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Understanding Scottish Vernacular and Highland Versus Lowland Surnames

Updated on January 1, 2014
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

About the Language

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

The Highlands

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

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.

Highland Surnames

Macauley
MacDuff
MacLean
Maccallum
MacEwen
MacNeil
MacDonald
MacIntyre
MacRae
MacDougall
MacKinnon
MacTaggert

Lowland Surnames

Anderson
Gordon
Marshall
Crawford
Grant
Robinson
Douglas
Henderson
Russell
Gibson
Lawson
Stewart

Bonnie Heather

Heather (Calluna vulgaris), growing wild in the Highlands of Scotland
Heather (Calluna vulgaris), growing wild in the Highlands of Scotland | Source

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Olde English History in Comparison

Comments

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  • Alastar Packer profile image

    Alastar Packer 5 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?

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