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Understanding Scottish Vernacular and Highland Versus Lowland Surnames

Updated on August 17, 2017
ziyena profile image

Indie author via Amazon Publishing of historical romance and paranormal novellas.

A belted plaid (rather than a kilt) as worn by a reenactor of Scottish history
A belted plaid (rather than a kilt) as worn by a reenactor of Scottish history | Source

How to Use in Characterization and Dialogue When Writing

I've always been fascinated with Scottish vernacular.

At times, I've had quite a time trying to decipher the language's dialect. After careful study, I have complied my own list of the age old vernacular for use in my historical romance writing.

Samples of Typical Vernacular

Ah'm - I'm
D'ye - Do you
isnae - is not
dae - do
disnae - does not
Sassenach - English
dinnae - don't
de'il - devil
tae - to
didnae - don't
gettae - go away
wi - with
A dinnieken - I don't know
gonnae - going to
wid - would

About the Language

Scottish Surnames

Also compiled are lists of popular Scottish names for characterization. Remember, almost all surnames are clan and sept names with all the same meaning (son of) prefixes:

  • Mack
  • Mac
  • ap
  • P

There are two categories distinctive amongst clansmen:

  • Native men, meaning born by blood.
  • Broken men, meaning from other clans under the lord of the clan's protection.

Scottish names are believed to be the oldest in Europe. Over time, highland surnames developed apart from lowland surnames where the lowlanders adopted a more English tone.

Just a fascinating fact that you should take note:

The MacGregor name was abolished by the crown from the period of 1617 - 1661, and anyone caught touting that name bore an execution.

The Highlands

Maps of highlands and lowlands of Scotland.
Maps of highlands and lowlands of Scotland. | Source

Highland Surnames


Lowland Surnames


Olde English History in Comparison

Most Popular Scottish Surname?

See results
Scottish Gaelic in Twelve Weeks
Scottish Gaelic in Twelve Weeks

Scottish Gaelic in Twelve Weeks has been written both as a self-tuition course for beginners and also for use within the classroom. You may want to learn Gaelic because of a general interest in Celtic or Scottish history and culture, or because it was the everyday language of your ancestors. The cynical observer may wonder if the exercise is worthwhile, when only one and a half per cent of Scotland's population speak the language. However, Gaelic is far from dead; in some parts of the Highlands and Western Isles it is the everyday language, and it represents an important part of the United Kingdom's cultural mix. There are Gaelic-learning classes in almost every area of Scotland. Each lesson in the book contains some essential points of grammar explained and illustrated, exercises, a list of new vocabulary (with a guide to pronunciation, in International Phonetics notation), and an item of conversation.


© 2012 ziyena


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  • Alastar Packer profile image

    Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

    Pretty cool with the Scottish names ziyena. Couple questions if you don't mind. Are the surnames Campbell, Piet & Packer Lowland Scots? Sounds like a law firm I know lol. Are you Scotch zyiena?