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Press release: 'Dreich' voted most iconic Scots word

Published November 2019

Scottish Book Trust, the national charity transforming lives through reading and writing, has today revealed ‘dreich’ as the winner of their iconic Scots word vote. The online Dictionary of the Scots Language records usage of dreich from as early as 1420, revealing the word has survived – and indeed thrives – in the vocabulary of Scots in Scotland and around the globe.

‘Dreich’ was closely followed by ‘glaikit’, while newcomers to the list include 'scunnered' and ‘shoogle’ coming in third and fourth place respectively. A total number of 1,895 votes were cast.

The iconic Scots word vote was launched as part of Book Week Scotland, a week-long celebration of reading and writing that takes place between 18-24 November. This year's theme is conversation, and the public were encouraged to submit their favourite Scots in order to prompt discussion around well-loved and well-used words.

Iconic Scots Word Vote – top ten final results

  1. Dreich – 259 votes
  2. Glaikit – 225 votes
  3. Scunnered – 199 votes
  4. Shoogle – 125 votes
  5. Wheest – 114 votes
  6. Fankle – 93 votes
  7. Outwith – 80 votes
  8. Braw – 77 votes
  9. Beastie – 76 votes
  10. Bumfle – 59 votes

Dreich originally meant ‘enduring’ or ‘slow, tedious’ but over time these meanings gave way to ‘dreary, hard to bear’ and from there to ‘dull, gloomy’. The word has also stood the test of time as it was highlighted as the nation's favourite Scots word in 2013, when it also topped a YouGov poll for Burns Night.

Marc Lambert, CEO of 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. Thank you to everyone who took part in the vote. It's fantastic to see the vibrant conversation around Scots language as we celebrate Book Week Scotland."

Rhona Alcorn, CEO of the Scots Language Dictionary, 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 so it is especially fitting that one of its primary meanings is ‘enduring, persistent’."

Tying in with A Year of Conversation and the International Year of Indigenous Languages, the public were invited to submit iconic Scots words through the charity’s social media channels and website. A panel of Scots language experts whittled down the many submissions into a shortlist of twenty words, which were then voted for by the public via Scottish Book Trust's social media and website.

As part of Book Week Scotland's Digital Festival, illustrator Alex T Smith doodled his own favourite Scots words, inspired by the vote. To celebrate the 20th birthday of The Gruffalo, Scottish Book Trust will host a special BBC Authors Live on 21 November. Julia Donaldson’s classic tale will be read by James Robertson in Scots and Catriona Lexy Campbell in Gaelic.

The Gaelic Book Council also ran their own poll on social media to discover the country's favourite Gaelic word, using the hashtag #facal. Two trends emerged from the longlist: firstly, people were likely to choose words connected to nature e.g. ‘fairge’ (‘wave’) and ‘muir’ (‘ocean’); secondly, words with the ending ‘ag’ were also popular e.g. ‘piseag’ (‘kitten’) and ‘srùpag’ (‘small sip’). Gaelic Book Council staff narrowed the submissions down to shortlist of ten and the public was invited to vote for their favourite. ‘Cailleach-oidhche', the Gaelic word for 'owl’ which translates literally as 'old woman of the night' topped the poll.

Notes to editors

Scottish Book Trust

Scottish Book Trust is a national charity changing lives through reading and writing. We inspire and support the people of Scotland to read and write for pleasure through programmes and outreach work that include:

For more information about Book Week Scotland, visit www.bookweekscotland.com(this link will open in a new window) or follow Book Week Scotland Twitter(this link will open in a new window) or Book Week Scotland Facebook(this link will open in a new window). Book Week Scotland 2019 will be delivered by Scottish Book Trust from 18 November – 24 November. Now in its eighth year, it was initiated by the Scottish Government in 2012 and is supported by £200,000 from the National Lottery through Creative Scotland Targeted Funding and £26,500 from SLIC.

Creative Scotland

Scottish Book Trust is supported by Creative Scotland through Regular Funding. Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here. We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life. We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. For further information about Creative Scotland please visit www.creativescotland.com(this link will open in a new window), or follow on Creative Scotland Twitter(this link will open in a new window) or Creative Scotland Facebook(this link will open in a new window).

The Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC)

The Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) is the independent advisory body to the Scottish Government on library and information services. It leads the implementation of Ambition and Opportunity: A strategy for public libraries in Scotland 2015–2020, develops innovative projects like Film Education in Libraries and provides support for libraries in the form of advocacy, consultation and research. It administers Scottish Government funding for public libraries (Public Library Improvement Fund), for school libraries (School Libraries Improvement Fund) and funding for the wider library and information sector (Innovation and Development Fund). It supports public libraries to participate in Book Week Scotland by providing Scottish Book Trust with event funding for every public library service and Further Education College Libraries.