Home Language Hacks 100 Useful Scots Language Phrases for Travel [Audio Included]

100 Useful Scots Language Phrases for Travel [Audio Included]

by Michele
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Scots Language Phrases - Edinburgh historical buildings
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Travelling to Scotland and want to learn the Scots language? You’re in the right place! You do not have to learn the entire Scots language to be travel fluent. Just being able to understand and use common Scots phrases and expressions will make all the difference when it comes to comprehension. This travel phrase guide will introduce you to the Scots language with details about its origin, where it’s spoken, and more importantly, how to understand and speak Scots.

Just like all my other travel phrase cheat-sheets, this Scots travel phrase guide includes practical phrases and vocabulary which will help you better understand its speakers and have more meaningful conversations and interactions.  To help me create this guide, I asked my friend and Scots educator, Maureen from Language Learning Journey to provide translations and transliterations and audio clips just to make things even easier for you.

Want to have fun whilst learning Scots? Struggling to find decent Scots language resources? I recommend getting uTalk. Available as a desktop site and app, uTalk is awesome for learning key words and phrases in Scots, especially if you want to use it for travel purposes.  It’s great for beginners getting started in a language and invaluable for intermediates looking to fill in gaps in their vocabulary and pronunciation. 

What I love most about uTalk is that you can jump around their extensive library of topics and choose what you want to learn, when you want, and at your own pace.  Because I believe in uTalk so much, I reached out to them and we’ve teamed up to offer you an exclusive 30% OFF reader discount across all of uTalk’s 140 languages! This offer isn’t available anywhere else! Click here to claim your exclusive 30% discount.

Let’s take a closer look at the Scots language. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Table of Contents

What’s the difference between Scots, Scottish Gaelic, and Scottish English?

Before you learn about what Scots is, it’s important to know what it’s NOT. It’s not to be confused with Scottish Gaelic or Scottish English. So, what’s the difference between Scots, Scottish Gaelic, and Scottish English?

Let’s take a closer look.


By the 7th century, Northumbrian Old English was spoken in what is now southeastern Scotland as far as the River Forth. In the period leading up to 1450, Early Scots emerged as a new language from the Northern Middle English speaking parts of Scotland. During this time, speakers referred to the language as “English” (Inglis and Ynglis). It wasn’t called Scots until the 15th century.

Scottish Gaelic

While Scots evolved from Old English, Scottish Gaelic, Scots Gaelic, or simply Gaelic developed from Old Irish. It is believed settlers from Ireland brought Gaelic over to Scotland sometime between the 4th–5th centuries. By the 13th century, it became a distinct spoken language in Scotland.

Scottish English

Scottish English developed as the result of the Scots language coming into contact with Standard English of England after the 17th century. As Scots-speakers began to use Standard English, this shift resulted in phonological compromises and lexical transfers as well as pronouncing words according to their spelling and hypercorrections. An example of hypercorrection in Modern English is like saying, “You and me are the same height” when you should say  “You and I are the same height”. Hypercorrections occur as a result of misunderstanding a point of grammar.

The relationship and similarity between Scots and Standard English is just like the one between Norwegian, Danish and Swedish, meaning, they are pretty much mutually intelligible. 

Want to learn Scots? Check out this Scots vocabulary course by Maureen and LanguageBoost.

Where is Scots Spoken?

Scots Language Phrases - Calton Hill in EdinburghScots is spoken in Scotland in areas such as the Scottish Lowlands, the Northern Isles, Caithness, Arran, and Campbeltown. Scots is also spoken in Ireland’s Ulster provinces, where it is officially known as Ulster-Scots. Counties, where Scots is spoken include Down, Antrim, Londonderry, and Donegal. Scots came to Ireland between 1610-1690 where some 200,000 Scots-speaking Lowlanders settled as colonists.

How many people speak Scots?

After previous attempts to survey the population, the General Register Office (GRO) concluded that there simply was not enough linguistic self-awareness amongst the Scottish populace in order for them to give an accurate response. People still thought of themselves as speaking badly pronounced, grammatically inferior English; rather than Scots.

Leading up to the 2011 UK census where Scotland residents were to be asked about the Scots language, a campaign called Aye Can, was set up to help people answer the question. 

Of approximately 5.1 million who participated in the census, about 1.2 million (24%) responded that they could speak, read and write Scots, 3.2 million (62%) had no skills in Scots and the remainder had some degree of skill, such as understanding Scots (0.27 million, 5.2%) or being able to speak it but not read or write it (0.18 million, 3.5%).

The same census recorded Scots speakers in smaller numbers located in bordering areas of Wales and England such as Carlisle or in areas that had recruited large numbers of Scottish workers in the past (e.g. Corby or the former mining areas of Kent).

Another census is planned to take place in 2021.

A Quick History of Scots

Scots Language Phrases Train over bridge in mountainsJust like English, the Scots language evolved from the Angles, who were a Germanic-speaking people who came to the British Isles from the fifth century. By the 11th century, Scottish Gaelic had become the dominant language in most of the emerging kingdom.

During this time, another form of Northern Anglo-Saxon emerged from Anglo-Norman landowners and monastic orders, who came north mainly from what is now Yorkshire. This area fell under Danelaw which originated from the expansion of the Vikings in the 9th century. However, the term wasn’t used to describe a geographic area until the 11th century. Nevertheless, the language brought strong Scandinavian elements still which is still seen in Scots (and northern English) to this day. For example, gate means street, and kirk means church).

When King David I of Scotland introduced burghs (an autonomous municipal area in Scotland and Northern England, usually a city, town, or toun in Scots), new communities were attracted to settle in these areas. These new arrivals were mainly English, Dutch and French, and the English language became their lingua franca by the end of the 13th century. 

As the burghs continued to gain more economic influence, attracting even more people from English, Fleming and Scandinavian regions, Scots and Gaelic-speakers recognised the benefit of using English as a working language and began to use it.

Before the sixteenth century, this language was usually called ‘inglis’ in the vernacular (i.e. ‘Angle-ish’ – ‘Scottis’ sometimes referred to Gaelic or Irish) or ‘German’ in Latin. From 1494 it was known as ‘scottis’.

So, what happened to Scots?

After various political events including the Scottish Reformation (1560) and the political Union with England (1707), English replaced Norman French as the language of the elite and Scots came to be regarded as a ‘group of dialects’ rather than a ‘language’. 

However, Scots continued to be used by the vast majority of Lowland Scots, and was used creatively in poetry, song, and story. During this period, Scots reached its pinnacle of literary achievement. The best example of this is Robert Burns’ poem Auld Lang Syne (literally, “Old Long Since”) which is traditionally sung during New Years festivities in Scotland and around the world.

An interest in Scots returned during the 2010s and its status in Scottish schools was raised with Scots being included in the new national school curriculum.

Today, the UK government officially recognises Scots as a regional language under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and is considered a vulnerable language by UNESCO.

Etymology: What does ‘Scots’ mean?

Scots Language Phrases - Edinburgh castleBy the beginning of the fifteenth century, the English language used in Scotland was a distinct language yet it lacked a name. The term Scottis was first used in 1494 to distinguish the Lowland language from its sister language in England. Scots is a contraction of Scottis, the Older Scots which simply means ‘Scottish’. 

Scots Alphabet

The Modern Scots alphabet consists of the same letters as the Standard English alphabet. However, in older and middle Scots the additional letters <þ> (thorn) equivalent to the modern <th> as in the and <Ȝ> (yogh) representing a sound similar to the <gn> in the French Bretagne and <y> as in the modern word year. 

The Scots pronunciations are:

A aw N enn
B bay O oa
C say P pay
D day Q quee
E ay R err
F eff S ess
G gay T tay
H aitch, itch U ou
I ey, ee Vv owe
J jye W dooble-ou, oulou
K kye, kay X ex
L ell Y wye
M em Z (i)zed

Written Scots

Since there is no official authority that dictates the “correct” way to spell Scots, Scots Dictionaries usually record a range of spellings in common use which reflect historical, regional, accidental and idiosyncratic variants. The pronunciation of the written word is thus interpreted by the reader according to their own dialect.

Scots Grammar

On the surface, Modern Scots grammar may seem similar to standard and colloquial English, but in fact, they differ quite a lot. Here are a few distinct grammatical differences worth pointing out.

Sentence structure

While Modern Scots generally follows the subject-verb–object sentence structure this rule can be bent. For example, he turnt oot the licht and gie’s it (give us it) may be preferred over ‘he turned the light out and ”give it to me.’

The definite article

In Scots, the definite article the is used before the names of seasons, days of the week, many nouns, diseases, trades and occupations, sciences and academic subjects. For example,

  • the noo – now
  • the morn – tomorrow
  • the nicht –  tonight
  • the year  – this year
  • he bides in the toon – he lives in town 
  • whaur’s the wife the day? – Where’s your wife today?
  • A’ll stairt in the ware – I’ll start in spring


There are many verbs in Scots that are unlike English. A verb is any word you can put ‘to’ in front of eg. to eat, to sleep 

  • A ken – I know 
  • ye ken
  • she/he kens 
  • we ken 
  • youse ken (plural) 
  • they ken
  • A greet – I cry 
  • ye greet
  • she/he greets 
  • we greet 
  • youse greet 
  • they greet

What I find fascinating is the use of youse for the ‘you’ plural. It might be incorrect English, but in fact, it’s correct Scots. So, anytime the grammar police give you a hard time, just tell them you’re speaking Scots!


Just like English, plurals of nouns are usually formed by adding an -(e)s. A noun is any word you can put a/an in front of eg. an apple, a dog. Unlike English, words ending in -f or -fe simply add an -s eg. wifes, leafs, lifes. 

Some Scots irregular plurals are: ee/een (eye/eyes); shae/shuin (shoe/shoes); coo/kye (cow/cows), cauf/caur (calf/calves), and horse/horse (horse/horses).

Personal and possessive pronouns

Modern Scots also has a third adjective/adverb this-that-yon/yonder (thon/thonder) indicating something at some distance. Thir and thae are the plurals of this and that respectively.  Doesn’t it almost feel like you’re speaking Shakespearean English?

English Scots
I, me, myself, mine, my A, me, masel, mines, ma
thou, thee, thyself, thine, thy (Early Modern English) thoo/thee, thysel, thine, thy*
we, us, ourselves, ours, our we, (h)us, oorsels/wirsels, oor/wir
you (singular), you (plural), yourself, yours, your you/ye, you(se)/ye(se), yoursel/yersel
they, them, themselves, theirs, their thay, thaim, thaimsels/thairsels, thairs, thair

Forming the negative

The negative particle in Scots is na, sometimes spelled nae, eg. canna (can’t), daurna (daren’t), michtna (mightn’t).

Scots no is used generally in the same ways as English not eg. A’m no gaun oot. 

Nae carries out this function in the North East dialect; otherwise ‘nae‘ before nouns is the equivalent to English ‘no’ eg. Therr nae luck aboot the hoose. 

100 Useful Scots Phrases for Travel

Useful Scots Language Phrases for Travel

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  Scots Translation Pronunciation / Transliteration 


Hello (greet someone) Hallo/hullo
Good morning Guid mornin’
gud mornin
Good night Guid night/nicht
Gud night/nik-t
Good evening Guid evenin’
Gud evenin’
Goodbye Bye/Cheerio/ see ye efter
By /Cheery-o/ see ye efter
How are you? Hou ur ye? / Hou’s it goin?
How ur ye?/ How’s it gone?
I’m am very well, thank you A’m awfy guid, thanks
A’m aw-fe gud, thanks
Good, thank you Guid, thanks
Gud, thanks
What is your name? Whit’s yer name?
Whit’s yer name?
My name is… Ma name’s…
Ma name’s….
It’s nice to meet you Gled tae meet ye
Gled tae meet ye


Please Please
Thank you Thanks
You’re welcome Yer welcome
yer wel-kom
OK OK / awright
ok/ aw-right
Excuse me Excuse me
excuse me
I’m sorry A’m sorry
A’m sorry
I don’t understand A don’t / dinnae underston
A don’t / dinn-y understawn
I only speak a little bit of Scots A only speak a wee bit ae Scots
A only speek a wee bit ae Scots
Can you please repeat that slowly Can ye repeat that slower please?
Can ye repeat that slo-er please?


Where? Whaur?
How? Hou?
Where is/are…? Whaur is/ur..?
Whaur is/ur..?
How much? Hou much?
How much?
Who? Who?
When? When?
Why? Hou?
What? Whit?
Which? Whit?
How much is this? Hou much is this?
Hou much is this?
How much does that cost? Hou much dis that cost?
Hou much dis that cost?
Where is the toilet? Whaur’s the toilet?
Whaur’s the toilet?
Can I have… Can A hiv…?
Kin A hiv…?
I would like… A’d like….
A’d like….

Food and Drink

The menu, please The menu, please
The menu, please
Two beers, please Two/twa beers, please
Two/twa beers , please
A bottle of house white/red wine, please A bottle ae hoos white/rid wine, please
A bottle ae hoos white/rid wine, please
Some water, please Some water, please
Some waa-ter, please
I’m allergic to… A’m allergic tae
A’m allergik tae
I’m a vegetarian A’m a vegetarian
A’m a vegetarian
Can we have the bill, please? Can we hiv the bill, please?
Kin we hiv the bill, please?
What do you recommend? Whit dae ye recommend?
Whit day ye recommend?
The meal was excellent The meal wis braw
The meal wis braw

Getting Around

Left Left
Right Right/richt
Straight ahead Straight aheed
straight aheed
Turn left Turn left
turn left
Turn right Turn right/richt
turn right/rik-t
Bus stop Bus stop
bus stop
Train station Train station
train station
Airport Airport
Entrance Entrance
Exit Exit


0 zero 
1 wan
2 two/twa
3 three
4 four
5 five
6 six
7 seven
8 eight
9 nine
10 ten
11 eleven
12 twelve
13 thirteen
14 fourteen
15 fifteen
16 sixteen
17 seventeen
18 eighteen
19 nineteen
20 twinty
30 therty
40 forty
50 fifty
60 sixty
70 seventy
80 eighty
90 ninety
100 a hunner
a hunner
1000 a thoosand
a thoosand


Today the day
the day
Tomorrow the morra
the morra
Yesterday yisterday
What time is it? Whit time is it?
Whit time is it?
It’s … It’s….


Monday Monday
Tuesday Tuesday
Wednesday Wednesday
Thursday Thursday
Friday Friday
Saturday Saturday
Sunday Sunday


Help! Help!
I need a doctor A need a doctor
A need a doctor
I don’t feel well A don’t/dinnae feel well
A don’t/dinn-y feel well
Call the police! Phone the polis!
Phone the polis!
There’s a fire! There’s a fire!
There’s a fire!

Want to learn more Scots? Check out this Scots vocabulary course by Maureen and LanguageBoost.

Useful Scots Phrases and Words for Travellers [Infographic]

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100 Useful Scots Language Phrases for Travel [Includes Audio)

Sources / A big thanks to Maureen Millward from Language Learning Journey for the translations / Scots LanguageWikipedia – Scots Language / Wikipedia – Danelaw / Wikipedia – Early Scots / Scots Haunbuik / Scots Online

Want to know more about learning languages? Start here!

Over to you!

Which of these Scots phrases did you find the most useful? Let me know in the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.
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