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Tap 10 wirds the Scots language haes gien the warld

The fowk o Scotland haes aye haed a wey wi wirds, frae the poyetry o the 15t an 16t centuries tae the ‘Scottish people Twitter’ o the day. Sae it’s nae surprise that ower the centuries the Scots language haes gien the warld some braw wirds. Here’s oor tap ten (in nae particular order).

1. Wow

The exclamation ‘wow’ is first encoontert in Gavin Dooglas’s Eneados, a 1513 translate intae Scots o Virgil’s lang-form Laitin poyem Aeneid. It appears in the prologue o the saxt beuk:

All is bot gaistis and elrich fantasyis,
Or browneis and of bogillis ful this buke:
Owt on thir wandrand speritis, wow! thou cryis;

Haein a deek at the OED, it seems English didna borrae the wird frae Scots till the late 19t century. The day, o coorse, it’s uised aa ower the warld. Cheers, Gav.


2. Cosie/cosy

Cosie — tae mean ‘warm an comfortable, weel-happit’ — appeared first in the late 17t century (as ‘colsie’), in a sermon by a minister caad William Guthrie (in the line ‘When Israel was Colsie at Home.’1).

Allan Ramsay uises it nixt, in his poyem The Last Speech of a Wretched Miser (1728):

To keep you cosie in a hoord,
This hunger I with ease endur’d;
And never dought a doit afford
To ane of skill,
Wha for a doller might have cur’d
Me of this ill.

The wird effeired first tae fowk, syne in the late 18t century tae places an aa. It wis borrit intae English in the 18t century.


3. Blackmail

Blackmail — ‘the action o demandin siller frae a body in return for no giein awa compromisin information ye hae aboot them’ — is a Scots wird that first appeared in 1530, in the sense o ‘a peyment exactit or made in return for giein bield frae skaith; a illegal exaction’:2

Adam Scot of Tuschelaw, convicted of art and part of theftuously taking black-maill … from John Brovne of Hoprow;

Here’s anither quote, frae The Catechism of John Hamilton, Archbishop of St Andrews, (1551):

Quhay takis ouer sair mail, ouer mekle ferme or ony blak maillis fra their tennands, or puttis thair cotarris to ouir sair labouris, quhair throw the tenentis and cottaris is put to herschip

The verb appears first in American English.


4. Pernickety

Pernickety is a 19t century Scots wird meanin ‘tae be particular, tae tak ower meikle tent o maiters minor or fouterie’; or tae refer tae a task at’s fashious or is requirin close attention. In Scots it can refer an aa tae a body at’s ill-naiturt an carnaptious. The American English mak o the wird is persnickety.

The earliest kythin leuks tae be frae a 19t century fictional character, creatit by the author John Wilson, at’s haein a bit girn aboot the English:

I maun confess that I like the Englishers, if they wadna be sae pernicketty about what they eat.


5. Convene

Convene — ‘tae come or bring thegither for a meetin or activity; tae forgaither’ — isna sae meikle a innovation o the Scots language as it is liftit frae aither the French convenir or the Laitin convenīre. Baith Scots an English borrit a rowth o wirds frae French an Laitin, but Scots got there first wi convene, in 1429:3

It is accorded that four persones of either partie … shall convene and assemble togidder;

An this is frae a bit legislation, datit 1458, in the auld Pairlament:

And thir persois to be chargyt be the kingis lettres to convene in the tyme of the nixt chekare in the place quhare the chekare is haldin or ony wthir place sene speidfull till our soverane lorde to commone and prowyde apon the matir of the mone for the profet of the realme.

It appeared in English in 1513.4


6. Uncanny

Uncanny — meanin ‘oorie, unco, bodefu’ — is a Scots wird at haes the original meanin o ‘malicious, dangerous, mistimeous, threitenin’. It appears first in John Leslie’s The Historie of Scotland (1596), translatit frae Laitin intae Scots by James Dalrymple, in the sense o ‘mischievous’:

Sum now, vncannie sawers, sew sum causes of contentioun betuene the Chanceller and the Gouemour; quhairthrouch into twa factiounis tha drew schortlie, and tua pairties, baith potent; The chanceller throuch dignitie of the king, in the castel of Edinburghe […]


7. Weird

A wird o Germanic strynd common in Auld English, ‘weird’ in its modren meanin — ‘something supernatural, unyirdly; gey strange, bizarre’ — can be traced back tae Scots. As a noun it appears first in Scots in Barbour’s The Brus (1375), in the sense o ‘destiny, fate’:

Thai travaillyt for to sauff thar lyffis
Bot werd that till the end ay dryvis
The warldis thingis sua thaim travaillyt
That thai on twa halfys war assailyt

It appears as a adjective first (in aither language) in The Scottish Trojan War manuscript (c1400):

Vþeris said sche was, I trow, A werde-sister, I wait neuir how;

Syne it kythes in The Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland, by Androw of Wyntoun (c1420), ance again in the phrase ‘weird sister’:

In till a leysh had grewhundys twa,
He thowcht quhile he was swa syttand,
He sawe thre wemen by gangand,
The thai wemen than thowcht he,
Thre werd Systrys mast lyk to be;

By the 16t century the wird haed dee’d oot in English, but wis re-introduced by William Shakespeare in Macbeth (c1603–1607), at featurt the Weird Sisters characters. The modren meanin o the wird cam frae Shakespeare’s uissage bein reinterpret efterhaund.


8. Gumption

Gumption — at the OED defines as ‘[c]ommon sense, mother wit, shrewdness. Also, initiative, enterprise, “drive”’ — is a 18t century Scots wird, appearin first in a 1719 Allan Ramsay poyem caad ‘Epistle II’:

What tho’ young empty airy sparks
May have their critical remarks
On thir my blyth diverting warks;
’Tis sma’ presumption,
To fay they’re but unlearned clarks,
And want the gumption.


9. Glamour

Glamour — the day meanin ‘chairm, allure, beauty’ — is originally Scots in the sense o ‘magic, enchantment, witchcraft’, an is a altert mak o ‘grammar’ (‘the rules o language’). The earliest kythin we ken o is frae Alexander Pennecuik in his A Geographical and Historical Description of the Shire of Tweeddale (1715):

Albeit the webster have the glamer,
There are even richer men nor he,
That keep me in their chiefest chamber.

The wird wis made popular by Walter Scott in the 19t century (guid on ye, Wattie), an teuk on its current meanin, in baith Scots an English, in the 20t century.


10. Raid

A raid — ‘a rapid surprise attack on a fae by sodgers, aircraft, or ither airmed forces’ — comes frae a Scots variant o ‘road’ in the sense o ‘a vaige on horseback, a foray’. The OED haes it first appearin in the sense o ‘a incursion’ in a 1455 Act o [the Scots] Pairlament:

Item it is ordanyt that quhaso ony radis ar maide in Inglande that thir saide statutis be deliviryt to the hedis men and at opinly thai ger thame be maide knawin till all thame that passis with thame that nane of thame excuse or assonye th[rough] necligensse, etc.

The DOST in fact lists Wyntoun’s Cronykil (c1420) as the earliest soorce:

Syne efftyrwart a rade off were
He made wyth displayid banere,
Qwhare the knychtis, that he had made,
Owtwartis to wyn thare schone than rade
Wyth a rycht sturdy cumpany.

The noun gaed oot o fashion in Scots frae the end o the 16t century but wis brocht back by Walter Scott in the early 19t century, an syne frae the mid-19t century it becam a verb, tae.5


The’r mair!

Here’s a list o a wheen ither wirds that is frae Scots, tae:

  • pony
  • scone
  • guffaw
  • registration
  • firth
  • golf
  • (golf) links
  • mingin(g)
  • caddie
  • high jinks
  • wizened
  • lilt
  • rampage
  • clunk
  • pinkie
  • eldritch
  • stymie
  • slogan (at Scots borrit frae the Gaelic sluagh-ghairm)
  • scrimp
  • swirl
  • hunkers
  • feckless
  • kerfuffle
  • croon
  • stalwart
  • eerie
  • forbear
  • Sweden (the kintra name; Swades: Sverige)
  • yank
  • spate
  • wraith
  • numpty
  • jiggery-pokery (frae the Scots ‘joukery-pawkery’)
  • ploy

Update, 14 Dec

Some ithers I fund…

  • relevant (frae the Laitin)
  • irrelevant (borrit frae French an in uiss in Scots ower 200 year afore English)
  • flat (‘a set o rooms on the ae fluir makkin up a dwellin ithin a larger biggin’)
  • croup (medical term)
  • flunkey
  • outcome
  • tee (as in golf)
  • shortcoming
  • fogie
  • heckle (‘tae interrupt, e.g. a politician; tae fash a body wi questions’)
  • dinky (‘neat, trim’)
  • pet (‘a domesticatit animal’, frae the Gaelic peata)

Ken ony mair? Lat us ken in the comments ablo.

Bibliography an fitmerks

  1. Scrievin in Scotland wis muivin mair an mair tae English by this pynt, syne ye hae Home insteid o Hame.
  2. Source: Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland from AD 1488 to AD 1624, embracing the entire reigns of Mary Queen of Scots, and James VI; compiled from the original records and MSS…by Robert Pitcairn. Pitcairn, Robert (ed.); Tait, Edinburgh, 1833. (via DOST)
  3. In Foedera, conventiones, literae et cujusconque generis acta publica, inter reges Angliae, et alios quosvis imperatores, reges, pontifices, principes, vel communitates, ab ineunte saecula duodecimo..ad nostra usque tempora, habita aut tractata. Rymer, Thomas, 1641–1713 and Sanderson, Robert; A. and J. Churchill, London, 1704–35.
  4. As tae whither English got the wird frae Scots, or French/Laitin, I dinna think we can be shuir.
  5. The noun leuks tae hae first appeared in English in 1780, in Miscellanies of the Scottish History Society, 1283–1306: ‘Throwing society out of its calm & proper order into nocturnal “raids” and various irregularities.’