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Okay, so you’re keen to learn how people talk in Scotland, but don’t know where to start? Well don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Here are 10 words that you should find useful no matter where you are. 

1. Aye

Speaker: Robert – lives in Lanarkshire, age group 55-64
Speaker: Jennifer – lives in Midlothian (grew up in Ayrshire), age group 45-54

Aye, pronounced like the English word “eye”, means yes. That’s all there is to it really! If you ask a question and hear someone replying with “aye” then you know that they must be agreeing with whatever you said.

Example Conversation:

Scottish ExampleSimple English
A: Is it windy out today?Is it windy outside today?
B: Aye, it is, aye.Yes, it is.
A: Alright, nae bother.Okay, that’s fine.

2. Naw

Speaker: Robert – lives in Lanarkshire, age group 55-64
Speaker: Jennifer – lives in Midlothian (grew up in Ayrshire), age group 45-54

So if the first word meant yes, you can probably guess what this one might be. That’s right: naw, generally pronounced in a similar way to the words “saw” or “paw”, means no. 

Example Conversation:

Scottish ExampleSimple English
A: Did ye see ma gloves?Did you see my gloves?
B: Naw, I didnae, how?No I didn’t, why?
A: I’m just wanting to find them.I just want to find them.

3. Wee

Speaker: Robert – lives in Lanarkshire, age group 55-64
Speaker: Jennifer – lives in Midlothian (grew up in Ayrshire), age group 45-54

Possibly the most famous word from modern day Scottish vocabulary!

Don’t get confused: most of the time, this isn’t another word for peeing or urinating (though you can use it that way too)! “Wee” in fact just means small or tiny.

Example Conversation:

Scottish ExampleSimple English
A: Do you like ma new earrings?Do you like my new earrings?
B: Aye, they’re nice, but a bit wee.Yes, they’re nice, but a bit small.
A: Ken aye, but they’re bonnie, no?I know right, but they’re pretty, aren’t they?

You’re also likely to hear “wee” used in the phrase “a wee bit”. This means the same as “a little bit”. 

Example Conversation:

Scottish ExampleSimple English
A: What’s the weather like th’day?What’s the weather like today?
B: Not great. It’s a wee bit dreich oot.Not great. It’s a little bit gloomy* outside.

*Gloomy is just one possible translation of “dreich”. For more informantion on this, and a whole bunch of other weather words, check out our Weather Starter Pack.

4. Yous/Youse/Yis

Speaker: Robert – lives in Lanarkshire, age group 55-64
Speaker: Jennifer – lives in Midlothian (grew up in Ayrshire), age group 45-54

Have you ever felt frustrated that in English there’s no way to pluralise “you”? What are you meant to do when you’re trying to make it clear that you’re talking to multiple people at once? 

Don’t worry, Scotland has the answer! Yous (or youse, or yis – there is no standard spelling) is simply the plural version of the word “you”, done in the classic fashion of sticking an “s” sound on the end.

Example Conversation:

Scottish ExampleSimple English
A: Are yous listening to me?Are you all listening to me?
B: Aye.Yes.
C: Aye, on ye go.Yes, go on.

You may notice that different spellings of the word “you” are also used in Scotland, as seen in this example.

5. Folk

Speaker: Robert – lives in Lanarkshire, age group 55-64
Speaker: Jennifer – lives in Midlothian (grew up in Ayrshire), age group 45-54

You may have heard this word before. For example, in the USA and some parts of England, it is common to refer to a group of people as “folks”. But in Scotland we drop the “s”, making “folks” into “folk”. 

This word can be used whenever you are talking about multiple people. This makes it different from “youse”, which is used when talking to multiple people.

Example Conversation:

Scottish ExampleSimple English
A: Were folk out last night?Did people go out last night?
B: Aye, a few folk were.Yes, a few people were.
A: Nice. Hope youse had a gid time!That’s nice. Hope you all had a good time!

6. Bairn or Wean

Speaker: Robert – lives in Lanarkshire, age group 55-64
Speaker: Robert – lives in Lanarkshire, age group 55-64

Two for the price of one this time! Depending on where you are in Scotland you may hear either bairn or wean used more often. However, they both mean the same thing: “child” or “children”. 

Bairn is generally used more in the South East of Scotland (and the North East of England) while wean is more common on the West Coast of Scotland. 

Example Conversation:

Scottish ExampleSimple English
A: How’s the new bairn getting on?How is your new child (baby) doing?
B: Aye, not so bad, and your wee wean?Not too badly. How’s your little kid?
A: He’s a handful, but a’m coping.He’s a lot of work, but I’m coping.

7. How?

Speaker: Robert – lives in Lanarkshire, age group 55-64

You might be wondering right now: “‘How?’ I already know that word! What’s different about that?” But here in Scotland we like to use “how” for more than one thing. 

Usage 1: “By What Means?”

The first use is one you will probably already know, as it is just the same as in standard English.

Example Conversation

Scottish ExampleSimple English
A: How did youse get to the hospital?How did you [plural] get to the hospital?
B: By bus.By bus.

Usage 2: “Why?”

However, you will also hear the word being used to mean “why?”

Example Conversation

Scottish ExampleSimple English
A: Gonnae tidy yer room.Go and tidy your room.
B: How?Why?
A: It’s a guddle, that’s how!It’s a mess, that’s why!

8. Ta and Cheers

Speaker: Robert – lives in Lanarkshire, age group 55-64
Speaker: Robert – lives in Lanarkshire, age group 55-64

Another two for the price of one at number eight! Both “ta” and “cheers” are quick, fairly informal ways of saying “thank you”. 

These two words are common not only in Scotland, but also elsewhere in the UK, making them really useful both here and if you feel like travelling a bit further!

Example Conversation:

Scottish ExampleSimple English
A: That’s a lovely new dress.That’s a lovely new dress.
B: Aww ta, yer looking good yerself.Aww thanks, you look good too.
A: Cheers pal!Thanks pal (friend)!

If you hear “cheers” and think of drinking alcohol, you’re not wrong! In Scotland, you can say “cheers” for this situation as well. However, you might also want to try saying “slàinte”, which is the Gaelic word for “cheers”.

Listen to some recordings of the words “slàinte” on Forvo.

9. Dinnae

Speaker: Robert – lives in Lanarkshire, age group 55-64

When you first see this word, you might be a little confused, but dinnae (don’t) worry! Try thinking of the “di” part as meaning “do” and the “nae” part as meaning “not” and you should be able to remember that it means “do not”.

Example Conversation:

Scottish ExampleSimple English
A: Are ye wanting some fid?Do you want some food?
B: Naw ta, I dinnae.No thanks, I don’t.
A: Nae worries.No problem.

10. Cannae

Speaker: Robert – lives in Lanarkshire, age group 55-64

So if “dinnae” means “don’t” then you might be able to guess that “cannae” means “can’t”. In the same way, the word is made up of “can” and “nae” meaning “no” or “not”. 

Dinnae and cannae are just two of the most common examples of “nae” words in Scottish dialect, so watch out for “nae” turning up elsewhere!

Example Conversation:

Scottish ExampleSimple English
A: I cannae see the sign.I can’t see the sign.
B: Ye cannae? Ah’ll read it then.You can’t? I’ll read it then.
A: Cheers mate!Thanks mate (friend)!

Now that you have these 10 (well technically 12!) words ready to go, we hope you’ll be keen to get out and chat like a local!

If you are curious to keep learning, click here.