Fun Scottish Expressions and What They Mean

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Ah, Scotland. For me, the most beautiful country in the world. And Edinburgh, the capital city, is my favorite place to explore. The bagpipes, the castles, the green, green hills covered with heather in the summer and the language all pierce my heart. If you’ve ever watched the popular series Outlander, you’ve perhaps appreciated listening to the soft Scottish brogue too.

It takes me about 24 hours, in the country, to begin to understand that wonderful Scottish accent. And the phrases and slang are both endearing and amusing. Sit in a pub and listen to the locals talking to each other and you’ll understand why it’s one of my favorite things to do while touring the country.

These fun Scottish expressions and what they mean will help you decipher what’s said.

Fun Scottish Expressions title meme

Fun Scottish Expressions and What They Mean

Although the Scots speak English, their language is influenced by Gaelic, an older language that harkens back to the 13th century. Like other countries, there are different dialects present, from the northern Highlands to the southern Borders. However, all Scots are experts at turning a phrase, from humorous slang to hilarious cutting insults.

Lang may yer lum leek

While this phrase may sound inappropriate, it literally means “long may your chimney smoke”. It’s used as a toast to health, wishing one a long and healthy life.

Failing means yer playin’

An encouraging expression that means “at least you are trying”.

Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye

This expression translates to “what’s for you will no go by you”, meaning what’s meant to be, will be. I love this one.

Haste ye back

Used as a farewell, this one means “come back with speed” or “hurry back”.

Ah dinnae ken

Heard frequently in Scotland and on the series Outlander, this expression means “I don’t/didn’t know”. I use ah dinnae ken often when I’m speaking aloud to myself.

Fun Scottish Expressions Highlands
Fun Scottish Expressions – Ah dinnae ken how beautiful the Highlands are, until I traveled through them.

We’re a Jock Tamson’s bairns

This one means we are all God’s children. No one is better than anyone else. We are all equals.

Noo jist haud on

No, just hold on, meaning wait a minute, take your time or you are speaking too fast.

Is the cat deid?

This unusual expression means, “your trousers are too short”. Why, ah dinnae ken!

Haud yer wheesht

If you hear this expression, you need to shut up!

Och, it’s a dreich day

A reference to the weather, this means it’s a cold, wet, gloomy day. Scotland definitely has it’s share of dreich days.

Fun Scottish Expressions Glasgow
Fun Scottish Expressions – a dreich day in Glasgow

I’m fair puckled

I’m out of breath. Try this phrase next time you climb flights of stairs!

Gonnae no’ da that

Don’t do that!

Yer bum’s oot the windae

Literally, “your butt is out the window”. This one makes me laugh because I get such a visual image. It means you are lying or exaggerating.

Ma heid’s mince

“My head is mince”, meaning I’m a bit confused or mixed up.

Mony a mickle maks a muckle

I love this phrase too. Say it fast several times. It translates to “small amounts of savings soon build up to large amounts.” What a great saying to write on a travel savings jar!

Fun Scottish Expressions lass
Fun Scottish Expressions – this lass believes in mony a mickle maks a muckle. My heart longs to return to Scotland.

Aye mate, nae bother

Yes, friend, no problem. I absolutely love the Scottish “aye”.

That’s pure boggin

When something is boggin, it’s disgusting. That’s pure boggin means “that’s really disgusting”.

She’s a bonnie lass

You might know this one, as we use bonnie somewhat in the US. It means “she’s a beautiful woman”.

Dinnae be a wee clipe

This one means “don’t be a tattle tell”.

Yer oot yer face

Another one that makes me laugh, this one means “you are extremely drunk”.

Fun Scottish Expressions cheers
Fun Scottish Expressions – we dinnae get oot our faces in Edinburgh!

Mad wae it

This means “drunk”, as in Ian wiz so mad wae it.

Och, yer talking oot yer arse

You might guess this one! It means you are talking nonsense or making something up.

Peely-wally

This expression is used when someone doesn’t look 100% his best or seems out of sorts. Yer lookin’ a bit peely-wally.

Wur tearin’ the tartan

When enjoying a riveting, gossipy conversation, people are tearin’ the tartan.

Dinnae fash yerself

Outlander fans are familiar with this phrase. Jamie utters it to Claire frequently. It means “don’t worry yourself” as in, don’t get stressed or annoyed over a situation. Jamie calls Claire Sasanach. In case you wonder, that word translates to “English born” or it can refer to someone born in the Scottish lowlands or borders as opposed to the Highlands.

Fun Scottish Expressions Eilean Donan Castle
Fun Scottish Expressions – dinnae fash yerself when you visit Scotland

Which of the Fun Scottish Expressions is Your Favorite?

Did you pick out a favorite expressions? Truthfully, I love all of them and use several, privately. I enjoy Scottish films. The background scenery, the city shots and especially hearing the language all tug me energetically back toward Scotland.

Reading these expressions as I typed the words, I could mentally “hear” them spoken with a Scottish accent. It makes me feel homesick. I trust travel restrictions will ease someday and I’ll get back there.

I’ll leave you with one more fun phrase.

Better tae bust oot than rust oot.

Translation: Live every moment of life to the absolute fullest before you die.

Aye!

Fun Scottish Expressions flags

Other fun posts in this series:

English expressions

Irish expressions

 

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8 Replies to “Fun Scottish Expressions and What They Mean”

  1. Love all these expressions! Now I need to work on my accent to pull them off properly. What American expressions do Scottish folks think are funny?

  2. I now feel like a I need “Scottish phrase for dummies” book to understand some of the language. I’ll definitely need to study these and more before we visit.

  3. After I read the first several of these I could start hearing them in Scottish brogue in my head! It made me laugh! Haha. Thanks for sharing these. Scotland is near the top of our bucket list so I’m definitely going to pin this for the future!

  4. I’m just going to work on my accent and say these randomly around the house until I’ve perfected them, or my kids make me stop, whichever comes first. 😂

  5. I don’t have any Scottish friends, so I can’t say I’ve actually heard any of these! Very interesting read though… I like this kinda stuff! Thank you for sharing!

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