Scottish Cant

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Scottish Cant
Traveller Scottish
Native to United Kingdom
Region Scotland
Native speakers
(4,000 in Scotland cited 1990?[1])[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 trl
Glottolog trav1235[3]

Scottish Cant (often simply Cant) is a cant spoken in Scotland by Lowland Scottish Travellers/Gypsies.[4]


A certain amount of Romani words have entered Lowland Scottish Cant through intermarriage with British Romani groups, between 25-35% of Scottish Cant originates in a Romani-derived lexicon.[5] Containing up to 50% or more Romani loan words in some groups of the central belt of Scotland, those who are Romanichal or Scottish border gypsies.[5] Which demonstrates the intermarriage and links between Scottish travellers and English Romani populations, historically and in recent times.[6] This is not to be confused with indigenous Highland Traveller populations who are an autochthonous group of travelling people and not to be confused with British New Age Travellers. Scottish Highland Cant essentially remains a Germanic language.[4] The Scottish Gaelic element in the dialects of Scottish Cant is put anywhere between 0.8% and 20%.[4]

Use of archaic Scots[edit]

Scottish Cant uses numerous terms derived from Scots which are no longer current in Modern Scots as spoken by non-Travellers, such as mowdit "buried", mools "earth", both from muild(s), and gellie, from gailey (galley), "a bothy".[4]

Gaelic influences[edit]

Loans from Gaelic include words like:[4]

  • cluishes "ears" (Gaelic cluasan or cluais, a dative form of cluas "ear")
  • shain "bad" (Gaelic sean "old")

Romani influences[edit]

There are Romani loans and the percentage of Romani lexical borrowings is said to be up to 50% of the lexicon; some examples are:[4]

  • gadgie "man" (Romani gadžó "a non-Romani person")
  • pannie "water" (Romani paní)


  1. ^ not clear if date applies to population in Scotland
  2. ^ Scottish Cant at Ethnologue (12th ed., 1992).
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Traveller Scottish". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Kirk, J. & Ó Baoill, D. Travellers and their Language (2002) Queen's University Belfast ISBN 0-85389-832-4
  5. ^ a b wilde 1889, cited in Not just lucky white heather and clothes pegs: putting European Gypsies and Traveller economic niches in context. In: Ethnicity and Economy:Race and class revisited. C. Clark (2002). Strathclyde University.
  6. ^ Roma, Gypsies, Travellers. Jean-Pierre Liégeois. Published by Council of Europe

See also[edit]