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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

GADGIE n. a boy, a man

The word gadgie is derived from Romany gorgio ‘a non-gipsy'. In the Scottish National Dictionary (SND) gadgie, as recorded from the Gipsies of Kirk Yetholm c. 1930, was any man who was not a gipsy. That this word was only in use by gipsies is further exemplified in SND by W B Watson in The Roxburghshire Word-book “Ay, ee're a shan [bad] gadgee, no keepin yer tryst last night.” (1923).

However, this can be ante-dated to 1865 from A History of the Gipsies: with Specimens of the Gipsy Language by Walter Simson, who collected oral information from gipsies throughout Scotland. He attests the forms gaugie and gadgé, the latter also from Kirk Yetholm, to mean a man.

In the twentieth century the word was originally thought only to be used by children in the Edinburgh area but it has now passed into use by the general Scots-speaking population as shown in this example from Matthew Fitt: “Twa mukkil gadgies wur camin owre, swellin oot thair chists an gein the young lad the evill” in James Robertson's A Tongue in yer Heid (1994); and in the twenty first century as shown by this example from the Aberdeen Evening Express of 6 March 2015: “Maddeningly, a wayward finger has linked me up with a gadgie I knew in 19-oatcake whose life seems to have taken a bizarre turn.”

Finally, sometimes, it can be shortened to gadge as used by Irvine Welsh “See that big skinny gadge wi the tarten skerf?” in New Writing Scotland 11: The Ghost of Liberace (1993).

Scots Word of the Week is written by Pauline Cairns Speitel of Scottish Language Dictionaries