish words and one more thing is Scottish proverbs are really interesting to me.

      Check out my lens that focuses on divorce lawyers

    • linhuck lm profile image

      linhuck lm 8 years ago

      Braw! A fascinating lens, great information.

      linhuck

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    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      This is a good lens that answers many questions I've had.

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    • profile image

      Fifty 8 years ago

      Can someone please tell me what the phrase 'do one' means to Scottish people. Thank you.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I really enjoyed your site. Our sister city is Stornoway and we visited there several years ago. Beautiful. 5*

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Hi,

      Nice lens! It is very good theme of presenting the scottish language.These words are good but I did not get some of them.

      Feel free to visit my thechimneycleaninglist blog

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Hi,

      Nice lens! It is very good theme of presenting the scottish language.These words are good but I did not get some of them.

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    • Sheona profile image

      Sheona 8 years ago

      Brilliant lens.

      How about "muckle" as another common word...

    • mrsm54321 profile image

      mrsm54321 8 years ago

      Loads of interesting information on the Scottish dialects. I'm English and didn't really have any problems understanding the words but I was surprised how many of them we use here in Yorkshire !!!

      Great Lens,

    • profile image

      irvineva 8 years ago

      Great lens! Thanks for the useful information

    • profile image

      irvineva 8 years ago

      Great lens! Thanks for the useful information

    • profile image

      DonBroon 7 years ago

      Really good. Scottish words give such good flavour to a sentence, don't they?

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I like the accent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • ArtformTheHeart profile image

      ArtformTheHeart 7 years ago

      great lens, I especially like the bit where you tell people not to call us "Scotch" - that's so annoying when they do that, lol.

      http://www.zazzle.com/artformtheheart*

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

      From one Scot to Another - I salute! I still sing Coulters Candy, to my nieces and nephews and they love it, but unfortunately it is all but disappearing, thankyou for this reminder.

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 6 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      Oh Oh Oh I am so happy to have found you - I'm a Scot living in Yorkshire and feeling very homesick - I write most of my poetry in Auld Scots.

      great lens thanks 5*

    • ResJes profile image

      Jessi 5 years ago from United States

      Nice lens - good job! :)

    • GaelicForge profile image

      GaelicForge 5 years ago

      Tapadh liebh mo caraid!

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Great lens - I'm still learning Scottish words and phrases. Added to my Clan Armstrong Gifts and Gear :)

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      What fun ... actually I have seen one of the words mentioned herein a number of times in my travels. It's rather whimsical: Eejit !!

    • profile image

      simpsonia 5 years ago

      Loved listening to the different dialects and Ae Fond Kiss is one of my favourite Burns songs. Thanks for sharing. Great lens!

    • randomthings lm profile image

      randomthings lm 5 years ago

      This is a great article. LOVE Scotland, I hope to get back soon. Thank you.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      When I was a teenager at a family wedding my granny said to me "dinna get fou" as a warning not to drink too much. She didn't always talk like that, but it was lovely when she did. My granddad used to call me a 'sassenach' just to wind me up. We Tannahills have bit of a literary heritage in the 'auld scots' tongue. Sadly, I grew up to be English.

    • kristalulabelle profile image

      Kristen 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Great lens! I am fascinated by Scotland and this was a great read!

    • profile image

      AmayaAberdeen 5 years ago

      Being from Aberdeen I know a lot of these words,I was originally from Adelaide.An Australian accent with Aberdonian words is quite and original way of speaking that no one understands.

      My favourite Indian

    • eTravelSense profile image

      eTravelSense 4 years ago

      Ha ha, the phrases make me laugh. These are so true!

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      martyn-hemmings 4 years ago

      what does slandgiva mean?

    • LynnScotland profile image
      Author

      LynnScotland 4 years ago

      @martyn-hemmings: Hi Martyn,

      Sounds like the Gaelic Slàinte mhath, usually Slangevar in Scots or English. It means "good health" when said as a toast.

    • LynnScotland profile image
      Author

      LynnScotland 4 years ago

      @AmayaAberdeen: I'm trying to imagine "fit like" in an Australian accent! I'm about 30 miles from you.

    • LynnScotland profile image
      Author

      LynnScotland 4 years ago

      @JohnTannahill: My granny used to say things like that too, and some phrases that alas aren't heard as much nowadays.

    • imagelist lm profile image

      imagelist lm 4 years ago

      Great info thanks...

    • profile image

      MarcellaCarlton 4 years ago

      I love this lens! Somehow I seem to know much of this already. I remember that nursery rhyme from when I was small. I really enjoyed that music. All around a superb article.

    • profile image

      Namsak 3 years ago

      Excellent lens. 'Mony a mickle maks a muckle' as my gran used to say. As a Fifer I know most of these words but one or two had me puzzled - I was always taught that a 'sassenach' was anyone who doesn't come from the highlands of Scotland including lowland Scots such as myself and a 'teuchter' was a lowlander's name for a highlander.

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      Elaine 2 years ago

      I remember a word 'forpit' used to describe a measure/weight of potatoes in the 1950s

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      d.soars 2 years ago

      gonyer sell

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      Frank Brown 2 years ago

      "Scotch" is perfectly acceptable to any Scotsman who is familiar with the classic Scottish writers. Only the unread have any problem with this word.

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