Scottish Sayings

scottish sayings

Have you ever wanted to speak like a local Scotsman? The Scottish dialect is extremely varied, with people from the Highlands sounding completely different to South Ayrshire. This also holds true for Scots from the East Coast to the West Coast.

It’s not only because of regional accents; people in different parts of Scotland use different words, which can make it feel like an entirely different language.

Read our dictionary below to begin understanding Scottish sayings and the actual meaning behind them. While Scottish slang sayings and phrases can be difficult to understand, practice makes perfect — even if you sound a little silly saying them.

Granted, a lot of these are not used anymore, which is probably a good thing, but we bet you’ll still have loads of fun trying out these Scottish words and phrases.

Some of these sayings are also area-dependent. People in the west of Scotland tend to ditch the usual ‘eh’ and ‘ken’ when saying common Scottish phrases. This also holds true for the north and east sides of Scotland

Some Scottish idioms 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”

Which means: ‘Explain yourself properly and make your meaning clear.’

If you understood that phrase, you’re more or less there! Scots will use slang words like they would standard English without any thought. It’s only when taking a step back as a Scot that you realise how bizarre some of these words and sayings are.

But read on, and I guarantee you will have a laugh!

If you are planning on booking a trip to Scotland, we have a ton of accommodation guides for you to browse. Start your search using one of the links below:

Old Scottish Sayings

Some Scottish slang phrases go back several centuries, with mixes of Gaelic, English, and even Norse. These ancient phrases aren’t the most famous Scottish phrases you may have heard in movies or on TV, but you’ll be sure to hear them in a pub or two.

  • Haste Ye Back! – Return back with speed – said as a farewell.
  • Lang may yer lum reek! – Literally meaning long may your chimney smoke, this is typically a toast to one’s health, wishing one lives long and healthy.
  • Keep the heid! – Keep your head or stay calm.
  • Hell slap it intae ye! – It’s your own fault.
  • Failing means yer playin! – Trying and failing, but at least you are trying.
  • I’ll gie ye a skelpit lug! – I’ll hit you on the ear.
  • Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye! – What is for you will not go by you, meaning, what will be, will be.
  • Skinny Malinky Longlegs! -A tall and skinny person.
  • Speak o’ the Devil! – When someone you are speaking about shows up.
  • Black as the Earl of Hell’s Waistcoat! – the colour black.
  • Ah dinnae ken. – I don’t know.
  • We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns! – Everyone is God’s children, nobody is better, everyone is equal.
  • Dinnae teach yer Granny tae suck eggs! – Stop teaching someone something they already know.
  • Dinnae marry fur money! – It’s cheaper in the long run to borrow money than marry for it.
  • Noo jist haud on! – Now, just hold it, take your time, you’re speaking too fast.
  • Is the cat deid? – Has the cat died? This means your trousers are too short, similar to “is your budgie/parrot dead?”
  • Haud yer wheesht! – Shut up.
  • Gie it laldy. – Doing something with energy or inappropriateness.
  • It’s a dreich day! – A miserable, cold, wet day in reference to the weather.
  • Mony a mickle maks a muckle! – Small amounts of savings soon build up to large amounts.
  • I’m fair puckled! – I’m out of breath.
  • Do yer dinger. – Showing disapproval.
  • Awa’ an bile yer heid. – Always boil your head. Showing extreme frustration towards someone.
  • Up tae high doh. – Flustered/agitated

My Favourite Scottish Sayings

What is the most Scottish thing to say? Well, these are my personal go-to’s and my favourite Scottish sayings that you may have heard at one point or another.

  • Gonnae no’ dae that! – Don’t do that.
  • Be happy you’re living, you’re long time dead – Find joy in life rather than be upset.
  • Pure dead brilliant – Amazing.
  • Yer bum’s oot the windae – You are lying or exaggerating.
  • Am pure done in – I am pretty tired.
  • Am a pure nick – I am not looking my best.
  • Ah umnae – I am not.
  • Whit’s fur ye’ll no go past ye – Whatever is meant to happen will happen.
  • Ma heid’s mince – My head is mince, meaning I’m a bit confused.
  • Yer oot yer face! – You’re extremely intoxicated from the effects of alcohol.
  • Yer aff yer heid – You’re off your head. You’re acting crazy.
  • T’ Auld Yin – The old one.
  • Flittin’ – Moving house.
  • Scran – food.

Scottish Dictionary – Slang

I scratched my head for four 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 Scottish sayings and meanings may be different in other parts of Scotland.

After many sleepless nights, here is an expansive collection of delightful local phrases in the Scottish language. I’m sure some of these sound like we’re talking nonsense (which is occasionally true). When you visit Scotland, however, you’ll hear these Scottish slang words from the fish and chip shop to the local pub.

If I’ve missed any Scottish words or local words that you think I should add, I’ll gie ye a skelpit lug! Just kidding, send them to I’m sure I’ve covered only just the tip of the iceberg for famous Scottish words and Scottishisms.

Looking for something on the go? Check out these pocket Scottish dictionaries if you’re on the hunt for things to say in a Scottish accent. They’re absolute ‘belters’.


Meaning: Yes.

Example: Aye mate, nae bother.

Translation: Yes, friend, no problem.


Meaning: Child.

Example: Yer just a wee bairn.

Translation: you are just a small child.


Meaning: Either an idiot or a character of a shady disposition.

Example 1: Check out that mad bampot.

Translation: Look at that shady character.

Example 2: You’re 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 eccentric.


Meaning: Drunk.

Example: I’m getting pure blootered eh night.

Translation: I am going to be rather drunk this evening.


Meaning: Disgusting.

Example: That’s pure bogging.

Translation: That’s really quite disgusting.


Meaning: Sick.

Example: Stop that! It’s gonnae make me boke!

Translation: Cease your actions, I feel sick and am going to throw up.


Meaning: Beautiful.

Example: She was a bonnie lass.

Translation: She was a beautiful woman.


Meaning: Cannot (see ‘Boggin’).

Example: I canny get mad wae it the night.

Translation: I cannot partake in any activities involving alcoholic beverages this evening.


Meaning: Disgusting.

Example: That’s pure clatty.

Translation: That is rather disgusting.


Meaning: Telltale.

Example: Dinny be a wee clipe.

Translation: Do not be a little telltale.


Meaning: Grumpy (grympy dae) or bad-tempered.

Example: She’s pure crabbit today.

Translation: She is grumpy today.


Meaning: Usually said as “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 is the plan for tonight? Are we going out for a lively evening?


Meaning: Do.

Example: Dae ye ken wit time it is?

Translation: Do you know what time it is?


Meaning: Someone who is stupid or an idiot.

Example: You’re up a pure dafty.

Translation: You are not very smart.


Meaning: Don’t

Example: 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 eejit.

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.


Meaning: Ugly.

Example: Check that ejit out, his fringe is pure hackit.

Translation: Look at that idiot; his haircut is very ugly.


Meaning: Hold.

Example: Haud eh door big yin.

Translation: Hold the door, big fellow.


Meaning: Lie

Example: Dinnae be telling yir gren havers.

Translation: Don’t tell your grandmother lies.


Meaning: Busy

Example: It wiz pure hoachin up eh toon eh day.

Translation: It was really busy in the town centre today.


Meaning: Literally hundreds, but usually to describe a large quantity.

Example: There wiz hunners ae wee bampots up central last night.

Translation: There was a substantial amount of shady characters up Glasgow Central Station last night.


Meaning: Scottish term for 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?

Translation: You know?


Meaning: Girl.

Example 1: A bonnie wee lassy.

Translation: A beautiful little girl

(Warning: This is very creepy, so maybe don’t use this when talking to strangers about their children!).

Mad Wae It

Meaning: Drunk (see ‘Blootered’).

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.


Meaning: Disgusting.

Example: Kevin mate, your breath is pure minging, Away and scran some toothpaste ya jake.

Translation: Kevin my friend, your breath smells rather unsavoury, I would advise you to go and brush your teeth, you scummy person.

Note: Minging and the noun Minger are widely used across the UK nowadays. However, both words are derived from ‘ming‘, an old Scottish word for a bad smell.

Credit: Duncan Barr – thanks for the suggestion Duncan!


Meaning: Dirty.

Example: I git pure mockit climbing Ben Lomand eh day.

Translation: I got rather dirty climbing Ben Lomond (a Munro) today.


Meaning: Ugly (see ‘Hackit’).

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 Scottish sentences, 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 yer wheest.

Translation: Stop, be quiet.


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 not going to 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*.


Meaning: Food.

Example: That scran Graham made us last night wiz a pure belter.

Translation: The food Graham made is last night was rather enjoyable.


Meaning: Disappointed.

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.


Meaning: Hit.

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.


Meaning: Drunk (see ‘Blootered’).

Example: We wur aww pure steamin last night.

Translation: We were all quite drunk last night.


Meaning: Idiot.

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.


Meaning: Top.

Example: Tap aff weather.

Translation: Perfect weather to go shirts off. Usually 12 Degrees Celsius or higher.


Meaning: Potatoe.

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.


Meaning: Wee (Note: This is a cotender for one of the most popular Scottish expressions).

Example: Look aht that wee ginger dug.

Translation: Look at that small red-haired dog.


Meaning: Sick.

Example: I hit a pure whitey last night.

Translation: I was sick last night.


Meaning: Kiss.

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.


Meaning: Excitement.

Example: Got paid eh day, F**king yaldy.

Translation: I received my wages today, I am rather excited about this.


Meaning: That or those.

Example: Look at yon woppers ere there.

Translation Look at those embarrassing people over there.

Young Team

Meaning: Gang of teenagers usually focused around 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

Try combining various Scottish words and sayings :

“Whit dae ye cry thon yin?”

Translates to : “What do you call that one?”

And one of my favourites is :

“It’s a braw bricht moonlit nicht the nicht”

This translates to : It’s a good (or brilliant), bright, moonlit night tonight. Truth is, it’s very rarely used.

Note: While it’s a beautiful phrase, it’s also one of the rare Scottish phrases to say. If you get it wrong, just be sure to try again!

And here are some Scottish terms and words to say while drunk…

Mad Wae It, Blootered, Oot The Game, Steamin, Goosed, Wrecked, Plastered, Bevied, Floored, Bladdered, Minced, Hammered, Smashed.

One of my favourite things Scottish people say is

If you are saying something unbelievable, you might get the following response – Aye, Right! You’ll hear it said when your friends are talking rubbish or aren’t making sense.

Perhaps one of the most famous Scottish sayings of all time is “Auld Lang Syne”. This was made famous by Robert Burns’ song, sung globally at New Year. The direct English translation is “Old long since” or “Old long ago”, meaning “Days gone by”. When sung at New Years, it really means “Let’s drink to days gone by”.

Check out the below pocket dictionaries. They won’t leave you ‘scunnered’:

Believe it or not, this list isn’t comprehensive. I’m sure there are hundreds of old Scottish sayings that I have missed. These are just some of my favourites, and although I can’t think of any more right now, there’s no doubt that some will come to mind later. If there’s any you can think of, email them to me, and I’ll add them.

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