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Search on for most iconic Scots word

Shortlist revealed for Book Week Scotland

Scottish Book Trust, the national charity transforming lives through reading and writing, has today revealed the shortlist for their Book Week Scotland vote. Tying in with A Year of Conversation and the International Year of Indigenous Languages, the public were invited to submit iconic Scots words through the charity’s social media channels and website. Over 200 words were nominated, from various dialects such as Doric, Shetlandic, Dundonian and Glaswegian.


The vote has already sparked debate, as some words, including ‘mankie’, were found not to be especially Scots, despite many believing so. Conversely, some were surprised to discover ‘outwith’ is rarely used outside Scots-speaking areas. Some of the most popular words nominated include: ‘dreich’, ‘scunnered’ and ‘glaikit’.


A panel of Scots language experts met to whittle down the longlist, including Rhona Alcorn, CEO of the Scots Language Dictionary; Michael Hance, former Director of the Scots Language Centre; Bruce Eunson, Scots Language Coordinator for Education Scotland and Anna Stewart, New Writers Awardee and Scots writer.


Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, said: “This year’s vote for Book Week Scotland celebrates Scots: from the everyday words we use in conversation, to the words we may be encountering for the first time. We received many wonderful anecdotes through our submissions, highlighting that Scots remains a vital and important part of cultural heritage, passed down from generation to generation.”


The panel decided on thirty iconic Scots words that have stood the test of time, and are well-loved and well-used by the nation. The shortlist is as follows:


1. Beastie. Familiar and affectionate contraction of beast.

2. Besom. Also bissom, bizzem, bizzum. A term of contempt applied jocularly to a woman or young girl.

3. Braw. Also bra', braa. Of things: fine, splendid, illustrious; also used ironically.

4. Bumfle. Also bumfill. An untidy bundle; a pucker, ruffle, in a garment.

5. Burn. A brook or stream, also known as the water used in brewing.

6. Clipe. Also clype, klipe, claip. To tell tales about, inform against someone.

7. Collie-buckie. Also coalie-back(ie), coalie buck(ie), collie-back(ie), cuddie-back. A piggy-back, a ride on one's shoulders.

8. Dreich. Long-drawn-out, protracted, hence tedious, wearisome.

9. Dwam. A stupor, a trance; a day-dream, reverie.

10. Eeksie-peeksie. Also eeksy-peeksy. On an equality, much alike, six and half a dozen.

11. Fankle. Also fangle. To tangle, ravel, mix up.

12. Glaikit. Also gleckit, gleekit. Stupid, foolish; thoughtless, irresponsible, flighty, frivolous.

13. Gloamin. Evening twilight, dusk.

14. Guising. Also guisin. Mummer, masquerader, especially in modern times one of a party of children who go in disguise from door to door at various festivals.

15. Haver. Also haiver. To talk in a foolish or trivial manner, speak nonsense, to babble, gossip.

16. Ken. To know, be aware of, apprehend, learn.

17. Neeps. Turnip, often served with haggis and tatties.

18. Nyaff. Also nyaf. A small, conceited, impudent, chattering fellow.

19. Outwith. Also ootwith. Outside, out of, beyond.

20. Piece. A piece of bread and butter, jam, or the like, a snack, usually of bread, scone or oatcake, a sandwich.

21. Scunnered. Also scunnert. To make (one) bored, uninterested or antipathetic.

22. Shoogle. Also shoggle, schochle. To shake, joggle, to cause to totter or rock, to swing backwards and forwards.

23. Sitooterie. In a restaurant etc., an area where patrons can sit outside; a conservatory.

24. Sleekit. Insinuating, sly, cunning, specious, not altogether to be trusted.

25. Smirr. Also smir. A fine rain, drizzle, occas. also of sleet or snow.

26. Smoorikin. Also smooriken. To exchange kisses, to cuddle, 'canoodle'

27. Stappit. Blocked, choked, stuffed.

28. Totie. Also totty, toatie. Small, diminutive, tiny.

29. Wabbit. Also wubbit, wappit. Exhausted, tired out, played out, feeble, without energy.

30. Wheest. Also whisht, weesht. To silence, to cause to be quiet, to hush, quieten.


Voting is now open, and the public can pick the word they believe to be most iconic at Scottish Book Trust’s website. The most popular word will be announced during Book Week Scotland, which runs from 18-24 November 2019.


During Book Week, illustrator Alex T Smith will doodle his favourite Scots words, inspired by the public vote. Also, to celebrate the 20th birthday of The Gruffalo, Scottish Book Trust will host a special BBC Authors Live on 21 November. Julia Donaldson’s classic tale will be read by James Robertson in Scots and Catriona Lexy Campbell in Gaelic.


The Gaelic Books Council are also running their own vote to find the nation’s favourite Gaelic word. The public have already submitted words at Wigtown Book Festival, the Mòd and through social media. Nominations can be made at their website, and the favourite word will also be announced during Book Week Scotland.


November will also see the launch of 100 Favourite Scots Words, edited by Pauline Cairns Speitel. The book contains words selected from Scottish Language Dictionaries’ long-standing Scots Word of the Week article in the Saturday Herald. Pauline will be discussing her selection on Tuesday 19 November at the National Library of Scotland. More information and ticket details can be found here.




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