Scottish Phrases & Words
I'd have to admit that many Scottish sayings, phrases and words don't sound as though they're part of the English language, but they are.
To be more accurate, they're 'Scottish English' - which is spoken all over Scotland, with a wide range of dialects and variations depending on what city, or area, the speaker is from.
I grew up hearing many of these Scottish phrases and sayings at home, but as my family had moved 'south of the border' (into England), I didn't hear them at school, or anywhere else.
To a child they seemed like part of a 'secret language', one that only my family understood - and even today, hearing a certain phrase or word brings memories flooding back!
We hope you enjoy reading through our collection of Scottish sayings and Scottish phrases, and that the Scottish words (complete with English 'translations') amuse you more than confuse you. Have fun!
Scottish Sayings & Scottish Phrases
Here are a few of the Scottish sayings that I grew up with. My Nana (my moms' mom) used many of them on a daily basis......
This one basically means 'whatever is meant to happen to you, will happen to you"! It's the Scottish phrase I heard whenever I'd moan or complain about not getting something (or someone!).
This was usually said with a touch of impatience, as a fair translation would be "You're a little whiner/nuisance". If I complained about being bored, or was being whiny and difficult, this was the response I'd get.
This means "She's all worked up" or "She's got herself all riled up".
If I was fussing over what to wear, this Scottish saying was Nanas' stock answer. Basically it means "A pretty face suits the dish-cloth". I think this probably still needs some more translation.... the general idea is 'if you've got a pretty face, it doesn't matter what you're wearing'. Of course, it usually didn't help with my immediate problem ;o)
This Scottish phrase is another one that needs a double-dose of translating! Simply putting it into English results in "Away and boil your head!" - which probably won't help you much. What it means is something along the lines of 'Get lost!' or 'Forget it!' - and it's usually said to someone who is deemed to be talking rubbish, or wasting your time.
I'd hear this if I was telling tales on my sister (or anyone else!). It means 'Don't be a little tell-tale!".
Another colorful Scottish saying, that definitely needs some explaining. Direct English translation would be "Your bum is out the window", but that's probably not going to make you any the wiser. So, the actual meaning of this phrase is something along the lines of 'You're talking rubbish (trash)', or 'You're not making any sense'. Believe me, I heard this one a few times!
The 'Pictures' is the movie theater, and my Nana loved going to see a movie.
This is one of the Scottish sayings that you might think doesn't need translating - but you'd be wrong! In this case, the 'messages' are not what you're probably thinking. 'Messages' are 'groceries' or other things that you'd get from the store. So, literally speaking this Scottish phrase means "I'm doing the (grocery) shopping".
This isn't a phrase that any kid wants to hear! 'Jags' are vaccinations, so it means "It's time for your shots". Not fun, and guaranteed to send me running in the opposite direction!
The English version of this Scottish phrase would be "I'm going to smack your little bottom" (bottom is 'butt' or 'rear' for those in the US). Didn't hear this one too much either, but can't say I NEVER heard it!
This translates to "They're moving house". 'Flit' is to 'move'... that one was easy, for once.
English translation of this one is 'You're a long time dead', and if you're thinking that's a pretty obvious statement but are still not sure what it means, try this 'Enjoy life, because once you're dead you're going to be that way for a long time!' Not very uplifting, but true all the same.
This one was a challenge in terms of its' meaning! The English translation is 'A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse', but that's still a bit obscure. The best I can come up with in terms of what it means is this... 'If the horse is blind it doesn't matter whether you nod your head or wink your eye, he still won't see it'. Hmm... not sure when I'd use that one, but I'm sure it will come in handy one day :o)
If you're starting to get a 'feel' for Scottish-English now, then this Scottish saying is pretty easy to understand. Translated it says "You're off your head!", meaning 'you're crazy'.
Okay, you may need a little help with this one though. English translation is "Hold your tongue". Making the meaning clear - "Be quiet!". Strangely enough I didn't hear this one too much. Of course, the fact that Nanas' hearing wasn't good may have been a factor there.
Translated this Scottish saying becomes "Long may your chimney smoke" - meaning 'May you live long and keep well'. Perhaps Mr Spock of Star Trek fame said it even better "Live long and prosper" :o)
This one is short and simple, translates to "I don't know". That's all you need :o)
Another short one, basically it means "Good things come in small packages".
Scottish Words & Their English Translations
Scottish words and Scottish slang is colorful, but it's also confusing, amusing or can seem downright 'strange'.
Many of these Scottish words are ones I heard daily growing up, others aren't used too often, but they're all great example of Scottish-English at it's best.......
There are undoubtedly more Scottish sayings, Scottish phrases and Scottish words that I haven't included in the above list, but these are the ones that I remember well, and I know most of them are still used.
We hope you enjoyed them, and if you know of any others that should be on the list, please visit our Contact Us page to let us know.