Scottish fact of the week: Scots terms for diseases

"That's a mort cauld (severe cold) you have there or perhaps it's rose fever (Hayfever)?" Picture: TSPL
"That's a mort cauld (severe cold) you have there or perhaps it's rose fever (Hayfever)?" Picture: TSPL
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“A girl on her arrival was asked whether she had had the smallpox. ‘Yes mem, I’ve had the sma’pox, the nirls, the blabs, the scraw, the kinkhost and the fever, the branks and the worm.’” - Dean E.B Ramsay, Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character (1864)

If you recognised any of those terms then you, or your family must be Scottish, for those of you that didn’t here’s a handy guide to Scots terms for diseases:

A bad case of the Blabs. Picture: Wikipedia

A bad case of the Blabs. Picture: Wikipedia

Ablepsy - Blindness

Apoplexy - Paralysis due to a stroke

Bellythraw - A common term for Colic.

Blabs - Chickenpox or nettlerash (A blab is a bubble or a drop of liquid)

Boat cough or stranger’s cold - Terms used on St Kilda for either the common cold or influenza, outbreaks of which would follow the arrival of a vessel from the Outer Hebrides.

Branks - Mumps

Canine Madness - Rabies, hydrophobia

Chilblain - Swelling of extremities caused by the cold

Croup - Laryngitis, diphtheria, or strep throat

The good wife - Smallpox

Grandgore or glengore - Syphilis (From Old French, grand gorre - great pox)

Gulsoch - Jaundice (gule for yellow and suht for disease)

Haingles -Influenza (to haingle is to hang around feebly)

Inbred fever - Various chest diseases, including bronchitis and tuberculosis

Jaw pish - Urethitis

Kinkhoste - whooping cough (to kinke is to suffer a coughing fit)

Knot in the pudding - a strangled hernia

MacDonald’s disease - A kind of chest infection that was supposedly only curable by the touch of a member of the MacDonald Clan, it is not understood where these mythical healing powers came from or where the legend arose.

Meserlie, meselne or messall - Leprosy (from the Latin miser meaning wretched)

Mort Cauld - A severe cold

Nirls - Measels (A nirl is a small lump)

Phtisik or teesick - Any wasting disease

Ripple - Gonorrhoea

Rose Cold - Hay fever or allergy

Rush fever - Scarlet fever (A rush is a rash)

Scaw - Any scaly skin disease.

Screws - Rheumatism

Scrumpox - Skin disease, impetigo

Stourie lungs - Name given in Fife and the Lothians to pneumoconiosis, aka black lung, a disease miners suffered from exposure to inhalation of coaldust.

Sweating Sickness - Infectious and fatal disease common to Scotland in 15th century

Worm Toothache, colic or any other ailment believed to be caused by a worm.

Ydrope or ydropesie - Dropsy.