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Your Essential Pocket Phrasebook for Scottish Vocabulary

Posted on Nov 25, 2014 by Ross Dempster

Welcome to our wee country!

Scottish Vocabulary

At Wilderness Scotland we enjoy taking travellers from around the world on amazing journeys through the Scottish countryside.

Part of the charm of our country is our distinctive language and even those who can speak fluent English may struggle to understand some of our local dialects. But fear not, we’re here to help you learn all about bairns (kid) bampots (crazy people) quines (girls) and loons (young men). Scotland’s many dialects can change in a relatively small distance keeping even us Scots on our toes. Keep this handy phrasebook will have you havering (talking rubbish) with the locals in no time!

Useful words

  • Aye (adverb)
    Pronounced – Eye
    Meaning – Yes
  • Wee (adjective)
    Meaning – Small
  • Dram (noun)
    Meaning – a measure of whisky

        Example sentence: “Aye, I’d  love a wee dram.”

  • Faff (noun)
    Meaning – to take time to sort something out/ get something done.
  • Ken (verb)
    Meaning – to know something or someone
  • Scran (noun)
    Meaning – food

         Example sentence: “After we faff around here, I ken a good place to get some scran.”

Bad weather

  • Mingin’ – not very nice
  • Boggin’ – see above!
  • Dreich – (dreech), over cast/ drizzling
  • Nippy – cold

Good weather

  • Crackin’ – very warm and sunny
  • Braw – beautiful
  • Roastin’ – very hot (anything over 18 degrees C)
  • Barry – great


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At the end of the day you might be feeling:

  • Druthy (adjective) (Droothy) Thirsty
  • Gubbed (adjective)Tired
  • Clarty (adjective)Dirty/ muddy (mingin’/ boggin’ also work here)


Some odd Scottish phrases we love:

  • Lang May Yer Lum Reek
    Translation – Long may your chimney smoke
    Meaning – I wish you well for the future
  • Haud Yer Wheesht
    Translation – Hold your tongue
    Meaning – Be quiet!
  • Keep the Heid!
    Translation – keep your head
    Meaning – stay calm and carry on!
  • Many a mickle maks a muckle
    Translation – Many a small thing makes a big thing.
    Meaning – All the small things add up (For example: one step may add up to a big distance)
  • Ye mak a better door than a windae
    Translation – You make a better door than a window (sarcastic).
    Meaning – You are obscuring my view!
  • Q, Foos yer doos? Aye, Peckin Awa Min
    Translation – Q: How’s your pigeons? A: They are still pecking
    Meaning – Q: How are you doing? A: Very well thank you.

So there you have it, a brief insight into the wonderful world of our language.

Book a tour to Scotland

Fancy testing your new found knowledge with one of our expert guides, fellow travellers or local innkeeper on an enthralling adventure trip around the beautiful landscapes of Scotland? Aye? Join us on one of our adventure holidays from Wilderness Walking to sea kayaking.

About the author

Ross Dempster

Ross's passion lies in exploring wild places in Scotland and around the world. He's been an outdoor enthusiast his whole life from the point his Father started dragging him up hills and grew up in Scotland learning from experiences around the lochs, hills and glens he grew to love.

Read more articles by Ross | View Ross's Profile

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