• November 2008
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Scots Word Definitions

Reply to comments in the previous post about the Scots Dialect Dictionary

Thanks for the response folks! here goes.

Alan, boak is in the 1911 dictionary but offers only the rather prosaic, narrow definition, to retch or vomit. Of course we know that ‘boak’ is not as simple as that. The boak is usually brought on by something distasteful such as, for example, ‘See that Cliff Richard Christmas record – it’s enough tae gie’ ye the boak’ or ‘There’s the cast of the Bill doing the can-can for Children in Need – that’s enough tae make ye boak!’

Dylan, numpty isn’t in and to be honest I don’t remember hearing that word until I was in my twenties. However the urban dictionary gives this definition;

Scottish usage:
a) Someone who (sometimes unwittingly) by speech or action demonstrates a lack of knowledge or misconception of a particular subject or situation to the amusement of others.

b) A good humoured admonition, a term of endearment

c) A reckless, absent minded or unwise person
a) “No. That wisnae wit she meant, ya big numpty!”

b) i.e. “Silly billy”, “You big dafty”

c) “That numpty’s driving with no lights on!”

Peelie-wally is IN ‘A tall, slender, sickly looking young person; a tall slender plant or shoot.

I’d have said it was more a general term for pale as in ‘That wean is looking awfy peelie-wally!’

Geggie isn’t in but it is Scots for mouth or gob (gub). ‘Shut yer geggie!’ is so much more descriptive than ‘be quiet!’

Scunner according to Chambers is to loathe; to feel disgust;to shudder with repugnance;to scare; to flinch from; to cause to surfeit; the object of loathing; to excite disgust.

Of course in modern day Scots scunnered simply means absolutely fed-up.

Dreekit isn’t in but I assume you meant ‘drookit’ (which isn’t in either) but drookit of course means soaked. There used to be a pub in Cupar, Fife called ‘The Drookit Dug’

Jaggy, I couldn’t find ‘whallaper‘ anywhere but I assume you meant ‘wallaper‘ which the urban dictionary lists as the male penis, genitals. Often used as an insult isn’t it? Hey you! ya wallaper!

Missy!!! according to the 1911 Chambers Scots Dialect Dictionary (not me you understand – oh no!), a besom is a loose or slovenly woman; a gypsy; a term of contempt applied to a woman, and blether is to speak indistinctly;to stammer; to talk nonsense; to prattle, chatter. (noun) nonsense; foolish talk; a ‘wind bag’

Chambers’s Scots Dialect Dictionary

This book is an absolute gem and was in our house as I grew up. I found it the other day whilst sorting through some of my mother’s belongings in helping her to move. It contains my father’s name on the inner sleeve, but also the name of one of Helensburgh’s big houses and a publishing date of 1911. This combined with the sticker ‘McNeur and Bryden’ suggests that my dad bought the book second hand. McNeur and Bryden were a Helensburgh newsagent/bookseller and publisher who were in business in the town for over 100 years.


In case you thought I’d boobed on the apostrophe thing on the title of the post, examine the picture!

There are some truly great words and definitions in this book. For example one used regularly by my friend Ferncake is shilpit , an adjective which means pale, sickly, weak; pinched, shrunken and starved looking; puny, small, insignificant, timid; insipid, tasteless, wersh; thin, inferior, worthless;used of corn ears: ill filled.

Another word I’m pleased to see is the fabulous outwith which John Humphries criticised as having crept into use in the English language as new ‘office speak’. It took a Scots journalist to correct him and point out that the word was an ancient one and often used in Scots Law. It means as it says, adv separate from; beyond. –adj, abroad; more distant, not near. – n. the outlying parts.

p16-11-08_2211 Other (ahem!) less obvious definitions are for words such as spunk, which is a small fire; the spark of life, an old fashioned sulphur tipped match;pluck,vivacity; a person who has more spirit than bodily strength.
Spunky clootie (I kid you not) is the devil.
Another favourite is reefart nosed which means having a nose coloured or shaped like a raddish! or what about a funkie?
which is a person afraid to fight
I hereby offer a free service to readers. If you can give me some of your favourite Scots words, I’ll check if they’re in there and if so, give you the definition. If they’re not in there I’ll make one up!

John Martyn Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 17/11/08

‘Some people are crazy
Some people are just plain good
Some people talk wouldness and couldness
Some people don’t do as they should.’

John Martyn – Some People are Crazy from the 1980 album Grace and Danger


This will be a review of few words as it’s late and bed seems an appealing place to be!

Tonight John Martyn played the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. As with the last time I saw him in 2006 he played from his wheelchair although this time he did seem in better spirits. As he took a drink, one fan shouted ‘Is that water John?’ ‘Naw Bacardi!’ came the reply. John then went on to tell the tale of a (now departed) friend ‘He was drinking in a bar when his friend came in. ‘What’s this Ronnie? I though you were on the wagon’ he said. ‘It’s gin and tonic – great for helping you to mind your own business! Would you like some?’

The gig centred on the 1980 album Grace and Danger which Martyn considers his best. It is an emotional one, centering as it does on his divorce from his wife Beverley.

He played the whole album and the stand out tracks were…….actually they were all stand outs. Despite a few bum notes and fluffed endings, despite the guitar resting horizontally on his huge stomach and despite the crackles from the pa, John Martyn and his band were well worth the entrance fee. Sweet Little Mystery and Hurt in Your Heart never fail to please the JM audience.

Other tracks (non Grace and Danger) which received an airing were the inevitable Solid Air and May You Never along with I don’t Wanna Know About Evil, Rock Salt and Nails and the finale Never Let Me Go. He managed about an hour and a half into which he put enough effort and emotion to shame someone half his age and 300 times his level of physical fitness.


I’d love to claim the above after show ticket was mine, but it belonged to my old pal Davie Boyle, drummer with Rev Doc and the Congregation who has played many times with John Martyn’s bass player Allan Thomson and is also a pal of John himself. I bumped into Davie before the gig and I’m glad to say he never changes.

‘I watch the street, I watch the radio
I don’t need to turn it on
Another friend comes by and tries to say hello
Another weekend’s almost gone
It’s not the letters that you just don’t write
It’s not the arms of some new friend
It’s not the crying in the depth of the night
That keeps me hanging on, just waiting for the end’

John Martyn – Sweet Little Mystery from the album Grace and Danger