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Scots is the Germanic language variety traditionally spoken in Lowland Scotlandmarker and parts of Ulster. It is sometimes referred to as Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language variety traditionally spoken in the Highlands and Hebridesmarker.

Since there are no universally accepted criteria for distinguishing languages from dialects, scholars and other interested parties often disagree about the linguistic, historical and social status of Scots. Although a number of paradigms for distinguishing between languages and dialects do exist, these often render contradictory results. Focused broad Scots is at one end of a bipolar linguistic continuum, with Scottish Standard English at the other . Consequently, Scots is often regarded as one of the ancient varieties of English, but with its own distinct dialects. Alternatively Scots is sometimes treated as a distinct Germanic language, in the way Norwegian is closely linked to, yet distinct from, Danish.


Native speakers sometimes refer to their vernacular as braid Scots (or "broad Scots" in English) or use a dialect name such as the "Doric", "Teri" or the "Buchan Claik". The old-fashioned Scotch occurs occasionally. The term Lallans is also used (though this is more often taken to mean the Lallans literary form). Scots in Ireland is known in official circles as "Ulster Scots" or "Ullans", a recent neologism merging "Ulster" and "Lallans".


Scots is a contraction of Scottis, the Older Scots and northern version of late Old English Scottisc (modern English "Scottish"), which replaced the earlier i-mutated version Scyttisc.

It is only since the late 15th century that Germanic speakers in Scotland have referred to their vernacular as Scottis, at the time they began to refer to Gaelic as Erse ("Irish"), it having previously been known as Scottis. The use of Erse is now often considered pejorative.


Northumbrian Old English had been established in southeastern Scotland as far as the River Forth by the 7th century. It remained largely confined to this area until the 13th century, continuing in common use while Gaelic was the language of the Scottish court. The succeeding variety of Early northern Middle English spoken in southeastern Scotland, also known as Early Scots, began to diverge from that of Northumbriamarker due to 12th and 13th century immigration of Scandinavian-influenced Middle English-speakers from the North and Midlands of England. Later influences on the devolopment of Scots were from Romance languages via ecclesiastical and legal Latin, Norman and later Parisian French due to the Auld Alliance as well as Dutch and Middle Low German influences due to trade and immigration from the low countries. Scots also includes loan words resulting from contact with Gaelic. Early medieval legal documents include a body of Gaelic legal and administrative loans. Contemporary Gaelic loans are mainly for geographical and cultural features, such as ceilidh, loch and clan.

From the 13th century Early Scots spread further into Scotland via the burghs, proto-urban institutions which were first established by King David I. The growth in prestige of Early Scots in the 14th century, and the complementary decline of French in Scotland, made Scots the prestige language of most of eastern Scotland. By the 16th century Middle Scots had established orthographic and literary norms largely independent of those developing in England.

Language shift

From the mid 16th century written Scots was increasingly influenced by the Standard English of England due to developments in royal and political interactions with England and the increasing influence and availability of books printed in England, and so most writing in Scotland came to be done in the English fashion. In 1603 King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England. The Protestant reformation in Scotland adopted the 1611 Authorized King James Version of the Bible and the Acts of Union 1707 which led to England joining Scotland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britainmarker, having a single Parliament of Great Britain based in Londonmarker. After the Union and the shift of political power to England, the use of Scots was discouraged by many in authority and education, as was the notion of Scottishness itself. Many leading Scots of the period, such as David Hume, considered themselves Northern British rather than Scottish. They attempted to rid themselves of their Scots in a bid to establish standard English as the official language of the newly formed Union. Nevertheless Scots was still spoken across a wide range of domains until the end of the 17th century , illustrated for example, in the summary by F. Pottle, James Boswell's 20th century biographer, concerning James' view of the speech habits of his father Alexander Boswell, a judge of the supreme courts of Scotlandmarker :
He scorned modern literature, spoke broad Scots from the bench, and even in writing took no pains to avoid the Scotticisms which most of his colleagues were coming to regard as vulgar.
Others did however scorn Scots, such as intellectuals from the Scottish Enlightenment like David Hume and Adam Smith, who went to great lengths to get rid of every Scotticism from their writings. Following such examples, many well-off Scots took to learning English through the activities of those such as Thomas Sheridan, who in 1761 gave a series of lectures on English elocution. Charging a guinea at a time (about £ in today's money ), they were attended by over 300 men, and he was made a freeman of the City of Edinburghmarker. Following this, some of the city's intellectuals formed the Select Society for Promoting the Reading and Speaking of the English Language in Scotland. From such 18th century activities grew Scottish Standard English . Scots remained the vernacular of many rural communities and the growing number of urban working class Scots.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the use of Scots as a literary language was revived by several prominent Scotsmen such as Robert Burns. Such writers establishing a new cross-dialect standard literary norm.

During the first half of the 20th century, knowledge of 18th and 19th century literary norms waned and currently there is no institutionalised standard literary form. By the 1940s the Scottish Education Department's language policy was that Scots had no value " is not the language of 'educated' people anywhere, and could not be described as a suitable medium of education or culture". Students, of course, reverted to Scots outside the classroom, but the reversion was not complete. What occurred, and has been occurring ever since, is a process of language attrition, whereby successive generations have adopted more and more features from Standard English. This process has accelerated rapidly since widespread access to mass media in English, and increased population mobility, became available after the Second World War . It has recently taken on the nature of wholesale language shift, sometimes also termed language change, convergence or merger. By the end of the 20th century Scots was at an advanced stage of language death over much of Lowland Scotland. Residual features of Scots are often regarded as slang.

Language revitalisation

Recently, attitudes have somewhat changed, although no education takes place through the medium of Scots. Scots may be covered superficially in English lessons, which usually entails reading some Scots literature and observing the local dialect. Much of the material used is often Standard English disguised as Scots, which has upset proponents of Standard English and proponents of Scots alike. One example of the educational establishment's approach to Scots is "Write a poem in Scots. (It is important not to be worried about spelling in this – write as you hear the sounds in your head.)", whereas guidelines for English require teaching pupils to be "writing fluently and legibly with accurate spelling and punctuation." Scots can also be studied at university level.

The use of Scots in the media is scant and is usually reserved for niches where local dialect is deemed acceptable, e.g. comedy, Burns Night, or representations of traditions and times gone by. Serious use for news, encyclopaedias, documentaries, etc. rarely occurs in Scots, although the Scottish Parliamentmarker website offers some information in it.


Before the Treaty of Union 1707, when Scotland and England joined to form the Kingdom of Great Britainmarker, there is ample evidence that Scots was widely held to be an independent language as part of a pluricentric diasystem.

The linguist Heinz Kloss considered Modern Scots a Halbsprache (half language) in terms of a Ausbausprache - Abstandsprache - Dachsprache framework although today, in Scotland, most people's speech is somewhere on a continuum ranging from traditional broad Scots to Scottish Standard English. Many speakers are either diglossic and/or able to code-switch along the continuum depending on the situation in which they find themselves. Where on this continuum English-influenced Scots becomes Scots-influenced English is difficult to determine. Since standard English now generally has the role of a Dachsprache, disputes often arise as to whether or not the varieties of Scots are dialects of Scottish English or constitute a separate language in their own right.

The UK government now accepts Scots as a regional language and has recognised it as such under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

Evidence for its existence as a separate language lies in the extensive body of Scots literature, its independent — if somewhat fluid — orthographic conventions and in its former use as the language of the original Parliament of Scotland. Since Scotland retained distinct political, legal and religious systems after the Union, many Scots terms passed into Scottish English. For instance, libel and slander, separate in English law, are bundled together as defamation in Scots law.

Number of speakers

Areas where the Scots language was spoken in the 20th century.

It has been difficult to determine the number of speakers of Scots via census, because many respondents might interpret the question "Do you speak Scots?" in different ways. Campaigners for Scots pressed for this question to be included in the 2001 U.K. National Census. The results from a 1996 trial before the Census, by the General Register Office for Scotland , suggested that there were around 1.5 million speakers of Scots, with 30% of Scots responding "Yes" to the question "Can you speak the Scots language?", but only 17% responding "Aye." to the question "Can you speak Scots?". (It was also found that older, working-class people were more likely to answer in the affirmative.) The University of Aberdeen Scots Leid Quorum performed its own research in 1995, suggesting that there were 2.7 million speakers. The GRO questions, as freely acknowledged by those who set them, were not as detailed and as systematic as the Aberdeen University ones, and only included reared speakers, not those who had learned the language. Part of the difference resulted from the central question posed by surveys: "Do you speak Scots?". In the Aberdeen University study, the question was augmented with the further clause "… or a dialect of Scots such as Border etc", which resulted in greater recognition from respondents. The GRO concluded that there simply wasn't enough linguistic self-awareness amongst the Scottish populace, with people still thinking of themselves as speaking badly pronounced, grammatically inferior English rather than Scots, for an accurate census to be taken. The GRO research concluded that "[a] more precise estimate of genuine Scots language ability would require a more in-depth interview survey and may involve asking various questions about the language used in different situations. Such an approach would be inappropriate for a Census." Thus, although it was acknowledged that the "inclusion of such a Census question would undoubtedly raise the profile of Scots", no question about Scots was, in the end, included in the 2001 Census. The Scottish Government's Pupils in Scotland Census 2008 found that 306 pupils spoke Scots as their main home language.

An apparent practical snag with the attempts to institutionalise a single variety of Scots for official use is, as in Standard English, the incorporation of vocabulary from literary registers often absent in colloquial registers (e.g. the use of "ken", meaning "know", which still occurs in many Eastern dialects but is entirely absent in others such as Glaswegian). An example is the Scots-language home page of the Scottish Parliament.


Map of Scots dialects
There are at least five Scots dialects:

The southern extent of Scots may be identified by the range of a number of pronunciation features which set Scots apart from neighbouring English dialects. The Scots pronunciation of come becomes in Northern English. The Scots realisation reaches as far south as the mouth of the north Esk in north Cumbriamarker, crossing Cumbria and skirting the foot of the Cheviotsmarker before reaching the east coast at Bamburghmarker some 12 miles north of Alnwickmarker. The Scots -English / cognate group (micht-might, eneuch-enough, etc) can be found in a small portion of north Cumbria with the southern limit stretching from Bewcastlemarker to Longtown and Gretna. The Scots pronunciation of wh as / / becomes English / / south of Carlislemarker but remains in Northumberlandmarker, but Northumberland realises “r” as / /, often called the burr, which is not a Scots realisation. Thus the greater part of the valley of the Esk and the whole of Liddesdale can be considered to be northern English dialects rather than Scots ones. From the 19th century onwards influence from the South through education and increased mobility have caused Scots features to retreat northwards so that for all practical purposes the political and linguistic boundaries may be considered to coincide.

Northeast English, spoken throughout the traditional counties of Northumberlandmarker and County Durham, shares other features with Scots which have not been described above.

As well as the main dialects, Edinburghmarker, Dundeemarker and Glasgowmarker (see Glasgow patter) have local variations on an Anglicised form of Central Scots. In Aberdeenmarker, Mid Northern Scots is spoken by a minority. Due to them being roughly near the border between the two dialects, places like Dundeemarker and Perthmarker can contain elements and influences of both Northern and Central Scots.


Among the earliest Scots literature is John Barbour's Brus (fourteenth century), Wyntoun's Cronykil and Blind Harry's Wallace (fifteenth century). From the fifteenth century, much literature based around the Royal Court in Edinburgh and the University of St Andrewsmarker was produced by writers such as Robert Henryson, William Dunbar, Gavin Douglas and David Lyndsay. The Complaynt of Scotland was an early printed work in Scots.

After the seventeenth century, anglicisation increased. At the time, many of the oral ballads from the borders and the North East were written down. Writers of the period were Robert Sempill, Robert Sempill the younger, Francis Sempill, Lady Wardlaw and Lady Grizel Baillie.

In the eighteenth century, writers such as Allan Ramsay, Robert Burns, Robert Fergusson and Walter Scott continued to use Scots. Scott introduced vernacular dialogue to his novels. Other well-known authors like Robert Louis Stevenson, William Alexander, George MacDonald, J. M. Barrie and other members of the Kailyard school like Ian Maclaren also wrote in Scots or used it in dialogue.

In the Victorian era popular Scottish newspapers regularly included articles and commentary in the vernacular, often of unprecedented proportions.

In the early twentieth century, a renaissance in the use of Scots occurred, its most vocal figure being Hugh MacDiarmid whose benchmark poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (1926) did much to demonstrate the power of Scots as a modern idiom. Other contemporaries were Douglas Young, John Buchan, Sidney Goodsir Smith, Robert Garioch and Robert McLellan. However, the revival was largely limited to verse and other literature.

In 1983 William Laughton Lorimer's translation of the New Testament from the original Greek was published.

Highly anglicised Scots is sometimes used in contemporary fiction, for example, the Edinburgh dialect of Scots in Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (later made into a motion picture of the same name).

But'n'Ben A-Go-Go by Matthew Fitt is a cyberpunk novel written entirely in what Wir Ain Leid (Our Own Language) calls "General Scots". Like all cyberpunk work, it contains imaginative neologisms.

The strip cartoons Oor Wullie and The Broons in the Sunday Post use some Scots.


By the middle of the 17th century contemporary southern English had replaced Middle Scots for normal transactional writing. The 18th century revival of written Scots was based largely on contemporary colloquial Scots generally using highly anglicised spellings although some conventions inherited from previous centuries remained in use. The orthographic conventions of this literary or ‘pan-dialectal’ Scots were diaphonemic rather than phonetic in nature, subsuming varying dialect realisations, although dialect spellings became more frequent later in the period. This tradition embodied by writers such as Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Murray, David Herbison, James Orr, James Hogg and William Laidlaw among others, is well described in Grant and Dixon’s 1921 Manual of Modern Scots.

During the 20th century a number of proposals for spelling reform were presented. Commenting on this, John Corbett (2003: 260) writes that "devising a normative orthography for Scots has been one of the greatest linguistic hobbies of the past century." Most proposals entailed regularising the use of established 18th and 19th century conventions, in particular the avoidance of apostrophes where they supposedly represent "missing" English letters. Such letters were never actually missing in Scots. For example, in the 14th century, Barbour spelt the Scots cognate of 'taken' as tane. Since there has been no k in the word for over 700 years, representing its omission with an apostrophe seems pointless. The current spelling is usually taen.

Through the 20th century, with the decline of spoken Scots and knowledge of the literary tradition, phonetic (often humorous) representations became more common.



Most consonants are usually pronounced much as in English but:
  • c: or , much as in English.
  • ch: , also gh. Medial 'cht' may be in Northern dialects. loch (fjord or lake), nicht (night), dochter (daughter), dreich (dreary), etc. Similar to the German "Nacht".
  • ch: word initial or where it follows 'r' . airch (arch), mairch (march), etc.
  • gn: . In Northern dialects may occur.
  • kn: . In Northern dialects or may occur. knap (talk), knee, knowe (knoll), etc.
  • ng: is always .
  • nch: usually . brainch (branch), dunch (push), etc.
  • r: or is pronounced in all positions, i.e. rhotically.
  • s or se: or .
  • t: may be a glottal stop between vowels or word final. In Ulster dentalised pronunciations may also occur, also for 'd'.
  • th: or much as is English. Initial 'th' in thing, think and thank, etc. may be .
  • wh: usually , older . Northern dialects also have .
  • wr: more often but may be in Northern dialects. wrack (wreck), wrang (wrong), write, wrocht (worked), etc.
  • z: or , may occur in some words as a substitute for the older > (yogh). For example: brulzie (broil), gaberlunzie (a beggar) and the names Menzies, Finzeanmarker, Culzeanmarker, MacKenzie etc. (As a result of the lack of education in Scots, MacKenzie is now generally pronounced with a /z/ following the perceived realisation of the written form, as more controversially is sometimes Menzies.)

Silent letters

  • The word final 'd' in nd and ld: but often pronounced in derived forms. Sometimes simply 'n' and 'l' or 'n'' and 'l''. auld (old), haund (hand), etc.
  • 't' in medial cht: ('ch' = ) and st and before final en. fochten (fought), thristle (thistle) also 't' in aften (often), etc.
  • 't' in word final ct and pt but often pronounced in derived forms. respect, accept, etc.


In Scots, vowel length is usually conditioned by the Scots vowel length rule. Words which differ only slightly in pronunciation from Scottish English are generally spelled as in English. Other words may be spelt the same but differ in pronunciation, for example: aunt, swap, want and wash with , bull, full v. and pull with , bind, find and wind v., etc. with .
  • The unstressed vowel may be represented by any vowel letter.
  • a: usually but in south west and Ulster dialects often . Note final a in awa (away), twa (two) and wha (who) may also be or or depending on dialect.
  • au, aw and sometimes a, a' or aa: or in Southern, Central and Ulster dialects but in Northern dialects. The cluster 'auld' may also be in Ulster. aw (all), cauld (cold), braw (handsome), faw (fall), snaw (snow), etc.
  • ae, ai, a(consonant)e: . Often before . In Northern dialects the vowel in the cluster -'ane' is often . brae (slope), saip (soap), hale (whole), ane (one), ance (once), bane (bone), etc.
  • ea, ei, ie: or depending on dialect. may occur before . Root final this may be in Southern dialects. In the far north may occur. deid (dead), heid (head), meat (food), clear, speir (enquire), sea, etc.
  • ee, e(Consonant)e: . Root final this may be in Southern dialects. ee (eye), een (eyes), steek (shut), here, etc.
  • e: . bed, het (heated), yett (gate), etc.
  • eu: or depending on dialect. Sometimes erroneously 'oo', 'u(consonant)e', 'u' or 'ui'. beuk (book), eneuch (enough), ceuk (cook), leuk (look), teuk (took), etc.
  • ew: . In Northern dialects a root final 'ew' may be . few, new, etc.
  • i: , but often varies between and especially after 'w' and 'wh'. also occurs in Ulster before voiceless consonants. big, fit (foot), wid (wood), etc.
  • i(consonant)e, y(consonant)e, ey: or . 'ay' is usually but in ay (yes) and aye (always). In Dundee it is noticeably .
  • o: but often .
  • oa: .
  • ow, owe (root final), seldom ou: . Before 'k' vocalisation to may occur especially in western and Ulster dialects. bowk (retch), bowe (bow), howe (hollow), knowe (knoll), cowp (overturn), yowe (ewe), etc.
  • ou, oo, u(consonant)e: . Root final may occur in Southern dialects. cou (cow), broun (brown), hoose (house), moose (mouse) etc.
  • u: . but, cut, etc.
  • ui, also u(consonant)e, oo: in conservative dialects. In parts of Fife, Dundee and north Antrim . In Northern dialects usually but after and and also before in some areas eg. fuird (ford). Mid Down and Donegal dialects have . In central and north Down dialects when short and when long. buird (board), buit (boot), cuit (ankle), fluir (floor), guid (good), schuil (school), etc. In central dialects uise v. and uiss n. (use) are and .


Not all of the following features are exclusive to Scots and may also occur in English.

Definite article

The is used before the names of seasons, days of the week, many nouns, diseases, trades and occupations, sciences and academic subjects. It is also often used in place of the indefinite article and instead of a possessive pronoun: the hairst (autumn), the Wadensday (Wednesday), awa ti the kirk (off to church), the nou (at the moment), the day (today), the haingles (influenza), the Laitin (Latin), The deuk ett the bit breid (The duck ate a piece of bread), the wife (my wife) etc.


Nouns usually form their plural in -(e)s but some irregular plurals occur: ee/een (eye/eyes), cauf/caur (calf/calves), horse/horse (horse/horses), cou/kye (cow/cows), shae/shuin (shoe/shoes).Nouns of measure and quantity unchanged in the plural: fower fit (four feet), twa mile (two miles), five pund (five pounds), three hunderwecht (three hundredweight).Regular plurals include laifs (loaves), leafs (leaves), shelfs (shelves) and wifes (wives).


Personal and possessive pronouns

English Scots
I, me, myself, mine, my I, me, masel, mines, ma
we, us, ourselves, our we, hus, wirsels, wir (or oorsels, oor)
you (singular), you (plural), yourself, yours, your ye, yis, yersel, yer, yer
they, them, themselves, theirs, their thay, thaim, thairsels, thairs, thair

Relative pronoun

The relative pronoun is that ('at is an alternative form borrowed from Norse but can also be arrived at by contraction) for all persons and numbers, but may be left out Thare's no mony fowk (that) leeves in that glen (There aren't many people who live in that glen). The anglicised forms wha, wham, whase 'who, whom, whose', and the older whilk 'which' are literary affectations; whilk is only used after a statement He said he'd tint it, whilk wis no whit we wantit tae hear (he said he'd lost it, which is not what we wanted to hear". The possessive is formed by adding s or by using an appropriate pronoun The wifie that's hoose gat burnt (the woman whose house was burnt), the wumman that her dochter gat mairit (the woman whose daughter got married); the men that thair boat wis tint (the men whose boat was lost).

A third adjective/adverb yon/yonder, thon/thonder indicating something at some distance D'ye see yon/thon hoose ower yonder/thonder? Also thae (those) and thir (these), the plurals of that and this respectively.

In Northern Scots this and that are also used where "these" and "those" would be in Standard English.

Other pronouns

English Scots
this, these this, thir
that, those that, thae
anyone onybody
anything ocht
nothing nocht
everyone awbody
everything awthing
both baith
each ilk
every ilka
other ither


Modal verbs

The modal verbs mey (may), ocht tae (ought to), and sall (shall), are no longer used much in Scots but occurred historically and are still found in anglicised literary Scots. Can, shoud (should), and will are the preferred Scots forms.Scots employs double modal constructions He'll no can come the day (He won't be able to come today), A micht coud come the morn (I may be able to come tomorrow), A uised tae coud dae it, but no nou (I used to be able to do it, but not now).

Negation occurs by using the adverb no, in the North East nae, as in A'm no comin (I'm not coming), A'll no learn ye (I will not teach you), or by using the suffix -na sometimes spelled nae (pronounced variously , or depending on dialect), as in A dinna ken (I don't know), Thay canna come (They can't come), We coudna hae telt him (We couldn't have told him), and A hivna seen her (I haven't seen her).The usage with no is preferred to that with -na with contractable auxiliary verbs like -ll for will, or in yes/no questions with any auxiliary He'll no come and Did he no come?.

English Scots
are/aren't are/arena
can/can't can/canna
could/couldn't could/couldna
dare/daren't daur/daurna
did/didn't did/didna
do/don't dae/dinna
had/hadn't haed/hadna
have/haven't hae/haena
might/mightn't micht/michtna
must/mustn't maun/maunna
need/needn't need/needna
should/shouldn't shoud/shoudna
was/wasn't wis/wisna
were/weren't war/warna
will/won't will/winna
would/wouldn't wad/wadna

Present tense of verbs

The present tense of verbs adhere to the Northern subject rule whereby verbs end in -s in all persons and numbers except when a single personal pronoun is next to the verb, Thay say he's ower wee, Thaim that says he's ower wee, Thir lassies says he's ower wee (They say he's too small), etc. Thay're comin an aw but Five o thaim's comin, The lassies? Thay've went but Ma brakes haes went. Thaim that comes first is serred first (Those who come first are served first). The trees growes green in the simmer (The trees grow green in summer).

Wis 'was' may replace war 'were', but not conversely: You war/wis thare.

Past tense and past participle of verbs

The regular past form of the verb is -it, -t or -ed, according to the preceding consonant or vowel:
  • hurtit, skelpit (smacked), mendit;
  • traivelt (travelled), raxt (reached), telt (told), kent (knew/known);
  • cleaned, scrieved (scribbled), speired (asked), dee'd (died).

Many verbs have forms which are distinctive from English (two forms connected with ~ means that they are variants):
  • bite/bate/bitten (bite/bit/bitten), drive/drave/driven~dreen (drive/drove/driven), ride/rade/ridden (ride/rode/ridden), rive/rave/riven (rive/rived/riven), rise/rase/risen (rise/rose/risen), slide/slade/slidden (slide/slid/slid), slite/slate/slitten (slit/slit/slit), write/wrate/written or vrit/vrat/vrutten (write/wrote/written);
  • bind/band/bund (bind/bound/bound), clim/clam/clum (climb/climbed/climbed), find/fand/fund (find/found/found), fling/flang/flung (fling/flung/flung), hing/hang/hung (hang/hung/hung), rin/ran/run (run/ran/run), spin/span/spun (spin/spun/spun), stick/stack/stuck (stick/stuck/stuck), drink/drank/drukken~drunk (drink/drank/drunk);
  • creep/crap/cruppen (creep/crept/crept), greet/grat/grutten (weep/wept/wept), sweit/swat/swutten (sweat/sweat/sweat), weet/wat/wutten (wet/wet/wet), pit/pat/putten~pitten (put/put/put), sit/sat/sutten~sitten (sit/sat/sat), spit/spat/sputten~spitten (spit/spat/spat);
  • brek~brak/brak/brokken~brakken (break/broke/broken), get~git/gat/gotten (get/got/got[ten]), speak/spak/spoken (speak/spoke/spoken), fecht/focht/fochten (fight/fought/fought);
  • beir/buir~bore/born(e) (bear/bore/borne), sweir/swuir~swore/sworn (swear/swore/sworne), teir/tuir~tore/torn (tear/tore/torn), weir/wuir~wore/worn (wear/wore/worn);
  • cast/cuist/casten~cuisten (cast/cast/cast), lat/luit/latten~luitten (let/let/let), staund/stuid/stuiden (stand/stood/stood), fesh/fuish/feshen~fuishen (fetch/fetched), thrash/thruish/thrashen~thruishen (thresh/threshed/threshed), wash/wuish/washen~wuishen (wash/washed/washed);
  • bake/bakit~beuk/bakken (bake/baked/baked), lauch/leuch/lauchen~leuchen (laugh/laughed/laughed), shak/sheuk/shakken~sheuken (shake/shook/shaken), tak/teuk/taen (take/took/taken);
  • gae/gaed/gane (go/went/gone), gie/gied/gien (give/gave/given), hae/haed/haen (have/had/had);
  • chuse/chusit/chusit (choose/chose/chosen), soom/soomed/soomed (swim/swam/swum), sell/selt~sauld/selt~sauld (sell/sold/sold), tell/telt~tauld/telt~tauld (tell/told/told), cut/cuttit/cuttit (cut/cut/cut), hurt/hurtit/hurtit (hurt/hurt/hurt), keep/keepit/keepit (keep/kept/kept), sleep/sleepit/sleepit (sleep/slept/slept).


Adverbs are usually of the same form as the verb root or adjective especially after verbs. Haein a real guid day (Having a really good day). She's awfu fauchelt (She's awfully tired).

Adverbs are also formed with -s, -lies, lins, gate(s)and wey(s) -wey, whiles (at times), mebbes (perhaps), brawlies (splendidly), geylies (pretty well), aiblins (perhaps), airselins (backwards), hauflins (partly), hidlins (secretly), maistlins (almost), awgates (always, everywhere), ilkagate (everywhere), onygate (anyhow), ilkawey (everywhere), onywey(s) (anyhow, anywhere), endweys (straight ahead), whit wey (how, why).


English Scots
above, upper, topmost abuin, buiner, buinmaist
below, lower, lowest ablo, nether, blomaist
along alang
about aboot/anent
across athort
before afore
behind ahint
beneath aneath
beside aside
between atween/atweesh
beyond ayont
from f(r)ae
into intae

Interrogative words

English Scots
who? wha?
what? whit?
when? whan?
where? whaur?
why? why/how?
which? whilk?
how? hou?

Word order

Scots prefers the word order He turnt oot the licht to 'He turned the light out' and Gie's it (Give us it) to 'Give it to me'.

Certain verbs are often used progressively He wis thinkin he wad tell her, He wis wantin tae tell her.

Verbs of motion may be dropped before an adverb or adverbial phrase of motion A'm awa tae ma bed, That's me awa hame, A'll intae the hoose an see him.


Diminutives in -ie, burnie small burn (stream), feardie/feartie (frightened person, coward), gamie (gamekeeper), kiltie (kilted soldier), postie (postman), wifie (woman, also used in Geordie dialect), rhodie (rhododendron), and also in -ock, bittock (little bit), playock (toy, plaything), sourock (sorrel) and Northern –ag, bairnag (little), bairn (child, common in Geordie dialect), Cheordag (Geordie), -ockie, hooseockie (small house), wifeockie (little woman), both influenced by the Scottish Gaelic diminutive -ag (-óg in Irish Gaelic).

Subordinate clauses

Verbless subordinate clauses introduced by an (and) express surprise or indignation. She haed tae walk the hale lenth o the road an her sieven month pregnant (and she seven months pregnant). He telt me tae rin an me wi ma sair leg (and me with my sore leg).


  • Negative na: or depending on dialect. Also 'nae' or 'y' eg. canna (can't), dinna (don't) and maunna (mustn't).
  • fu (ful): or depending on dialect. Also 'fu'', 'fie', 'fy', 'fae' and 'fa'.
  • The word ending ae: or depending on dialect. Also 'a', 'ow' or 'y', for example: arrae (arrow), barrae (barrow) and windae (window), etc.


Ordinal numbers end mostly in t: seicont, fowert, fift, saxt— (second, fourth, fifth, sixth) etc., but note also first, thrid/third— (first, third).

English Scots English Scots
one ane first first
two twa second seicont
three three third third
four fower fourth fowert
five five fifth fift
six sax sixth saxt
seven seiven seventh seivent
eight aicht eighth aicht
nine nine ninth nint
ten ten tenth tent
eleven eleiven eleventh eleivent
twelve twal twelfth twalt

Times of day

English Scots
morning forenuin
midday twal-oors
afternoon efternuin
evening forenicht
dusk dayligaun
midnight midnicht
early morning wee-oors

See also



  • Corbett, John; McClure, Derrick; Stuart-Smith, Jane (Editors)(2003) The Edinburgh Companion to Scots. Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-7486-1596-2
  • Dieth, Eugen (1932) A Grammar of the Buchan Dialect (Aberdeenshire). Cambridge, W. Heffer & Sons Ltd.
  • Eagle, Andy (2005) Wir Ain Leid. Scots-Online. Available in full at
  • Gordon Jr., Raymond G.(2005), editor The Ethnologue Fifteenth Edition. SCI. ISBN 1-55671-159-X. Available in full at
  • Grant, William; Dixon, James Main (1921) Manual of Modern Scots. Cambridge, University Press.
  • Jones, Charles (1997) The Edinburgh History of the Scots Language. Edinburgh, University of Edinburgh Press. ISBN 0-7486-0754-4
  • Jones, Charles (1995) A Language Suppressed: The pronunciation of the Scots language in the 18th century. Edinburgh, John Donald. ISBN 0-85976-427-3
  • Kay, Billy (1986) Scots, The Mither Tongue. London, Grafton Books. ISBN 0-586-20033-9
  • Kingsmore, Rona K. (1995) Ulster Scots Speech: A Sociolinguistic Study. University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0-8173-0711-7
  • MacAfee, Caroline (1980/1992) Characteristics of Non-Standard Grammar in Scotland (University of Aberdeen: available at
  • McClure, J. Derrick (1997) Why Scots Matters. Edinburgh, Saltire Society. ISBN 0-85411-071-2
  • McKay, Girvan (2007) The Scots Tongue, Polyglot Publications, Tullamore, Ireland & Lulu Publications, N. Carolina.
  • Murison, David (1977, ²1978) The Guid Scots Tongue, Edinburgh, William Blackwood.
  • Murray, James A. H. (1873) The Dialect of the Southern Counties of Scotland, Transactions of the Philological Society, Part II, 1870-72. London-Berlin, Asher & Co.
  • Niven, Liz; Jackson, Robin (Eds.) (1998) The Scots Language: its place in education. Watergaw Publications. ISBN 0-9529978-5-1
  • Robertson, T. A.; Graham, John J. (1952, ²1991) Grammar and Use of the Shetland Dialect. Lerwick, The Shetland Times Ltd.
  • Ross, David; Smith, Gavin D. (Editors)(1999) Scots-English, English-Scots Practical Dictionary. New York, Hippocrene Books. ISBN 0-7818-0779-4
  • Scottish National Dictionary Association (1929–1976) The Scottish National Dictionary. Designed partly on regional lines and partly on historical principles, and containing all the Scottish words known to be in use or to have been in use since c. 1700. Ed. by William Grant and David D. Murison, vol. I–X Edinburgh.
  • Scottish National Dictionary Association (1931–2002) Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue from the Twelfth Century to the End of the Seventh. Ed. by William A. Craigie et al., vol. I–XII Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  • Scottish National Dictionary Association (1999) Concise Scots Dictionary . Edinburgh, Polygon. ISBN 1-902930-01-0
  • Scottish National Dictionary Association (1999) Scots Thesaurus. Edinburgh, Polygon. ISBN 1-902930-03-7
  • Smith, the Rev. William Wye The four Gospels in braid Scots, Paisley 1924
  • Warrack, Alexander (Editor)(1911) Chambers Scots Dictionary. Chambers.
  • Wettstein, Paul (1942) The Phonology of a Berwickshire Dialect. Biel, Schüler S. A.
  • Wilson, James (1915) Lowland Scotch as Spoken in the Lower Strathearn District of Perthshire. London, Oxford University Press.
  • Wilson, James (1923) The Dialect of Robert Burns as Spoken in Central Ayrshire. London, Oxford University Press.
  • Wilson, James (1926) The Dialects of Central Scotland [Fife and Lothian]. London, Oxford University Press.
  • Yound, C.P.L. (2004) Scots Grammar. Scotsgate. Available in full at
  • Zai, Rudolf (1942) The Phonology of the Morebattle Dialect, East Roxburghshire. Lucerne, Räber & Co.

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