Posted by: Andrea | October 30, 2008

Strange things scottish people say

I’ve been meaning to write this list for ages and AGES.   Unfortunately, quite a few times I’ve sat down to write and when I tried to think of funny or strange sayings, I couldn’t think of anything!  It seems that after four years of living here, I’ve just gotten used to all the odd things people say every day.  I just don’t notice them anymore!  Thankfully a friend of mine and I were laughing about scottish sayings the other day and I got a bunch of good ideas!  So, without further ado…funny things scottish people say!  For a blog that’s supposed to be about my life living in Scotland, it’s about damn time.

(Also, I realize that one or two of these things might be things that British people in general say, but, well, I live in Scotland.  So I really can’t say if they’re used other places.  To me, they’re Scottish!)

Cuppa –  This is something I hear on a regular basis.  I think it’s funny and actually kind of cute.  It’s used as in ‘would you like a cuppa?’  Apparently there’s no need to clarify a cup of what exactly, because everybody knows you mean a tea or coffee.  Yes, people here love their tea and coffee.  Except it’s ALL instant coffee.  The only place you can regularly get a cup of brewed coffee is starbucks.  You’ll understand why I stick to tea.

Dookit – This is a term (also spelled doocot) that’s used at work to describe our individual mailboxes where messages and mail is kept.  It’s an old scottish term that literally means ‘pigeonhole’ in old scots.  I’ve never heard the mailboxes described as anything else and for the first year and a half of working I was completely mystified.  Where did this term come from?  What did it mean?! Am I the only one confused?!  Apparently not, since my English friend was as confused as I was.

Wee beasties – I find this term hilarious just because I think it’s so beautifully expressive.  ‘Wee beasties’ is a common term for any small annoying insect.  I’ve heard this used to describe lice, mosquitos, small bettles and anything else that invades a home or personal space and is yucky, gross or annoying.  Horrible wee beasties!

Scooby – This is rhyming slang from ‘Scooby doo’, meaning ‘clue.’  It’s mainly used as ‘I haven’t got a scooby’.  I’ve also heard the full term used a lot too, ‘I haven’t got a scooby doo’.  Even my ex-boyfriend’s mom would use this, so apparently rhyming slang is just as common in Glasgow as it is in London.

Stooky – I have NO idea where this came from, but it means a cast, as is put on a broken limb.  Makes the whole ‘breaking bones’ thing seem almost cute, with a phrase like that describing the cast.

Messages – Nope, this does not just mean ‘a short communication’!  But if you did think that, you’d be just like me.  This means shopping, or more specifically the sort of day to day food shopping that you’d do locally.  The first time I heard this I was at a visit with a client, who was describing her day to day schedule to support her dad, who had cancer.  She said she’d go out each morning to ‘pick up messages.’  I was so confused.  I kept thinking, ‘messages from whom?!’ Thank GOD I didn’t ask her that and waited until I got back to the office to ask my co-workers.  They laughed at me and then told me what it meant.  They laugh at me a lot at work.

Baltic – Very VERY cold.  Which is has been these past few days.  Perfect way to describe a miserably cold day.

Hen – This is a term of endearment for women, used very often.  I get called ‘hen’ often throughout the day by people who don’t know me at all.  In my experience, scottish people are much more likely to use endearments on a very regular basis (‘love’, ‘hen’, even ‘petal’ by one woman I work with).  I range from thinking it’s cute to being kind of annoyed.  There are definitely some people that I want to yell, ‘I am NOT your hen!’

Minging, Bogging – Gross, disgusting, smelly.  ‘Minging’ is generally used more to describe a person, while ‘bogging’ is more about a location (‘his house was bogging’).  Though it can be used to describe a person, if it means that his physical person is very dirty (often used a work, because some of our clients haven’t quite learned the nuances of doing their laundry and taking showers).  ‘Minging’ is more to describe a person who is very physically unattractive.  There have been too many nights out at the pub where all the guys were just minging.  Definitely an unfortunate night out when that happens.

Hee haw’ – I think this phrase is the funniest because I actually remember the show ‘Hee Haw’ when it was on tv when I was a kid.  This doesn’t have anything to do with that, but I always think of it when I hear the term.  This means ‘nothing’, like ‘I went shopping but I got hee haw.’

How no?’ – This phrase means ‘why not?’  As in, ‘I don’t like that.’  ‘How no?’  I’ve heard ‘how’ used interchangeably with ‘why’, though not everyone uses this.  A lot of these phrases or terms are used depending on where people come from.

‘That’s me’ – This is one of those phrases that is used constantly but when you actually think about what it means, it makes NO sense.  People say ‘that’s me’ when they’re finished with something.  For instance, at the rock climbing wall I’ve heard people say ‘that’s me!’ when they’ve finished the climb and are ready to come back down.  Or people will say this at work when they’re done for the day.  ‘Right, that’s me.  See you tomorrow!’  But what does it mean?  That’s me what exactly?  Obviously it’s just a shortened version of ‘that is me now finished with this task’ or something, but I still think it’s funny.

‘The back of 3’ – This is a phrase to describe time.  Now.  For all you lovely people who haven’t ever heard this term, what do you think this means?  My first instinct?  Just before three o’clock, say around 2:45.  To me, logically time moves forward, so when you’re at the back of three, you’re behind three so you’re not there yet, meaning that it is 2:45.  Well, if anyone else thinks logically like me, you are wrong. ‘The back of three’ means 3:10, or just past three.  Yeah, I don’t know either.

And it wouldn’t be Glasgow without terms for being drunk: bladdered, rubbered, guttered, steaming, pissed, mullerd, and many many more.  One of my favorite drunk slang terms is buckfast commando. Buckfast is a very strong tonic wine that is sold here in Scotland (also called ‘buckie).  The stuff is VILE.  But it’s strong and it’s cheap.  So it’s the favorite choice of alcohol for many young, stupid men and women who seem to roam the streets late at night.  A ‘buckfast commando’ is someone who has drunk a wee bit too much buckfast and becomes at once both incredibly aggressive and stupidly fearless.  Buckfast commandos are the type of people who get into fights and think they’re invincible, before usually finding out that they are not.

Wow, that ended up being a much longer list than I thought!  There are a ton of others I’m sure, but that’ll keep you for now I think!  Hope that gives a tiny taste of Glasgow.  And it should also explain why not a week goes by that I don’t have to ask at least once, ‘um…what does that mean?’



  1. I’m not sure it’s Scottish rather than British, but I always liked what my old boss used to say, “Don’t get your knickers in a twist.” He also used to speak of having a “knees up,” which wasn’t quite as X-rated as it might sound, just a big drunken evening in which one’s knees might end up higher than one’s stomach.

  2. I’ve heard the ‘knickers in a twist’ thing a lot! I like it, I think it’s funny and also very expressive. I’ve heard ‘knees up’ but not too often. It’s funny because to my ears, that actually sounds very English! Scottish people would probably just say, ‘let’s go get steaming!’ or something similar.

  3. Hah, I use “knickers in a twist” here in good old Midwest, USA! I love the looks I get. Same goes for watching soccer games, I end up calling the players wankers and prats.

    More on hens… bachelorette party=hen night. Sounds so lame.

  4. The worst part about the ‘hen night’ is that a bachelor party is called a ‘stag night.’ How come the guys get to be stags and we’re stuck with being hens?!

  5. Oh, I remember many of those terms from my time in London. I stared at people with a confused look on my face many time thinking, “We both speak English, but I haven’t got a clue what s/he just said. Am I stupid?” I will say that I rather enjoyed being called ‘luv’. Oddly, I never liked being called ‘honey’ when I lived in the deep south. Guess no matter what, the British accent always makes one sound 10x smarter (and sexier).

  6. Haha, “I am NOT your hen!”

    I’m so used to some of the words up there I actually thought they were proper words from the English dictionary.

  7. Well to be fair, I bet they actually are in the dictionary somewhere! I’m the same now though, I’ve completely lost the ability to recognize which words were strange to me when I first moved here. I had to keep asking my friend ‘have you heard of this word before?’ as I was writing this!

    Pammy it’s so funny because I was having a conversation about accents just today with a co worker! We were talking about how American women love the English and Scottish accent. She said it’s not just an American thing, Scottish girls love Irish accents. She was saying it must just be a female thing!

  8. I think the term “that’s me!” is just short for “that’s me done” or “that’s me finished”

  9. […] An American Girl in Scotland […]

  10. ‘That’s Me’ means that’s me done, as in i’m finished now, my mum uses it all the time 🙂

  11. “That’s me!” is sometimes preceded with a question by another person, “Is that you?”

    It’s like asking “Are you finished?” or “Are you leaving?”

    living in America I can no longer say “Iz-zat you?” expecting to hear “aye, that’s me”

    After getting odd looks, I stopped saying it.

  12. Ha! Yes I’d imagine you’d get quite a few odd looks and some responses of ‘Um…yes?’

    I’ve become very used to ‘that’s me’ while living in Scotland and don’t find it at all strange now, though I have to be careful which phrases I use at home. Certain words and phrases just strike people as sounds ‘off.’ One word that people seem to always pick up is ‘a bit’, as in ‘it’s a bit strange’ or ‘I’m feeling a bit cold today.’ NOBODY uses that here and my sister always gives me a hard time about that.

  13. How about “You’re a bam” (meaning idiot)? And we’re trying to discover if a radge (as in “He’s goin radge (mental)”) is really a pregnant fish?

  14. Wow, I’ve never heard those! Must be popular in a different part of the country. I’d assume that ‘radge’ has something to do with ‘rage’, but then that’d just make too much sense wouldn’t it?

  15. I loved this. I’m on the other side a Scotsman living in America. So my wife and I get the odd looks and have had to modify to American English. Some of things we noticed that does not work in Boston.

    Haud on or Haud on a second : “Wait for me” but it can also mean “wait let me think about this for a second”.

    Geeza as in “Geeza hand, Geeza second, Geeza a wee bit” : Give me a hand, Give me a second, Give me a piece.

    Nae, Naw as in Nae way, Naw chance : No way , No chance.

    Aye Ok : Yes that’s right, that’s ok, that’s fine

    Gonnie : Funny one this if its “I’m gonnie” it means “I will be” but if you drop the I’m and just say Gonnie it’s a request. So gonnie be there at 8 = Please be there by 8.

    Widnae as in Widnae dae that, Widnae want that, Widnae buy that : I would not do that, I would not want that

    Medium ( pronounced Meed-Jum ) instead of (Meed-i-um)

    Some things are different names

    Nappies = Diapers
    Just rub it out with your rubber ( bad when correcting your kids homework) : Just erase it with your eraser

    This does not work in Scotland so it’s a reverse we are stuck saying “I’m all set” or “We’re all set” or sometimes even just “Set” people back home think we are playing tennis.

  16. That’s so funny because all of those sound totally normal to me! But then I get surprised by things that confuse people here in the US.

    My fiance is going to be dealing with all these problems in the very near future! One term he uses all the time is ‘pushbike’ to mean a bicycle. When he says ‘bike’ he means a motorcycle, but he just confuses everyone!

  17. I mind when i was in Florida, i was in a pub and had something i needed to put in the bin and i kept asking the bar tender if he had a bin and the guy could not get what i was saying and i think i sood for 5 mins just saying bin, then this english girl looked at me and just said the work bin?, i replied BIN! so she turned to the guy and started saying the word bin over and over, he just thought we were insane! it wasn;t till my frind that lived there walked up and was like- garbage.he seriously could no get us out of there faster! also the looks i was getting when i was trying to explain my mobile was broke… i’m going to america to study for a few month next year and i am not looking forward because i use scots alot!

  18. Really enjoyed reading this list…it gave me a laugh being from just outside Glasgow. I must admit, I’d never actually thought about the term “messages”…..That is a wierd one haha. One term my dad uses is “howff”. It means the small room or cupboard where all the workmen store there tools on a building site. I think it can also be used to desribe any type of “store” in the workplace

  19. I’m fey glasgow and ave never said dookit or scooby or stookie or hee haw lol!
    A say wee beaties a the time though!<3

  20. Also messages I thought everyone useed messages?:L

  21. I’m an American who lived in England for a while and a few of these are used all over Britain, like cuppa, bladdered, minging, pissed. I do love the ones I’d never heard before like “dookit.” The alternate “doocot” made me realize it was a form of the word “dovecote,” i.e., home for pigeons. Where I lived in England the mailboxes were called “pigeonholes” so this isn’t too far afield from that.

    “Back of 3” instinctively made me think it was after 3:00. I think because of the expression “I’ll be glad to see the back of him” I think “back of” would mean something you’ve put behind you.

  22. I have recently discovered that ‘steamin’ came from when you were not allowed to buy alcohol on a sunday in scotland unless you were on a boat! This led to the popular booze cruises every sunday ‘doon the water’ on steamboats. Hence the phrase steamin drunk or steamboats!

  23. I am from Scotland and have lived in Canada for the past 3 years, reading through your list brought my husband and me to tears of laughter. We still say we are going for the messages….. We are baltic at the moment…Hen is still used when my hubby is angry about something I have done e.g. I hear ye hen…That does ma heid in… When we have eaten too much we are “foo”.
    Miss these terms although a phone call back to our family gives us our weekly dose.

  24. I’m glad you enjoyed the list! I’ve been away from Scotland for a year and a half now and I miss a lot about it. Thankfully my new husband is Scottish so I still get to hear the accent and the different phrases!

  25. Well done hen ye seem tae huv grasped the patter naw bad byraway..noo aw ye huf tae dae is go back an translate whit ah said fur yer muckers across the pond:-)

    p.s ah only drink fresh brewed kopi luwack yer clearly hinging aboot wi uncultured swines 😉

  26. The one thing i learned while in teh USA if you smoke – dont ask anyone you are with if the want a fag!

  27. Hey! I came across your site by chance today and I have to say I love your list. I’m a Scottish lassie myself. I’m from Glasgow but now live in San Francisco. It’s really interesting to hear the words you think are funny. Some of these I haven’t used or thought about in ages but you are spot on! My husband (who is from Iowa) and I talk about stuff like this all the time, the hilarious differences in vocab between our countries. You made me laugh a lot. Thank you! And say hi to the best city in the world from me 🙂


  28. Awesome, I’d forgotten about the way I used to speak at home with my Scottish parents, it was a must, as for Hen, my mother called me “her wee Hen” all the time I’m 70 now and my son is so interested in his Scottish
    heritage and I try to speak the gailic words my Dad spoke to me. This is a great site I fell upon, I think it was sparked by a country doing away with
    girl or boy terms but now using Hen for both, that’s fine unless you are
    a Scot,

  29. Awesome!! I live in Sydney Australia now and I am from Glasgow. Great to hear all of this!! I am home at the minute and a TV advert for ALDI they are using the slogan ‘Gie it Lalday at ALDI’ now that is pure dead brilliant.

  30. Wheesht – shut up

    Haud yer Wheesht – please shut up!

    Flit – moving house “I am flitting hoose the mora” more of an Ayrshire thing.

    Clatty – same as minging

    Just thought id share some more for those Americans living in the lovely country of Scotland 🙂

  31. folk that were talking about the knickers in a twist thing, if you are gonna be scottish it is not “don’t” it is “dinny” so the ald phrase is dinny get your knickers in a twist

    A daft scot bastard

  32. I’ve lived in scotland the whole 18 years of my life and I use the most of these phrases, but a lot of them look wierd when I see them written down. We seem to be more formal in text than when we talk. Well besides a few things here and there. Ken what a mean? 😛 (translate: do you know what I mean?).

    If you agree with someone you can also just say ‘ken’ or ‘aye’. I stopped using ken now though. Use to over use it I think.
    Oh and can’t forget ‘get tae!’ Meaning go away. ‘Tae’ is just ‘to’ in a scottish accent, and you might also hear ‘get tae f**k’. Strangely enough its probably used to take the piss more than to actually offend someone. It can be like saying ‘are you sure about that?’

    Anyway that gave me a laugh 😛 cheers pal 😀

  33. Fanny – idiot. ‘Dinnie be a fanny’ Sorry had to ad that like a wee fanny :). Feelin pure mantal mate

  34. my scottish auntie used to ask me if I wanted a “piece” – I’d say a piece of what? ” A jeelly piece” she’d reply. Piece = sandwich Jeelly = jam
    Also I was offered “tablet” which is not a pill, but a slab of fudge!

  35. Dookit/doocot, is actually spelled dovecote but pronounced dookit. Similar to coxswain-coxen, boatswain-bosun, Worcester-Wooster. Etc. And yes, it was originally used to describe a pigeon loft, ie. dove.

  36. Thanks for all the Scottish sayings. I am writing a trilogy called “Terror from the Sky” and book two will take my characters to Scotland, mostly set on the Isle of Skye. I will be visiting and doing research in early October and look forward to actually hearing the locals converse. I have learned a lot about your history and culture during my research and these sayings will help with my character development. The first book, “Terror from the Sky: Chances” is available on Amazon Kindle store and so will the second one, set in Scotland, when completed hopefully in the next few months.

    Again, thanks to all who have commented!

    Milton Keene

  37. Enjoyed this article. Reminded me of when I first moved to London and no-one could understand me. “Messages” is also used in Ulster to mean shopping, “I’m gawn up the street for ma messages”. “Hen” is from old Scots meaning “Queen”.

  38. thnx for the words

  39. Just to help with the “back of three” point. Its because you have already seen the BACK of three as it passed. So if I said “meet me at the back of 4” its meaning once we have seen the back of it. Hope that helps! I also always say a piece, like an egg piece but we never use it for a roll only a sandwich! haha! Also, im from the highlands but i live in glasgow at the moment and they say “am a” when they mean “i am”. And i always think they are asking if I am doing something!! Great list though, all very true of many scottish people 🙂

  40. love awe yer patter aboot Glesga an Scotland am fae Glesga ma sel, noo livin in Australia , if ye want mere scottish an Glesga speak try tis web site its smashin hen.
    GlescaPals Official website, Scotland

    GlescaPals family website, take a walk down memory lane with Old Glasgow Memories, childhood memories,Street & School photographs, games, food and …

    GlescaPals main index – Schools – GlescaPals – Memory Lane

  41. I am from scotland, and yes I do use all of these words and phrases. 🙂

  42. Here’s some more

    Dina ken – don’t know
    Bawbag, shitebag- wimp
    Teckle,damage – great
    Chibbed- stabbed with knife
    Docky- large stone
    Belter- somewhat weird, could say he’s a gimp
    Jakeball- junkie, heroin addict
    Mink- someone dirty smelly
    Pumped- said when referring to having sex with someone
    Tanned- slashed

  43. See u ye bawbag eh’ll cum bayne there n tan yer puss, you dina ken wa eh am.

  44. Where I come fae West Fife we us such words as MESSAGES for shopping and PIECES as for sandwiches we also use AM AWA BEN THE HOOSE(livingroom / kitchen), AM AWA OOT TAE SEE MA DEY THEN MA NEEBURS (grandad/friends),BUNKER IN THE SCULLERY means worktop in the kitchen and the strangest one of all YAHOORSUR mean mainly shock and surprise, also GUID SIRE and DUID MITHER for father and mother in law

  45. I’m surprised you missed out “ginger” (meaning “soda” in the U.S., or “pop” in England and Canada). I remember people scouring the streets for “ginger boatles” or even “jeggy boatles” or “scoosh boatles” because you used to get 10p back on an empty. I’m not sure if this is just a Glasgow / Lanarkshire thing.

    Loved Kevin Bridges’ joke about the under-ager who’s been asked for I.D. He tells the doorman “Ah showed ye ma I.D”, to which the doorman replies “Naw ye didnae.” To which the under-ager asks, “When did ah didnae?”

  46. When I was about 12 years old my mother and I had returned to Australia, the land of our birth. My grandmother gave me some money to go into town to “do the messages.” I;ve never forgotten that.

    I’m a writer and my latest story is about a Scotsman from Inverness so I am really enjoying this site and learning so much.

    Thank you for posting all this.

  47. I know quite a few of these as though I live in England some of my family is Scottish and messages made me laugh as though my grandparents haven’t lived in Scotland for over 40 years they still say messages and when I was really little I never knew what they were talking about and wee they still say that too. There are also some funny Scottish phrases that my grandma used to tell me but they probably aren’t used much now for example ‘Go away and put your heed in a tinnae’ meaning go away and put your head in a tin supposedly a way of telling someone to get lost.

  48. I love how people can get a word totally wrong. Take ‘comfy’ for example. Say it as a question to any non-Scot, as-in “Comfy?”, and you’re sure to get a reply like “yes, thank you”. BUT, say it to a Scot, and you’re like-as-not to get the reply “Glasgie”, or “Edinburgh”, or whatever…coz said just right “Comfy?” is acltually “Come Fae?” as in “where do you come from?”……and as for me?…comfy?….Paisley!!

  49. Dookit – is from “Dove cote” which is a small hole where a dove nests, usually in a house.

  50. I grew up in Fife and remember using the word ‘bit’ to describe your house! For example.. Mum asks… ‘where are you going?’ I relpy… ’round to Ann’s bit’
    Another couple of words…Drookit=Soaking wet, Shoogle=shake/wobble.

  51. I’m fom Edinburgh, but now live in Canada but I love the Scots tongue. My Mum used to say stuff like “ach away an rattle yer heid in a tinny” or “ach away an bile yer heid” if she thought you were haverin (talking nonsense) but if you were bad then she’d threatened with “I’ll take ma hand off yer backside” or “I’ll gie ye what for”…. made us giggle cause it didn’t sound too bad!

    Also in Scots, a pigeon is called a doo as in dookit (dovecot) as in “you’re hell of a pigeon chested and that’s why a love ye like a doo”

  52. I come from Scotland Glasgow and in reply to Katie halfprice tablet is not I repeat NOT the same as fudge. IT is more Sugary and crumbly than fudge.

  53. In England- at least the north, where I live- we use minging but not so much bogging- that I know of. Also we use cuppa a lot in the sense that you said. ‘that’s me’ is more often used in the latter example like leaving work or something. The others were completely foreign to me. Thanks for sharing 😀

  54. Am fae paisley (but live in England, or should that be I stay in England)
    Thats me can also be followed with i`m away…(right thats me, am away).
    I spent 6 months saying that as i left work for the day before someone asked what it meant lol.

  55. Didn’t read all the comments on this thread, but in case no one has explained your “doocot” expression, here it is: It’s the Scottish mispronunciation for “dovecote.” You can look that one up online, if you are so inclined.

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