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POSTED BY October 21, 2021

Planning a holiday to Scotland? Anyone who can speak a little English will have no trouble making themselves understood. But if you really want to impress the locals, you should learn at least a few Scottish words.

What are we talking about when we talk about the Scottish language? Scotland has three official languages: English, Scottish Gaelic and Scots. Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language spoken by some 60,000 people in the Scottish Highlands. Scots is a language related to English, but with a different pronunciation and vocabulary.

Since about 1.5 million people speak this language, it makes sense to learn a number of Scottish words before a holiday to Scotland – and of course we are happy to help! These are the funniest, most useful and most beautiful Scottish words to make a visit to the Highlands extra special!

Scottish bagpiper at Glencoe, Scotland
Scottish bagpiper at Glencoe, Scotland

1. Bevvy – (Alcoholic) drink

Let’s start with one of the most important words in the Scottish language. Anyone who goes to Scotland will eventually order a bevvy, an (alcoholic) drink, somewhere .

2. Scran – Food

Of course you also need to nibble something with a drink. This word for food is also used in Northern Ireland, but originated in nineteenth-century Scotland. When it comes to traditional Scottish scran, it doesn’t get much more authentic than haggis, neeps and tatties. Haggis is made from sheep’s entrails and served with mashed turnips (neeps) and potatoes (tatties).

3. Ben – Berg

Are you going for a walk in the Scottish Highlands? Then you will undoubtedly pass many bens. The highest am in the country is Ben Nevis, a 1,345-meter peak in the Highlands. Those who walk the West Highland Way will encounter this and many other Bens along the way.

West Highland Way Hillwalk Tours Ltd.
Hiking The West Highland Way

4. Coo – Cow

This is probably one of the easiest Scottish words to learn for Dutch speakers: coo is pronounced more or less like the Dutch word ‘cow’ and also has the same meaning. The most famous coo in Scotland is of course the Heilan coo, or: Scottish Highlander.

5. Drookit – Soaked

Unfortunately, there is always a good chance that you will hit drookit during a holiday to Scotland. It is therefore only appropriate that the Scots have their own word for ‘drenched’.

6. Bonnie – Good

A walk through the Scottish Highlands will yield many views that are bonnie. This cheerful Scottish word means ‘beautiful’ – an indispensable phrase for those exploring the beautiful landscapes of Scotland.

7. Invershnecky – Inverness

Anyone visiting the Scottish Highlands should also take a look at Inverness. This unofficial capital of the Highlands and the UK’s northernmost city is known for its rich history, bagpipes and the large percentage of residents who speak Scottish Gaelic. Curious about Invershnecky? Our Great Glen Way walking route ends in this atmospheric city.

Views while hiking the Great Glen Way

8. Cludgie – Toilet

It is always useful to be able to ask where the nearest toilet is. In the Scottish language, there are a number of words for toilet, such as bog and shunky, but cludgie is our favorite. This word is mainly used in and around Glasgow.

9. Eedjit – Idiot

If someone calls you an eedjit, you may not have pronounced Scots correctly. This commonly used insult means ‘idiot’.

10. Noo jist haud on! – Take it easy!

Everyone has had one of those hiking buddies who rushes down the path like a spear. If that hiking buddy happens to be Scottish, this is the perfect statement. Noo jist haud on means ‘take it easy’ or ‘slow down’.

11. Skedaddle aff – ‘Take a stroll’

Whoever says skedaddle aff is generally not talking about walking a multi-day hiking route like the Fife Coastal Path. It may sound like a friendly or encouraging comment at first, but this statement is often indirectly translated as ‘leave me alone’ or ‘go away’.

Hiking the Fife Coastal Path, Hillwalk Tours
Hiking the Fife Coastal Path

12. Aye / naw – Yes / no

These are probably two of the most useful Scottish words to remember. Anyone who regularly hears naw in Scotland may be doing something wrong. But if the Scots often answer you with aye, then they are one with you!

13. Manky – Dirty

If you’re on a multi-day hike through the rainy Scottish countryside, chances are your shoes and socks will get manky .

14. Bared – Drunk

Those visiting Scotland and indulging in the different types of whisky (or other bevvies ) along the Speyside Way Whisky Trail run the risk of getting really tipsy. If a Scotsman tells you that you are bared, it is probably a good idea to drink a glass of water or go to bed.

Hillwalk Tours Ltd.
Speyside Way Whisky Trail

15. Messages – Errands

This word has nothing to do with the postman or social media posts; when Scots talk about messages, they mean ‘errands’. I’m getting the messages, for example, means ‘I’m going to go shopping’.

16. Muckle – Great

The snow-capped mountains, the horns of a Scottish Highlander or the lakes between Inverness and Fort William – there are plenty of things to be found in the Scottish Highlands that deserve the muckle stamp .

17. Yonks – A long time ago

This statement may refer to something that happened years ago, for example when the Scots recall nostalgic memories among themselves. Those interested in the history of Scotland can take a walk on the Rob Roy Way and learn about a folk hero who built yonks quite a reputation in the Scottish Highlands.

Hiking the Rob Roy Way

18. Wur tearin ‘the tartan – Have a good chat

One of the things Scotland is best known for is tartan, the plaid fabric that kilts are made of. However, this phrase has little to do with the famous Scottish garment. Wur tearin ‘the tartan is said in Scotland when there are good conversations going on.

19. Ye mak a better door than a windae – Get out of the way, you’re ruining my view.

Literally translated, this Scottish saying means ‘You are a better door than a window’. Or, in other words, I can’t see through you. Fortunately, you will not hear this often in the Scottish Highlands, as there is more than enough space for all walkers to enjoy the views. Still, it doesn’t hurt to memorize this phrase – you never know when it will come in handy!

20. Ah dinnae ken. – I do not know.

With only twenty Scottish words in your vocabulary, it will still regularly happen that the conversation with a local gets stuck. In that case you can always fall back on this sentence. And then of course hope that your Scottish conversation partner understands the hint and switches to English.

West Highland Way Hillwalk Tours Ltd.
Hiking Scotland – West Highland Way

We hope that you enjoyed this guide to 20 Scottish words every walker should know. If you’d like to try these words out on a Scottish walking holiday, just get in touch.