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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

North East

In the early Middle Ages Pictish was spoken in the region, followed by Gaelic, and then Scots. There were early contacts too with Scandinavia and the Low Countries (Belgium and the Netherlands) with fishermen and traders sharing common words across the North Sea. David I established Aberdeen and Elgin as royal burghs in the 12th century. The Gordon earls of Huntly, and Keith earls Marsichal, were for long the dominant poltical families and who produced much documentation in the Scots language. Historically the region had both Highland and Lowland parishes within its area.


The dialect of the North East forms part of the wider Northern Scots dialect, but to many of its speakers it is known as The Doric in recognition of its strong association with the farming communities of the region. In the smaller area roughly between Banff and Ellon, the dialect is sometimes called Buchan.


In both pronunciation and vocabulary, The Doric is distinct from Central and Southern dialects. Perhaps the most outstanding features of the dialect are, firstly, the use of f rather than wh, as in foo, fit, far and fan (how, what, where and when), and with some people fite, funn, fusky. A before n sometimes becomes ee: ane (or yin) is een, nane is neen, lane is leen. And the ui of muin, suin, guid is also pronounced as ee in the Doric: meen, seen, gweed. Also, speakers of this dialect say nae in all senses. So, for example, people from other dialects make a distinction between “A’ve nae mair left” but “A’m no comin” while in the North East people would say the same in both senses – “A’ve nae mair left” and “A’m nae comin.” The word gang (go) is commonly pronounced without the ‘a’ and sounds like ging. There are also a substantial number of words that are not to be heard elsewhere in Scotland: cappie (ice-cream cone), dubby (muddy), ficher (play with your fingers) fooge (play truant), hallach, halliket or hallyrackit (obstreperous), stewie-bap (floury roll) and many others.


The dialect as a whole covers a large area ranging from the Black Isle and Nairn in the west, all the way across Moray, Banff and Buchan, down through Gordon, the city of Aberdeen (Aiberdeen), and into Deeside. Included within this region are Burghead (Brochheid), Fraserburgh (The Broch), Lossiemouth (Lossie), and Peterhead (Peterheid) on the coast, with Alford (Aaford), Elgin, Ellon (Eilan), Forres, Huntly, Inverurie (Innerurie), Keith, and Turriff (Turra) inland. Together with Shetland, the North East is arguably one of the two most active and aware dialect communities in Scotland, with distinct farming and fishing traditions. In more recent times the oil industry has become significant too. The North East has produced a significant number of poets and writers in the dialect, such as Marion Angus, Sheena Blackhall, John C Milne, Charles Murray, Alexander Ross, and David Toulmin. The region is also famed for its bothy ballads and traditional song which are celebrated each year in the Doric Festival.