View site in Scots

Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid


The season of winter is made up of three months – December, January and February. In the Scots language the season is generally pronounced winter, but can also take the form wunter in Central and Southern Scots. Winter comes originally from a Common Germanic word which is believed to have taken the form *wentrus about two thousand years ago. The three months which make up this season – December, January and February – take the forms Dezember, Januar an Februar in the Scots language.

January and February are usually the coldest months during the Scottish year with an average temperature of around 5-7C. The months between December and February, often continuing into March, also witness the greatest snowfall which is heaviest and most prolonged in the central, mountainous regions of Scotland such as the Cairngorms. It is no accident that the Cairngorms are the setting for Scotland’s ski resorts. During December the average number of daylight hours in the central regions of Scotland is about 7 and this increases to about 8 in January and up to 10 in February. But further north the number of daylight hours can be much less at this time of the year.

The latter end of winter and beginning of spring has traditionally been associated with the threat of floods, though in more recent decades flooding has increasingly become an all year round problem. When rains combine with snow melt in Scotland this has usually led to dramatic flooding. In the year 1210 the town of Perth was severely hit when the River Tay overflowed, washing away the castle, bridge and chapel of the town. A dramatic flood took place in 1814, but the highest recorded happened in January 1993. When low systems from the Atlantic blow across Scotland, bringing rain and snow, the rivers swell, but in 1993 there was the added factor of a sudden temperature rise. This caused snow in the mountains to discharge great volumes of melt water too. The River Tay is the biggest river not only in Scotland but the entire UK and discharges more fresh water into the sea than the Thames and Severn rivers put together.

Please click on the audio files below to hear some words and sayings in Scots associated with winter weather.





winter proverb 2