List of English words of Scottish Gaelic origin

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This is a list of English words borrowed from Scottish Gaelic. Some of these are common in Scottish English and Scots but less so in other varieties of English.

Words of Scottish Gaelic origin[edit]

Bannock
a variety of bread. Cf. Latin panicium, Old English bannuc.
Bard
[1] The word's earliest appearance in English is in 15th century Scotland with the meaning "vagabond minstrel". The modern literary meaning, which began in the 17th century, is heavily influenced by the presence of the word in ancient Greek (bardos) and ancient Latin (bardus) writings (e.g. used by the poet Lucan, 1st century AD), which in turn took the word from the Gaulish language.
Ben
[1] From beinn [peiɲ], mountain.
Bodach 
Old man.
Bog
[1] From bog [pok], soft (related to boglach swamp), from Old Irish bocc.[2] 14th century.[3]
Bothan 
a hut, often an illegal drinking den. (cf Bothy)
Caber toss
an athletic event, from the Gaelic word "cabar" which refers to a wooden pole.
Cailleach 
An old woman, a hag, or a particular ancient goddess.
Cairn
[1] From càrn. The word's meaning is much broader in Gaelic, and is also used for certain types of rocky mountains.
Caman
Another name for Shinty.
Capercaillie
[1] From capall-coille [kʰapʰəlˠ̪ˈkʰɤʎə], meaning "horse of the woods"
Ceilidh 
A 'Social gathering' or, more recently, a formal evening of traditional Scottish Social Dancing.
Canntaireachd
a type of pipe music.
Clan
[1] From the compound form clann pronounced [kʰlˠ̪an̪ˠ], from clann, children or family. Old Irish cland.[2]
Claymore
[1] A large broadsword, from claidheamh mór [kʰlˠ̪ajəv moːɾ], great sword.
Coire
literally a "kettle", meaning a corrie, from the same root.
Craig
[1] From creag [kʲʰɾʲekʲ], a cliff.
Deoch-an-dorus (various spellings) 
meaning a "drink at the door". Translated as "one for the road", i.e. "one more drink before you leave".
Fear an taighe
an MC (master of ceremonies), Gaelic lit. "the man of the house"
Galore
[1] From gu leor, enough.
Ghillie
[1] a type of servant, now usually somebody in charge of fishing and rivers, and also ghillie suit used as a form of camouflage, from gille [kʲiʎə], boy or servant.
Glen
[1] From gleann [klaunˠ̪], a valley.
Gob
[1] From gob, beak or bill.
Kyle or Kyles 
Straits from Gaelic Caol & Caolais.
Loch
[1] From loch [lˠ̪ɔx].
Lochaber axe 
From Loch Abar [lˠ̪ɔxˈapəɾ], Lochaber + axe.
Mackintosh
[1] After Charles Macintosh who invented it. From Mac an Tòisich [makʰ ən̪ˠ t̪ʰɔːʃiç], son of the chieftain.
Mod
[1] A Gaelic festival, from mòd [mɔːt̪], assembly, court.
Pet
[4] From peata, tame animal.
Pibroch
[1] From pìobaireachd [pʰiːpəɾʲəxk], piping.
Pillion
[1] From pillean [pʰiʎan], pack-saddle, cushion.
Plaid
[1] From plaide [pʰlˠ̪atʲə], blanket. Alternatively a Lowland Scots loanword [1], from the past participle of ply, to fold, giving plied then plaid after the Scots pronunciation.
Ptarmigan
[1] From tàrmachan [tʰaːɾməxan]. 16th Century.
Shindig[disambiguation needed]
[1] From sìnteag to skip, or jump around
Slogan
[1] From sluagh-ghairm [s̪lˠ̪uəɣɤɾʲɤm], battle-cry
Smashing
Claimed as coming from 'S math sin meaning that is good, often used as great
Sporran
[1] Via sporan [s̪pʰɔɾan] from Old Irish sboran and ultimately Latin bursa, purse.[5]
Spunk
[1] From spong [s̪pʰɔŋɡ], tinder and also sponge. From Early Irish sponge, from Latin spongia, from Greek σπογγιά, a sponge.[2]
Strontium
[1] from Sròn an t-Sìthein [s̪t̪ɾɔːn əɲ tʲʰiːɛɲ] meaning "the point at the fairy hill",[6] name of a mountain, near which the element was discovered.
Tack & Tacksman (a lessee) 
From Scots tak (take) cf. Old Norse taka.
Trousers
[1] from triubhas [t̪ʰɾu.əs̪], via "trews".
Whisky
[1] Short form of whiskybae, from uisge-beatha [ɯʃkʲəˈpɛhə], water of life.

Words of Scottish or Irish Gaelic origin[edit]

The following words are of Goidelic origin but it cannot be ascertained whether the source language was Old Irish or one of the modern Goidelic languages.

Brogue
[1] An accent, Irish, or Scottish Gaelic bròg [pɾɔːk], shoe (of a particular kind worn by Irish and Gaelic peasants), Early Irish bróc, from Norse brókr[2]
Hubbub
[1][3] Irish, or Scottish Gaelic ubub [upup], an exclamation of disapproval.
Shanty 
Irish, or Scottish Gaelic sean taigh [ʃan tī], an old house
Smidgen 
Irish, or Scottish Gaelic smidean [s̪mitʲan], a very small bit (connected to Irish smidirín, smithereen), from smid, syllable or a small bit.[citation needed]
Strath
[1] Irish, or Scottish Gaelic srath [s̪t̪ɾah], a wide valley.

Gaelic words mostly used in Lowland Scots[edit]

Corrie

Because of the wide overlap of Scottish English and Lowland Scots, it can be difficult to ascertain if a word should be considered Lowland Scots or Scottish English. These words tend to be more closely associated with Lowland Scots but can occur in Scottish English too.

Airt
[1] Point of the compass, from àird, Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: [aːrˠtʲ], a point.
Bothy
[7] A hut, from bothan [pɔhan], a hut, cf.Norse būð, Eng. booth.
Caird
[1] A tinker, from ceaird [kʲlˠ̪ɛrˠtʲ], the plural of ceàrd, tinkers.
Caber
[1] From cabar [kʰapəɾ], pole.
Cailleach
[1] From cailleach [kʰaʎəx], old woman.
Caman
[1] From caman [kʰaman], shinty stick. Also in use in Scotland the derived camanachd, shinty.
Cateran
[1] From ceatharn [kʲʰɛhərˠn], fighting troop.
Ceilidh
[1] From céilidh [kʲʰeːli], a social gathering.
Clachan
[1] From clachan [kʰlˠ̪axan], a small settlement.
Clarsach
[1] A harp, from clàrsach [kʰlˠ̪aːrˠs̪əx], a harp.
Corrie
[1] From coire [kʰɤɾʲə], kettle.
Doch-an-doris
[1] Stirrup cup, from deoch an dorais [tʲɔx ən̪ˠ t̪ɔɾəʃ], drink of the door.
Fillibeg
[1] A kilt, from féileadh beag [feːləɣ pek], small kilt.
Ingle
[1] From aingeal [aiŋʲɡʲəlˠ̪], a now obsolete word for fire.
Kyle
[1] From caol [kʰɯːlˠ̪], narrow.
Lochan
[1] From lochan [lˠ̪ɔxan], a small loch.
Machair
[1] From machair [maxəɾʲ], the fertile land behind dunes.
Quaich
[1] From cuach [kʰuəx], a cup.
Skean
[8] From sgian [s̪kʲian], a knife.
Slughorn 
Also from sluagh-ghairm, but erroneously believed by Thomas Chatterton and Robert Browning to refer (apparently) to some kind of trumpet.[9]
Inch
[1] And island, from Irish and Scottish Gaelic innis [ˈiɲiʃ].
Och
[7] Irish and Scottish Gaelic och [ɔx], exclamation of regret. Cf. English agh, Dutch and German ach.
Oe
[7] Grandchild, Irish and Scottish Gaelic ogha [oə], grandchild.
Samhain 
Irish and Scottish Gaelic Samhain [s̪auɛɲ], November and related to Oidhche Shamhna, Halloween.
Shennachie
[7] Irish and Scottish Gaelic seannachaidh [ʃɛn̪ˠəxi], storyteller.
Sassenach
[1] Irish and Scottish Gaelic Sasannach [s̪as̪ən̪ˠəx], An Englishman, a Saxon.
Abthen (or Abthan[7]
jurisdiction and territory of pre-Benedictine Scottish monastery, from abdhaine [ˈapɣəɲə], abbacy.
Airie
[7] shieling, from àiridh [ˈaːɾʲi], shieling.
Aiten
[7] juniper, from aiteann [ˈaʰtʲən̪ˠ], juniper.
Bourach
[7] A mess, from bùrach [ˈpuːɾəx], a mess.
Car, ker
[7] Left-handed, from cearr [kʲʰaːrˠ], wrong, left.
Crine
[7] To shrink, from crìon [kʰɾʲiən], to shrink.
Crottle
[7] A type of lichen used as a dye, from crìon [kʰɾɔʰt̪əlˠ̪], lichen.
Golack
[7] An insect, from gobhlag [ˈkoːlˠ̪ak], an earwig.
Keelie
[7] A tough urban male, from gille [ˈkʲiːʎə], a lad, a young man.
Ketach
[7] The left hand, from ciotach [ˈkʲʰiʰt̪əx], left-handed.
Sonse
[7] From sonas [s̪ɔnəs̪], happiness, good fortune. Also the related sonsy.
Spleuchan
[7] A pouch, from spliùchan [ˈs̪pljuːxan], a pouch, purse.
Toshach
[7] Head of a clan, from toiseach [ˈt̪ʰɔʃəx], beginning, front.

Place-name terminology[edit]

There are numerous additional place-name elements in Scotland which are derived from Gaelic, but the majority of these has not entered the English or Scots language as productive nouns and often remain opaque to the average Scot. A few examples of such elements are:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av Collins English Dictionary 21st Century Edition Harper Collins (2001) ISBN 0-00-472529-8
  2. ^ a b c d MacBain, A. (1911) An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language
  3. ^ a b Hoad, T.F. (ed) (1986) Oxford Concise Dictionary of English Etymology Oxford ISBN 0-19-283098-8
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  5. ^ Alexander MacBain's Etymological Dictionary, Gairm Publications, 1982
  6. ^ Iain Mac an Tàilleir: Scottish Placenames
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Robinson, M. (ed) The Concise Scots Dictionary Chambers 1985 ISBN 0-08-028491-4
  8. ^ McArthur. T. The Oxford Companion to the English Language Oxford University Press 1992 ISBN 0-19-214183-X
  9. ^ Simpson, J.A. and Weiner E.S.C. The Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition Vol XV