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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. Andrews chapter.

Many of the words used in the everyday language of Scottish people originate from Scots, a language over 600 years old that was commonly spoken by lowland Scots in the Middle Ages. However (for all you history lovers), the Scots language became more anglicised from around the 17th century onwards, as a result of the Union of Crowns. Consequently, the Scots language diminished in Scotland, yet some Scots words stood the test of time.  

Despite Scottish people no longer speaking like a Robert Burns poem or like Jamie from Outlander, they still have an array of Scots words sprinkled throughout their vocabulary as well as a few more modern additions. Some are easy to figure out the meaning of, yet others seem to be something of an enigma to those originating near and far from Scotland. 

Here are 12 Scottish slang words to spruce up on your Scottish jargon:

  1. Aye!: Starting off easy, “Aye” simply means “Yes”. “Did you get a haircut?” “Aye!”
  1. Peely Wally: Meaning to appear pale, usually used to describe someone feeling under the weather. “I am so peely wally because of freshers’ flu.”
  1. Bunker: A very debatable word that may only originate from some regions of Scotland meaning countertop or worktop. PSA: Not to be confused with a bunker used to hide in during a zombie apocalypse. “Please can you take your bag off the bunker?”
  1. Crabbit: Meaning angry or mad. “My flatmates were so crabbit today because I forgot to empty the dishwasher.”
  1. Scunnered: To be fed up, annoyed or let down. “She was so scunnered that she missed the Eras Tour presale.” 
  1. Heaving: Meaning something is very busy. “Shawarma was heaving last night after the Opening Ball.” 
  1. Boggin’/Mingin’/Howfin’: An array of words all meaning “disgusting.” “Your flat is absolutely mingin/boggin/howfin.”
  1. Boak: Similar to the previous words but means to vomit or can be used to describe something as disgusting. FYI: Adding the word ‘dry’ in front of boak really adds to the Scottish essence. “That chicken is really giving me the dry boak!” or “I was boaking all night.”
  1. Sleekit: Meaning sly or cunning. “She is as sleekit as a fox.”
  1. Gaff: A term used for a house, flat, apartment or just a place where you live. A ‘gaff’ can also be used as a term for simply a house party- “gaff at mine tomorrow?”
  1. Blether: A word used for a chat or to describe someone who chats a lot- “she is an absolute blether; she never stops talking,” or, “we had a blether after our lecture this morning.”
  1. Patter/Banter– Slang for humour or good time, this word is usually used in a joking manner- “the patter was incredible last night, 10/10 banter.”

So, the next time you find yourself inside a wee Scottish souvenir shop either in St Andrews or in one of the multitude on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, keep this article in mind as you buy a very patriotic mug or coaster. Also, keep this article in mind the next time you are at a ‘gaff’; impress your Scottish friends by immersing yourself in the Scottish lingo and patter. This is your sign to incorporate more Scottish words into your vocabulary!

Emma Davies

St. Andrews '26

Hi! I'm Emma and I am a second year student studying Modern History at the University of St Andrews. I am from a small town in Scotland and I enjoy art, fashion and listening to music.