A Crash Course in Scots Vocabulary

Warning: these rules are intended to help readers familiar with English to understand the Scots words that they meet with in their reading only. They're not suitable for writing or speaking Scots. It won't work to try to reverse the rules and construct Scots from English: this will just give you very bad Scots!

What it will do is give you the ability to recognise several hundred of the most common words in Scots in your reading.

Present Participles

English "-ing" endings for the present participles are written "-in" in Scots:

beinbeing
comincoming
daeindoing
fleeinflying
leukinlooking
gettingetting
keepinkeeping
lauchinlaughing
morninmorning
rinninrunning
seeinseeing
singinsinging
sittinsitting
playinplaying
tellintelling
thinkinthinking

Suffixes

English "-ful" ending is written "-fu" in Scots:

awfuawful
thankfuthankful

Phonetic Correspondences

"-aa" at the end of a word may correspond to English "-all":

aaall
faafall
haahall
smaasmall
waawall

"ui" and "eu" in Scots often give the correct English word when replaced with "oo":

bluidblood
guidgood
guidnessgoodness
muinmoon
muirmoor
puirpoor
stuidstood
suinsoon
beukbook
leuklook
neuknook
teuktook

"ch" in Scots sometimes corresponds to "gh" in English:

brichtbright
knichtknight
lauchlaugh
lichtlight
michtmight
nichtnight
richtright
sichtsight

or "och" to "ough":

brochtbrought
nochtnought
thochtthought

"ig" at the end of a Scots word sometimes corresponds to "idge" in English:

brigbridge
frigfridge
rigridge

"oo" or "ou" (both pronounced "oo" as in "look") in Scots often correspond to English "ow" (or "ou" when it's pronounced "ow"):

abootabout
hoosehouse
houhow
moothmouth
oorour, hour
ootout
proodproud
roondround
soondsound
doundown
flouerflower
nounow
pouerpower
tountown

An "a" in Scots very often transliterates to an "o" in English:

banebone
stanestone
lanelone
lanelylonely
alanealone
ganegone
nanenone
crawcrow (verb and noun)
shawshow, a clump of trees, the part of a potato plant aboveground
blawblow
lawlow, a prominent conical hill
snawsnow
gatgot
patput, pot
taptop
sairsore
mairmore
maistmost
sangsong
alangalong
amangamongst
langlong
langerlonger
strangstrong
wrangwrong
affoff
aftoft
aftenoften
aikenoaken
ainown
baithboth
saulsoul
anceonce
claesclothes

If the above rule doesn't help, then dropping the "i" in "ai" might, especially in the first syllable of a word:

airmarm
chairmscharms
faitherfather
gairdengarden
maistermaster
maitermatter
pairishparish
pairtpart
pairtyparty

Plurals in Scots are formed very much as in English, with the following exceptions, where "n" is used as the plural ending:

singularpluralEnglish
eeeeneye/eyes
shaeshuinshoe/shoes
oxowsenox/oxen

Pronouns

Personal pronouns in Scots are:

I/me
thoo/thee
he/him
she/her
it/it
ye/ye (or "you", emphatic)
they/them

Possesives:

mine/mines
thy
his
her
its
yer (or "your", emphatic)
their

"Self" is "sel" in Scots, therefore the reflexives are:

mysel
thysel
hissel (or himsel)
hersel
itsel
yersel/yersels
theirsels (or themsels)

The ending "-na" corresponds to the ending "-n't" in English:

can/cannacan/can't
could/couldnacould/couldn't
dae/dinnado/don't
did/didnadid/didn't
haed/haednahad/hadn't
hae/hinnahave/haven't
haes/haesnahas/hasna
is/isnais/isn't
need/neednaneed/needn't
sall/sannashall/shan't
should/shouldnashould/shouldn't
wad/wadnawould/wouldn't
will/winnawill/won't
wis/wisnawas/wasn't

Numbers

ane twa three fower five sax seeven aicht nine ten eleeven twal

False Friends

bodyperson(also used as in English)
braidbroad(also used as in English)
burnstream(in the sense of small river; also used as in English)
closeclose, narrow alley(also used as in English)
cornoats or grass crops in general
doutbelieve, suppose
ganggo, walk(also used as in English)
gateroad(the Scots for the English "gate" is "yett")
hillmountain(generally used for "mountain" in Scots as well as "hill")
meatfood(of any kind: red meat would be called "fleesh" or "butcher meat" in Scots)
stormsnowfall

Finally...

here's a list of very common Scots words (not including those already given above, nor those that are spelled identically to the English):

aabodyeverybody
ablobelow
abuinabove
aeone (qualifier)
aforebefore
ahintbehind
aiblinsperhaps
airtarea, direction
aithereither
althoalthough
anitheranother
asidebeside
atweenbetween
auldold
avaat all (cf French "du tout")
awaaway
ayyes
ayealways
ayontbeyond
bairnchild
bauldbold
beastanimal
benthrough to the inner room
biby
bidestay
black(the colour, but sometimes used as an intensifier)
blythemerry, happy
bonnetcloth cap
bonnypretty
braehillside
braithbreath
brakbroke
brawgoodlooking, impressive to see
breidbread
breistbreast
britherbrother
cadrive in front, hit
camcame
cannyeasy-going
cauldcold
chiefchief, close friends
chielman
crackconversation, chat
craturcreature
crycall (not used in the sense of "weep")
cuddydonkey, or derogatory term for a horse
daithdeath
dangthrew down
daurdare
deedie
deiddead (sometimes "death")
deildevil
dingthrow doun
disdoes
dochterdaughter
drama shot of whisky
dreeput up with (usually willingly)
dreiddread
dugdog
duindone
dulesorrow, depression
dykea stone wall
eeeye
efterafter
eneuchenough
ettleaim, intend
faefoe
faefrom
fainfond
fandfound, felt
fashhassle, worry
faurfar
fausefalse
fearfrighten
fearedafraid
fechtfight
fecklessweak, lacking in energy
findfind, feel
fineall right
fitfoot
fleefly (verb and noun)
folkpeople
forbybesides
forritforward
foufull
fraefrom
fundfound, felt
gaego, gave
gaedwent
gaengone
garto cause
gaungoing
gearmoney
geyvery, quite, really
giegive
giedgave
giengiven
giesgives
ginif
gledglad
glenvalley
gloaminevening twilight
gottenreceived
gowdgold
gowdengolden
greeprize
greetweep
hairstharvest, autumn
halewhole, heal, healthy
halyholy
hamehome
happitwrapped, clothed
haudhold, celebrate
heevenheaven
heidhead
henhen, a term of endearment for a woman
herdherd, shepherd
hertheart
heyhay
hiehigh
hiechhigh
hielandhighland
himlaneby himself
hivhave
I'seI shall
ilkeach
ilkaevery
illevil
intaein, into
intilin, into
itherother
ithinwithin
ithootwithout
josweetheart
juistjust
kailcurly cabbage, or a kind of soup
kenknow
kensknows
kentknew
kinkind
kintracountry
kirkchurch
ladboy
laddieboy
lairdsmall landowner
lassgirl
lassiegirl
latlet
laveremainder
lealeave
lealloyal
leddylady
leelie (in the sense of falsehood)
lielie, a pool of water in a field
liftsky, air
liltsong, sing
lippentrust to
lo'elove (verb)
lounboy
loutto bob the head, eg in respect or in going through a low door
lowefire, flame
lownquiet
lowpjump, leap
lugear
makmake
maunmust
meiklebig
meymay
mibbiemaybe
mindremember
ministervicar, parson
mirkdarkness
mithermother
monymany
morn"the morn" = tomorrow
moumouth
mucklebig
nano
naeno (qualifier)
naebodynobody
naethingnothing
naitherneither
neistnext
nonot
northan
oof
o'tof it
onyany
onybodyanybody
owerover
patetop of head, brow
peypay
picturpictur
pitput
powhead, skull
qoquoth (not archaic in Scots)
raxreach
reddrubbish
reidred
rinrun
rueregret
saeso
saftsoft
saicontsecond
seekseek, sick
shota turn at a game
shuirsure
sicsuch
siclikesuchlike
sillersilver, money
simmersummer
sinsince
sortfix
spakspoke
springspring, to sprain
strauchtstraight
synethen
taeto, too
taentaken
taktake
telttold
tentattention
thaethose
thanthan, then
thegithertogether
thoalthough
tholeput up with (usually unwillingly)
thrangbusy
throuthrough
tilto
tilluntil
tintlost
tither"the tither" = the other
truithtruth
uisedused
uncouncommonly
veravery
wabsterweaver
wadwed
waewoe
walcomewelcome
warkwork (noun)
warldworld
watwet
watterwater
waurworse
weanchild
wearytired
weelittle
weelwell
weyway
whawho
whanwhen
whasewhose
whaurwhere
wheena number of
whilessometimes
whilkwhich (literary)
whitwhat
wiwith
wi'twith it
winarrive, achieve
wirdword
wirkwork (verb)
wirthworth
wrochtworked, wrought
wudwood, mad
wummanwoman
yeyou
yeryour
yerlaneby yourself
yettgate
yinone
yirdearth
yirthearth
yonthat/those in the distance