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The earliest record of the word “daftie” (with the meaning of foolish or unsound mind) in Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) is from 1870 in Charles Gibbon’s For the King:


“The Daftie still maintained his position”.



However, in the course of further research, we found an earlier example, from the Stonehaven Journal of May 1867:


“Two notorious pickpockets David Sutherland … and William Strachan or McDonald, alias ‘Daftie’, are in custody here”.


Why William had the alias of daftie is not recorded – perhaps because he got caught.


The original meaning of daftie was offensive and it is still used as a term of mockery or belittlement. An example of this comes from the Aberdeen Evening Express of November 2021 on the workings of Aberdeen City Council:


“I never thought I would say this, but I agree with Aberdeen city councillor Marie Boulton. Last week she resigned as ‘masterplan lead’ - a hoot of a daftie title that hopefully will be permanently dumped - when she didn’t get anyone to support her bid to allow public transport on the mid-section of Union Street now earmarked for pedestrianisation”.



In a similar vein, in the letters page of the Daily Record of January 2022, one correspondent wrote:


“What a daftie reader John Smith from Falkirk is.”.



In more recent times, daftie is also used almost as a term of endearment:


“Aldo scowls at ma reaction ‘Listen, ya dafties. That bunch ae Stephen Hawkins born without the brains are like family tae me’.”

(Colin Burnett’s Working Class State of Mind, 2021).



This Scots Word of the Week was written by Pauline Cairns Speitel. Visit DSL Online at