An English Girl In Scotland: Scottish Slang

Carley's An English Girl In Scotland

You all should be aware by now of my attempt to document my thoughts about what it’s like to be an English girl, living in Scotland. One of the things which I’ve laughed at most during my 6 years, and particularly since meeting Stacey, is the Scottish slang which is used from time to time. Now, I’m not talking about the general words which most people attribute to Scots – ‘wee’ or ‘hen’ – but what about ‘piece’, ‘glaikit’ or ‘baffies’? I didn’t think so…

Stacey has somewhat of a unique heritage, as her mother is English and her dad’s Scottish; for the first few years of her life she lived in Aberdeen, so she has a hybrid Scottish accent and uses a number of strange Scottish terms – some from her grandmother, some from her dad and uncles. I continue to be entertained by so many of these words which she uses on a semi-regular basis.

Now, local dialects and vernaculars are something that isn’t new to me – in my school days in Essex, slang changed on pretty much a daily basis (Day to day use eye masks amazon for my days at school). For us, ‘getting off with’ someone meant kissing them, whilst ‘getting with’ them was something slightly more intimate. When I studied, things were ‘kool’ – by the time my brother was at the same school as me, he was calling them ‘phat’. ‘Mate’ and ‘bruv’ were both regular phrases in this arsenal, whilst I called my friends ‘babe’ or ‘hun’.

Stacey has just told me that when she was at school, a greeting was most likely to be ‘alright lads’ to a group of people, but she wasn’t opposed to greeting her best friends with ‘alright fannybaws’. Now lets break this down – ‘fanny’ is an often used term in Scots dialect – literally, it obviously refers to a female body part and is most often used as an insult, particularly when someone does something idiotic, rather than something malicious. Baws, I hope, is obvious.

Here’s a list of some of the most common Scottish slang words that Stacey uses – note, this is a pretty subjective list – some of out other friends use totally different words! We may try and add to this list in future – so if you have any requests for words you’ve heard but never understood, leave a comment below!

Stacey’s List of Scots Slang

Three pairs of shoes - 1 pair brogues, 1 pair sneakers and 1 pair ballet shoes - on Canal Street, Manchester

baffies (n. pl.) slippers, but I call slip-on (ballet pump) style shoes baffies because they provide the same amount of support/warmth/protection as a pair of slippers

blether (n. or v.) chat, usually of no importance, but for a considerable length

haver (n. or v.) to speak lies or nonsense e.g. “He was full of havers” or “Don’t haver!”

“haud yer wheesht!” = “be quiet”; equally just “wheesht”

Fleshmarket Close, Edinburgh, Scotland
A alleyway off Market Street, Fleshmarket Close is also the title of one of the Rebus books by Ian Rankin

close (n.) alleyway; narrow corridor between buildings or houses

sleekit (adj.) sly/deceitful; most famously used in the opening line of Robert Burns’ “To  A Mouse”

jakey (adj.) shady; ‘chav like’; unsavoury; used to describe people, particularly the sort to go on Jeremy Kyle

bam (or bampot) (n.) person who’s a bit of a waste of space; used in conjunction with jakey, i.e. “jakey bam”

Picture of slightly baffled dog wrestling with a toy
Manuka; a Glaikit Dog.

glaikit (adj.) daft or dim; harmlessly stupid

bairn (n.) usually a baby or small child, particularly of primary school age; can also be used mildly offensively to describe anyone younger than yourself

scriech (v. or adj.) to cry or to wail; for example “scrieching bairns” = crying children

loon (n.) male youth; predominantly used in the North East of Scotland

quine (n.) female youth; predominantly used in the North East

“fit like?” = literally “what like?”, which means “how are you?”; predominantly used in the North East

dyke (n.) wall

Picture of old and new street name of Butts Wynd in St Andrews Scotland

wynd (n.) used in street names; e.g. in St Andrews, Butts Wynd is the name of a close (see above)

pridefu (adj.) stuck up; snobbish

poke (n.) small bag, usually made of paper; but also commonly used in “a poke of chips”, referring to a cone-shaped container (see below)

Chip cones, made of newspaper
A cone of chips, known as a “poke”

plook (n.) pimple; spot

stookie (n.) plaster cast used for broken bones

This a very short Scottish slang dictionary, and we hope it’s helpful! It must also be noted, however, that different regions have different words and meanings for things – these are just words Stacey uses, and it’s by no means definitive!

Carley (with assistance from Stacey…)

PS. In case you were wondering, a piece is the Scottish term for a sandwich – no, I don’t get it either!


10 Comment

  1. Sarah says: Reply

    Wow this post served to educate L :) When I took her to visit my Aunt in Aberdeen and I left her to get her haircut I forgot that she might need a translator! Supposingly it took some time to work out that her shed was on her head and not in the garden! And that she ‘stayed’ in London not at my Aunt’s house. Then the ‘how’ and ‘why’ confusion kicked in. All was resolved by the end of the day with a battered mars bar – I still haven’t found a chip shop down here willing to create the master piece :)
    S xo

    1. Carley says: Reply

      This is brilliant you two! Made me laugh so much! The next one of these I do is about food… Stacey lives a nice deep fried pizza… I’m not a fan though! Xx

      1. Stan says: Reply

        Piece comes from play-piece. This was a snack a snack you took to school to have at play-time. Play time was a 20-30 minute break at about 10am. Does that help?

  2. Lucy says: Reply

    This is poignant and lovely. Thanks so much. I was a school girl in St Andrews, very unhappily I’m afraid, deeply depressed and unable to quite achieve enough self respect to survive except in a most desultory way. I’m now writing a PhD about it! (well, kind of about it, also about the environmental crisis). I wish you every success!

    1. Carley says: Reply

      Thank you so much for your comment; I adored St Andrews, but the town does manage to feel very small, very claustrophobic at times. I hope your PhD is a success!

  3. David says: Reply

    It might surprise you to learn that most of the examples of Scottish slang that you posted on here are more or less exactly the same as in Northern Ireland. It’s the result of the close ties between the north of Ireland and especially the west of Scotland. In the distant past it was actually easier to reach Scotland from NI by boat than to travel inland by poor or non existent roads and vice versa. So if you decide to visit us over here you will feel right at home.

  4. isabel says: Reply

    The word piece for a sandwich is self-explanatory. It simply refers to a piece (slice) of bread with jelly or meat on it.

  5. Nikki says: Reply

    Also a ‘Funcy piece’ is a piece of cake or a nice biscuit.

    And I recently discovered from a friend thats from John o groats that a seagull is a Scorrie up there!

  6. The word “piece” for sandwich amused me. I’m originally from Middlesex (now “West London”) and still trying to find my mother’s beloved Scottish ancestry back through south Wales possibly to Banff (her maiden name was Anderson), but when I moved to Southampton in the 1980s I discovered that in Hampshire a “piece” is a (rather demeaning, I thought) slang word for woman or girl! Men, of whatever age, were “nippers”, which in London was only used for a young boy!
    So, “Watcha, nipper, did ya pull that piece yesterday?” No wonder foreigners get confused!

  7. margaret rooney says: Reply

    My parents were scottish, i was born in Australia. I spoke scottish till i went to school ,because i was laughed at for the scottish words i used,I learnt how to speak aussie fast .But then i had to translate for my mum.Piece was the funny one ,id bring friends home and mum would say do you want a piece,and they would say no thanks, i thought it was because they didnt want one .My mum has been gone nearly 8 years .Thanks for the memories this has call to mind.

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