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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

North East




The dialect of the North East forms part of the wider Northern Scots dialect, but to many of its speakers it is known as The Doric in recognition of its strong association with the farming communities of the region. In the smaller area roughly between Banff and Ellon, the dialect is sometimes called Buchan.


In both pronunciation and vocabulary, the North East is distinct from Central and Southern dialects. Perhaps the most outstanding features of the dialect are, firstly, the use of f rather than wh, as in foo, fit, far and fan (how, what, where and when), and with some people fite, funn, fusky. A before n sometimes becomes ee: ane (or yin) is een, nane is neen, lane is leen. And the ui of muin, suin, guid is also pronounced as ee in the Doric: meen, seen, gweed (moon, soon, good). Also, speakers of this dialect say nae in all senses. So, for example, people from other dialects make a distinction between Ave nae mair left but Am no comin while in the North East people would say the same in both senses Ave nae mair left and Am nae comin. The word gang (go) is commonly pronounced without the a and sounds like ging. There are also a substantial number of words that are not to be heard elsewhere in Scotland: cappie (ice-cream cone), dubby (muddy), ficher (play with your fingers) fooge (play truant), hallach, halliket or hallyrackit (obstreperous), stewie-bap (floury roll) and many others.

The following is an example of North East Scots Doric taken from Braeheid a Fairm an its Fowk an Ither Doric Tales (1993) bi Sheena Blackhall:

The auld barn, biggit fur horse-feed an harness, hid cheenged frae shelts tae deep litter, a crowdit, flechy, kecklin, scrattin squatter o hens that Braeheid keepit tae sell tae the warld in general. Fur their eese alane, the fermtoun fowk wadna hae thankit ye fur deep-litter eggs...puir, peely-wally, tasteless scunners o dyod, fit ither cuid they be, wi the hens niver seein the licht o day? Braeheids free range hens hid th run o the place, fine broon clockers, the antrin ane wi a toosht o chickens at her dowp, their wee cheeps mellin wi the cocky. Tuck..Tuck..TUCKY o their mothers fa pluffed oot their breists in vexation at the smaaest fleerich. Jyned tae the dowp o the deep-litter steadin, at richt angles tilt, wis the neep shed, calf hoose, byre, an lang biggin aneth ae lang reef, far swallaes biggit nests in the riggin o the reef an a green timmer door opened ootower the midden inno the coort, fur eese o swypin the sharn oot the byre...Ilkie stob, ilkie stick, ilkie steen o the fairm o Braeheid, hid aince bin aneth the fit o its maister, Auld Robin Simmers, Robbies faither. Auld Robin hid bin dour, stinch, an God-fearin, a kirk elder fa vrocht an leuch seldom, fa keepit the Sabbath in the auld wye, garrin his kittlins keep it anna. He read tae his faimily ooto the Guid Buik afore kirk an efter it, pykin oot a bittie frae Haly Writ ilkie Sabbath. He hid lickit wee Robbie till his airm wis sair, fur caperin an kecklin wi his sister Meg in the mids o a readin frae the Scriptures, that the loon micht ken fit the fear o the Lord meant. Robbied grown coorse at yon, an huffed, efterhin hed taen Megs dally, Bessie, an beeriet it in the midden tae spreid the dule aroon, fur he wisna grippy wi nestiness.

Thumbnail History

In the early Middle Ages Pictish was spoken in the region, followed by Gaelic, and then Scots. There were early contacts too with Scandinavia and the Low Countries (Belgium and the Netherlands) with fishermen and traders sharing common words across the North Sea. King Macbeth was a North East man and died in 1057. David I established Aberdeen and Elgin as royal burghs in the 12th century. The Gordon earls of Huntly, and Keith earls Marsichal, were for long the dominant political families and who produced much documentation in the Scots language. Aberdeen University was founded in 1495. Historically the region had both Highland and Lowland parishes within its area. The North East was also very important to the Jacobite cause in the 18th century.


The dialect as a whole covers a large area ranging from the Black Isle and Nairn in the west, all the way across Moray, Banff and Buchan, down through Gordon, the city of Aberdeen (Aiberdeen), and into Deeside. Included within this region are Burghead (Brochheid), Fraserburgh (The Broch), Lossiemouth (Lossie), and Peterhead (Peterheid) on the coast, with Alford (Aaford), Elgin, Ellon (Eilan), Forres, Huntly, Inverurie (Innerurie), Keith, and Turriff (Turra) inland. Together with Shetland, the North East is arguably one of the two most active and aware dialect communities in Scotland, with distinct farming and fishing traditions. In more recent times the oil industry has become significant too. The North East has produced a significant number of poets and writers in the dialect, such as Marion Angus, Sheena Blackhall, John C Milne, Charles Murray, Alexander Ross, and David Toulmin. The region is also famed for its bothy ballads and traditional song which are celebrated each year in the Doric Festival.