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The Scots people (Scots Gaelic: Albannach) are a nation and an ethnic group indigenous to Scotlandmarker.

An ethnic group, historically they emerged from an amalgamation of Picts, Gaels and Brythons.

In modern use, "Scottish people" or "Scots" is often used to refer to anyone born in Scotland, irrespective of ethnicity, although given the fact that Scots are by definition an ethnic group, this cannot be a strictly accurate useage. The Latin word Scoti originally applied to a particular, 5th century, Gaelic tribe that inhabited Irelandand later in history became confused with the Gaelic language until the 15th century. Today the term Scots is used to describe all Scottish people. Though usually considered archaic or pejorative, the term Scotch has also been incorrectly used for the Scottish people, but this use has been primarily by people outwith Scotland.

There are people of Scottish descent in many countries other than Scotland. Emigration, influenced by factors such as the Highland and Lowland Clearances, and the formation of the British Empire, resulted in Scottish people being found throughout the world. Large populations of Scottish people settled the new-world lands of North and South America, Australia and New Zealandmarker, with a large Scottish presence particularly noticeable in Canadamarker. They took with them their Scottish languages and culture.

Scotland has seen migration and settlement of peoples at different periods in its history. The Dalriadic Gaels, the Picts and the Britons had respective origin myths, like most Dark Age European peoples. Germanic people such as Angles and Saxons arrived beginning in the 7th century while the Norse settled many regions of Scotland from the 8th century onwards. In the High Middle Ages, from the reign of David I of Scotland, there was some emigration from Francemarker, Englandmarker and the Low Countries to Scotland. Many famous Scottish family names, including those bearing the names which became Bruce, Balliol, Murray and Stewart came to Scotland at this time.

The indigenous ethnic groups of Scotland

In the Early Middle Ages, Scotland had several ethnic or cultural groups labeled as such in contemporary sources, namely the Picts, the Gaels, the Britons, with the Angles settling in the far southeast of the country in smaller numbers. Culturally, these peoples are grouped according to language. Almost all of Scotland until the 13th century spoke Celtic languages and these included, at least initially, the Britons, as well as the Gaels and the Picts. Germanic peoples included the Angles of Northumbriamarker, who settled in southeastern Scotland, and later the Norse arriving from Norwaymarker, Ireland and Denmark etc. in the north and west.

Use of the Gaelic language spread throughout nearly the whole of Scotland by the 9th century, reaching a peak in the eleventh century.

After the division of Northumbriamarker between Scotland and England by King Edgar (or after the later Battle of Carhammarker; it is uncertain) the Scottish kingdom encompassed a great number of English people. (Contemporary populations cannot be estimated so we cannot tell which population thenceforth formed the majority.) Southeast of the Firth of Forthmarker then in Lothian and the Borders (OE: Loðene), a northern variety of Middle English, also known as Early Scots, was spoken.

Caithnessmarker and the Northern Isles were Norn-speaking. From 1200 to 1500 the Early Scots language spread across the lowland parts of Scotland between Galloway and the Highland line.

From 1500 until recent years, Scotland was commonly divided by language into two groups of people, Gaelic-speaking (formerly called Scottis by English speakers) "Highlander" and the Inglis-speaking, later to be called, Scots-speaking, and later still, English-speaking "Lowlander". Today, immigrants have brought other languages, but almost every adult throughout Scotland is fluent in the English language.

Scottish ancestry abroad

Areas with greatest proportion of reported Scottish ancestry.
Does not include those of Scots-Irish ancestry.
, Scotland has a population of just over five million people, the majority of whom consider themselves Scottish. In addition, there are many more people with Scots ancestry living abroad than the total population of Scotland. In the 2000 Census, 4.8 million Americans reported Scottish ancestry, 1.7% of the total U.S. population. Given Scotland's population (just over 5 million), there are almost as many Scottish Americans as there are native Scots living in their home country.

In Canada, according to the 2001 Census of Canada data, the Scottish-Canadian community accounts for 4,719,850 people. Scottish-Canadians are the 3rd biggest ethnic group in Canada. Scottish culture has particularly thrived in the Canadian province of Nova Scotiamarker (Latin for "New Scotland"). There, in Cape Bretonmarker, where both Lowland and Highland Scots settled in large numbers, Canadian Gaelic is still spoken by a small number of residents. Cape Breton is the home of the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Craftsmarker.

Large numbers of Scottish people reside in other parts of the United Kingdommarker and in the Republic of Ireland, particularly Ulster where they form the Ulster-Scots community. The number of people of Scottish descent in England and Wales is impossible to quantify due to the ancient and complex pattern of migration within Great Britain. Of the present generation alone, some 800,000 people born in Scotland have emigrated to either England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Other European countries have had their share of Scots immigrants. The Scots have been emigrating to mainland Europe for centuries as merchants and soldiers. Many emigrated to France, Poland , Italy and the Netherlands. Recently some scholars suggested that up to 250,000 Russians may have Scottish blood.

Significant numbers of Scottish people also settled in Australia and New Zealand. Approximately 20 percent of the original European settler population of New Zealand came from Scotland, and Scottish influence is still visible around the country. The South Islandmarker city of Dunedinmarker, in particular, is known for its Scottish heritage and was named as a tribute to Edinburghmarker by the city's Scottish founders. In Australia, the Scottish population was fairly evenly distributed around the country.

In Latin America there are notable Scottish populations in Brazilmarker, Argentinamarker, Chilemarker and Mexicomarker.

The Scots and Continental Europe


From as far back as the mid 15th century there were Scots trading and settling in Poland. A Scot's Pedlar Pack in Poland, which became a proverbial expression, usually consisted of cloths, woollen goods and linen handkerchiefs. Itinerants also sold tin and ironware such as scissors and knives. Along with the protection offered by King Stephen in the Royal Grant of 1576 a district in Krakowmarker was assigned to Scots immigrants.

Records from 1592 reveal Scots settlers being granted citizenship of Krakow giving their employment as trader or merchant. Payment for being granted citizenship ranged from 12 Polish florins to a musket and gunpowder or an undertaking to marry within a year and a day of acquiring a holding.

By the 1600s there were an estimated 30,000 Scots living in Poland. Many came from Dundee and Aberdeen and could be found in Polish towns from Krakow to Lublinmarker. Settlers from Aberdeenshire were mainly Episcopalians or Catholics, but there were also large numbers of Calvinists. As well as Scottish traders, there were also many Scottish soldiers in Poland. In 1656 a number of Scottish Highlanders who were disenchanted with Oliver Cromwell's rule went to Poland in the service of the King of Sweden.

The Scots integrated well and many acquired great wealth. They contributed to many charitable institutions in the host country, but did not forget their homeland; for example, in 1701 when collections were made for the restoration fund of the Marischal Collegemarker, Aberdeen, the Scottish settlers in Poland gave generously.

Many Royal Grants and privileges were granted to Scottish merchants until the 1700s at which time the settlers began to merge more and more into the native population. Bonnie Prince Charlie was half Polish, being the son of James Edward Stewart and Clementina Sobieska, granddaughter of Jan Sobieski, King of Poland. The City of Warsawmarker elected a Scottish immigrant Aleksander Czamer (Alexander Chalmers) as the mayor.


By 1592 the Scottish community in Rome was big enough to merit the building of Sant'Andrea degli Scozzesi. It was constructed for the Scottish expatriate community in Rome especially for those intended for priesthood. The adjoining hospice was a shelter for Catholic Scots who fled their country because of religious persecution. In 1615 Pope Paul V gave the hospice and the nearby Scottish Seminar to the Jesuits. It was rebuilt in 1645. The church and facilities became more important when James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender set his residence in Rome in 1717, but were abandoned during the French occupation of Rome in the late 18th century. In 1820, although religious activity was resumed, it was no longer led by the Jesuits. Sant'Andrea degli Scozzesi was reconstructed in 1869 by Luigi Poletti. The church was deconsecrated in 1962 and incorporated into a bank (Cassa di Risparmio delle Province Lombarde). The Scottish Seminar also moved away. The Feast of St Andrew is still celebrated there on 30 November.

Gurromarker in Italy is said to populated by the descendants of Scottish soldiers. According to local legend, Scottish soldiers fleeing the Battle of Pavia who arrived in the area were stopped by severe blizzards that forced many, if not all, to give up their travels and settle in the town. To this day, the town of Gurro is still proud of its Scottish links. Many of the residents claim that their surnames are Italian translations of Scottish surnames. The town also has a Scottish museum.

The Netherlands

It is said that the first people from the Low Countries to settle in Scotland came in the wake of Mathilda's marriage to the Scottish king, David I, during the Dark Ages. Craftsmen and tradesmen followed courtiers and in later centuries a brisk trade grew up between the two nations: Scotland's primary goods (wool, hides, salmon and then coal) in exchange for the luxuries obtainable in the Netherlands, one of the major hubs of European trade.

By 1600, trading colonies had grown up on either side of the well-travelled shipping routes: the Dutch settling along the eastern seaboard of Scotland; the Scots congregating first in Campvere – where they were allowed to land their goods duty free and run their own affairs – and then Rotterdammarker, where Scottish and Dutch Calvinism coexisted comfortably. Besides the thousands (or the estimated over 1 million) of local descendants with Scots ancestry, both ports still show signs of these early alliances. Now a museum, 'The Scots House' in Vere was the only place outside Scotland where Scots Law was practised. In Rotterdam, meanwhile, the doors of The Scots International Church have remained wide open ever since 1643.



Historically, Scottish people have spoken many different languages and dialects. The Pictish language, Norse, Norman-French and Brythonic languages have been spoken by descendants of Scottish people. However, none of these are in use today. The remaining three major languages of the Scottish people are English, Lowland Scots (various dialects) and Gaelic. Of these three, English is the most common form as a first language. There are some other minority languages of the Scottish people, such as Spanish, used by the population of Scots in Argentinamarker.

The Norn language was spoken in the Northern Isles into the early modern period — the current dialects of Shetlandic and Orcadian are heavily influenced by it, to this day.

Scottish English

After the Union of Crowns in 1603, the Scottish Court moved with James VI & I to Londonmarker and English vocabulary began to be used by the Scottish upper classes. With the introduction of the printing press, spellings became standardised. Scottish English, a Scottish variation of southern English English, began to replace the Scots Language. Scottish English soon became the dominant language. By the end of the 17th century, Scots Language had practically ceased to exist, at least in literary form. While Scots remained a common spoken language, the southern Scottish English dialect was the preferred language for publications from the 18th century to the present day.

Scots Language

Lowland Scots, also known as Lallans or Doric, is a language of Germanic origin. It has its roots in Northern Middle English. After the wars of independence, the English used by Lowland Scots speakers evolved in a different direction to that of Modern English. Since 1424, this language, known to its speakers as Inglis, was used by the Scottish Parliamentmarker in its statutes. By the middle of the 15th century, the language's name had changed from Inglis to Scottis. The reformation, from 1560 onwards, saw the beginning of a decline in the use of Scots forms. With the establishment of the Protestant Presbyterian religion, and lacking a Scots translation of the bible, they used the Geneva Edition. From that point on; God spoke English, not Scots. Scots continued to be used in official legal and court documents throughout the 18th century. However, due to the adoption of the southern standard by officialdom and the Education system the use of written Scots declined. Lowland Scots is still a popular spoken language with over 1.5 million Scots speakers in Scotland. The Scots language is used by about 30,000 Ulster Scots and is known in official circles as Ullans. In 1993, Ulster Scots was recognised, along with Scots, as a variety of the Scots language by the European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages.

Scottish Gaelic

Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language with similarities to Irish Gaelic. Scottish Gaelic comes from Old Irish. It was originally spoken by the Gaels of Dál Riata and the Rhinns of Galloway, later being adopted by the Pictish people of central and eastern Scotland. Gaelic (lingua Scottica, Scottis) became the de facto language of the whole Kingdom of Alba, giving its name to the country (Scotia, "Scotland"). Meanwhile, Gaelic independently spread from Galloway into Clydesdale. The predominance of Gaelic began to decline in the 13th century, and by the end of the Middle Ages Scotland was divided into two linguistic zones, the English/Scots-speaking Lowlands and the Gaelic-speaking Highlands and Galloway. Gaelic continued to be spoken widely throughout the Highlands until the 19th century. The Highland clearances and the Education Act of 1872, which actively discouraged the use of Gaelic in schools, caused the numbers of Gaelic speakers to fall. Many Gaelic speakers emigrated to counties such as Canadamarker or moved to the industrial cities of lowland Scotland. Communities where the language is still spoken natively are restricted to the west coast of Scotland; and especially the Hebridesmarker. However, large proportions of Gaelic speakers also live in the cities of Glasgowmarker and Edinburghmarker in Scotland. The 2001 UK Census showed a total of 58,652 Gaelic speakers in Scotland. Outside Scotland, there are communities of Scottish Gaelic speakers such as the Canadian Gaelic community; though their numbers have also been declining rapidly. The Gaelic language is recognised as a Minority Language by the European Union. The Scottish parliamentmarker is also seeking to increase the use of Gaelic in Scotland through the Gaelic Language Act 2005. Gaelic is now used as a first language in some Schools and is prominently seen in use on dual language road signs throughout the Gaelic speaking parts of Scotland. It is recognised as an official language of Scotland with "equal respect" to English.


Saint Andrew's Cross, the Scottish flag.
Saint Ninian (c. 360–432), is credited with bringing Christianity to Scotlandmarker. He was born in the Roman province of Valentia which is either modern day Galloway or Cumberlandmarker. At about the age of twenty, he went to Rome to study theology. He stayed there for fifteen years and was ordained as a Bishop by Damasus around the end of the 4th century. He was sent back to preach to his native people. He built his church in the Roman province of Valentia in the town of Leucapia, now called Whithornmarker in Galloway, Scotland. The local tribe was called the Novantes. He constructed the first church in Britain to be made of stone. He named the church Candida Casa, which means "white house". He traveled throughout Scotland, and converted the Picts (aka Caledonians) to Christianity.

In 431, Saint Palladius was sent by Pope Celestine I to be Primus Episcopus first bishop of the Scots believing in Christ. At this time, "the Scots" referred to the Gaels of western Scotland and Irelandmarker. Palladius's work is not well recorded and is often confused with Saint Patrick. Some time between 457 and 461, Palladius died. He is thought to have been laid to rest at a place called Forgund or Fordun in the village of Auchenblaemarker in the Mearnsmarker district of Scotland.

Saint Patrick (died 17 March 493), is credited with bringing Christianity to Irelandmarker and is the patron Saint of Ireland. In 563, Saint Columba (7 December, 521 – 9 June, 597) left Ireland with twelve companions and founded a church on the small island of Ionamarker. This became the central hub of Christianity in the Highlands of Scotland. Saint Margaret, Queen of Scotland, was instrumental in moving the Scottish Church closer to Romemarker. Throughout the Middle Ages, Scotland remained Roman Catholic.

Lutheran ideas were introduced to Scotland in the 16th century. Although they were initially suppressed and outlawed by the state, Protestant Presbyterianism became popular. This was the Scottish Reformation. Bolstered by reformers such as John Knox, the Reformed Church became the established church in Scotland with an act of 1560. This developed into the Presbyterian church.

Religious ideology was to be a driving force throughout the 17th century. The Covenanters were to play an important role in the wars and in the later reinstatement of Charles II. Though Charles then turned persecutor, trying to stamp out the Covenanters. Many of the Covenanters emigrated to the "new" lands of Americamarker and Canadamarker which were then seeing an influx of immigrants.

The 18th century would again see the Scottish people at war, with the mainly Catholic led Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1745. Lowland Scots tended to support the English, Protestant Hanoverian King's red coats while the Highlanders and others stood with the Jacobites against the Hanoverian forces.

The modern people of Scotland remain a mix of different religions. The Protestant and Catholic divisions still remain in the society. In Scotland the main Protestant body would be the Church of Scotland which is Presbyterian. The mother church for Presbyterians is St Giles Cathedral. In the United States, people of Scottish and Scots-Irish descent are chiefly Protestant, with many belonging to the Baptist or Methodist churches, or various Presbyterian denominations.



Science and Engineering



Golf was originated in Scotland.




Many Scottish surnames have become "Anglicised" (made to sound English) over the centuries. Davidson, Bruce (originally Brus), Campbell, Salmond, Marshall, Christie and Joy are just a few of many examples. This reflected the gradual spread of English, also known as Early Scots, from around the 13th century onwards, through Scotland beyond its traditional area in the Lothians. It also reflected some deliberate political attempts to promote the English language in the outlying regions of Scotland, including following the Union of the Crowns under King James VI of Scotland and James I of England in 1603, and then the Act of Union of 1707 and the subsequent defeat of rebellions.

However, many Scottish surnames have remained predominantly Gaelic albeit written according to English orthographic practice (as with Irish surnames). Thus MacAoidh in Gaelic is Mackay in English, and MacGill-Eain in Gaelic is MacLean and so on. Mac (sometimes Mc) is common as, effectively, it means "son of". MacDonald, MacAulay, Balliol, Gilmore, Gilmour, MacKinley, MacKintosh, MacKenzie, MacNeill, MacPherson, MacLear, MacDonald, MacAra, Craig, Lauder, Menzies, Galloway and Duncan are just a few of many examples of traditional Scottish surnames. There are, of course, also the many surnames, like Wallace and Morton, stemming from parts of Scotland which were settled by peoples other than the (Gaelic) Scots. The most common surnames in Scotland are Smith and Brown, which come from several origins each - e.g. Smith can be a translation of Mac a' Ghobhainn (thence also eg MacGowan), and Brown can refer to the colour, or be akin to MacBrayne.


The word Scotia was used by the Romans, as early as the 1st century CE, as the name of one of the tribes in what is now Scotland. The Romans also used Scotia to refer to the Gaels living in Ireland. The Venerable Bede (c. 672 or 673 – 27 May, 735) uses the word Scottorum for the nation from Irelandmarker who settled part of the Pictish lands: "Scottorum nationem in Pictorum parte recipit." This we can infer to mean the arrival of the people, also known as the Gaels, in the Kingdom of Dál Riata, in the western edge of Scotland. It is of note that Bede used the word natio (nation) for the Scots, where he often refers to other peoples, such as the Picts, with the word gens (race). In the 10th century Anglo Saxon Chronicle, the word Scot is mentioned as a reference to the "Land of the Gaels". The word Scottorum was again used by an Irish king in 1005: Imperator Scottorum was the title given to Brian Bóruma by his notary, Mael Suthain, in the Book of Armagh. This style was subsequently copied by the Scottish kings. Basileus Scottorum appears on the great seal of King Edgar (1074–1107). Alexander I (c. 1078–1124) used the words Rex Scottorum on his great seal, as did many of his successors up to and including James II.

In modern times the words Scot and Scottish are applied mainly to inhabitants of Scotland. The possible ancient Irish connotations are largely forgotten. The language known as Ulster Scots, spoken in parts of northeastern Ireland, is the result of 17th and 18th century immigration to Ireland from Scotland.

In the English language, the word Scotch is a term to describe a thing from Scotland, such as Scotch whisky. However, when referring to people, the preferred term is Scots. Many Scottish people find the term Scotch to be offensive when applied to people. The Oxford Dictionary describes Scotch as an old-fashioned term for "Scottish".

See also


  1. "That I am not exaggerating in calling the Scots people a great nation must be evident to anyone..." and also "The Scots people are a nation" from
  2. Bede used a Latin form of the word Scots as the name of the Gaels of Dál Riata. Reference: {{cite book |last=Roger Collins |first=Judith McClure |coauthors=Beda el Venerable, Bede |title=The Ecclesiastical History of the English People: The Greater Chronicle ; Bede's Letter to Egbert |publisher=Oxford University Press |year={1999} |pages=386 |id=ISBN}}
  3. Reference:
  4. Scottish people, in general, do not like being called Scotch and will only use the term when talking about a Scotch whisky. Many non-Scottish people, particularly Americans (even some of Scots descent), use the term naturally without pejorative or archaic overtones
  5. "Scotch is still in occasional contemporary use outwith Scotland"
  6. John Kenneth Galbraith in his book The Scotch (Toronto: MacMillan, 1964) documents how the descendants of 19th century pioneers from Scotland who settled in Southwestern Ontario affectionately referred to themselves as Scotch. He states the book was meant to give a true picture of life in the Scotch-Canadian community in the early decades of the 20th century.
  7. The Venerable Bede tells of the Scotti coming from Spain via Ireland and the Picts coming from Scythia.Ref:
  8. Jackson, "The Language of the Picts", discussed by Forsyth, Language in Pictland.
  10. Bòrd na Gàidhlig - History of Gaelic
  11. The Story of the Gaelic-speaking people
  12. One choice, only, was permitted from among the supplied responses and it should be noted that the numbers do not accurately reflect ethnic origin since "White Scottish" may mean anyone who is merely "White" and considers themselves Scottish.
  13. United States - QT-P13. Ancestry: 2000. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Summary File 3, Matrices PCT15 and PCT18.
  14. 2006 Canadian Census gives a total of 4,719,850 respondents stating their ethnic origin as Scottish. Many respondents may have misunderstood the question and the numerous responses for "Canadian" does not give an accurate figure for numerous groups, particularly those of British Isles origins.
  15. BBC NEWS | UK | Born Abroad | Scotland
  16. See David Armitage, "The Scottish Diaspora", particularly pp. 272–278, in Jenny Wormald (ed.), Scotland: A History. Oxford UP, Oxford, 2005. ISBN
  17. Scotland and Poland
  18. BBC - History - Scottish History
  19. Scotland on Sunday
  20. Linguistic Archaeology: The Scottish Input to New Zealand English Phonology Trudgill et al. Journal of English Linguistics.2003; 31: 103-124
  21. Scots in Argentina and Patagonia Austral
  22. Archibald Cochrane
  24. The General Register Office for Scotland (1996)
  25. Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, 1999
  26. and
  27. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language Scotch usage note, Encarta Dictionary usage note.
  28. Oxford Dictionary Definition of Scotch


  • Ritchie, A. & Breeze, D.J. Invaders of Scotland HMSO. (?1991) ISBN-X
  • David Armitage, "The Scottish Diaspora" in Jenny Wormald (ed.), Scotland: A History. Oxford UP, Oxford, 2005. ISBN
  • "Pioneers".

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