Your Guide to Scottish Slang: Top 10 Phrases You Should Know
If you’re about to embark on a Scotland study abroad adventure, it’s a smart idea to familiarize yourself with the dialects, accents, and even varying languages spoken in this charming country, including popular Scottish slang words and phrases.
Let’s dive in as we explain some common Scottish slang you’ll want to know before your travels!
What Are Some Slang Words in Scotland?
There are quite a few Scottish slang words and, in fact, language in general has quite an interesting history in Scotland.
Since the 18th century, the official language in Scotland is English, however, Scots and Gaelic are still widely spoken throughout the country, so Scottish slang words tend to have three different language origins. And that also accounts for many different accents and dialects across the country. Cool, right?
It’s also worth noting that Scottish slang is pretty different than British slang words or other common phrases you might hear throughout the U.K. (But if you wanted to brush up on British slang too, you can check out our other blog: Top 20 British Slang Words and Phrases.)
Read on for 10 popular Scottish slang words you should know!
One of the easier Scottish slang words, aye means “yes.”
Bonnie means “beautiful,” and is an old Scottish saying.
This Scottish slang word means “cup.” When studying abroad in Scotland, you might find yourself asking for a tassie of tea or a Scottish staple, like Scotch whisky.
Crabbit is used to describe someone as grumpy or ill-tempered.
Hoachin’ means “very busy,” like you’ll be during your Scottish study abroad adventure! Between fascinating coursework, on-foot explorations, and culturally immersive excursions, you’ll definitely be hoachin’.
Ken means “know,” or more typically, “you know?” For example, when discussing the weather, you might tell a friend, “This weather is perfect for walking the Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail, ken?” In some parts of Scotland, you’ll even hear some Scots add the word “like” after using “ken,” just to make things more interesting!
This Scottish slang word is used to refer to someone as stupid or foolish.
Far different than the meaning in the United States, “messages” in Scottish slang actually refers to shopping for groceries. You might even hear people say, “Got the messages,” referring to acquiring groceries. This one might trip you up from time to time – just remember, context is key!
One of the most popular Scottish slang words is “hen,” referring to a young lady, and usually used as a term of endearment.
As you study some Scottish slang vocabulary, let’s dive into the Top 10 Scottish slang phrases that will be helpful to know, too.
What Is a Common Scottish Phrase?
Like Scottish slang words, there are many different Scottish slang phrases. We’ve listed some of the more popular (and fun) ones here!
#1: “Haste ye back”
This means farewell or “return soon” – we’re sure all the Scottish friends you’ll make during your study abroad adventure will be saying this to you at the end of your program!
#2: “Haud yer wheesht”
This isn’t the kindest Scottish slang phrase; it’s a more forceful way to say, “Be quiet” or “Shut up!”
#3: “Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye”
This is a nice phrase that loosely translates to, “What will be, will be.”
#4: “Yer lookin’ a bit peely wally”
Meaning, “You look pale or ill.” It’s a fun one to say, although the meaning is unpleasant.
#5: “Gonnae no’ dae that”
This means, “Don’t do that!”
#6: “Pure dead brilliant”
While these words are used in the United States, when put together, this Scottish slang phrase refers to something extraordinary or amazing. For example, you might describe seeing some Scottish landmarks with your own eyes as “pure dead brilliant.”
#7: “Am pure done in”
This Scottish slang phrase indicates, “I’m very tired.”
#8: “Ma heid’s mince”
When you say this Scottish phrase, you’re saying that you’re “pretty confused” or “lost.” There’s also the phrase, “Yer heid’s full o’ mince,” referring to another person and roughly meaning, “you’re not making a lot of sense.”
#9: “It’ll be a skoosh.”
This means, “Don’t worry,” or, “This will be easy.”
#10: “Ah dinnae ken.”
A Scottish slang phrase meaning, “I don’t know.”
Scotland is Calling
Bookmark this page and you’re all set for your Scottish study abroad travels! But in all seriousness, being fully immersed in the language and culture will help you pick up Scottish slang words and phrases quickly – you’ll likely come back to the United States saying a few of them yourself!
Look through some of our exciting Scotland study abroad programs and decide which makes the most sense for your personal and academic goals (and of course, consider where you want to practice your Scottish slang the most):
- Arts + Sciences (Napier) in Edinburgh
- Arts + Sciences (Strathclyde) in Glasgow
- Semester in Edinburgh
- Semester in Glasgow
Scotland, and all its many slang words and phrases, is calling!
Wondering whether to study abroad in Edinburgh or Glasgow, Scotland? We've got you covered as we explore differences in the cost of living, population, featured programs, and more!