Scottish Sayings & Slang, and their Meanings

With natural beauty beyond comparison, unique and tasty traditional cuisine and a rich history, Scotland is perfect for an adventure along its picturesque waterways. You’ll stop at a number of different places and have fantastic experiences – more so than you would on a traditional holiday. However, all that is useless if you don’t know what the locals are saying… and the Scots are known for having a rather unusual way with words.

Learn some of the words and phrases you may hear while exploring the Highlands. Scotland is waiting – so read on to brush up on commonly heard Scottish sayings (and slang).

Dave Annis shares his phot of a Scottish piper playing his bagpipes along the banks of the Caledonian Canal in the Scottish Highlands - fun Scottish facts
Scottish Piper, courtesy of Dave Annis


‘Scran’ is Scottish for food… so this is one you’ll likely hear on your excursions. Scotland has some downright delicious traditional scran!

Vegetarian haggis served aboard European Waterways' luxury barge cruises
Vegetarian Haggis served on our Scottish cruises


You may think you know what this word means – a chum is a friend, right? Wrong! To the Scots, ‘chum’ means to go somewhere with someone. For example, if you’d like someone to come down to the shops with you, you could say, ‘Will you chum me to the shops?’


‘Blether’ means to chat away with someone. If you’re gossiping, speaking or talking, you’re blethering. One of our favourite Scottish sayings…


Looking for somewhere to put your garbage? Scotland has them – but they’re not called what you think! The word here for bin is ‘bucket’, so if you’ve got some rubbish, that’s where you’ll want to deposit it.


‘Braw’ is another common Scottish saying. It means fantastic, great, brilliant… essentially all that’s positive and wonderful. You might hear this on your travels. Scotland is definitely a braw destination!

Traditional falconry display on European Waterways' Scottish cruises
A 'braw' falconry excursion by Cathy Stodgell


‘Tidy’ is another popular one – you’ll likely hear this slang word quite a lot during your holiday. It means pretty, delicious, stunning, beautiful, outstanding, lovely, bonnie… in fact, it has a very similar meaning to braw. You can use tidy to describe everything from someone who is good looking to a tasty meal.

Invermoriston Falls in the Scottish Highlands
'Tidy' vistas to see along the way, including Invermoriston Falls

Pure Barry

As you may have noticed by now, the Scots have a lot of words for things they find utterly fantastic and wonderful. Here’s another one: ‘pure barry’.

Highland Cow found in the Scottish Highlands
We think this Highland 'Coo' (cow) is 'pure barry'!

Yer Heid’s Full o’ Mince

Hopefully you won’t hear this one directed towards you! If someone tells you that ‘yer heid’s full o’ mince’, they’re letting you know that what you’re saying is making absolutely no sense.

Tearin’ the Tartan

Are you utterly engrossed in a fantastic conversation with a friend? According to the Scots, the two of you are ‘tearin’ the tartan’.

Insider Experiences on European Waterways' luxury barge cruises in Scotland
Resident highlander, Ian, talking Scottish history and culture

Planning a Scottish Highland escape?

Keep these Scottish sayings and slang words in mind as you sail around Scotland on your luxury cruise – after all, a holiday is so much more enjoyable if you understand what the locals are saying to you. For more information on our Scottish Highland luxury barges and itineraries, click here >

If you’d like to further inspire your wanderlust, why not sign up to our monthly e-newsletter for exclusive first access to offers, interesting articles and general news from the waterways. Click here to signup >

For help in planning your perfect barge cruise, order a brochure or speak to a member of our cruise team today.

Scottish Highlander and Spirit of Scotland luxury barge cruises
Luxury barge cruises, Scottish Highland (L) and Spirit of Scotland (R)

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