Aye Can

The Scots Language

Scots is the collective name for local Scots dialects such as 'Glaswegian', 'Aberdonian', 'Buchan', 'Dundonian', 'Ayrshire', 'Hawick', 'Shetland' and many others.  Sometimes Scots is known by more general names such as 'Scotch', 'broad or braid Scots', 'Doric' and 'Lallans'.

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 traditionally found throughout the Lowlands and Northern Isles. Scots, Gaelic and Scottish Standard English are the three indigenous languages spoken in Scotland today.

Where is Scots spoken?

Scots is a spoken language with a number of different varieties, each with its own distinctive character. Scots is spoken traditionally 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.  As people have moved around Scotland Scots has moved too, and it is spoken throughout Scotland.

Who speaks Scots?

Scots is spoken by both young and old people, and it 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 Still Game, River City, Gary Tank Commander, The Harbour, or Shetland.  You can hear it spoken on radio phone-ins, and in films like Trainspotting 2, One Day Removals, or Schemers.

Scottish Census

The census is Scotland's biggest population survey. It takes place on Sunday 20 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 14 asks about Scottish Gaelic and Scots, and people will be asked to say if they can understand Scots, speak Scots, read Scots, and write Scots. Question 16 will ask you what your main language is, if your main language is Scots tick 'other' and write 'Scots' in the space provided.  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 understand Scots, if you can speak Scots, an if your main language is Scots. In the Read Scots section you can read Scots to help you work out if you can read Scots and if you can write 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 may 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, or 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.

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.

Scots Leid

You may also have heard of this. This is a traditional name for Scots as a whole, and the word leid means language.

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 examples 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 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 in a Scots accent?

Most people in Scotland speak with a Scots accent. Speaking Scots is not the same as speaking with a Scots accent, it's the words and the phrasing that distinguish Scots speakers. To find out if you speak Scots you should take a moment to listen to people speaking Scots.