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Caithness Words & Meanings


Check out the NEW Caithness Dialectiser

Additions And Suggestions From Our Surfers

Any visitor to Caithness listening to a group of locals ‘sharin e crack’ will undoubtedly find the conversation hard to follow. If invited to join in the conversation the friendly locals will nearly always slow down and compromise their speech in order to be understood – such is the nature of the people of the county.

While travelling away from the county a Caithnessian is frequently mistaken as being Irish. Whether or not they sound similar to the Irish they have an accent and dialect that you will only find in this corner of Scotland.

Mass communication is currently getting the blame for the destruction of our local dialect. Our speech has become Anglicised, Americanised and lately Internationalised. It is inevitable that our language will evolve and not remain static. We are in a constant state of change and require a language to match. It could be argued that a static language indicates a society that is not progressing - no forward looking individuals would want to be part of an unchanging society without growth or expansion.

We may feel nostalgic about our mother tongue, but change has always been the price of progress. This need not indicate a loss of our individuality or our identity as a people, as there will always be some elements from our past woven into our speech. The past is responsible for the people that we have become, history can not be altered, it is impossible to lose our roots no matter what language we speak now or in the future.

Here you will find words used in Caithness both now and in the past together with their English equivalent.

If you have any words and meanings that you may want to add to this list please send them to bill@caithness.org
The words we have entered are just a fraction of the possible Caithness dialect words that are required to become a comprehensive list.   If you are looking for a dictionary there is one available.  It is by Ian Sutherland of the Wick Society either at the Wick Heritage Museum or local book shops.

Thanks To Frank Sutherland 9 June 2004 For some additions

From Alex Sutherland 26 August 2003
Further to James Miller's contribution when a sellag grows to about half a pound we called it a "peltag" and then above about a pound and a half it becomes a "cuddin". All of course are known as coal fish in english. I absorbed this vocabulary while hanging with a line off the pier and fishing boats in Scrabster Harbour in the fifties and early sixties.
I often wonder and despair at how a "dirty flouw" as in "ow!" became the "flow country" beloved of conservationists! Where has Colin Campbell gone to? Incidentally I think my brother has contributed the bit about recording a typical Caithness accent but the North American set piece may not give full scope to the dialect's intrinsic character.

From James Miller 13 February 2003
There are a some words I remember from my childhood holidays in Thurso and I thought that you might be interested:
Sellags: Young Coalfish
Dilks: A type of seaweed which was boiled and eaten.
Geetcher: Grandfather.
I am sure that you will be able to confirm these definitions with some of the older locals and I will be interested to find out if my memory has served me correctly.

6 April 07
Taken from Castlegreen's ''Tatties and Herreen'
Sent By a Caithness Lass

Acht ... to own
Attry.... bad tempered
Bleeter - heavy rain
Cockaloorie - child's toy
Daakened ..... dawn
Dird..... to fuss
Foosum.... dirty
Gluff..... a fright
Heuchy..... itchy
Loogard..... hit on your ear
Preeg...... to plead with someone.
Skutch..... quick moving

Listen to some North Scotland and Islands Dialects

Poetry written in Caithness Dialect

Jenny Stewart

James Begg

James Miller

W T Lyall

"Wordies" is a poem in Caithness dialect that explains the meanings of some

The Ould Box Cairt

Scotia Review also contains excerpts from Caithness Poets some of these are also in Caithness Dialect

See Also

Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech
The Online Scots Dictionary

Glossary Of Scots Words
By no means complete but contains a growing list of words with audio to hear a pronunciation. 
 This may be argued as to the correctness but nevertheless is useful

Robert Burns  - Full Text  - With Glossary

The Scottish National Dictionary

Elphinstone Kist
For Doric language of Scotland

Scottish Slang