The similarity between Scottish and Scandinavian words (2022)

Here I provide a list of Scottish words that I've found to have amazing similarity to words in the Scandinavian words (examples from non-Scandinavian Nordic languages will be given when known). These words are specific to Scots and not (necessarily to English). Here I assume (from good evidence) that Scots is its own Germanic language which has evolved separately to the various types of English found in the history of England.

Scots English is the current standard as according to the Scottish government but it is essentially English with a few extra words. Scots, proper, is part of the oral history of Scotland and has no proper (read: official) defining list of orthography. The Scots version of Wikipedia even uses some words that I understand (given the context) but have never heard of them before.English as a standard language with one list of orthographically correct words is rather new compared to the age of the language itself.

This means that the Scots words that I list below have no formally accepted spelling. There might be some pseudo-official spelling as given by (say) Collins' Dictionaries but in reality the language has evolved naturally and more so through speech than writing. That is to say there is (currently) no right or wrong spelling. The real interest in this article is to consider why the Scots words are so similar to the Scandinavian ones. Obviously, geographic proximity is a major factor but beyond that it is interesting to consider why the words have survived in Scots. It would be nice to know, if possible, who gave the words to who. Unfortunately my knowledge of the languages involved is not great enough to answer that last thought. It could be that the words existed in Old English and have transferred well in Nordic languages in modern day but only through oral history and usage for the Scots. Again, my knowledge of Old English is poor.

There are some words that which are words from say Old English, and perhaps older, which are present in all modern Germanic languages but I'm ignoring those and trying to focus on those words which are 'uniquely' Scottish and not apparent in standard English. For example, I am ignoring hound (English) which also appears in German and Norwegian with the spelling Hund. I'm also ignoring the word son which as I pointed out in a previous article is apparent in all Germanic languages in very similar forms. To be clearer, I am ignoring words that appear in standard English with Nordic origins but focussing upon words which are unique to Scots but have Nordic origins. These words may have even older origins in Old German (in its various forms) but my knowledge there is lacking.

The Scandinavian languages (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian) are often quite similar in their spelling and pronunciation. In some cases the spelling is exactly the same. Interestingly, the equivalents in Icelandic are also quite close. In a few of the cases I can provide the Faroese equivalent but only anecdotetally from experience. NB: Yes, I'm aware that Iceland and the Faroe Islands are not Scandinavia, and neither is Finland (whose crazy language is closer to Klingon ;-) ).

Update: I've come across a book on Gutenberg that also studies suchsimilarities:Scandinavian influence on Southern LowlandScotch, by George Tobias Flom. Note that the word 'Scotch' is only used to refer to Whisky in modern Scots and is otherwise looked upon disdainfully as it is considered condescending. It would seem that this book has bested my efforts; however, some of the words seem like they also belong in modern English while others are (to me) so rare that they have fallen out of modern usage.

This is how I will set out each word:

Scots word (pronunciation using standard English if different from the spelling) [English word]

Nordic equivalent (note that I default to Bokmal for Norwegian).

Meaning in English and Nordic languages.

Hoose (Hoose) [House]

Swe/Dan/Nor: Hus

Ok, so the meaning of the first few words is actually pretty simple and don't really require much said about them. This word means house, or home, but the interesting thing is that the pronunciation in Scots is the exact same as it is in the Scandinavian languages (ignoring variations due to local accents).

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Oot [Out]

Swe/Dan/No: Ut

Here the pronunciation is the same in Scottish as it is in Scandinavian.The meaning of this one is simple: out, as in outside. In the Scandinavian languages I believe the word ut is slightly more general in usage and can be used as "outside" as well as "out".

Efter (Ef-ter, also Ef-tur, Ef-tir and other vowel permutations probalby) [After]

Swe: Efter; Dan: Efter; No: Etter; Ice: Eftir; Faroese: Eftir.

Yep, it means "after" and the pronunciation is basically the same. Only really Norwegian is the odd one out here. As I suggested earlier there is no standard lexicon for orthography in Scots, hence it is possible to write the Efter with a permutation on the last vowel depending on one's local dialect. Again, there are no hard rules but rather the sounds seem to have evolved one way or another depending on which town / coast that one is raised in.

Burn (burn) [Burn, and also River]

Swe: bränn; Dan: brænde; No:brenne; Ice: brenna

The word can mean ''to burn'' as you would with fire but it can also be a river. The best known example in Scotland is Bannock Burn, which means Bannock River. A burn is more commonly used in modern speech when talking about a steam (perhaps in a ravine), while use of the word as referring to a river seems to be more archaic. I base this assertion on experience. The interesting thing here is that the Nordic languages also have a word that contains this dual meaning: one that refers to water and to fire. A strange dualism of opposites in a single word. The words also start with "B". :-) There might be a deeper philosophical meaning here but I'm too cautious to currently suggest one. As far as I know the pronunciations in the Nordic languages are all quite similar, with the exception of Danish. The Swedish is said like Brehn, or Brenn, in English.

Flittin' (flitting, or similar) [To move house]

Swe: Flytta; Dan/ No: Flytte.

The Scandinavian word is far more general than the Scottish one. The Scandinavian version literally means to move (shift). In Scots, however, the word is (afaik) only used when referring to moving house ("Ahm flitting hoose" - I'm moving house). Furthermore, I've only ever heard if from the west coast in the lowlands: i.e. Glasgow / Strathclyde.

Greetin [crying]

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Swe: Gråta ; No: gråte (Danish equivalent seems further away in pronunciation)

Literally means crying, or to cry. The pronunciation in Swedish is something like Groh-tah, while Scottish is as you would expect from the spelling: Gree-tin. I think the similarity is close enough that a link exists. Whether we got it from them or the other way round would be interesting to know.

Braw [excellent, fantastic]

Swe: Bra (exact same pronunciation as Scottish); No / Dan : Bra (pronunciation is different, the 'a' is more like 'ah' than 'aw')

In the Scandinavian languages the word bra merely means good, while in Scottish (chielfy / only east coast from my experience) the word means something better than good. Example: "That was braw" would mean that something was great.

Fuhl (sometimes also 'full' as in English) [to be drunk]

Swe: Full

Thepronunciationin Swedish is almost exactly the same as it is in Scottish. This word is not so common among my contemporaries, I heard it from my grandmother is on the west coast of the central belt. How widespread it is among people of her generation I couldn't say. The interesting thing is that the pronunciation AND meaning are identical. There has to be a deep etymological connection here, I'm sure of it.

Wid [Wood]

Ice:viður, Old Ice (Norse):við/viðr

In Scottish it is pronounced as it looks, the 'i' is short short as in 'in' and has the meaning wood. In everyday usage I believe it is more often used as the material rather than to mean a forest, and possibly more common on the east coast. The link to the Scandanavian, or Nordic, langauges is perhaps the most tenuous of all the words I've proposed so far but here is my line of thought...

This is one I noticed after reading about Tolkien's mythical place called Mirkwood, which is inspired by the Old Norse (specifically Old Icelandic I believe) Myrkviðr which means Dark Wood (read as Dark Forest). Thusvið of Old Norse may become wid in Scottish. Of course the link could simple be a permutation of vowels as happens across different dialects in many languages where "a" becomes "e" or what not. The dictionary suggests that Old German has 'witu' which is possibly closer. The vowel in the nordic languages is longer and closer to 'ee', and in the case of Old German I'm not sure.

Interesting Myrk could become English murk or murky which is closer to cloudy than dirty, while in modern Scandinavian it comes mørk (No/Da) or mörk (Swe) which means dark. Mirk/mirky is not a variation I would use which leads me to guess that it could be more common in England. The first use of the name in English is attributed to William Morris.

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Stain [Stone]

Da/Swe: Sten, No: Stein, Ice: Steinn

In Scots the 'ai' is simliar to 'ay' in hay.

Bairn [child]

Ice/No/Da/Swe: Barn

This is a pretty easy one to spot. In Scots the 'ai' is simliar to 'ay' in hay, while in the nordic languages the 'a' is similar to English 'sand'. The meaning is essentially identical although I believe the plural takes no ending in the nordic langauges while Scots it takes an 's' as in English.

Quine [girl / possible woman]

Da: Kvinde, No: Kvinne, Swe: Kvinna

This is only really used in Aberdeen, andsurroundingarea. It still exists in modern usage in that area (afaik) but is almost unheard of anywhere else. The pronunciation is something like 'kwine', where 'wine' sounds as it normally does in English. It the modern Aberdonian usage I believe the meaning is closer to 'girl' than woman, and possibly slightly derogatory (not sure), while in Scandinavian the word means 'woman' (not girl).

I will update this list with more examples as I find them.

Comments

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Brian strachan -Mr |2013-09-17 05:10:50
Hi, i am from Fraserburrgh North East Scotland.

Here are some of my vocabulary, that have a striki ng resemblence to scandanavian toungs.
This is the dialect i was raised speaking.

Quine = young wom an (and no, not atall derogatory)
Quinie=. Little girl

Garr = to make, to cause something to happen

Teem = empty

Flit, or flittan=. Moving house as you say.

At= that

Eeen = one

Eeen= eyes

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admin |2013-09-23 22:47:47
My friend from Aberdeen implied that Quine was der ogatory, but then again maybe it was just him! The similarity between Scottish and Scandinavian words (1)

Garr - how does that sound? A sounds like 'Ah' ? It looks somewhat similar to past tense of "to go" at least, e.g. "i går".

Teem = e mpty? Interesting as there is an expression "t eeming with (stuff)" which would mean somethin g like overflowing. In No/ Swe empty is "Tom 34;, which is a little bit close.

At - forgot abo ut that one. It is used quite a lot in Glasgow + s urrounding area. Appears in Norwegian?

Sarah Norén |2013-11-15 22:57:03

Yep, really similair to the scandinavian, the funn y thing is that I don't personally think about sca ndinavian words when I hear Scottish, its only whe n you think about it, quine is kvinna in swedish w hich is woman, not girl, girl is tjej or flicka, t heres's some difference, I think its the same in N orway and Denmark

Ed |2013-11-23 12:35:24
Thanks for the comment Sarah. Sorry about being slow to publish. I get an absolute ton of spam and the thought of wading through it to find the proper comments doesn't fill me with delight.

Indeed, kvinna is woman while tjej is girl. In Norwegian there is pike (although my friend said that is an older version, and almost derogatory now) and jente (commonly used / normal).

I wouldn't say that quine is kvinna, but rather it seems likely that the two are connected.

In Doric quine is girl, afaik, which suggests that if the two words are from the same root then the meaning has drifted.

bjsalba -Consider |2014-01-24 18:13:33
Consider also the connections to Gaelic Burn is th e Lewis Gaelic word for (fresh) water - probably f rom Norse.

Braw may be connected to breagha (pron ounced bree-aah) which means good/fine/beautiful.

I have also been referred to as a quine but I'm 6 6! I must admit the speaker was closing in on 80 s o maybe it's a matter of perspective. He said " ;I'll gie the quine a hurl." I was getting a l ift/ride in his car from him.

John B. |2014-02-10 14:09:27

When I was a boy in the West Riding of Yorkshire ( I was born in 1944), flit was in common use - and not just as in 'moonlight flit'. (e.g. "Nay, t hey don't live here any more - they flitted last m onth."The similarity between Scottish and Scandinavian words (2) Not sure if it is still in common use or not (I live in Suffolk these days) - I suspect only by older people. As far as I know, it was use d throughout Northern England, not just Yorkshire.

Toepointer |2015-01-01 00:52:01
This is such an interesting topic, I'm surprised m ore research isn't being done into it.

I've j ust come back from a holiday to the North West coa st of Denmark, in other words directly opposite th e Scottish Lowlands where my parents and grandpare nts came from. Ignoring the fact we are all so bl ond we could pass as Danes, the similarities in la nguage were so striking that it was quite easy to work out what the place names meant. "Thisted " for example, was clearly an important steadi ng, Vigso was clearly a bay next to a sound. Inte restingly, "Vig" was pronounced as in lowl and Scots and not as in East Norse like "Wick& #34; which is pronounced by the natives as "We ek".

So the other words you might like to h ave a look at are:

Sound (Sund in Danish - its the same)
Firth (Fjord)
Fra (pronounced either & #34;frey" or "fro" depending on whethe r you are from south or north Scotland
Bigg (bygg e) is an old Scots word, retained in many housenam es, which means to build.
The numbers: een, two, three, fower, feave, six, sieven, acht, nine, teen .
Theres even a small village in Denmark, located on a harbour, called "Harboar"!
I don't know for sure, but I would hazard a guess that Dan es also refer to a ku, not a cow, that they posses s oxters, that they go nu, not now, they have neen , not none, etc..
Theres an "Ystad" in De nmark, or similar, which was easy for me to pronou nce as I've heard of Ythan in Aberdeenshire.

Th e spelling is off-putting for English speakers and Danish pronunciation is rather muted compared to Swedish or Norwegian, but basically if you adopt a really slang Scottish voice, you won't go far wro ng (wrang).

My parents still always referred to flitting, not moving house, as did all the neighb ours, and I'm not old. I seem to vaguely recall t hat you could refer to a bairn as a barn, because bairn was Glaswegian. Obviously over the years yo u lose the influences as language becomes standard ised. But the Danes must have settled lowland Sco tland as well as Northern England. And perhaps th e Norman influence didn't really fully penetrate n orth of the English midlands as much as we think?

I'm also pretty sure that in some parts of rura l Yorkshire, "gate" would be pronounced 34;yot" which is Swedish, no?

Ove |2015-05-01 16:24:19

As a boy in Elrick (Aberdeenshire) in the early 19 40's, we pronounced "Stane" as "Steen& #34;. For example, Dry steen dike, a Stone wall w ithout benefit of mortar.

Tor |2015-10-10 14:32:46
Is it just me or isn´t "Quine" clearly rel ated to "Queen"?

About "Wid" mea ning wood, there seem to be no resemblance with an y of the scandinavian countrys. Only Iceland has
& #34;viður". In Swedish wood/forest is "sko g".
Then I started thinking and realised that the swedish term for Willow tree and the material which is Wicker is "Vide". Furthermore, th e name of the norse god "Vidar" is in some interpretations said to mean "He from the woo ds" or "The warrior from the woods" an d his realm is known as "Vide" meaning 4;the forest realm".
Any thoughts?

bnimble -Morn? |2015-12-07 18:08:12
What about "the morn" meaning tomorrow, al so "morn's morn" meaning tomorrow morning?

In Swedish, it's "i morgon", which is pronounced "ee moron".

-- Ritchie

Ed |2016-01-24 02:30:15
This article is proving to be more popular than I ever expected. :-D

I'm slow to post new blogs and even slower to reply. Apologies all round.

bjsal ba -- I hadn't appreciated the possible connection s to Gaelic. Interesting to hear.

John B.-- inter esting to hear it is also in Northern England. Wo uld guess it comes from the same source.

Toepoint er -- would be great if more research was being do ne into. Not really that knowledgeable on language , perhaps more than the average person, but not in an academic way.

Firth is a good one. I missed that. Some etymology here:
https://en.wikipedia.or g/wiki/Firth

Bigg. Didn't know about this in Scot s. Obviously know it from the Scandinavian languag es.

Oxters is a mainly Scottish word with links t o ON and OE. A possible candidate for my list, but with the tentative link to OE there it wouldn't f it.

Swedish gata ('gate') has a hard 'g' rather t han a soft 'g' as it has in other places. Goteborg has two soft 'g's that sound more like y's.

Ove -- interesting.

Tor -- quine has a possible relat ion to queen. Both from same root I think:
http:// www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=queen

Wid / við ur is an interesting. The link is disputed as it i s. This article is titled 'Scandinavia' but I real ly mean 'Nordic'. The reason I didn't put 'Nordic' in the title is that my knowledge of Icelandic at the time was almost zero. However, the any possib le link to Old Norse means that it would be approp riate to keep it even if Icelandic was excluded he re (which isn't my intention). Hitherto, I haven't found any words which are unique to only Iceland and Scotland. Which suggests the mutual influence of the two countries on each other may be minimal.

The link to Vidar is a cool thought. I'd buy it. Can see a possible link to Vidr of ON (visually).

bnimble -- good addition. It seems I missed that too.

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Thus Swedish grammar is closer to English than German but Swedish words are closer to Gernan. This is because German and Swedish share a common original Germanic ancestoral language and Swedish also consist of many German words dressed up as Swedish.

Is English Germanic or Norse? ›

In their recent book, English: The Language of the Vikings, Joseph Embley Emonds and Jan Terje Faarlund attempt to make the case that from its Middle period onwards, English is a North Germanic language, descended from the Norse varieties spoken in Medieval England, rather than a West Germanic language, as ...

Where do Scottish people originate from? ›

The Scots (Scots: Scots Fowk; Scottish Gaelic: Albannaich) are an ethnic group and nation native to Scotland. Historically, they emerged in the early Middle Ages from an amalgamation of two Celtic-speaking peoples, the Picts and Gaels, who founded the Kingdom of Scotland (or Alba) in the 9th century.

Are Scots Nordic or Celtic? ›

Nordic countries include Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and, depending on mood, Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland. Celtic countries aren't all countries, but include the Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Isle of Man, and, possibly, some parts of present day Portugal.

Are Scottish people Norwegian? ›

No Scottish people are not Scandinavian as Scotland is not in Scandinavia. That said, Scots generally have a positive view of Scandinavia and Scandinavians, and are probably closest to the Norwegians, Faroese, and Icelandics amongst Scandinavians.

Are Vikings Scottish or Irish? ›

They emerged in the Viking Age, when Vikings who settled in Ireland and in Scotland adopted Gaelic culture and intermarried with Gaels. The Norse–Gaels dominated much of the Irish Sea and Scottish Sea regions from the 9th to 12th centuries.
...
Surnames.
GaelicAnglicised form"Son of-"
Mac LeòidMacLeodLjótr
8 more rows

What color is Scottish hair? ›

Brown hair is the most common HUMAN hair colour EVERYWHERE. It says remarkably little about ANY ancestry, and certainly cannot distinguish between Ireland and Scotland. Most have brown hair or black hair, some have blonde hair and least have red hair.

What is the most Scottish last name? ›

Note: Correction 25 September 2014
PositionNameNumber
1SMITH2273
2BROWN1659
3WILSON1539
4THOMSON1373
46 more rows

Why are some Scottish people dark? ›

Your mother has non-Irish/Scottish ancestry, which may have provided the skin-colour genes.

What percentage of Scottish DNA is Viking? ›

Early Viking Age raiding parties were an activity for locals and included close family members. The genetic legacy in the UK has left the population with up to six per cent Viking DNA.

Do Scottish people have Norwegian DNA? ›

Genetic study shows deep Norwegian lineage in people of northern Scotland. A team of researchers from Scotland and the U.K. has found via genetic study that many people in modern Scotland are of Norwegian descent.

What was the Viking name for Scotland? ›

Within a relatively short period of time in the early ninth century, Vikings had taken enough territory in Scotland to form their own kingdom there (called Lothlend, or Lochlainn), which at its height extended influence from Dublin to York.

Did the Vikings fear the Scots? ›

They were particularly nervous in the western sea lochs then known as the "Scottish fjords". The Vikings were also wary of the Gaels of Ireland and west Scotland and the inhabitants of the Hebrides.

Is there a Scottish DNA? ›

Absolutely. In fact, Scottish ancestry is very common, with more than 50 million people on earth claiming to have ancestry from these lands. All you have to do is test your genetics with a DNA kit.

What is a cool Scottish name? ›

Whether you're Scottish yourself or simply want to appreciate the culture through baby, a cool Scottish baby name is an excellent choice.
  • Frazier.
  • McCarthy.
  • Gilles.
  • Clydell.
  • Bartley.
  • Eon.
  • Fergus.
  • Bran.

What Colour eyes did Vikings have? ›

The Vikings had various eye colors, although the predominant eye color was blue or gray. However, Irish Vikings had predominantly brown or hazel eyes, and some Viking settlements were much more diverse than others.

Why do I have Scandinavian DNA? ›

People who are native to regions close to the Scandinavian Peninsula are likely to show relatively higher amounts of Scandinavian DNA. For example, between 24-27% of people who are native to Finland, parts of Western Europe, or Great Britain, show Scandinavian DNA.

What DNA is Viking? ›

DNA from the Viking remains was shotgun sequenced from sites in Greenland, Ukraine, The United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Poland, and Russia. The team's analysis also found genetically Pictish people 'became' Vikings without genetically mixing with Scandinavians.

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