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Scottish Slang 1.0 (The Ultimate Guide to Help You Blend in North of the Border)

Written by: Caitlin
Published: 20th November 2019, last updated: 27th June 2022

You could be forgiven for thinking that Scottish slang is an entirely different language to the rest of the UK; between the broad accents and regional variations in which they speak, as well as words carried over from Gaelic and languages of old, it’s almost as if they don’t want to be understood at all in some areas!

So I’ve made it my mission to become acquainted with the local pattern, and whether you are travelling to Scotland or just feeling curious about the mysterious Scottish lilt, some of these words and phrases are sure to bring a smile to your face.

Scotticism is my new favourite word! It means a phrase or a word which is characteristic of dialects of the Scots language. How many Scotticisms do you think you know?!

Where does Scottish Slang come from?

Many of the words most commonly used in modern Scotland are borrowed from Scots, a 600-year-old language with Germanic origins. Around 60,ooo people still speak Gaelic, but only a seldom few words have made it into daily Scottish usage. Some words are easy to understand, being more to do with pronunciation than anything else, but there are some words that I never would have guessed the meaning of.

Many of the visitors to Scotland are confused by the unique Scottish slang words, and to make things even more confusing, each region have their very own variations of common words, for example in Edinburgh they talk about ‘bairns’, but in Glasgow they speak of ‘weans’, both meaning small children.

Scottish Phrases of Endearment

scottish slang

For some reason there seems to be a lot of assumption about Scots being more aggressive than their southern neighbours. I mean, I won’t deny they are passionate folk, but it goes both ways, as well as some of the angriest words spoken, since being in Scotland I’ve definitely heard some of the most affectionate too.

Hen– being perhaps the most widely recognised. Not to be confused with the feathery fowl, but instead referring to a female, often a younger lady, used as a Scottish term of endearment, much like honey or sweetheart might be used further South.

If aforementioned hen was a particularly lovely looking girl, she might be referred to as a bonnie lass (pretty or beautiful).

And if you have found yourself out for an evening in any local Scottish establishment, don’t be surprised to find the gorgeous people surrounding yourself described as braw (men) and tidy (women).

It can also be very confusing in Scotland, often something that sounds like an insult can actually be a term of endearment. ‘Awright ya wee bawbag?’ (a bawbag being a scrotum) is a greeting only really used between close pals.  In the right context it is no more offensive than saying ‘Hello, how are you my friend?’.

And then we have ‘Lang mae yer lum reek‘, which sounds like it would be announced accompanied by an unpleasant smell, but is in fact a pleasant Scottish sentiment, originally translated from ‘long may your chimney smoke’ and now meaning something akin to I wish you a long and healthy life.

Scottish Slang Swear Words

If there is one thing the Scot’s are good at, it’s their wonderfully creative and offensive swearing culture, with a large selection Scottish curse words. Starting from the fairly inoffensive, you can often hear kids underfoot being referred to as a ‘div’ or a ‘dafty’– both basically meaning a fool! You could ramp this up to the next level by escalating this to a ‘numpty’ or a ‘nugget’ if we are talking about a particularly foolish fool!

And here is one I had actually heard of- a ‘jobby’– (A poo if you aren’t sure!)

As mentioned above, the word ‘bawbag’ seems to come up a lot in conversations between pals and is taken relatively inoffensively- but there is definite scope for using it as an insult too if the context is right and you apply enough venom behind it!

In fact, you may have heard of the word in the media before, back in 2011, when the weather in Scotland attracted worldwide attention, and ‘Hurricane Bawbag’ became an internet sensation.

Read more about ‘Hurricane Bawbag’ here!

Scotland have several of their own slang words for body parts, of which I have to say my absolute favourite is ‘bahoochie’ for your bum, and a ‘banger’ for a gentleman’s private parts.

Scottish Insults

Scots have some of the most amazing insults at their disposal. Awa’ n bile your head seems to be one that crops up across the breadth of the country, and it literally means ‘go away and boil your head’ or in simpler terms- get lost!

And if you are looking for an unpleasant name to call someone, how about one of these Scottish Insults:

Eejit – Idiot

Feartie – Cow

Gommy – Simple-looking, idiot

Gowk – fool, simpleton

Lavvy heid – toilet head

Nyaff – Irrirating person

Roaster/Rocket – Idiot

Tube – Idiot

There are a few of these which I can’t wait to adopt into my everyday vocab- here’s hoping that nobody in the office can understand what I am calling them!

And if the above Scottish insults weren’t offensive enough for you, how about sticking one of these insulting adjectives in front…

Boggin – foul-smelling

Bowfin – unpleasant

Doolally – Not the full shilling

Hackit – Ugly

Howlin’ – Smelly

Naff – Boring, rubish

Scabby – Dirty

Feel free to let us know your favourite combinations from the lists above when practising your own Scottish insults. And if you find yourself on the receiving end of one of these Scottish insults? Well can we suggest a less than polite ‘Shut yer pus’ which pretty much means ‘shut up’ or ‘shut your mouth’ to silence the speaker!

Seriously Sweary Scottish Insults

In fact, there are a TON more even more offensive Scottish insults used across the country.  But in the interest of keeping polite company, I won’t divulge anymore- I don’t want to cause any heart palpitations, so I’ll just leave you there with another link, just in case seriously sweary Scottish insults is a topic you’d like to read more on.

Beautiful Scottish Words

Scottish Slang

View of the beautiful Monadh in Glencoe Wood

It wouldn’t be right to spend so much time talking about all the rude and crude depths of Scottish slang without coming full circle to some of the more beautiful parts of the Scottish language. Obviously, the land of Rabbie Burns is famed for it’s romantic poetry, so let’s dip into some of the loveliest Scottish words…

Our top 10 beautiful words (and their meanings) are:

  1. Coorie – To cuddle or nestle in, especially when it is cold. Similar to the ‘cwtch’ for our Welsh friends.
  2. Smourich – A kiss!
  3. Crouss– To be cheerful.
  4. Flichterin‘- Soft fluttering, as in the wings of a butterfly, or the flame of a candle.
  5. Gloaming– Twilight or dusk.
  6. Solasta– Luminous or shining
  7. Saorsa– Freedom, liberty.
  8. Turadh– A break in the clouds between showers.
  9. Fearthainn– Rain.
  10. Monadh– Moorland covered mountain.

more about Glencoe Wood Nature Reserve

What are some other Scottish words?

  • Auld – Old
  • Aye – Yes
  • Blether – Chatter-box
  • Boke – Gag or Vomit
  • Canny – Careful, or sometimes Clever
  • Clipe – To ‘tell on’ someone, or ‘snitch’
  • Chitter – Shiver
  • Crabbit – Bad-tempered or Grumpy
  • Dae – (pronounced ‘day’) Do
  • Dinnae – Don’t
  • Drookit – Soaking Wet
  • Eejit – Idiot
  • Greet – Cry
  • Haver – Talk Nonsense (Proclaimers fans will have heard this one before!)
  • Ken – Know
  • Noo – Now
  • Och! – Oh!
  • Peely-walley – Pale or Wan
  • Piece – A Sandwich
  • Skelp – Slap
  • Tattie – Potato

Scottish Sayings

There are many famous Scottish slang phrases that crop up in daily conversation, some of which have origins so old that it is unknown who first said them, but others can be attributed to Scottish celebrities or historical figures.

For a complete collection of Scottish sayings SEE HERE, or check out a few of our faves…

  • Yer lookin’ a bit peely wally – Meaning you look pale or ill.
  • That’s gee-in me the boak – A gross but classic Scottish expression one might use if something was making them feel sick!
  • Gonny no dae that – Means please don’t do that!
  • Haud yer weesht – Is a not super polite way of saying ‘be quiet’!
  • She’s up tae high doh – This is pretty much how I feel every day- it means she’s riled up and flustered, the original context coming from ‘doh’ being the highest note on the scale, so really worked up high!
  • Hairy Coo – Literally means ‘hairy cow’ but is what locals often refer to their Highland Cows as.
  • I’ll gie ye a skelpit lug – A phrase my Gran used to favour- meaning I’ll give you a slap on the ear!
  • Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye! – What’s meant to happen will happen, or what will be will be.
  • Skinny Malinky Longlegs – (Like the song!) Said about a tall, thin person.
  • Haste Ye Back! – This is a kind of farewell greeting, meaning ‘return soon’
  • It’s a dreich day – This saying is used in reference to the weather, on a cold, damp and miserable day.

Do the Scottish use Rhyming Slang?

Scottish Slang

Tennis pro, Andy Murray, has a new claim to fame in Scots Rhyming Slang.

Yes, they do! You may already be familiar with Cockney Rhyming Slang, but it seems to be news to most that there is a Scottish version too. What makes Scottish Rhyming Slang so wonderfully unique is that it is based entirely on pronunciation and not written form.

So for example “corned beef”, is rhyming slang for ‘deaf’. Now that doesn’t appear to rhyme to most of us- but what it does rhyme with is the Scottish pronunciation of deif”.

And plenty of celebrities lend their names to rhyming slang as well. A quick round-up of our favourites include:

Andy Murray – Curry!

The super Scottish tennis pro comes into conversation regularly on a Friday in the pub- “Fancy gettin’ an Andy Murray the night?”

Mick Jagger – Lager!

Again, the pronunciation may seem a little off if you don’t have a Scottish lilt, but now if you get asked “Grab us a Mick Jagger, pal!” you’ll know the speaker is probably after a pint of Tenants and not the Rolling Stones front man!

Gordon Strachan – Cracking! (brilliant)

If you aren’t familiar, Gordon Strachan is the Scotland football manager and former player and this may be heard in the context of “That wiz pure Strachan.”

Lorraine Kelly – telly (television)

This one seems pretty apt, but if you are asked to “Goan turn oan the Lorraine Kelly?” they mean stick the telly on, and maybe you’ll even catch a programme starring the Scottish television presenter, journalist and actress herself!

And finally, let me leave you with a few other questions I have been asked to find the answer to…

What is the Scottish word for friend?

Charaid, or Mo Charaid for my friend, is the official answer, but colloquially the terms I have heard most seem to be chum and pal!

Does anyone really say “och aye the noo”?

Short answer- NO! The truth is, you’ll probably never hear anyone use these four words together, apart from in a comedy scene. People do say “och aye” and they do say “the noo”, just not strung together. Therefore, could be offensive to Scottish people.

A translator tells me they would say ‘a loue ye‘. So more or less the same, just with a sexy Scottish accent!

Scottish slang for drunk…

Now this is one word they have plenty of versions of! Blootered, Steamin’, Wrecked, Bladdered, Hammered, Sloshed and Smashed to name just a few of the more regular sounding ones. ‘Ooot yer tree’, ‘Steamboated’, ‘Mad wae it’ and ‘Ooot the game’ being some of the stranger sounding phrases!

What does ‘Yer bum’s oot the windae?’ actually mean?

Admittedly, the direct English translation of ‘your bottom is out of the window’ doesn’t make much sense. The actual meaning of this phrase is something along the lines of ‘You are talking rubbish’, or even ‘You’re not making any sense’.

About the author

Written by: Caitlin

Comments on this post

  • Ronald C. Floyd
    15/09/20 - 23:46


    Great work! Enjoyed it very much! please give us more of this when you can.

    Ron Floyd

  • (Lady) Avril Kelso
    16/09/20 - 01:18

    As a mature person, I recall some of the words of the homeland when I was young. I expect some have changed but many are handed down by mouth as are sing songs and rhymes of the school yard days.

    Haud yer wheesht and git oan wae it…. was how I understood the spelling.
    Scunner – Love the word – someone that is on the nose as of bad character, not to be trusted.
    When they were small I asked my Aussie kids to say goodnight in Scottish to their visiting Grandmother.
    Guid nicht. Instead of wishing her a good night they pronounced it “Get nicked”. Which required a lot of explaining.
    Tumshie – as in turnip. Biled tatties n bashed tumshie or neeps was always on the winter menu.
    Tumshie heid on the other hand was not complimentary.
    Denner time – dinner
    Buchts – pens for sheep. As a farmers daughter heard the word all the time.


  • James Kelly
    16/09/20 - 08:58

    Great, it brought back memories. Can we have more please.

  • Lady Julia
    16/09/20 - 12:44

    Enjoyed the read. Thanks!

  • Lady Brenda Hackett
    16/09/20 - 13:33

    Well, that’s great fun!

  • Paul Jordan
    21/09/20 - 04:19

    In 1964, my senior year of high school, we had an exchange physics teacher from Scotland. Nigel Thake was his name. On the subject of vector forces, there were three directions to apply a force. OUP the wee, DOONE the wee, and OOUT the wee.

    If a female student hadn’t done her homework correctly, he would ask her “HOOT-MAN !!, HAVEN YE BEAN DOOIN YER PHEESICKS LASSIE ?”

    My Great, Great Grand Mother on my father’s side was a Mc Gregor.

  • nick
    23/10/20 - 12:26

    somewhere I head “lade” or “ladde” for a person that you don’t know, how does that one go?

  • ricky
    12/11/20 - 15:38

    yer bum’s oot the windae

  • janice Mcskimming
    03/02/21 - 10:39

    We used to say years ago when someone stood you up it meant you got a dizzy. Where does that expression come from. Is it taken from the word dismissed as in dissy?.

  • Tam
    06/02/21 - 12:14

    What does it mean when someone says there’s a draft coming oot yer mooth?

    • Doug
      10/02/21 - 15:32

      Either your mouth is hanging wide open or you are speaking nonsense, i.e hot air.

  • Leo
    19/02/21 - 15:35

    Good day Caitlin,

    There is a link in the “Seriously Sweary Scottish Insults” section – which, of course, I had to click – that links to a buzzfeed article, but all the images that displayed those nasty words are no longer to be found.

    Maybe substitute? 😉

  • Andy
    13/03/21 - 18:05

    Yer bum’s oot the windae actually means that your not in favour any more, your finished, done, not wanted.
    I can only imaging that it came about by imagining that if a person fell out of a window, by the time their bum went out, there was no way they could come back in. The point of no return.

  • Alcia
    15/07/21 - 05:25

    Very good !
    What is the Scottish expression that sounds like ‘ moncreat’ mean . I know this is not how it is spelt but that is how it sounds to me .

  • John Jackson
    27/07/21 - 23:02

    ‘In the shuttle of my kist’ ? Kist I believe would be a box with a lock what was a shuttle?

  • Rosemaree Kerr
    01/08/21 - 03:16

    I do recall my brothers answering me if I wonted something from them ..walk to park or make me a piece the answer is still fresh in my mind ..och ay lassi but nor the noo
    It always to me meant yes but not now.? Lost parent at 9 and separated from brothers at 19 and lost last 6 years ago..

  • Jo MacKay
    07/08/21 - 17:04

    “Yer bum’s oot the windae” (Your bum is out the window) – You’re literally talking rubbish.

  • Winnie1906
    23/10/21 - 01:27

    Your bum’s oot the windae meaning is pretty much as suggested on the page. A phrase beloved of mums and grans throughout Scotland expressing their scepticism for the veracity of whatever you have just said to them. Always loved using this phrase with my lovely friends in London, extending it to the second line as taught by my lovely granny. “You’re bum’s oot the windae, way roon the back and pap peas at it” Hope all this history of language stays alive and out-lives me

  • roger reid
    28/11/21 - 21:49

    In the 60s – 70s at least, in the Glasgow area “scunnered” referred to oneself being highly and angrily disappointed. As in “I’m reet scunnered!”, meaning “I am really p****d off over that”.

    Could be said with beautiful vehemence. I still use the term to this day.

    “outwith” for “Outside”‘
    “the coup” for “the rubbish tip”.
    “Put the heed in” for “a forehead punch”.
    “A wee rarmy” (Not sure of spelling) for “A small but very fine party”.

    What a wonderful language.

  • Peter Howson
    12/01/22 - 21:01

    Languages arriving in Scotland in roughly 500AD (and with an extensive European history before that) can, by no stretch of the imagination, be described as slang. Words like windae, hame, brae, ben, ken, noo, drookit etc. are part of the language. It’s like you stating that the words wet, home, window, hill etc. are English language slang.

  • Jim Melling
    21/02/22 - 15:31

    ‘Go an raffle yersel’………
    When I told my mother something she didn’t believe.

  • Jim Wilson
    02/05/22 - 22:51

    My father told me that one of his uncles used a phrase of endearment for his actual red-headed nephews “Ma wee pickle-tow”
    Meaning my red-headed pal. I have never met anyone familiar with this phrase. I suspect it might have been used locally in Fife.

  • Liam
    02/06/22 - 17:37

    As a Scottish born and raised 37 year old man, I came across this site when googling the specific meaning of a Celtic word. It’s a good breakdown, so well done the author . For everyone out there however, I would like to point out that there are significant variances in local dialects. For example, if you used the term “braw” which can mean anything from Good to “Sexy/Hot” in Dundee, Edinburgh or Fife, it wouldn’t mean much in Glasgow. Yes we know what it means and we know that those from outside of Glasgow are referring to when when they use the term, but Glaswegians just wouldn’t use it.

    Other incisions in the above article, whilst valid and accurate in that these were terms said many years ago and maybe sometimes are still said, but only when we’re purposely being self deprecating about our own language or having a laugh! Awa and Boil yer Heid for example is a dead phrase for the under 50’s, but something you’d say in full knowledge it’s an olden day term, just for a laugh. Ie after a few beers with friends you may throw it in for a bit of banter.

    Mostly you’ll find Scottish people speaking plain old English, with an accent of course. Those from more professional backgrounds or working in multi-lingual offices also have a fairly clean/clear dialect in work settings. That said, we can just as quickly use our rapid fire dialect and impressively fast speech cadence to “sound like” we’re speaking a different language. This is very very useful when in company with European friends or those from the USA/Canada etc as it allows us to communicate without the knowledge of those around us.

    I’ve actively tested this in the full knowledge of Friends from the US. I literally challenge them to tell me what a friend and I are saying when we’re speaking full slang rapid Scottish (not something we do in real day to day life). They literally didn’t believe we had just communicated with each other and that it was all gibberish

  • Trevor d’Almeida
    08/06/22 - 19:49

    What is the phrase for “that’s good” or “okay” that sounds something like “reg ta noo”. Thank you.

  • Cherishkee
    07/07/22 - 03:36

    Moving to Scotland, these may come in handy.

  • Ross
    12/07/22 - 21:13

    When Scotty got in trouble for disobeying Ambassador Fox’s order to lower the ship’s shields in Star Trek (Original Series) “A Taste of Armageddon”, he said, “The haggis is in the fire for sure.”

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