Scottish proverbs and sayings, the old and popular wisdom of Scotland and its people, with some typical Scottish words and definitions explained.
Take care of your pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves.
The day has eyes, the night has ears.
Give more holiday to your tongue than to your head.
The devil’s boots don’t creak.
There never came ill of good advisement.
They are good that are away.
They talk of my drinking but never my thirst.
Twelve highlanders and a bagpipe make a rebellion.
Be happy while you’re living, For you’re a long time dead.
Be slow in choosing a friend, but slower in changing him.
Better be ill spoken of by one before all than by all before one.
Learn young, learn fair; learn old, learn more.
Little folk are soon angry.
Luck never gives; it only lends.
A man is a lion in his own cause.
A Scottish man is wise behind the hand.
A Scottish mist will wet an Englishman to the skin.
A tale never loses in the telling.
Never draw your dirk when a blow will do it.
Never let your feet run faster than your shoes.
Never marry for money. You can borrow it cheaper.
Get what you can and keep what you have; that’s the way to get rich.
What may be done at any time will be done at no time.
When the cup is full, carry it even.
Willful waste makes woeful want.
Egotism is an alphabet of one letter.
Fools look to tomorrow. Wise men use tonight.
Open confession is good for the soul.
Confessed faults are half mended.
Old Scottish Sayings
Ah dinnae ken. – I don’t know.
Ah umnae – I am not.
Am a pure nick – I am not looking my best.
Am pure done in – I am pretty tired.
Auld Lang Syne – old long since” or “old long ago” meaning “days gone by” and when sung at New Years really means “let’s drink to days gone by.
Aye, Right!! – When you answer to something really unbelievable
Black as the Earl of Hell’s Waistcoat! – the colour Black.
Dinnae marry fur money! – It’s cheaper in the long run to borrow money than marry for it.
Dinnae teach yer Granny tae suck eggs! – Stop teaching someone something they already know.
Do yer dinger. – Showing disapproval.
Failing means yer playin! – Trying and failing, but at least you are trying.
Gie it laldy. – Doing something with energy or inappropriateness.
Gonnae no’ dae that! – Don’t do that.
Haste Ye Back! – Return back with speed – said as a farewell.
Haud yer wheesht! – Shut up.
Hell slap it intae ye! – It is your own fault.
I’ll gie ye a skelpit lug! – I’ll hit you on the ear.
I’m fair puckled! – I’m out of breath.
I’m going to the pictures – I’m going to the cinema, once known as the picture house
Is the cat deid? – Has the cat died? This means your trousers are too short, similar to “is your budgie/parrot dead?”
It’s a dreich day! – A miserable, cold, wet day in reference to the weather.
It’s a braw bricht moonlit nicht the nicht – It’s a good (or brilliant), bright, moonlight night tonight. Truth is, it’s very rarely used.
Keep the heid! – Keep your head or stay calm.
Lang may yer lum reek! – Literally meaning long may your chimney smoke, this is typically a toast to one’s health, wishing one lives long and healthy.
Ma heid’s mince – My head is mince, meaning I’m a bit confused.
Mony a mickle maks a muckle! – Small amounts of savings soon build up to large amounts.
Noo jist haud on! – Now just hold it, take your time, you’re speaking too fast.
Pure dead brilliant – Amazing.
Scran – food.
She’s away for the messages – She has gone to get the grocery shopping
She’s up tae high doh – She’s stressed and flustered – ‘doh’ being the high musical note
Skinny Malinky Longlegs! -A tall and skinny person.
Speak o’ the Devil! – When someone you are speaking about shows up.
T’ Auld Yin – The old one.
That wid gie yi the boke – That would make you sick
That’s gee-in me the boak – That makes me feel sick
The baw is up on the slates – Game over – the ball is up on someone’s roof
We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns! – Everyone is God’s children, nobody is better, everyone is equal.
Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye! – What is for you will not go by you, meaning, what will be, will be.
Whit dae ye cry thon yin? – What do you call that one?
Yer aff yer heid – You’re off your head – crazy.
Yer a chancer! – You are pushing your luck
Yer lookin a bit peely wally – You look pale or ill
Yer bum’s oot the windae – You are lying or exaggerating.
Yer oot yer face! – You’re extremely intoxicated from the effects of alcohol.
Scottish Words and Definitions
Bampot: Either and idiot or a character of a shady disposition
Belter: extremely good
Braw: Good, good-looking, handsome
Clipe: Tell tale
Crabbit: Grumpy or agitated
Craic: Usually said “good craic” meaning good fun or “what’s the craic” meaning what is happening
Dafty: Someone who is stupid or an idiot
Dreich: a terrific Scottish saying, meaning dull and depressing weather; usually grey and overcast
Eejit: Idiot (see ‘Dafty’)
Eh: What or an invitation for someone to respond or agree
Glaikit: Stupid or gullable
Greet/Greetin: Cry or crying
Hunners: Literally hundreds but usually to describe a large quantity
Jake/Jakey: Someone poor. Used as an adjective, jakey means scummy
Ken: know. “Do you ken what I mean?”
Lad: young boy.
Mad Wae It: Drunk
Och aye the noo: oh yes, just now. (This phrase is never really used by Scottish people, but it is often used by non-Scottish people attempting to recreate a Scottish accent for reasons best known to themselves)
Patch: Abandon plans, stop
Peely-wally: Not 100%. A bit out of sorts
Puggled: Tired, short of breath
Randan: Causing carnage under the influence
Reekin: Either smelly or drunk
Scunnered: to be irritated and/or bored with something. “I’m scunnered wae that!”
Slàinte mhath: Cheers – here’s to your health. This is a traditional Gaelic toast and is pronounced slan-ge-var.
Swally: Swallow; to have a drink of an alcoholic beverage. “Come in and have a swally!”
Weapon: Dangerous or out of control
Wopper: Someone embarrassing
Yon: That or those
Young Team: Gang of teenagers usually focused aroung council estates/government housing areas
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