What is Scots
What is Scots?
Many people have heard about the Scots language but aren't sure what it is. Scots has been spoken in Scotland for many centuries and is found today throughout the Lowlands and Northern Isles. English, Scots and Gaelic are the three indigenous languages spoken in Scotland today.
Where is Scots spoken?
Scots is mainly a spoken language with a number of different varieties, each with its own distinctive character. Scots is spoken in Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh and Aberdeen as well as in the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, central Scotland, Fife, the Lothians, Tayside, Caithness, the North East and Orkney and Shetland.
Who speaks Scots?
Scots is spoken by young and old people and is used in cities and country areas. People can have a strong emotional attachment to the language and often feel most comfortable using it amongst their friends and family.
Many people who speak Scots will speak differently when talking to strangers or in formal situations. Many people in Scotland speak both Scots and English and often use a mixture of both.
Scots was the language used by Robert Burns to write much of his poetry. Today Scots is still used by poets and writers but the places you are most likely to encounter it are in people's homes, in the streets and in the everyday life of communities all over Scotland. You will also hear Scots in TV programmes like Chewin the Fat and Gary Tank Commander and you can hear it spoken on radio phone-ins and in films like Sweet Sixteen and Neds.
The census is Scotland's biggest population survey. It takes place on Sunday 27 March and everyone is included in the once-a-decade population count.
The census asks the same questions of us all to build a reliable picture of the characteristics of people and households.
Question 16 asks about language and people will be asked to say if they can understand, speak, read and/or write Scots.
If you are uncertain how to answer these questions you can listen to people speaking Scots on this site.
Listening to these recordings will help you work out if you can speak and understand Scots. In the Read Scots section you can try reading Scots.
Some Scots words
Here are some Scots words. You will hear them used all over Scotland. Bairn, wean, dreich, brae, heid, doon, aboot, cooncil, hoose, lang, eejit, glaikit, bonnie, ken, fitba, lad, lass, stooshie, stramash, faither, mither, maw, paw. People who speak Scots use lots of these words and words like them.
Other names for Scots
There are lots of names for Scots dialects. You'll hear them used far more often than the word Scots. Some of the names you may have heard are Glaswegian, Dundonian, Doric, Borders, Fife, Buchan, Caithness, Orcadian and Shetland. These names are usually connected to a place and you may have your own local name for the way you speak. These local ways of speaking are called dialects. Together these dialects are called Scots.The dialects described below are some of the best known and most distinctive. There are many other dialects of Scots which you can read about in Listen to Scots.
Glasgow Patter / Glesga Patter
Glasgow has its own dialect. Sometimes people call it the Glasgow or Glesga Patter. The dialect spoken in Glasgow is distinctive and colourful but it is still a form of Scots.
Doric is the name many people give to the dialect spoken in Aberdeen and North East Scotland. The way of speaking in this region is very distinctive but it is still a form of Scots.
Orkney and Shetland
People from Orkney and Shetland often speak with distinct dialects and accents. These ways of speaking are usually referred to as Orcadian / Orkney and Shetland / Shetlandic. Many experts consider these ways of speaking to be forms of Scots.
Scotch, Broad Scots, Lallans
Some older people call the language Scotch and sometimes you will hear people talking about broad Scots, braid Scots, the guid Scots tongue or Lallans. These are not separate languages they are just different ways of talking about the same thing - Scots.
Slang, Scottish Slang
Sometimes people call the way they speak slang or Scottish slang. Often people actually mean Scots but may not have heard of the term or aren't sure what it means. If you're not sure if you speak Scots listen to the audio clips to hear people speaking the language.
I'm not sure if I speak Scots - what should I do?
The easiest way to find out if you speak Scots is by listening to people speaking the language. Take a moment to click on the map and listen to people from around Scotland speaking Scots. If you live in one of the big cities, the North East, the Borders, central Scotland, Fife, Dumfries and Galloway or Caithness, Orkney and Shetland you should recognise some of the ways of speaking that you hear. You probably won't find anyone speaking exactly like you as not every way of speaking is represented.
Is Scots the same as speaking with a Scottish accent?
Most people in Scotland speak with a Scottish accent. Speaking Scots is not the same as speaking with a Scottish accent. To find out if you speak Scots you should take a moment to click on the map and listen to people speaking Scots.
- more on Shetland
- more on Orkney
- more on Caithness
- more on North East
- more on Angus
- more on East Central
- more on West Central
- more on Galloway
- more on Borders
- more on Fife
Click on the map to
listen to Scots voices
from around the country