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Cockie leekie




Cockie leekie soup is a general favourite. The first reference to it in the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) is from the Ochtertyre House Booke of Accomps (1737), “19 Jan: Dinner cockie leekie fowlls in it”.


Needless to say, Dr Johnson had his own opinion of traditional Scottish cuisine, recorded in A I Shand’s Days of the Past (1905):


“You began with cock-a-leekie, hotchpotch, or the barley broth of which Dr Johnson declared he cared not how soon he ate of it again”.



Traditional recipes suggest it was never a particularly fast food. For example, this from the Illustrated London News of August (1953):


“Cockie leekie, Scotland’s great chicken soup must be five hours a-simmering”.


A long wait for a plate of soup.


The dish in past times was probably quite a luxury given that, until relatively recently, chicken was an expensive meat and eaten only on high days and holidays. It was reputedly a favourite dish of King James VI and continues to feature on fine dining menus. A correspondent writing in the Daily Record of October 2015 noted that for the last lunch on the Titantic, the menu consisted of:


“Corned ox tongue, fillet of brill and cockie leekie soup …”



As with much Scots, there are many variant spellings of this dish. One example comes from the Dundee Courier of February 2022:


“… in our current climate, it cannot be denied that many a politician and public figure has been brought low by their unseemly addiction to cockaleekie”.



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