Word of the week: Dreich

IT IS little wonder the word dreich is so popular in Scotland.

A dreich day at Edinburgh's Calton Hill. Picture: Cate Gillon
A dreich day at Edinburgh's Calton Hill. Picture: Cate Gillon

When using it to describe the weather, dreich can mean wet, overcast, dull, cold and misty. With the exception of a week-and-a-half sometime around July, Scottish weather can always apply to one of those.

It’s not exclusively used to refer to the weather - though that is its more common use - and in other contexts is seen as a byword for dreary.

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You could say someone or something had a dreich future or outlook. And it’s far from a compliment to have it attached to your personality.


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Oddly for such a popular term north of the border, the origins begin in Middle England. In fact, it is still used by certain areas in the south of England to this day.

Enduring was its original meaning and one historical anecdote has it being applied to ministers who liked to drone on in sermons. Such people may be called “dreig” by their bored church goers, although probably not to their face.

From there it morphed into dreich with the Scots emphasis on the ‘ch’, similar to how we pronounce the end of loch.

In January 2013 a YouGov poll awarded dreich the honour of being the favourite word in the Scots language. It received 23 per cent of the public vote, which pushed it just ahead of glaikit.



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