Scots / Northumbrian Words


Afeard:  afraid 

Afore:  before

Aqua Vitae:  whisky

Bairn:  a babe

Bannock:  unleavened, round, flat loaf made of oat or barley meal

Barmekin:  defensive stone wall surrounding a peel tower along the Borders

Bastle house:  a fortified farmhouse

Beacon:  part of a network of signal fires situated on towers and hillsides that warned of approaching raiders 

Benefit of clergy:  blessing of the Church

Bide:  stay

Bill:  charge or complaint

Blethering:  incessant, foolish talk

Blood feud:  a lengthy conflict between families involving a cycle of retaliatory killings or injury

Bollock dagger:  a kind of dagger carried by the Border Reivers

Braw:  fine, beautiful, attractive, grand, admirable

Brae:  a hill

Breeks:  breeches

Broken man:  man who was declared an outlaw and whose family would not stand surety for him

Bucking tubs:  tubs used to soak clothes in lye or urine to remove stains

Burgonet:  an open helmet, usually having a peak and hinged cheek pieces

Burn:  stream

Cannot see the daylight till him:  basically he's Betty's "blue eyed" boy and can do no wrong

Canny:  pleasant, nice, good judgment

Clype:  tattletale

Dale:  valley

Day of Truce:  when opposing wardens met to dispense justice and resolve differences

Docking the dell:  having sex with a woman

Drowning hole: cheap and quick means of execution in any river

Fash:  worry

Fechting:  fighting

Fell:  hill

Gallowsbreid:  one who deserves to hang

Garderobe:  bathroom

Gibbetted:  left hanging on the gallows (gibbet) for public viewing

Gob:  mouth

Greeting:  crying

Handfast:  trial marriage or betrothal binding for one year, after which each party could decide to  stay together or part

Happin:  mayhap, perhaps, maybe

Harebell: Scottish Bluebell

Haud:  HOLD

Haud yer wheesht:  be silent

Heath:  an area of open, uncultivated land

Heid:  head

Heidsman:  head of the family

Hobbler:  Border horse

Hot trod:  legal raid in retribution for an offense

Ideot:  idiot

Jack:  a sleeveless tunic worn for protection, made of thick quilted material, sometimes with pieces of metal sown between the layers of cloth

Jedburgh axe:  an axe with a distinctive cutting edge

Keek:  peek

Kye:  cow

Latch:  a small, light crossbow

Lea:  an open area of grassy or arable land

Lug:  ear

March:  Border district between England and Scotland; each district was divided into three Marches: the East, Middle, and West

Midden: dunghill

Neb:  nose

Outlander:  one from outside the Borders

peel tower:  fortified tower house

pend:  undercroft

plaid:  a blanket

Plucking her plum tree:  taking a woman's virginity

Put to the horn:  declared an outlaw and could be hung on sight

Red hand:  basically caught with the goods or in the act 

Scumfishing:  the practice of stacking straw against the entryway of a peel tower and setting it afire in order to smoke the inhabitants out into the open

Shedding her shanks:  having sex with a woman

Shieling:  hut

Skelp:  slap

Skelp in the lugs:  slap across the ears

Surety:  to take responsibility for someone’s appearance or debts at the Day of Truce

Swive:  to have sexual intercourse

Tawse:  a leather strap divided at the end into two or more lashes

Trip step:  an uneven step built into the turnpike intended to unbalance attackers storming the tower

Turnpike:  a circular staircase used to access upper floors in a tower

Undercroft:  basement or ground floor

Wagging a wand in the water:  a waste of time

Wame:  stomach

Wean:  wee one or child

Widdie:  gallows or gibbet

Yett:  hinged iron gate



**Photograph by Muskhi Brichta