View site in Scots
Flickr YouTube

Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

West Central




This dialect covers a large area known as West Central Scots, though speakers usually call their dialect Scots or Scotch which are the traditional names for the language. Within Glasgow a distinct city dialect is also spoken and sometimes called The Patter.


During the 19th and 20th centuries, the language of this region began to split sharply between city and non-city. People in the city who improved their standard of living came to associate Scots with poverty and lack of sophistication, an idea encouraged by English medium education. Also, there was large scale influence from Highland and Irish migrants on a dialect that had no standard. This resulted in two processes. A steady erosion of the Scots language in the city of Glasgow in favour of English forms, and the emergence of a city dialect combining Scots, English and influences from Gaelic (both Highland and Irish). This means that the Glasgow city region has lost much of its Scots, but at the same time has coined many new words that are often absorbed into the other dialects. For instance Glasgow has introduced The Buroo (unemployment office) and mentions (graffiti). So generally speaking, north Ayrshire and Lanarkshire outside the Glasgow area have retained Scots lost in the city. In Ayr and Lanark people use traditional Scots words such as awa, braw, ken, nicht, muckle (away, fine, know, night, great/much) and, generally, people in this dialect use forms such as abin, gid, shae, pair and yin (above, good, shoe, poor and one).  In the Glasgow region people say sentences such as “Gaunae no dae it” rather than “Daena dae it” (do not do it) heard in other parts of the dialect. Canna and daena are here pronounced as ‘can-ny’ and ‘din-ny’ (whereas in the east and north of Scotland these same words are pronounced ‘can-ah’ and ‘din-ah’). Also, it is common for people to cut forms such as “gae aff”, “gae up” or “gae oot” (go off, go up and go out) to g’aff,  g’up and g’oot or watter and butter to wa’er and bu’er (water and butter).  In this region people say thae and thir (those and these) and bane and stane (bone and stone) as in other central dialects. Throughout the whole region people say wean (child, from ‘wee ane’ or little one) rather than bairn and wee wean for baby.

The following example of Scots is taken from a poem by Janet Hamilton who lived in 19th century Coatbridge and described the industrial life there. The poem, about a drunkard’s wife, was printed in Historical, Biographical and Literary Sketches of Glasgow and Lanarkshire (1904):

Yer ae drugget coat is baith scrimpy an’ worn,
An’ your auld leloc toush is baith dirty an torn;
An’ roun’ your lean haffets, ance sonsy and fair,
Hings, tautit an’ tousie, your bonny broun hair.

 They tauld ye that Davie was keen o’ the drink,
That siller ne’er baid in his pouches a blink,
An’ a’ he got claut o’ he waret on the dram,
An’ ae pay ne’er sert till anither ane cam.

But ye wadna be waret, sae your weird ye maun dree,
Tho’ aften ye rather wad lie doun an’ dee;
For o’ puir drucken Davie ye’ve nae houp ava,
Sae you’re greetin’, an’ toilin’, an’ fechtin’ awa.

This second instance of Scots is taken from a book review written in 2011 by the writer and poet Rab Wilson who is a native of the region bordering Ayrshire and Lanark:

The buik is reamin-fou o sic ghoulish an uncanny delichts! Burnett certes kens his stuff! He cites frae monies a lairned tome, gies us auld saws an proverbs bi the score (dissectin thaim fir aa their meanin an kintra lore), repeats ghaist stories, legends an myths, an uises poetic quotes tae reinforce the pynts he is at times makkin. He alsae scrieves in a vera readable an easy mainner that ne’er skails ower intil some dry ‘faur-i-the-buik’ academic style, but keeps the reader engaged an interestit (an thon’s nae easy feat)! At the end o ilk section, ye’ll find a uisefu set o notes, an there is a wheen o braw illustrations (black an white, an colour), a byordnar bibliography, a great wee section oan ‘Further Reading and Exploring’, and an excellent index. The warld o the occult an the supernatural is a thing that is aye-an-oan o an interest tae us aa. On seein this buik ye micht think: ‘Oh aye! Anither Burns buik, thon’a aa we need!’ but John Burnett haes managed tae produce a buik that oan its subject mibbes is aa that we need!? Ah’ll certainly be recommendin it tae aa ma fellae Burnsians; an Ah’ll recommend it tae yersel as weel!

Thumbnail History

In ancient times this region was the home of the Britons who spoke a language akin to Welsh and had their capital at Dumbarton rock. Anglo-Saxon – the ancestor of Scots - was also known and spoken. Gaelic was also introduced but began to retreat after the kings of Scots adopted Norman customs and fashions in the 12th century. In the same period Glasgow became an important centre when the medieval cathedral was built. A royal burgh was also established at Ayr. In the Middle Ages the Kennedy family centred on Ayrshire and the Stewart family centred on Renfrew and Argyll became dominant, with the Douglases in Lanarkshire. By the 16th and 17th centuries the great family of the region were the Hamiltons. Glasgow began to increase in size in the 18th century, largely due to trade with the Americas, and had become the great industrial centre of Scotland by the 1800’s gradually absorbing the smaller surrounding burghs. A wave of Irish (and Highland) migration occurred in the wake of the famine in the 1840’s further swelling the population. Since the mid 20th century the industrial structure of the region has fallen into decay and been largely swept away.


This dialect may be divided, broadly speaking, into the region of the city of Glasgow, the other districts comprising North Ayrshire (as far south as the town of Ayr), Lanark, Dunbarton and Renfrew, and an outlying group of speech in Argyll (Arran, Bute and Kintyre). Towns included within the dialect are Campbeltown (Cammletoun), Cumbernauld (Cummernaud), Dumbarton (Dumbertan), Glasgow (Glesca), Greenock, Hamilton, Kilmarnock (Kilmaurnock), Largs (Lairgs), Motherwell, Paisley, Rothesay (Rossay) and Wishaw (Wishae). Of all the regions of Scotland this was once the most industrialised, with heavy industry concentrated along the River Clyde – chemical works, metal working, shipbuilding and world trade. West Central has produced a large number of poets, singers and writers in both traditional Scots and Glasgow dialect down through the centuries. Among the more recent are included Billy Kay, James Kelman, Tom Leonard, Liz Lochhead, Edwin Morgan, Liz Niven, Jamie Stuart, and Rab Wilson.