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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid


GLAIKIT adj. stupid, foolish


Scots have an amazing capacity for insulting each other. Glaikit seems to be one of our oldest terms for describing someone who is not intellectually blessed.


It makes its first appearance in the Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL) when someone talking about the Scots as:


“yon glakyt Scottis can ws nocht wndyrstand. Fulys thai ar.”


from Henry the Minstrel’s (who is perhaps better known as Blind Harry) Acts and deidis of Schir William Wallace ca 1478.


In the modern period the DSL tells us that in addition to its original meaning it included,


“… thoughtless, irresponsible, flighty, frivolous (generally applied to women).”


This is shown in the following citation from Shetland in George Temple’s Britta from 1886:


“A young girl was more trouble than assistance in a house, Lasses were glaikit and needed looking after.”


In the late twentieth century and into the twenty-first the more familiar meaning describing someone with a vacant expression comes into being as in this example from John Byrne’s Your Cheatin Heart (1990):


“Big glaikit-luckin’ sod, turnt up out the blue in a raincoat no’ aw that dissimilar tae ...”.


Irvine Welsh too in Trainspotting (1993) forcefully describes someone with:


“His glaikit, open-moothed expression inspired ma instant contempt”.


It is also used currently in our newspapers as shown by the following from the Sunday Herald of March 8 2016:


“The girl with the glaikit expression is wearing quite a smart hat and might be a pupil from a private school wondering how she ended up with this band of people.”


The origins of the word is obscure but according to the DSL it is perhaps a derivative of ‘glaik’ a noun meaning:


“A derogatory term for a silly, light-headed or thoughtless person, especially a girl or woman”. 


Written by Pauline Cairns Speitel of Scottish Language Dictionaries (

25 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh EH8 9LN

(0131) 650 4146

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First published 21st February 2017.