Read our dictionary below to begin understanding Scottish sayings. Scottish slang sayings can be difficult to understand but practice makes perfect.
Granted, a lot of these are not used anymore which is probably a good things.
Some of these saying are also area dependant. People in the west of Scotland tend to ditch the usual ‘eh’ and ‘ken’ used in the north and east sides of Scotland.
The Scottish dialect is so much varied from The Highlands to South Ayrshire, and from the East Coast to the West Coast. You see, people in different parts of Scotland can use different words that can mean the same thing.
Some saying are a bit confusing, even to people who stay in Scotland. For example:
“a nod’s as guid as a wink tae a blind horse”
meaning, explain yourself properly, and make your meaning clear. If you understand phrases like that, you’re halfway there! Most Scots use slang occasionally and think nothing of it. It’s only when you read some you can see how funny it is.
but read on and I guarantee you will have a laugh!
Old Scottish Sayings
- I’ll gie ye a skelpit lug! – I’ll slap you ear ear.
- Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye! – What’s meant to be will be.
- Skinny Malinky Longlegs! – Someone who is tall and skinny.
- Lang may yer lum reek! – Live long and stay healthy.
- Speak o’ the Devil! – When a person you are speaking about appears.
- Black as the Earl of Hell’s Waistcoat! – Black.
- Failing means yer playin! – When you fail at something at least you’re trying.
- Mony a mickle maks a muckle! – Saving a small amount soon builds up to a large amount.
- Keep the heid! – Stay calm, don’t get upset.
- We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns! – We’re all God’s children, nobody is better than anybody else – we’re all equal.
- Dinnae teach yer Granny tae suck eggs! – Don’t try to teach someone something they already know.
- Dinnae marry fur money! – Don’t marry for money – you can borrow it cheaper.
- Is the cat deid? – Has the cat died? Means your trousers are a bit short – like a flag flying at half mast.
- Haud yer wheesht! – Be quiet.
- Noo jist haud on! – Now just hold it, slow down, take your time.
- Hell slap it intae ye! – Means it’s your own fault.
- I’m fair puckled! – I’m short of breath.
- Do yer dinger. – Loudly express disapproval.
- Gie it laldy. – Do something with gusto.
- Ah dinnae ken. – I don’t know.
- Haste Ye Back! – Farewell saying meaning “return soon”.
- It’s a dreich day! – Said in reference to the weather, when it’s cold, damp and miserable.
- Gonnae no’ dae that! – Don’t do that.
- Pure dead brilliant – Exceptionally good.
- Yer bum’s oot the windae – You’re talking rubbish.
- Am pure done in – I’m feeling very tired.
- Am a pure nick – I don’t look very presentable.
- Ah umnae – I am not.
- Ma heid’s mince – My head’s a bit mixed up.
- Yer oot yer face! – You’re very drunk.
- Yer aff yer heid – You’re off your head – a little bit daft.
- Scran – food.
I literally scratched my head for 4 full nights trying to think of everything we say here in Scotland that is outside the realms of standard English. Bear in mind I am from Glasgow (where we don’t say ken or eh) so some meanings may be different from other parts of Scotland.
If i’ve missed any Scottish words or local words that you think I should add, bolt ya rocket! Just kidding, send them to [email protected]
Example: Aye mate, nae bother.
Translation: Yes friend, no problem.
Example: Yer just a wee bairn.
Translation: you are just a small child.
Meaning: Either and idiot or a character of a shady disposition.
Example 1: Check out that mad bampot.
Translation: Look at that shady character.
Example 2: Your a pure bampot.
Translation: You are an idiot.
Meaning: Extremely good. Can also mean eccentric.
Example 1: That weekend wiz an absolute belter.
Translation: I really enjoyed my weekend.
Example 2: You’re a belter.
Translation: You are quite exxentric.
Example: I’m getting pure blootered eh night.
Translation: I am going to be rather drunk this evening.
Example: That’s pure bogging.
Translation: That is really quite disgusting.
Example: Stop that! It’s gonnae make me boke!
Translation. Cease your actions, I am going to be sick.
Example: She was a bonny lass.
Translation: She was a beautiful woman.
Example: I canny get mad wae it the night.
Translation: I cannot partake in any activities involving alchoholic beverages this evening.
Example: That’s pure clatty.
Translation: That is rather disgusting.
Meaning: Tell tale.
Example: Dinny be a wee clipe.
Translation: Do not be a little tell tale.
Meaning: Grumpy or agitated.
Example: She’s pure grabbiit the day.
Translation: She is grumpy today.
Meaning: Usually said “good craic” meaning good fun or “what’s the craic” meaning what is happening.
Example 1: That was good craic last night, eh?
Translation: The was good fun last night, would you not agree?
Example 2: What’s the craic wae the night, we going on eh randan?
Translation: What the plan for tonight, are we going out for a lively evening?
Example: Dae ye ken wit time it is?
Translation: Do you know what time it is?
Meaning: Someone who is stupid or an idiot.
Exmple: You’re ur a pure dafty.
Translation: You are not very smart.
Exmaple: A dinnae ken if Ken kens that I Ken that Ken kens eh craic.
Translation: I don’t know if Ken knows that I know that Kens knows what’s happening.
Meaning: Idiot (see ‘Dafty’).
Example: What an edjit.
Translation: What an idiot.
Meaning: What or an invitation for someone to respond or agree.
Example: Good night last night eh?
Translation: Good night last night, would you not agree?
Meaning: Cry or crying.
Example: It wiznae funny, ah wiz pure greeting.
Translation: It was not funny, I was crying.
Example: Check that ejit out, his fringe iz pure hackit.
Tranlation: Look at that idiot, his haircut is very ugly.
Example: Haud eh door big yin.
Translation: Hold the door big fellow.
Example: Dinnae be telling yir gren havers.
Translation: Don’t tell your grandmother lies.
Meaning: Smells bad.
Example: Aht fish supper was pure hoachin.
Tranlsation: That fish supper smelled really bad.
Meaning: Literally hundreds but usually to describe a large quantity.
Example: There wiz hunners ae wee bampots up central last night.
Translation: There wiz hunners ae wee bampots up central last night.
Meaning: There was a substancial amount of shady characters up Glasgow Central Station last night.
Meaning: Someone poor. Used as an adjective, jakey means scummy.
Example 1: Look at that pure jake.
Translation: Look at that really poor person.
Example 2: Stop picking up snout ends, that’s pure jakey.
Translation: Stop picking up cigarette ends, that is really scummy.
Meaning: Know or do you know.
Example 1: ah ken.
Translation: I know.
Example 2 :Ye ken?
Tranlation: You know?
Example 1: A bonnie wee lassy.
Tranlsation: A beautiful little girl (very creepy, don’t use this when talking to strangers about their children!).
Mad Wae It
Example: Brian wiz so mad wae it last night that he winched some boggin bird.
Translation: Brian was so drunk last night that he kissed an unattractive woman.
Example: I git pure mockit climbing Ben Lomand eh day.
Translation: I got rather dirty climing Ben Lomond today.
Example: Charlotte winched a pure munter at eh dancing last night.
Translation: Charlotte kissed someone rather unattractive in a nightclub last night.
Meaning: used in parts of a sentence as, usually to interrupt with confirmation, affirmation or disapproval.
Example 1: Och aye.
Translation: I agree.
Example 2: Och, yer talking oot yer arse.
Translation: Stop, I do not believe you.
Example 2: Och, hawd yet wheest.
Translation: Stop, be quite.
Meaning: Abandon plans, stop.
Example 1: Patch aht.
Translation: “Stop that” if you are doing something annoying. “Let’s not do that” if used in the context of plans.
Example 1: Question – “ You coming eh night?” Reply – “Naw mate, am patchin”.
Translation: Question “Are you coming tonight?” Reply – “No I am going to not come”.
Meaning: Not 100%. A bit out of sorts.
Example: You’re lookin a bit peely-wally.
Translation: You are not looking 100%.
Meaning: Causing carnage under the influence.
Example: Am going oot on the randan eh night troops, yasssss!
Translation: I am going out for a few alcoholic beverages to misbehave tonight, *excited noise*.
Example: That scran Graham made us last night wiz a pure belter.
Translation: The food Graham made is last night was rather enjoyable.
Example: Went in for a nip and got patched, wiz pure scunnered.
Translation: I went in for a kiss and got rejected. I was rather disappointed.
Example: We were aw jist sitting ere chillin and Steve pure skelped him wae an avocado.
Translation: We were all just sitting there relaxing when Steven hit him with an avocado.
Example: We wur aww pure steamin last night.
Translation: We were all quite drunk last night.
Example: Look at that pure stoter tryin eh butter his toast wae a fork.
Translation: Look at that idiot trying to butter his toast with a fork.
Example: Tap aff weather.
Translation: Tops off weather. Usually 12 Degrees Celsius or higher.
Example: Awwww nawwww, we’re huvin mince and tatties eh night.
Translation: Oh no, we are having minced beef and potatoes (a common meal in Scotland) tonight.
Meaning: Dangerous or out of control.
Example 1: Gonnae stoap driving like an absolute weapon.
Translation: Can you stop driving dangerously please.
Example 2: Mate, you wur bouncing aboot eh toon last night with a cone on yer heed ya weapon.
Translation: Friend, you were running about the town centre last night with a cone on your head you wild rascal.
Example: Look aht that wee ginger dug.
Translation: Look at that small red haired dog.
Example: I hit a pure whitey last night.
Translation: I was sick last night.
Example: I didnae get a winch last night, scunnered.
Translation: I did not get a kiss last night, I am disappointed.
Meaning: Someone embarrassing.
Example: You’re a wopper pure mate, I cannae hang oot wae ye anymore.
Translation: You are an embarrassment, I don’t want to be friends anymore.
Example: Got paid eh day, F**king yaldy.
Translation: I received my wages today, I am rather exited about this.
Meaning: That or those.
Example: Look at yon woppers ere there.
Translation Look at those embarrassing people over there.
Meaning: Gang of teenagers usually focused aroung council estates/government housing areas.
Example: Wit young team ye fae.
Translation: What territorial gang do you belong to.
Using Scottish Slang and Scottish Sayings
A classic Scottish saying combining a few slang words is :
“Whit dae ye cry thon yin?”
Translates to : “What do you call that one?”
And the one I’m asked most often about is :
“It’s a braw bricht moonlit nicht the nicht”
Translates to : It’s a good (or brilliant) bright moonlight night tonight. Truth is, I’ve never heard anyone actually say this.
And here are some words that describe being drunk ……
Blootered, Steamin, Wrecked, Bladdered, Hammered, Smashed.
And here is my favorite of all the old Scottish sayings ……
When you have just said something to someone that they don’t quite believe, they are very likely to reply by saying – Aye, Right!!
Perhaps one of the most used Scottish sayings is “Auld Lang Syne” the famous song by Robert Burns sang throughout the world at New Year. The translation can be taken as “old long since” or “old long ago”.
This list is by no means comprehensive, there are hundreds of old Scottish sayings. These are just some of my favourites and I can’t think of any more just now, no doubt some will come to mind later. If there’s any you can think of, email them to me and I’ll add them 🙂