Shetland words to know

The dialect of Shetland and Orkney has been greatly influenced by the islands’ history.

Once a land of the Picts, the language used by these people has been lost, especially after the Vikings arrived in the islands during the 9th Century. The Vikings took their own language, Old Norse, and Shetland and Orkney became part of Scandinavia from 875AD to 1472AD. During this time the language was used most commonly around the islands slowly changed from Old Norse to  Norn.

“Most English speakers shouldn’t have any problems understanding what Shetlanders say, but we have compiled a list of some more unusual words below you may hear when visiting the islands!”

The Skidbladner, Unst, Shetland

Shetland and Orkney became part of Scotland in the 15th century and Norn began to be used less and less, dying out by the 18th Century. In the present day the Scots language is spoken in Shetland and Orkney, but there are a smattering of words (some used in both island groups) heavily influenced by Norn.

Most English speakers shouldn’t have any problems understanding what Shetlanders say, but we have compiled a list of some more unusual words below you may hear when visiting the islands!

Click here for a list of Orkney Words to know before visiting!

Lerwick Main Street, Shetland
Shetland WordMeaning
Aforebefore
Ahintbehind
Airtdirection of wind
Atweenbetween
Bairnchild
Bidestay, live
Biggbuild
Birlspin around
Blethergossip / talk
Blydehappy / glad
Boanniepretty
Braalypretty, fairly.
Braeslope
Brakbreak
Breekstrousers
Broo(top of) slope
Bruckrubbish
Byrecowshed
Caald, Cowldcold
Claesclothes
Coopturn over, upside down
Crabbitbad tempered
Creepiestool
Creepie Crawliesinsects
dathe
Da Daytoday
Da Moarntomorrow
Daedo
dan or denthen
Dastreenlast night
datthat
dee or duyou
Dingstrike, knock
disthis
Dookdook dip (in water)
Doondown
Dootdoubt
Dreichdreary (mainly in relation to weather)
Drookledsoaked
dy or dineyour or yours
Eenoojust now
Elt Messmess
Faafall
Faertafraid
Fantto be very hungry, to famish.
Filsketfrisky, highspirited
Finfind
Fledflew
Hermaness, Unst, Shetland
Shetland WordMeaning
Gaddergather
Gafflaugh
Genggo
Gluffa fright
Greetcry
Guttermud
Gyaangoing
Haadhold
Haalhaul
Hivhave
Hoidhide
Kaenknow
Kentknown
Kyecows
Lassgirl
Makmake
memy
Middlinreasonably well.
Mindremember
Mirknendusk, twilight
Monymany
Mucklelarge
Noo Nownow
Owerover
Peeriesmall / little
Peerie-wyescarefully, cautiously
Pleepwhine or complain
Reestitsmoke dried
Saatsalt
Scoitlook
Shilpitsour
Simmer Dimthe twilight of a Shetland summer evening
Sindryasunder
SirpinSoaking wet
Sleekitsly
Spaegiemuscle soreness caused by over exertion
Stooriedusty
Straestraw
Tammy Norriepuffin
Tattiepotato
Trowa mischievous fairy
Twatwo; a few
Unkanstrange / unfamiliar
Vexedsad
whawho
whaarwhere
Wheeshta call for silence
whinwhen
whitwhat
wirour or were or we are
Yarnchat
Magnus DixonBy Magnus Dixon
Orkney and Shetland enthusiast, family man, loves walks, likes animals, terrible at sports, dire taste in music, great taste in films and tv, eats a little too much for his own good.

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