“Dreich”: Scots, the Scots… or Scottish weather?

The Scottish Government has just published the results of a poll to identify the nation’s favourite Scots word. The winner was “dreich”, which means “wet”, “cold” and/or “gloomy”. I’m not sure if that describes the Scottish weather, or just our character.

Respondents were asked to choose their favourite from a list of 8 Scots language words that, along with dreich, included:

crabbit bad-tempered, grumpy

blether to chat, often at great length; can be used as a noun referring to the person doing the blethering and may also involve a lot of haivering…

haiver to talk nonsense

beastie an insect, or the diminutive of beast, as in “sleekit, cowrin, timorous beastie”

sleekit smooth or glossy, as in “sleek”. Also means, much less attractively, cunning, crafty, sly, ingratiating, unctuous and generally untrustworthy

braw good, great, good-looking (as in “a braw lass”)

glaikit slow-witted or foolish, often used in the phrase “glaikit-looking”.

Apart from “braw”, it’s an unprepossessing list. Or maybe that, too, is a reflection of the Scottish character?

I wish they’d included “fankle” — a really useful word meaning a tangle, muddle or state of confusion. And what about the wonderful “sonsie” (attractive, especially if pleasingly plump too) as in “a right sonsie lassie”?

Are any of your favourites missing from the list?

By Marian Dougan


Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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  1. I use “oxter” and”bowfing” a lot, but not in close conjunction

  2. Hi, I am a student from Spain and I am doing right now my Erasmus in Scotland. It surprise me to read this, because the people I have met here is really nice with me and I think they are nice too with other people. I would want to know if that list of 8 word was created from another list of words, that is, the words which were not elected were dismissed and finally the final list was those 8 words.
    Nevertheless I agree with the word which they like the most, since it cannot be possible that the word “sun” appears in this list if they just see the sun twice a month. But as I have said before, I do not think that the most beautiful word for them describes their character.

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment – it made me smile! I don’t know how the list was compiled but I agree that “sun”, in either its English or Scots form, would be an unlikely candidate. Unless as something we wish/hope to see more than just twice a month…

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