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Scottish Dialect

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Listening to a native Scotsman speak English should give us all a newfound appreciation for the might of the Roman Empire. That Hadrian's Wall could prevent the spread of the English language north is a true tribute to the ingenuity and skill of those Roman craftsmen. Even today some of Scotland still speaks a significantly different language to English. Some of the Western Isles speak Gaelic yet, and on the East Coast Doric still has a few strongholds left.

Scotland has not only different words for things, but different pronunciations for words that English speakers from around the world may not be familiar with.


The most common pronunciation problem people visiting Scotland have is with the soft 'ch', as in loch. The English, especially, have difficulty with this. The correct sound is not made by the vocal chords, but is basically just a noisy breath, like a cat hiss. Once this basic is commanded then the rest of the quirks are easily mastered. The 'r' is normally rolled at the front of the mouth so 'car' is pronounced as carrrr, not as the Anglified ka. Some words are shortened, losing bits that slow their roll off the tongue, so 'awfully' becomes offy and 'cannot' becomes canny.

The List

Here are some of the more common words that may be heard when visiting Scotland. Some of the words are normally considered taboo1 in polite society, but who among us doesn't curse from time to time?

Please bear in mind that for most of these words have never been written down, so spelling is done phonetically.

A is fer Aye
AleAn Aberdonian term for fizzy juice such as 'bru.
A'll hae a troch 'o roch, un a puck 'o richy pegI would like a pint of export ale and a packet of smokey bacon crisps please.
Am gonna redup noo an'gaw fera bevvyIt's 5pm on Friday, and I'm going to clear my desk and get to the pub pronto.
Are you real?A term which means, "do you have any idea what you are talking about?"
AuxtersArm pits.
B is fer Blutered
Bassa or basB*****d.
BevvyDrink, alcoholic.
BiddieA woman, normally old or infirm.
Bidey inAberdonian for one half of an unmarried, but living together, couple.
Boggin'Filthy, revolting.
BonnieNice or pretty.
BoseyAberdonian for cuddle or hug.
BothyA house or hut up in the hills, normally no modern conveniences.
Boughin'Filthy, revolting, ugly, vomit inducing.
BreengeTo move in a rapid, devil-may-care fashion, esp while drunk or intoxicated with your own self-importance.
'BruIrn Bru, Scotland's favourite soft drink.
BurachGaelic for mess, can be used as a verb or adjective.
BurnA small stream or river.
But and benA holiday cottage, normally dug slightly into the hill.
ButteryAn Aberdonian snack. Like a flattened a croissant, but with a more savoury flavour.
ByreBarn or cowshed.
C is fer Ceilidh
CaliachGaelic for old woman. Normally used in front of the woman's name i.e. Caliach Stewart.
CeilidhA dance, normally with Scottish country dancing, lots of beer and lots of fun.
ChuffedProud, normally of oneself.
Clagged inTrapped on the hill by low cloud, or fog.
ClegThe Highland, Giant, Vampiric Horsefly.
CoorseCoarse, filthy, rude, when talking about language.
CullachGaelic for cockerel.
D is fer Droothy
Dee ye ken?Do you understand?
DourMiserable, glum, never smiling, when talking about somebody.
Down SouthEngland.
E is fer Eighty
EightyShort for eighty shilling, a type of alcoholic beverage, slightly better than export.
EnglandshireA colloquial term for England, normally used when England has a different bank holiday and everything is closed, but you need to speak to someone urgently.
ExportA type of alchoholic beverage, similar to a bitter.
F is fer Fusty
FankA corral, normally on the hill, to keep sheep during shearing and dipping.
FistleNoise made by sweetie wrappers, packets of crisps, especially in a cinema.
Fit?Pardon? (Aberdonian)
Fit like?How are you? (Aberdonian)
Foos yer Doos?How are you doing?
FustyDusty, smelling of mould, unclean.
G is fer Gubbed.
GalootClumsy or idiot (or both).
GantingtNot very nice.
Gie dreichIt?s a bit grim and drizzly outside.
Gie it LaldyTo go mental, to go for it in a big way.
GingerSomeone with red hair ora Glaswegian term for fizzy juice such as 'bru.
GlenRiver valley.
GubbedBroken, drunk, badly lost (a competition or fight).
GurneSulk, so a sulky person is gurnie.
GuttedA severe emotional blow.
GuttiesPlimsoles, old style, black school slip-ons.
H is fer Hammered
HaverSpeak nonsense, normally assosiated with senility.
He's goat short airums an' long pockets.He never buys a round.
Hoachin'Lots of people, busy.
Houghin'Filthy, revolting, ugly, vomit inducing.
HosedBadly broken.
I is fer Invershnecky
I dunnae kenI do not understand.
I'll jus weech that fer yeI will take that away for you.
I'm on the bru.I'm on the dole (unemployed).
InvershneckyAnother name for Inverness.
K is fer Keech
KelpieAn evil spirit, lives in particular lochs, normally takes the form of a horse and once mounted rides into the loch and kills the rider.
KirkChurch or parish.
L is fer Lum
Ley di ohAn Aberdeonian game, much like hide and seek.
LoonA male person from Aberdeen.
M is fer Mingin'
MannieA man.
May yer lums reek lang and weilMay your chimneys produce a great profusion of smoke2.
MessagesThe shopping, normally food shopping.
Mingin'Filthy, stinking, revolting, ugly or drunk.
MinkyA bit smelly (in reference to a person).
MouthieA mouth organ.
N is fer Numpty
Nay or nee or narNot.
Nuh-hing (Invernesian)Nothing.
O is fer Och
P is fer Puss
Pol-iss (Glasgoweigan)Police.
Q is fer Queenie
QuineA female person from Aberdeen.
R is fer Rubbered
RadgeCrazy or a madman.
Rocking horse shiteSomething rare, or hard to find.
S is fer Shooglie
SassanakTechnically lowlander Scots, but now meaning anyone from 'down south'.
SeventyShort for seventy shilling, an alcoholic beverage similar to export.
SheilingA hut a shepherd or cowherd uses on the hill, during summer grazing.
ShooglieLoose or wobbly.
ShufteyTechnically an Arabic word but in widespread use, meaning to look.
SimmetVest, used in Ayrshire.
SkiteSkid or tumble out of control.
SkrechinA shreik or unpleasant noise or sounding like a seagull.
SlangeCheers mate!
SleekitSly or cunning.
Snow yoor round, sma roundYou bought the last round, I'll get this one in.
Sounds like a seagull skrechin on a wireGoing on and on about something, or butchering a perfectly good song.
StoockieA plaster cast for a broken limb.
SwallyDrink, alcoholic.
T is fer Teuchtar
TadA small bit.
TattybogglerAberdonian for scarecrow.
TeuchtarCountry person, especially from the west coast.
W is fer Weeched
WatergawsRainbow, from Ayrshire.
Wee freeMember of the Free Presbeterian Church.
WeegeeSome one from Glasgow.
WhinsGorse bushes.
Whit are ye wantin?What's your tipple?
WeechTake something or move suddenly.
WheeshtSharp command to be quiet.
Wind-ee or wind-ayWindow.
Y is fer Yer
Yer erse is oot the windaeYou are unlikely to achieve the desired result with that kind of behaviour.
Yer pieceYour lunch or sandwich.
1Read curse words.2This is a general good luck statement.

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