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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Numbers and Time

Just as the year is divided into seasons, months and days, the day is divided into hours and times. Scots, like other languages, has its own way of expressing these concepts. However, because Scots is not taught in Scottish schools, because government does not employ it in public, and because the media does not use Scots for broadcasting or the press, Scots words for reckoning time and numbers are often overlooked or not understood.


Just as in other languages, we divide the day into various periods, as follows:
WEEHOURES: This is the time after midnight and very early in the morning. Sometimes it is called ‘the wee sma houres’ in Scots, a phrase that has since been borrowed into English too. The spelling ‘houres’ indicates the pronunciation ‘oors’.

wee sma houres



DAW: This marks the rising of the sun which occurs at different times throughout the year. In some parts the phrase ‘day-daw’ is also used.

FORENUIN or MORNING: In Scots we can say either of these. The term ‘forenuin’ was also formerly common in English but is mostly associated with Scots today.

TWALHOURES: This is the Scots term for midday. The spelling ‘houres’ indicates the pronunciation ‘oors’.

EFTERNUIN: The equivalent of English afternoon and pronounced by most Scots speakers as ‘efter-nin’, but ‘efter-noon’ is also possible. In North East Scotland this becomes ‘efterneen’. 



SUNDOON: The usual Scots form of sunset. We can also say ‘day-set’ in Scots.

GLOAMIN: The English equivalents to this are dusk and twilight, the period when the sun has not fully set and leaves a glow in the sky.



EENIN or FORENICHT: The Scots forms of evening. The term ‘forenicht’ is often used today to mean early evening.

NICHT: The English equivalent to this is, of course, night. Most other Germanic languages also pronounce this with a guttural sound as Scots does.

MIDNICHT: The equivalent to English midnight.



As well as dividing the day up into sections we can also express concepts of days previous and future as in any other language. 

The day before in Scots was YISTERDAY and the night before was YISTREEN

The morning and afternoon were YISTERDAY MORNING and YISTERDAY EFTERNUIN

The present day, or today, is THE DAY in Scots. Tomorrow is either THE MORN or THE MORRA, depending on dialect, and the morning and afternoon will be THE MORN’S MORN or THE MORRA MORNING

Tomorrow night is either THE MORN’S NICHT or THE MORRA NICHT. 

In addition to these daily concepts, we call last year in Scots FERNYEAR and next year NEIST YEAR. Concepts of past, present and future are a little more complicated because Scots did not, traditionally at least, express the concepts ‘the past’ and ‘the future’ as English does (future being borrowed from French). 

Instead, Scots expresses ‘the past’ as LANG SYNE or in various combinations of the word BYGANE

For example, the sentence ‘In the past people built castles’ may be expressed in Scots as ‘Fowk biggit castles in bygane days/times’ or even ‘Fowk biggit castles in times bygane.’ Also, the concept ‘the future’ has traditionally been expressed in Scots by the term ‘time tae come’. For example, the sentence ‘In the future people will fly to Mars’ may be expressed in Scots as ‘In a time tae come fowk will flee tae Mairs.’ Lastly, in Scots we do not say ‘ago’ as English does, but rather ‘back’ or ‘syne’. The English sentence ‘It happened twenty years ago’ would be translated as ‘It happent twinty year back/syne.’

the morra





Time itself is broken down, as we all know, into a 24 hour clock. In the Scots clock we count through ANE/WAN, TWA, THREE, FOWER, FIVE, SAX, SEEVEN, ECHT, NINE, TEN, ELEEVEN, TWAL. 


Quarter to the hour is ‘a quarter tae’ and just after the hour is ‘the back o’. 

For instance, a few minutes after 2pm would be in Scots ‘the back o twa.’ Quarter past the hour is ‘a quarter efter.’ Half past the hour is simply ‘hauf’ as in ‘hauf ten.’

Other cardinal numbers in Scots are: Nocht (0), Therteen (13), Fourteen (14), Fifteen (15), Saxteen (16), Seeventeen (17), Echteen (18), Nineteen (19), Twinty (20), Twinty-wan (21), Therty-three (33), Fourty-fower (44), Fifty-five (55), Saxty-sax (66), Seeventy-seeven (77), Echty-echt (88), Ninety-nine (99), a hunner (100), a thoosand (1000).

The ordinal numbers in Scots are: First (1st), Second (2nd), Third/Thrid (3rd), Fort (4th), Fift (5th), Saxt (6th), Seevent (7th), Echt (8th), Nint (9th), Tent (10th), Eleevent (11th), Twalt (12th), Therteent (13th), Fourteent (14th), Fifteent (15th), Saxteent (16th), Seeventeen (17th), Echteent (18th), Nineteen (19th), Twinty (20th), Hunner (100th), Thoosand (1000th).