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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid



FLEG, v., n.


I heard this used recently in the context of someone getting a fright. In the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) it is defined as:


“a fright, a scare”.



This sense comes relatively late to DSL. Earlier use was mainly as a verb, exemplified in James Melvill’s Diary and Autobiography (1600):


“When courtlie wolffes from Chrystes flok be flegged”.



DSL’s first citation of the noun comes from Ramsay’s poems (1721):


“Has some Bogle-bo Glowrin frae ’mang the auld Waws gi’en ye a fleg”.



Examples are plentiful from the nineteenth century, including this very modern-sounding one from Sir Walter Scott’s Rob Roy (1818):


“I got a fleg and was ready to jump out o’ my skin”.



Published in 1945, Violet Jacob’s poem Neep-Fields by the Sea gives us:


“I’ the lang rows plantit atween the wa’s, A tattie-dulie for fleggin’ craws I’ the neep-fields by the sea.”


And some years later, another Scottish poet, J.K. Annand, used fleg in the sense of ‘to scare away’ in his poem Snaw (Selected Poems 1925-1990, published in 1992):


“Ach lassie, show some pitie, I’m dowie, and I pyne. Tak me to your hert And fleg the winter hyne.”



Fleg is still in use. In 2021, Gregor Steele featured it in a humorous poem for children:


“Betty the Vampire Slagger, Widden stakes they wir nae use, She like tae fleg the undeid, Jist by giein them dug’s abuse.”



Finally, the Courier of December 2022 celebrated local Scottish customs emphatically:


“We go guisin’, an’ gi’e fowks a fleg, no a fright”.


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