View site in Scots

Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid


LUGGIE adj., n.


Last Sunday was National Porridge Day and it therefore seems a good moment to select a porridge-related word. The Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL, offers several definitions of a luggie, but one sense is


‘A small wooden dish or vessel with one or two handles formed from the projection upwards of one or two of the staves … frequently one used for serving milk with porridge’.


DSL citations of this meaning begin in 1725 with Allan Ramsay’s The Gentle Shepherd. The word circulated widely, being recorded across Scotland from Angus to Ayrshire and as far as Ulster. By extension, the term became used for any vessel for carrying milk, especially milking-pails. In 1910, the Transactions of the Hawick Archaeological Society described how


‘Milkers were in attendance each provided with creepie or crackie-stool, and wooden luggie’.



Luggie, however, has other, older meanings - and rather sinister at least one of those meanings seems to have been. George Sinclair (d. 1696), was a man of many parts: Glasgow’s professor of philosophy from 1655 to 1667; inventor of diving-bells; author of a four-volume textbook of mathematics; developer of a system for draining coalmines, and superintendent of Edinburgh’s first supply of drinking-water. But his best-known publication was Satan’s Invisible World Discovered (1685), a compilation of ‘authentic’ witchcraft narratives, in which he referred to


‘a wizzard accused and execute in Shetland … called Luggie’.


The name apparently refers to the wizard’s prominent ears or ‘lugs’ (or possibly to his having only one ear). It later became a popular name for a horse, and then for anything with ear-like projections. It seems to have been a simple step from there to a milk-bowl with projecting ‘lugs’.



This Scots Word of the Week was written by Jeremy Smith. Jeremy Smith is Professor of English Philology in the University of Glasgow.