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Heeliegoleerie is described in the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) as:


“Topsy-turvy, in a state of confusion, higgledy-piggledy”; or: “confusion, hubbub, noise, a to-do, a bustle”.


The original entry in the DSL is marked as “obsolescent”, which meant that, at the time of writing, the evidence was mostly historical and current evidence was difficult to find.

However, as we know, back in the day our predecessors did not have anything like our twenty-first century resources.

In DSL terms, the word does not have a not long pedigree. The first example we have dates from 1819 and comes from J. Rennie’s St Patrick:


“Whuna’ be, she ne’er forgets hersel’ far, and she’s ony thing but glaiket wi a’ her hilliegeleeries”.



Twentieth-century examples include this from T W Paterson’s Wyse-Sayin’s o’ Solomon (1916):


“But He'll cowp, heelie-goleerie, the man that speaks deceiverie”


Can we at DSL find some more recent evidence? Of course. In Anne Donovan’s Scots translation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda (2019) there is this discussion of Matilda’s fate:


“So ye want tae get shot o her, dae ye? Ye cannae haunle her? So noo ye want tae dump her ontae donsie Miss Plimsol in the tap class whair she’ll cause even mair heeliegoleerie?’”.


And in 2021, James Robertson writes in his News of the Dead:


“What a strange heeliergoleerie world we bide in”.



Giving further evidence that the term is definitely not obsolete, there is also a well-known ceilidh band that plays both here and abroad and they call themselves Heeliegoleerie.


This Scots Word of the Week was written by Pauline Cairns Speitel, Dictionaries of the Scots Language