The speech patterns of the Scots are famously rich and evocative. It’s a special pleasure to hear Gaelic, the lingua franca from Scotland’s earliest days and still spoken in parts of the Highlands and the Hebrides—especially on the Isle of Skye, where about 60% of the population still use this millennia-old language. Here are some words, Gaelic and otherwise, that you might encounter during your travels around Scotland.

aber -- river mouth

ach -- field

aird -- promontory

alt -- stream

auch -- field

auld -- old

baillie -- magistrate

bal -- hamlet or tiny village

ben -- peak, often rugged

birk -- birch tree

brae -- hillside, especially along a river

brig -- bridge

broch -- circular stone tower

burn -- stream

cairn -- heap of stones piled up as memorial or landmark

ceilidh -- Scottish hoedown with singing, music, and tall tales

clach -- stone

clachan -- hamlet

close -- narrow passage leading from the street to a court or tenement

craig -- rock

creel -- basket

croft -- small farm worked by a tenant, often with hereditary rights

cromlech, dolmen -- prehistoric tomb or monument consisting of a large flat stone laid across upright stones

dram -- 1/8 fluid ounce

drum -- ridge

dun -- fortress, often in a lake

eas -- waterfall

eilean -- island

factor -- manager of an estate

fell -- hill

firth -- arm of the sea reaching inland

gait -- street (in proper names)

gil -- ravine

glen -- a small valley

haugh -- water meadow

how -- burial mound

howff -- small, cozy room or meeting place

inver -- mouth of a river

kil, kin, kirk -- church

kyle -- narrows of ancient or unknown origin

land -- house built on a piece of ground considered as property

larig -- mountain pass

links -- dunes

loch --  lake

machair -- sand dune, sometimes covered with sea grass

mon -- hill

muir -- moor

mull -- cape or promontory

ness -- headland

neuk -- nose

pend -- vaulted passage

provost -- mayor

reek -- smoke

ross -- cape

schist -- highly compact crystalline rock formation

strath -- broad valley

tarbert -- isthmus

tolbooth --  old town hall (often with prison)

uig -- sheltered bay

uisge -- water

uisge beatha -- water of life, whisky

way -- bay

wynd -- alley


Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.