San Diego Scottish Highland Games

2024 Highland Games June 22-23

2024 Highland Games June 22-23

Scots Gaelic – Five Phrases and Meanings You’ll Want to Know

We have discussed a few of the more common phrases that you would want to know in Scotland and how to translate the Gaelic to English for those of us who have a hard time with languages. Well, we wanted to include five more important phrases that will bring you help and possibly popularity while you are traveling throughout Scotland. 

As we discussed before Scottish Gaelic is spoken by around 1.2% of Scotland, and can be found in parts of Nova Scotia, Canada. It belongs to the Goidelic branch in the Celtic language family, alongside Irish and Manx. You will find while traveling around Scotland or any Gaelic speaking regions that Gaelic speakers are typically happy to speak English to visitors, and all essential business can be done in English. However, studying Gaelic may increase your pleasure of a visit to the Scottish Highlands and Hebrides, but is not necessary to get around. 

  1. “Whit’s fur ye’ll no go past ye.” This one basically means ‘whatever is meant to happen to you, will happen to you”! This is the household Scottish phrase you’ll hear often if someone is complaining or moaning about not getting something. 
  2. “Awa’ an bile yer heid” – This Scottish phrase might need a little more translation and heavily depends on the contexts. Simply putting it into English results in “Away and boil your head!” – this is why we say that you might need a second go-round of translations because that makes no sense! It means something along the lines of ‘Get lost!’ or ‘Forget it!’ – and it’s usually said to someone who is talking rubbish to you or wasting your time.
  3. “Time and tide for nae man bide”This is an old Scottish version of the classic line “Time and tide waits for no man”. A powerful message to those who are rich and powerful cannot escape the laws of nature and that anyone who has the opportunity to better themselves should do so without delay. We only have one life to live and we have to make the best of it when the opportunity comes.
  4. “Lang may yer lum reek” Translated this Scottish saying means something like “Long may your chimney smoke” – or translated in a way that makes sense. ‘May you live long and keep well’. Kind of sounds like something that Mr. Spock in Star Trek would say doesn’t it?
  5. “Guid gear comes in sma’ bulk” simply basically it means “Good things come in small packages”. This proverb is used when talking about children, gifts or you could even hear it when referenced to husbands! Scots use this phrase to say in a rather round about way that “it isn’t the gift that matters but what is in your heart” 
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