20 Sayings Only a Scot Would Understand

Don't save this list for a dreich day.
Don't save this list for a dreich day. / FotografiaBasica/E+/Getty Images (flag), Justin Dodd/Mental Floss (speech bubble)

English might be Scotland’s official language, but the country also has distinct dialects and regional nuances. They include Scottish Gaelic (spoken mainly in the Highlands and made famous by Outlander) and Scots, the umbrella term for several dialects within the language (which is also officially recognized). And understanding Scottish slang? That’s a whole other ballgame. Here are 20 sayings that only a true Scot will understand. 

1. I’m Going to Get My Messages

You’d be forgiven for thinking this means “following up on your correspondence,” but in Scotland, getting your messages means “to go grocery shopping.” 

2. Gie It a Shoogle

To gie (give) something a shoogle means to give it a wobble or a shake. Shoogle also gives us the wonderful he’s on a shoogly peg, meaning, “he might not last much longer in a job/relationship/situation.” 

3. Let’s Coorie In

Coorie is a Scots word meaning “to snuggle,” so when you say “let’s coorie in,” you’re suggesting a cuddle session.  

4. It’s a Dreich Day

Close up on rain drops on a window with Scottish countryside in the background
A dreich day in Scotland. / Johannes Mann/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Never has a word so perfectly described what has come to be known as traditionally Scottish weather. Dreich means “dreary, cheerless, bleak,” and a dreich day is the kind of day when you don’t want to leave the house. Bonus points for combining with coorie: “It’s too dreich outside, let’s just coorie in.”

5. It’s Drookit Out!

Drookit turns up the dial from wet to soaking.  

6. Peelie-Wally 

Peelie-wally is another way to describe being really pale (a consequence of all those dreich days!). The term can also be used to tell someone they seem ill: “You’re looking a bit peelie-wally … are you OK?”

7. Puggled

Man rubbing eyes
Sometimes we rub our eyes when we're puggled. / fanjianhua/Moment/Getty Images

To be puggled is to be exhausted: “I’m fair puggled after running for that bus.”

8. Gie it Laldy

To do something with vigor or enthusiasm. Someone giving it their all on the dance floor might be described as gie-ing it laldy.

9. That’s Minging

If something is minging, it’s disgusting or unpleasant. Minging can run the gamut from smells to tastes to places or even people: “He smelled minging.”

10. Haud Yer Wheesht 

Man holding finger to mouth saying "shhh."
Shh, haud your wheesht! / Sorin Breb/EyeEm/Getty Images

Haud yer wheesht is the Scots way to tell someone to be quiet. This can relate to toning down the volume, or to keeping a secret.  

11. He Cliped on Me 

A clipe is a tattle-tale, so to be cliped on means “to be told on.”

12. Whit’s Fur Ye’ll No Go by Ye

This phrase literally translates to “what’s for you won’t go by you,” suggesting that some things are best left to the fates.

13. It Wis Hoachin’ 

men sitting on stools in a pub with sunlight on the floor
A busy bar could be describg as hoachin'. / Bo Zaunders/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Hoachin’ means “to be overrun” with something, so the word can be used to describe a place that’s really busy: “Yon bar was houchin’ like’” (“that bar was really busy”).

14. He Got Skelped

To skelp someone is to hit or slap them: “He didnay hud his wheesht so he got skelped.”

15. Keep the Heid

Ever heard of “keep calm and carry on”? This is the Scottish equivalent. It can also be used when someone is about to lose their temper. 

16. Huad On

Haud on is the Scots way of saying “hold on” or “take your time.” It can also be used as a reproach: “Haud on now!”

17. Gie It a Dook

Loony Dook New Years Swim
Loony Dook New Years Swim, 2023. / Jeff J Mitchell/GettyImages

To dook something is to dip or dunk it in liquid, usually water. Scotland has a tradition of the “Loony Dook,” where people swim in freezing local waters on New Year’s Day. 

18. Ah Dinnae Ken

In Scotland, Ken isn’t a first name—it’s another way to say “know.” So the phrase ah dinnae ken her means “I don’t know her.” 

19. Oot on the Randan

This is Scotland’s equivalent of going “out out.”  Being oot on the randan usually involves alcohol and can sometimes result in mischievous behaviour.

20. Up to High Doh

This phrase has nothing to do with Homer Simpson (“d’oh!”)—it means to be either overly excited or agitated.