I May Speak French But I’ll Never Speak Scottish

arthur's seat

A demonstration of the importance of local lingo:

Scottish Man: Show me your puppies.

Me: Well, okay…

Flips through photos of my adorable puppies.


Me: Aren’t they cute?

Scottish Man: Rolls eyes and laughs.  Your dogs are cute but I meant your boobs.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that puppies means boobs?  So this is why understanding slang is essential to your survival.  I don’t believe “puppies” is a purely Scottish term but I do know it’s frequently used, and understanding the local vernacular would have been quite helpful in that scenario.

Given that I’ve had multiple Scottish friends throughout my life, I felt certain I wouldn’t have too much trouble with the Scottish accents while planning my move to Edinburgh. But I barely even stopped to consider this whole unfamiliar vocabulary.

The Scottish tongue captured my heart ten years ago on a family vacation through Scotland.

family trip

You see? Here I am, 12 years old, a young giantess, most likely reminiscing about a recent encounter with a cute Scottish boy.  Actually, he may not have even been cute.  But already, at such a young age, beautiful accents had embarrassing power over me.

Even then, I felt that there was something quite disarming and unique about Scotland.  Rocky cliffs and misty lochs may come to mind when I remember my home away from home, but the people make the country, and the language and the people help define one another; so to understand a language is to better understand an entire culture.

Given the Outlander craze, and my own appreciation for the country, I thought I’d honor Scotland with a wee tutorial.


With the help of some Scottish friends and one gregarious train conductor, I give you: The Scottish Vocabulary.  It’s by no means comprehensive, but it will ideally get you started.

For any of you hoping to travel to this alluring land, I hope you have wonderful adventures – and I hope this mini guide helps you understand the country’s kind, sarcastic, hospitable, proud people.

First, we have to get back to basics:

Many of you are probably familiar with these terms, but I’d be remiss not to include them.

Aye = yes

Wee = small

Ken = to know

Blubbering = crying

Barry = good

Cheesing = happy/smiling

Bonnie = pretty

Lassie/Laddie = girl/boy

Braw = good

Bairn = baby

Mingin = horrible/dirty


Expressions in conversation:

Used while serving food: Is that you? = Is that enough/are you finished?

That’s me = That’s enough/I’m finished 

Another alternative: Is that you? = How are you? (Or, to be more Scottish about it, “How are you getting on?”)

Aye that’s me, is that you? = I’m fine, how are you?

Pure = really

For example, “he’s pure cheesing” = he is really happy

Dead = a lot

Proper = genuine

Some of these are used throughout the UK as well.

Swear words / Inappropriate phrases 

Some of you may be offended, in which case just skip to the end.  Honestly though, these are so important to know!

Okay, worst one first:


Whereas most people in the US consider this a particularly harsh, extreme swear word, it’s fairly commonly used throughout Scotland.  I’d also like to point out that the “c” word can actually be a compliment!

For example, “You’re a good c*nt” actually means,  “you’re a good guy.”  (I promise it’s true, I’m not trying to get you into trouble).

It’s used negatively as well, so just pay attention to context clues. 

Shite = shit

Pretty self-explanatory.  However, it’s important to note that “shite” is nearly always bad, but “shit,” as in, “that’s great shit!” is, well, great.

Chuckter = countryside folk

Try not to laugh while saying that.

Am ah gettin’ ma hole? = Are we going to have sex?

I actually first discovered the reference to “your hole” via a Frightened Rabbit song.  Listen to it enough and you’ll fall in love too.

Fanny = pussy

Fanny baws = pussy balls

This one doesn’t make much sense but there you have it.

Fuck ye dain? = What the fuck are you doing?

Bawbag = scrotum

Around two years ago, Scotland held a competition to name a mild hurricane.  Someone submitted “bawbag,” and they actually printed it, not knowing it meant scrotum. Whoops.  What can ye do, eh?

Bawheed = ball head

Dobber = dick (particularly used in Glasgow)

I just realized this is the longest section.  I don’t know if that says more about me or Scotland.  Moving on…

near arthur's seat

Scottish pronunciations:

Heed  = head

Doug = dog

Oot = out

Aboot = about

Aff = off (“aff yer heed”)

Cannae = cannot

Doon = down

I assure you, compiling this list was as much of an education for me as it may have been for you.  And if I were to say any of this out loud, I’d sound absurd, and would hate to butcher the beautiful accent.  Besides, I may know some phrases here and there, but I will never truly speak Scottish.  I do, however, have a profound appreciation for the culture and its people, and hope you do as well!

Thoughts? What’s your favorite Scottish expression?

Are you watching Outlander yet?
#, #

Leave a Reply