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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

East Central South




The dialect is known as East Central South to distinguish it from the related dialect further north. Speakers call their dialect either Scots or Scotch, which are the traditional names for the language.


One of the most distinctive features of the language in this area is the sound in words like whae and twae, where other dialects would use wha and twa. Yin (or yae before vowels) is used instead of ane (or ae before vowels). Like other Central dialects, East Central speakers split the sound in words like mune, dune, fluir, spune, use, abune and puir into two groups according to whether the vowel is long or short, giving min, din, spin, yiss and abin, but flair, yaise and pair. In southern parts you’ll hear the pronoun ou used where other speakers would use we, in phrases like “Ou’ll can dae that the morn” (We’ll be able to do that tomorrow).  Many well-known local words have come into the language from Romany speech: Edinburgh words like radge and barry, as well as more locally specific words like pannie (river), chorie (steal), lowie (money) and deek (look), all come from the language of the travelling people. Ironically, the word gadge (or its diminutive gadgie) that has come to be just a general term for a man, was originally used by travellers to indicate an outsider, a non-traveller.

Because the Scots of this region was closely associated with the Scottish royal court in former times, there are several writers and poets in Scots who are prominent in our cultural and national history. One of the best known is the master poet William Dunbar (c.1460-fl.1513) who was a native of East Lothian. Dunbar was patronised by James IV and composed some memorable poems in his day. The following is an example from the famous Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie:

Thow speiris, dastard, gif I dar with the fecht?
Ye dagone, dowbart, thairof haif thow no dowt!
Quhair evir we meit, thairto my hand I hecht
To red thy ribald ryming with a rowt:
Throw all Bretane it salbe blawin owt
How that thow, poysonit pelor, gat thy paikis;
With ane doig leiche I schepe to gar the schowt,
And nowther to the tak knife, swerd, nor aix. 

Thow crop and rute of traitouris tressonable,
The father and moder of morthour and mischief,
Dissaitfull tyrand, with serpentis tung, unstable;
Cukcald cradoun, cowart, and common theif;
Thow purpest for to undo our Lordis cheif,

In Paslay, with ane poysone that wes fell,
For quhilk, brybour, yit sall thow thoill a brief;
Pelour, on the I sall it preif my sell.

A second example of Scots used in this region comes from the sermons preached by David Gibb Mitchell (1863-1921) who was minister at the Free Church of Cramond in Midlothian from 1890. Although a native of Kincardineshire, Gibb sometimes preached to his congregation in the Scots that they spoke and understood in that area. In 1910 he published the first of two collections of his sermons in the language. The following is an example:

The Hinmaist Nicht Wi’ The Twal

This was the dowie nicht o’ their life – wi’ the warst forebodins. They had gaithered in here frae the storm that was brewin – the wild burstin fury that was swallin i’ the breists o’ their foes. Ilk ane had a sair doon-hingin face, an’ carried the grief o’ his ain thochts in his looks. There was little sayin, but meikle thinkin. Ane an’ a’ kent weel that this was the hinmaist tryst! The Maister had mony things to say the nicht that cudna be said afore. They were a’ lookin at Him, an’ wonderin. They kent His hert was fu’ o’ something. He had ower muckle to say an’ no eneuch time to say it in. He was speakin faster than ord’nar. He wasna like Himsel’. He was cuisten doon; but a spirit o’ calm ruled. A thrang o’ things were comin thegither in His mind. He kent that Judas was to betray Him. Nane o’ the lave had an inklin o’t. He was in a swither hoo He was to brak the news to them. There were quarrels an’bickerins. He girds a tooel aboot Him. He draps on His knees, an’ the Maister-Lord begude to wash the disciples’ feet. Peter winna lat Him; but what cud the knave hae thocht whan He kneel’t doon aside him, an’ dichtit the dubs frae his feet, an’ dried them wi’ the tooel? Wwere there ony qualms o’ conscience, or a turnin awa frae his dark design?

Thumbnail History

This dialect lies between the Firth of Forth and the Borders region, and Scots and its ancestor Anglo-Saxon have been spoken here since the 7th century AD, that is 1,400 years or so. In the early Middle Ages there were people drawn from a number of ethnic backgrounds in the region – Angles, Britons, Danes, Gaels, Flemings, and Normans. Until the 17th century the Douglas, Hepburn and Home families were dominant in the region. There has been a fort at Edinburgh since ancient times and the town was made a burgh in the 12th century. To the west, the royal palace of Linlithgow was built in the 15th century.  Burghs were also established to the south, at Peebles, and to the east at North Berwick. The region was repeatedly invaded and ravaged by armies from England as late as the 18th century. Because the Scottish government became centralised in Edinburgh, it was the Scots of this region which provided a general Scots standard for written records when Scotland was an independent country before 1707. The Scottish royal court also provided a centre of patronage for Scottish singers, poets and writers in the period between the 14th and 17th centuries.


This region covers the area from West Lothian, including the town of Linlithgow (Lithgae), Mid and East Lothian, with the city of Edinburgh (Embra or Edinburrae), and the counties of Berwick and Peeblesshire. Farming is dominant in Peeblesshire, Berwickshire an East Lothian, with fishing significant along the coast, though industrial activity is more conspicuous along the Firth of Forth. With the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, Edinburgh has become a significant national political centre once again. Many national writers in Scots made Edinburgh their home: Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Perhaps the most well known writer in modern times associated with the Scots of this region is Irvine Welsh, who mixed the Scots spoken in Edinburgh and Leith with English in his novels such as Trainspotting.