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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid


STRAVAIG v. roam, wander (about), travel through, etc.

Stravaig is often used to describe casual or aimless wandering. A Guardian article from 2003 described Alastair Borthwick's well-known account of mountains and hills, Always A Little Further (1939), as


"a vivid memoir of a decade's carefree and impetuous stravaiging through the Scottish highlands".


Yet stravaigin may also be purposeful. In 2002 the Sunday Herald discussed


"The Queen's decision to stravaig her realm on a jubilee tour".


Although nowadays perhaps more frequently found in poetic use than in everyday conversation, the word is still widely known and will be particularly familiar to visitors to the aptly-named Glasgow restaurant Stravaigin, which combines global and local cuisine.


That said, the word also appears in more formal contexts, including a Scotsman article from 1990 which noted that the Scottish Landowners Federation was


"aware that the spirit of tolerance ... between owners and those who stravaig over their land is being strained by the sheer volume of usage in some places".


The word is thought to derive from extravage 'wander about; digress, ramble in speech', itself derived from a medieval Latin word, extravagari 'wander, stray beyond limits'. Stravaig first appears in late-eighteenth century Scottish texts including Robert Fergusson's 1773 poem Hame Content, A Satire, which describes the honest cottar folk's


"Pith, that helps them to stravaig Our ilka cleugh and ilka craig".


The word is frequently found in nineteenth-century texts including John Galt's Annals of the Parish (1821), in which we learn that


"Lady Macadam's hens and fowls" were "great stravaggers for their meat".


Since the eighteenth century people have written that Scots is a dying language. Nevertheless, words like stravaig have remarkable powers of endurance, perhaps aided by intrepid Scots like David Livingstone, who once took a wee dauner through Africa. As stated in a Scotsman article in 1989,


"The Scots have always been stravaigers, complacently regarding the trait as evidence of their easy internationalism".


This week's Scots word was written by Dr Maggie Scott.

First published 15th January 2007