'Dreich' brings joy as the nation's favourite Scots word

Scots have voted 'dreich' as their most iconic word despite its gloomy connotations.
Scots have voted 'dreich' as their most iconic word despite its gloomy connotations.
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It is probably the most commonly used word to describe the weather in Scotland.

So it is perhaps not a huge surprise that “dreich”, which is usually used to describe wet, gloomy or cold conditions, has topped a poll to find the nation’s favourite Scots word.

Believed to date back to the 15th century, it triumphed over “glaikit” and “scunnered” in an online survey carried out by the Scottish Book Trust over the past three weeks.

The trust hailed dreich, which has been voted the most iconic Scots word, as the perfect description of “a certain type of weather – damp, wet, grey and depressing”.

Glaikit was defined as “stupid, foolish, thoughtless or irresponsible”, while “scunnered” was compared to being bored, uninterested or antipathetic.

Nearly 1,900 votes were cast after a 30-strong shortlist for "the most iconic Scots word" was revealed ahead of Book Week Scotland, the nation’s annual celebration of reading and writing.

More than 200 public nominations had originally been submitted – including from dialects such as Doric, Shetlandic, Dundonian and Glaswegian – via the book trust’s website and social media channels, before being whittled down by a panel of Scots language experts.

Dreich captured 259 of the 1,895 votes to be cast, ahead of glaikit, which notched up 225 and scunnered, which was in third place, with 199 votes.

Among the others to make the top ten were “shoogle,” “wheesht,” “fankle,” “braw” and “beastie”.

However “dwam,” “gloamin’”, “haver,” “nyaff,” “sleekit” “totie” and “smirr” all missed out on a top-ten place..

It is the second time in just over six years that “dreich” has topped such a poll, after winning a YouGov poll in the run-up to Burns Night in 2013. At that time dreich captured 23 per cent of the vote ahead of glaikit, which secured 20 per cent.

The new poll was launched to coincide with the fact that 2019 was designated an official Year of Conversation in Scotland and is also being promoted around the world as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Book Trust said: “Dreich originally meant ‘enduring’ or ‘slow and tedious’ but over time these meanings gave way to ‘dreary, hard to bear’ and from there to ‘dull and gloomy’.”

Marc Lambert, chief executive of the Scottish Book Trust, said: “We were overwhelmed by the many submissions for our iconic Scots words vote – it’s certainly a subject close to people’s hearts.

"Dreich is such an evocative word with the ability to sum up the Scottish weather, or mood, perfectly. It’s also a word that is very well used here in Scotland and beyond. It’s fantastic to see the vibrant conversation around Scots language as we celebrate Book Week Scotland.”

Dr Rhona Alcorn, who was appointed chief executive of the Scottish Language Dictionaries in September, said: “Once again, dreich has been chosen as the most iconic Scots word, with glaikit taking the silver medal.

"Dreich has been part of the core vocabulary of Scots for hundreds of years – it is especially fitting that one of its primary meanings is ‘enduring and persistent’.”

The Gaelic Book Council ran its own poll to find the most popular word, with cailleach-oidhche (Gaelic word for owl – which also translates as old woman of the night) emerging the winner.