History of Scots to 1700

History of Scots to 1700

4. Vocabulary and borrowing (CM) [55]

4.1 Etymology

In what follows, when etymologies are mentioned, it will usually be stated that a Scots word simply is derived from either an earlier native form or from a cognate word in some other language. The dictionary entries are not so categorical. They give cognates where these are known, leaving it to the reader to infer the route by which a word has been borrowed. It is very important, therefore, for the dictionary user who is interested in the origins of words to bring with him or her some knowledge of the sources of the vocabulary and the historical circumstances of borrowing.

Often, too, parallels are cited that are not to be understood as sources, particularly in ME and EModE. Information about ME is valuable because it helps to fill in the gap in the record of Scots between ONhb and the literary corpus beginning in the late 14th century. For loanwords, it is useful to know the period at which the word first enters the dictionary record of English. This might be influential in weighing possible etymologies – putative loans from ON, for instance, would probably be recorded already in ME. So would those from AN, whereas loans from French as a literary language continue over a much longer period.

4.2 Sources of the vocabulary

4.2.1 Native vocabulary

Much of the native vocabulary is, of course, shared with StE, also descended from an Anglian dialect,[56] but with forms and senses independently developed.

There are a few differences in word-form between Scots and StE arising from OE dialect differences: see e.g. acher n., greve n.1, hundreth, moch and ticher (s.v. tere n.). For the vowel of eche n., cf. ONhb eadesa (SND s.v. eetch).[57]

Most of the OE documents that survive are WS, and the forms that are cited in dictionary etymologies are the better attested WS forms unless specifically labelled otherwise. Reliance on the well-documented WS forms can sometimes obscure the phonological development. The word barne ‘child’, for instance, develops regularly from Anglian *barn. The WS form cited by most dictionaries, including DOST, has ea as the result of WS ‘fracture’ (diphthongisation). This can lead to the word being mistakenly treated as a loan from ON. OSc dar v. and StE dare, Scots swallie (s.v. swelly v.) and StE swallow are all from similar, unfractured Anglian forms.

However, dictionaries do usually give the Anglian ald forms that are the precursors of both OSc ald, cald, etc., and the StE equivalents old, cold, etc., where WS again has ea.

Where WS has ǣ from West Germanic ā, Anglian has raised ǣ from this source further to ē, giving vowel 2 (ModSc /i/), regardless of the development of other OE ǣ. Examples include nepe, swere ‘reluctant’, eirand, drede v., brere, blese n.

Curiously, some of the main features of ONhb are not represented in Scots, notably the confusion of ea and eo that is found especially in the 10th century texts. Craigie (1925) suggested that the explanation might be variation within ONhb. (Anglo-Danish is also based on ONhb.) One feature whose reflex is found in ModSc is the rounding of e after w, thus ONhb uoe, Modern Scots (southern East Central, South-West and Southern) oo ‘we’.

There are a few loans from PreStE into Scots, identifiable by their word-form, that are well established, independently of anglicisation as a general process. These include bote n.2, alongside bate n.1 from the late 15th century, and doore from the late 16th century, completely replacing dure after the first half of the 17th century. Aucht ‘eight’ (perhaps because of potential homonymic clashes) is replaced by eicht in many ModSc dialects. The o in lord, however, may be a native development. This form already existed in Scots in the 14th century, and is paralleled by or from ON ár (or conj.1), i.e. the change of vowel may have been conditioned by the following /r/ (see also §9.3.1).

A substantial part of the native vocabulary has dropped out of the language since the OE period, often replaced by ON or OF loans (see below). Some OE survivals in Scotland and the north of England may have been reinforced by their ON cognates. Examples include barne (above), hals n., dryte and thole. Björkman (1900) considers that the frequentative suffix -le (OSc -ill), as in runkill, became more common in ME under Scandinavian influence. The ending is also found in MDu, e.g. rummill n. and v.

It is possible that there are lost native sources of some words usually attributed to ON. The two languages being very close, there generally would be an ON cognate of any such unrecorded native word. Wall (1898) suggests that lowe ‘a flame’ (see low n.1) may be native, since it occurs in Frisian (the nearest relative of Scots and English) as well as in ON and Middle Dutch. It is also suggested that nieve (OSc neve), lug, muck (OSc muk), ding and others may really be native words because of their wide (though sometimes scattered) distribution in the modern English dialects (Wall, 1898; Wakelin, 1972). Given that geographical distributions ebb and flow, the distribution in earlier periods of the language is what is of most interest here. In support of the ON derivation, The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology notes that muck occurs earliest in eastern parts of England. Lug is earliest in Scots, and if indeed ON, is one of the few Scandinavian loans in Scots not traceable to Anglo-Danish (see §2.3.3).

4.2.2 Loanwords

Loanwords in Scots and in StE come largely from the same range of contacts, chiefly in the medieval period: Latin, with loans entering the language at every stage from the Germanic ancestor of OE to modern scientific terminology; the Celtic languages; ON – in some dialects more than others, but a considerable influence even in StE; French, especially the AN dialect, but later Standard French (the Central dialect), especially for learned loanwords; and the language group consisting of Flemish, Low German and Middle Dutch.

For a significant proportion of the vocabulary, no etymology has been ascertained. Almost certainly, some of these words have precursors, either in OE or in the languages from which Scots borrowed, but these have gone unrecorded. It is likely that Gaelic, in particular, has been under-represented, for a number of reasons (see Dareau, 2001; Macafee, 2002). Others are ad hoc coinages – we can be fairly certain of this when some identifiable principle of word-formation is at work (see below). Another clue is the stylistic restriction of coinages in the early part of their history, when they are often treated as slang (appearing only in ‘low life’ texts, such as the MSc flytings), e.g. gully, bony and glowr. Cumbric and Pictish

The numbers of Anglo-Saxons arriving in Britain, whether absolutely or as a proportion of the native Celtic population, can only be guessed. It has been said that “English developed as the Germanic of few invaders in the mouths of many Celts” (Vennemann, 2000: 404). This is even more true of Scotland, where blood group figures suggest that the Angles contributed less than 10% of the present gene pool (Potts, 1976).

Cumbric place-names are still common in Scotland as in England, but only small numbers of words were taken into OE (although this has been underestimated in the past – see Viereck (2000) for an overview). This is what we would expect in a case of substratum influence: where the speakers of an indigenous language shift to an incoming language, the influences they carry over tend to be mainly phonological and syntactic (Thomason and Kaufman, 1988: 121), together with subtle semantic influences that are difficult to detect. A number of features of late OE grammar have been suggested as p-Celtic influences (cf. §7.8.2), and even some features such as periphrastic do (see §7.8.15) that developed later in the language, but are most prominent in dialects still in contact with p-Celtic, have been referred to this source (see German, 2000: 370-1 for a brief account).

Likely Cumbric loans include bodkin (see OED), cobill, lum n.1, brok n.1 and brat (see OED brat n.1). The last two are generally treated as Cumbric (e.g. Baugh, 1959: 85-6; Pyles and Algeo, 1982: 298) because they occur in England (where they are less likely to be Gaelic), but OIr etymons also exist. Gaelic cam-, as in camschoch, also occurs in western English dialects as cam ‘crooked’, where it is of p-Celtic origin (OED, EDD s.v. cam adj.). The close relationship between the two Celtic branches means that Gaelic would tend to mask any loans that might be peculiar to Scots.

There is no sign in OSc of the Anglo-Cymric score, the corrupted p-Celtic numbers formerly used for counting knitting stitches and sheep in scores, and as a children’s jingle. These appear late in Scotland (19th century, see SND s.v. baombe), are attested only as jingles, and never go beyond ten, so they may have spread northwards in modern times from the north-west of England. The fact that they are not documented at all before the 18th century makes it difficult to argue that they are a survival from Cumbric (Barry, 1967; Klemola, 2000).

A possible Pictish loan is pete n.1. It appears first in a Scottish Latin context as peta. Another is month n.2, although this comes via Gaelic (Watson, 1926: 391-407). The word’s easterly place-name distribution (for a map, see Barrow, 1998: 66), and the fact that most of the citations for its more general sense are from north of the Tay, suggest that the source was Pictish. Gaelic

The earliest phase of borrowing of q-Celtic loans into OE reflects Irish missionary activity in Northumbria (Breeze, 1993; cf. §5.1). Particularly interesting for us is deorc ‘bloody’, only in The Dream of the Rood (Breeze, 1994-5).

However, most q-Celtic loans in Scots are, of course, from Scottish Gaelic; but the proportion of these recorded in OSc is very small (see below). As Aitken (1954) notes, there are very few Gaelic loans in the ESc texts, despite the conditions for borrowing being “most favourable and the population most linguistically intermingled” in the 11th and 12th centuries. This is another reason to suspect that the rural Anglian population of the South-East was less important to the eventual form of Scots than the Anglo-Danes.

The low status of Gaelic latterly (cf. the citations s.vv. Heland, Heland-man, Lawland), and its rural social basis, would not have encouraged much borrowing (by Scots speakers) apart from substratum influence (carried over by originally Gaelic speakers). Nevertheless, the numerical superiority of the Gaels over the Germanic-speaking groups might have overwhelmed these factors (as in Ireland). It may be that the prolonged period of contact allowed Gaelic-speakers to acquire perfect Scots. This is consistent with Barrow’s view that there was “a very gradual loss of Gaelic from much of eastern Scotland” (1989: 126).

Possible substratum influences on phonology and syntax are discussed by Macafee and Ó Baoill (1997). Gaelic loans and the existence of these sounds in frequently-used place and personal names of Gaelic origin may have reinforced the retention in Scots of l-mouillé and n-mouillé. The sporadic occurrence of <>> for <th> in MSc (see §5.2.8), representing /t/ for /θ/ as in Highland English, seems too widely distributed to be an influence of Gaelic, unless it is much earlier than the evidence suggests. The occurrence of <sch> for <ch> (see §5.2.8), i.e. /ʃ/ for /ʧ/, again a tendency shared with Gaelic, presents the same problems.

It has been suggested that there is Gaelic influence in the free use in ModSc of the construction be + -ing with verbs that do not allow it in English (verbs of psychological state), e.g. think and want in certain senses.[58] The antiquity of this in Scots remains to be investigated. More clearly of Gaelic origin is the use of and as a subordinating conjunction with ellipsis of the verb, in a concessive sense (see and conj. 1 c. It is also very likely that Gaelic fhèin lies behind certain emphatic or polite (as opposed to reflexive) uses of pronouns + self in Scots (see himself pron. 2, ȝowrself pron. 1).

There is a body of Gaelic loans relating to legal and administrative structures that survived from the pre-feudal period, e.g. slanis and tocher (see Dareau, 2001). Some loans of this kind, e.g. conveth, are also found in Northumberland in the early medieval period, together with Gaelic place-name elements (Barrow, 1992: 117ff.), reflecting Scottish influences on this area, over which the Scottish crown long had territorial ambitions. The character of continuing Gaelic loans is mainly popular, e.g. ker, mant v., ingill n.1, ganȝe, partan and o n.1.

A number of elements of putative Gaelic origin have become productive in Scots. These are mainly attested in the Modern period, but see camschoch, curfuffle (cf. SND s.v. cur-) and ȝelloch (cf. SND s.v. -och).

The late persistence of Gaelic in many areas probably meant a correspondingly late influx of Gaelic loans as the language was given up: more detailed study of the ModSc dialects, following up McClure (1986), is needed to confirm the geographical distribution of loans. If Gaelic loans were entering Scots in the late MSc period mainly in the more peripheral dialect areas, then the written corpus is probably a particularly poor guide to this body of loanwords. As Dareau writes, the extant material is:

skewed against the sorts of vocabulary one would expect to find borrowed from Gaelic, dominated as they are by an urban culture, commerce, the Court and Government and a literature heavily influenced by French, Latin and English models. There are relatively few sources of every day vocabulary of ‘landward folk’ and others who might be expected to have retained or come into contact with Gaelic to a far greater degree than their urban compatriots. Furthermore, the dictionary database itself is not exhaustive. (2001: 238)

Pődör’s (1995/6) work on Gaelic loanwords suggests that some loans must have been in Scots for several centuries before their appearance in the dictionary record. For instance, the culrath form of colrach, although not attested in Scots until the 15th century, contains the phoneme /θ/, which is believed to have been lost in Gaelic by the end of the 13th century.[59] In bledoch, the same sound appears as /d/, although this word is not recorded in Scots until the late 16th century. Many of the apparently early loans have to do with Celtic law and society, and it is possible that some were transmitted via Scottish Medieval Latin (see ketharan).

There may also be considerable, subtle, influence on the semantic development of Scots lexis (cf. Macafee 2002). By its nature, this would be difficult to detect, and research in this area must await the completion and publication of the Historical Dictionary of Scottish Gaelic. Old Norse

The ON component is surprisingly large, as we have seen. The body of loanwords from this source in StE is also very large, but less than in the dialects of the North of England or Scots. The areas of vocabulary affected are also surprisingly basic, e.g. Tyisdaye, ger, ain adj. ‘own’ (see note at awin, nain adj.), and ordinal numerals (see §7.6.1). The verb tak replaces OE niman; while anger n. and anger v. (< angr ‘grief’, angra ‘to grieve’) replaces a range of native near-synonyms, while retaining (mainly in ESc) its ON senses; and leg n.1 joins native schank. ON forms underlie the adverbs hyne, quhyne and thine, as well as the more regular syne (McIntosh, 1987; Aitken, 2002: §14.1(5)). For basic grammatical words borrowed from ON, see §7.1.

Aitken (1954) gives as his impression of the Scandinavian loanwords in Scots the observation that “they reflect the interests and activities of a farming people living an outdoor life without much in the way of aristocratic or civilised luxuries or much interest in intellectual pursuits”. The Scandinavians did however contribute to Scots and English terminology in the area of law (in its pre-feudal, customary phase), including the word law itself; and in poetic diction, e.g. boun ppl.adj., brathly, raik v. 1, thraly.

A number of basic vocabulary items have been influenced or replaced by their ON cognates (even in StE, e.g. sister and egg). Ken takes its branch II sense from ON, and stot ‘a bullock’ from ON rather than OE stott ‘a poor horse’, though closer in form to the latter.

In many cases, Scandinavian word-forms have been borrowed as doublets or have even in time replaced OE ones, e.g. drukkin, strae (s.v. stra n.), ain (s.v. awin adj.), gowk n., cowp v.2, nowt (= OE nēat as in the place-name Nitshill), gleg, trig, lig v., [60] and cf. SND etter. ON /g/ = OE /j/ in e.g. garth [61] and geve, but there are also native /j/ forms, e.g. ȝif. The /g/ in English gate may be from the native OE plural gatu (but cf. ON gat), while the singular ᵹeat gives Scots ȝett.

ON appears to have actually reversed, in many words in nME and Scots, a group of native sound-changes.[62] The OE sound-changes are referred to as ‘palatalisation’, because they involved moving the place of articulation of certain consonants from the velum to the palate, when followed by certain other sounds. However, subsequent developments mean that the native reflexes are in fact no longer palatal. ON preserved the original Germanic /k, sk/ and word-final /g/ sounds where native changes give /ʧ, ʃ, ʤ/ (and word-initial /j/, see above), e.g. cheis, chese, leche; schete n.1, schete n.2, schip, fisch; hege.[63]

Examples with the unpalatalised consonants include:

  • /k/ rather than /ʧ/ in e.g. carl (= English churl), kist, birk (see OED s.v. birch – the vowel is apparently from the native form), mikill (= much). /k/ is likewise Scandinavian in such loans as sark, reke ‘smoke’ (< ON reykr, with the vowel of OE rēc). However, the /k/ of sic, earlier swik, swilk may be from the OE dative swilcum;
  • /g/ rather than /ʤ/ in e.g. brig n. These forms are less numerous. The other common word showing this is rig;[64]
  • /sk/ rather than /ʃ/ in e.g. skirt (< ON skyrta = OE scyrte > skirt, the garment originally hanging from the shoulders to the knees), mask n.1, skemmel ‘bench’ and skemmels ‘slaughter house’ (s.v. scamel n.). In scharn, however, Scots has the native form, while scarn (< ON skarn) is found in the north of England (EDD; LAS vol. I, Map 60).

When /sk/ is final in a word, it is sometimes reduced to /s/, as in Pace n.2 (q.v. for further examples) and mense.

In some cases, there is no Scandinavian etymon to explain the unpalatalised forms. A hypothetical ONhb cæf is suggested for caff ‘chaff’: SND also cites MDu kaf and streke. Others remain unaccounted for, e.g. mersk (as the DOST article points out, this is also found in southern English dialects). There is some doubt about whether the sound-changes were complete in OE. Sociolinguistic research on modern languages supports the view that sound-changes spread gradually through the vocabulary, so that residues (appearing as exceptions to ‘sound laws’) are to be expected. In particular, scholars have been reluctant to believe that the hundreds of sk- and especially skr- words in Scots and English could all be the result of ON influence (OED s.v. scr-), and not all have ON cognates, e.g. screw ‘shrew’. It is possible that to some extent ON influence worked upon a basis of native residues.

The process of analogy may also be involved. That is, we suppose that an awareness of the correspondence between the native and Scandinavian forms led to speakers altering other words to fit the pattern. This type of argument is difficult to sustain, being essentially speculative. However, Trudgill (1986) has shown that in situations of abrupt dialect mixture, a few unetymological forms typically do occur.

Where an ON etymon is not known, a word may nevertheless be identified as Scandinavian by the discovery of parallels in the modern Scandinavian languages and dialects, e.g. (heave-),heawe-eel, titling and flan. A trickle of Scandinavian words continued to enter the vocabulary through trade, and general sea-faring contacts with the Scandinavian countries and, of course, the Northern Isles.[65] Kries (1999) notes that while ON loans in a number of semantic fields are already in evidence in the 14th century – administration, law, agriculture, ships and shipbuilding – words in the semantic field ‘trade’ appear somewhat later (15th or 16th century), reflecting later trading links with the Scandinavian countries, particularly Norway. Words for fauna also tend to appear in the 15th century, but this may be a vagary of the documentary record.

Scandinavian material that is peculiar to the Norn-influenced dialects (Shetland, Orkney and, to a lesser extent, Caithness) we can take to be from Norn. McArthur (ed.), (1992, 1996: s.v. Norn) gives some examples of Norn loans, including the DOST items grind n.1, heavie, row v.2, spick, voe, vere n.1. Melchers (1980) also makes the reasonable assumption that any Shetland word that can be traced to Norn should be, even though the word may occur also in General Scots, e.g. gryse (and cf. SND deave and McArthur (ed.)’s example, galt). The Scots word would then be seen as merely reinforcing the local word. Middle Dutch

The Low German language group is differentiated into Flemish, Dutch and the Low German dialects of German itself. However, these form a continuum, and are identical at many points, so that the precise source of a loan may be unclear, although the assumption is that the earliest loans are from the Flemish spoken by immigrants to the Lowlands, and the later loans mainly from Dutch. Both of these are sometimes termed Middle Dutch. The early date of many loans is shown by the fact that they participate in the fronting of Vowel 7 (see §6.10), e.g. boucht, cute, smuir (s.v. smore v.), ȝuik, crune. Loans from this source, especially from the earliest period, range over the vocabulary of everyday life, e.g. crag n.2, spane, golf n.1, red v.2. See also Duche, Fleming, Flemis.

The Dutch or Flemish element in the Scots lexicon is the subject of a comprehensive article by Murison (1971). The Low Countries were important trading partners, and the only Scottish staple port abroad was maintained in different places in the Low Countries from the 13th to the 18th century. Scottish merchants were also involved further afield with the Low-German-speaking Hanseatic towns of the Baltic. General trade terminology includes groff, coft and coper. The verb cope did not become established in its own right, although it appears briefly; cf. cowp v.2 from the ON cognate. Calland ‘customer’, hence ‘fellow’, is either from Flemish caland, or directly from the Northern French word that is in turn its source.

As Murison points out, cloth is a prominent category, as for English generally, as this was the chief commodity of the Netherlands in the Middle Ages, e.g. dornick, camrick, hunscott, ley, birge, birges, fleming n. 2. The Scots surname Bremner or Brebner is MDu Brabander ‘native of Brabant’, also in OSc as brabanar ‘weaver’. Sea-faring is another important area of borrowing, e.g. dworce, rede n.3 3. Weights and measures include muchkin, and there are also a number of names of coins (medieval Scotland being chronically short of specie, many foreign coins circulated), e.g. gulden, plak, steke n. 4, and the proverbially small doit n.1.

Fishing fleets from the Low Countries were also very active in Scottish waters. Barrow (1981: 100) tells us that by the 12th century, the fishing industry was carried on as much by boats from the Low Countries as from Scotland, and the burghs along the southern shore of Fife from Crail to Inverkeithing seem to have been primarily markets for the fishing industry.

The nature of the contact with Flemish and Dutch means that the loans are of a colloquial kind, extending to pejorative words, e.g. swingeo(u)r, loun. The close genetic relationship between Scots and Dutch would facilitate loan-translations of compounds such as kirk-master, landward and perhaps wapynschaw.

Flemish speakers in the early Scottish burghs would have added their weight to the restoration of non-palatalised forms of words like kirk. These languages are themselves sources of non-palatalised /k/, /g/ and /sk/, e.g. dyke (there are also modern Scandinavian parallels, see OED), kink v.,[66] kinke n., kinkin, seg, skaillie (s.v. scailȝe n.), skink; and also the suffix -skap, -skep ‘-ship’ in e.g. hussyskep and arscap.

In some cases, a loan might be from either Scandinavian or Dutch, e.g. galya, grow v.2 and kip n.

Middle Dutch is the source of the diminutive suffix -kin, as in kinkin, muchkin and lillikine. The diminutive suffix -ie may have been reinforced by Dutch -je, which became common about the same time, the 17th century, in Protestant Holland (Murison, 1971). It has even been suggested that this diminutive ending, which appears in Scots earlier than in English, is of Dutch origin (Partridge, 1958). Latin

In the OSc period, Latin influence on the vocabulary is generally mediated by French. Sometimes a loan could equally well be from either language, but often the pronunciation (as indicated by spelling and rhyme) and the inflectional endings are French. Romance loanwords were borrowed in large numbers in OSc prose. Also, in poetry, an aureate, Romance-based poetic diction appeared in MSc, alongside the native poetic diction (see §9.3.4).

Dunbar’s ‘Ane ballat of Our Lady’ relies on Romance loanwords and ad hoc forms of Latin words for the rhymes in six of the seven stanzas. An examination of the first stanza will help to illustrate the poet’s relationship with the Latin language:

Hale, sterne superne, hale, in eterne

In Godis sicht to schyne,

Lucerne in derne for to discerne,

Be glory and grace devyne.

Hodiern, modern, sempitern,


Our tern inferne for to dispern,

Helpe, rialest rosyne.

Aue, Maria, gracia plena.

Haile, fresche floure femynyne,

ȝerne, ws guberne, wirgin matern,

Of reuth baith rute and ryne.

(from Bawcutt ed., 1998)[67]

Here we find numerous examples of Latin loans. The following are all simultaneously from OF and Latin: eterne (first in Chaucer), discerne, modern (occurring in Scots earlier than in English), sempitern (first in Gower), angelicall and femynyne. The following we can take as Latin, since French does not usually show forms without -al: superne (first in Henryson), inferne (only here) and matern (first here). Hodiern and regyne are likewise recorded only here. Lucerne was used earlier by Henryson. Dispern (= disperse) is first used here. Guberne (first in Henryson) is equivalent to governe from the OF cognate. Rosyne ‘rose’ is an ad hoc alteration (for the rhyme) of Latin rosa.

From this we can see that Dunbar’s relationship with Latin is at some points direct, at others mediated by the shared literary tradition of Scotland and England. This is generally the case, and the result is that different variants were not infrequently borrowed on different occasions.

Kuipers (1964: 92), writing about French and Latin loans in MSc, notes that “there was considerable freedom” in the choice of infinitive or participial forms, and writes of “a vague preference for non-English forms”, though this may simply be the accidental consequence of an independent interaction with the Romance models. A similar case to dispern (above) is dispone (= dispose) – both are from Latin infinitives rather than past participles. Conversely, appense = append is from the past participle (or from OF appenser).

Most Latin loans into OSc are also attested in some form in ME or EModE, whether before or after their appearance in Scots. DOST has numerous pre-datings in comparison with the dictionary record for England, e.g. commiseratioun, emendatioun, immediat, intricat, locatioun, metonymical, occur and pagane (Aitken, 1981a). Allocate, narrative and ticket (see tikkat) are so well established in Scots before their first appearance in texts from England, that they should probably be regarded as loans from Scots into English. Old French

Borrowing from OF occurred in two overlapping phases. In the first, loans of a popular kind were taken into Scots speech, largely from AN, e.g. cummer n.2, corby, turkas.[68] AN loans also include much of the terminology of feudalism and its attendant social relations, including few n. itself, aire, brefe, dewité, enfeff, eschete, extrete, ferme, multure and serve (on the last, see Dareau, 1998: 2, 3). The appearance in Scotland of vernacular official documents in Scots in the second half of the 14th century is associated with the abandonment of French (see §2.3.2). George Dunbar, ‘Le Count de la Marche d’Escoce’, for instance, prefers to write in Scots (‘englis‘) to his distant cousin, Henry IV of England, c1400 (see Latine B 2). In the second phase, literary loans were borrowed from Standard (i.e. Central) French.

In the past, the Auld Alliance has sometimes been emphasised at the expense of the Norman presence nearer home. Franco-Scottish alliances go back to the 12th century, and the two countries were continuously allied from 1295 (when John Baliol, during his brief reign, and in the face of England’s interference in Scottish affairs, made a treaty with England’s enemy, France) up to the Reformation of 1560. French troops were present at various times, and a large force garrisoned Scotland during the minority and reign of Mary, from 1542 up to 1560. Also, Scottish troops fought in France in the Hundred Years War with England (1339-1453), and Scotsmen often studied at the universities of Paris or Orleans. Murison is prepared to credit the Auld Alliance with “the bulk of French words which are not found at all in English, Standard or dialect” (1979: 7), but there seems no inherent reason why the Scots should not have borrowed a distinctive body of words earlier from AN. We are on safer ground if we regard the Auld Alliance as prolonging the phase of popular borrowing. Popular loans first appearing in the dictionary record as late as the 16th or 17th centuries include: fasch, geine, tasse, viveris, gardyloo (see SND) and bajan. Their non-literary character is confirmed when the source is dialectal French, e.g. Hagmané, suggeroun.

Most of the popular loans in Scots must nevertheless have been taken over from AN when it was a spoken language amongst the feudal ruling caste. The French influence is already considerable when Scots emerges as a literary language in the late 14th century. Scots evidence is lacking for the crucial period when AN was actually spoken in Scotland, so we must look at the form of the loanwords themselves for some indication as to whether they were borrowed from AN or from Continental French. It can be shown that there are indeed distinctively (Anglo-)Norman forms amongst the French loans in Scots.

Unfortunately, there are few features that are unique to AN for us to use as criteria. The Normans were originally Norsemen, who had seized what is now Normandy in the 10th century. Upper, or North, Normandy is part of the Northern French dialect area, while Lower, or South, Normandy is part of the (North-)Western dialect area. References to Old Northern French in etymologies can be taken as referring to either or both parts of Normandy. As we have seen, we can regard AN in Scotland as basically a northerly extension of AN in England. As well as Normans, William the Conqueror also brought with him adventurers from Picardy (Northern dialect) and others from Norman-controlled Brittany. The influence of the Western dialect was strengthened in England in the late 12th century, when the Norman royal house was joined to that of Anjou, and Henry II (1154-89) inherited both territories, while his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine extended the Angevin Empire to the Pyrenees. Although the other Continental territories were lost, Gascony remained Norman until 1453.

Central French would have been encountered by Scottish students abroad, but Scottish trade links were mainly with Northern France. Leaving Northern French aside, therefore, it is the AN peculiarities and the Western elements in Scots that most unequivocally attest AN influence.[69]

Western and AN give, for instance:

AN criteria include:

  • aun and aum for ãn, ãm, e.g. lance, chawmer (see §6.12).[70]

Other peculiarities of AN (Pope, 1934) lie mainly in its conservatism in relation to Continental French:

  • /kw/ remained where Continental French gave /k/ in e.g. quite, square. The late borrowing quart d’écu, a coin first struck in 1580, by contrast, gives cardicue. Spellings suggesting variants in /k/ for the earlier loans are however found in OSc as in ME, e.g. cartane = quartane, corum = quorum;[71]
  • /ʤ/ remains e.g. in gentill, justice, whereas it is altered to /ʒ/ in 13th century French;
  • Likewise /ʧ/ rather than /ʃ/ in chanoun, etc.;
  • -ary, -ory, -ery are the borrowed endings from disyllabic AN forms corresponding to French -aire, -oire, -ère. ESc has, for instance, contrary, though also contrar(e, and historie, though also with histore.

On the whole, the mixture of Northern and Western characteristics is comparable to that in ME, and consistent with AN influence.

Extensive bilingualism is suggested by the fact that French vowels and consonants were introduced into Scots. The diphthongs ọi and ui (Vowels 9 and 10) were borrowed, and also the consonants [ɲ] and [ʎ] (reinforced by Gaelic), e.g. fenȝe, ingȝoun, assoilȝie (see §§6.11, 6.31). There was also considerable influence on idiom, shading into the borrowing of new grammatical constructions. For instance a group of expressions partly borrowed from, partly calqued on, French have no article before a noun acting as direct object, e.g. mak mentioune, cry mercy, do offence, do reverence (s.v. reverence n. 1 (3)), tak leve, etc. (see Mustanoja, 1960: 271).

Variation amongst French dialects and between Latin and French gives rise to further variation in Scots. The French development of Latin /mn/ to /mpn/ is occasionally reflected in OSc spellings such as <impnis> ‘hymns’ and <autumpnal> ‘autumnal’. On the other hand, latinate spellings were favoured in French itself. A late 13th century treatise (written in England) recommends: “quelibet diccio gallica concordans latino in quantum poterit debet sequi scriptura latini” (quoted by Pope, 1934: §1218). Thus spellings such as <doubt> (cf. L dubitāre) (s.v. dout v.), and <rece(i)pt> (AN receite, medieval L recepta) alongside resait. Paroche occurs alongside parische. French silent h tends to be restored from Latin, and this is another source of variation, e.g. abill and habill.

Scots has some systematic differences from PreStE in the form of loans:

  • the ending -is(s) retains /s/ where English changes it to /ʃ/, e.g. murdris, plenis and adjectives denoting country of origin such as Inglis and Scottis;
  • the ending -ioun is disyllabic.

4.2.3 Word formation

Once borrowed, loanwords are available to participate in processes of word formation, such as compounding and the addition of prefixes and suffixes,[72] though not all groups of loanwords are as productive as others (see below). After about 1500, and despite learned borrowings, word-formation becomes the main source of neologisms. In a sample of DOST (Macafee and Anderson, 1997), the productive suffixes were mostly of native origin, with nouns formed with -ing, adverbs formed with -ly, and adjectives formed from participles being very numerous. Also productive were: -er (agent noun, see below), -ful, and -nes; followed by -y (adjectives), -hude, -is (adverbs), -isch, -ly (adjectives), -sum, -en (substance adjectives) and -schip. The Romance suffixes -able and -ery were also productive; followed by ‑ant, -age, -al and -y (nouns). On -ie, see § A range of others, of native and Romance origin, each produced small numbers of new derivatives. (See also §9.3.6.) The study of prefixes in the sample was restricted by the fact that it was based on only part of DOST (as then available), but there were several productive Romance prefixes, particularly re- and in- (negation and motion).

This productivity of Romance affixes is contrary to Kuiper’s findings in relation to Quintin Kennedy’s Eucharistic Tracts, but the difference is one of chronology: the most productive period for the Romance affixes is the late 16th century. Romance affixes on native roots, such as renew are rare, as Kuipers (1964: 91-2) also found.

It is not uncommon for words to exhibit a change of affix. The etymologically related forms of the ending of the agent noun are frequently confused: -er from OE and AN, -ar from Latin, -our from French, e.g. barbare and barber forms of barbour. Pairs of similar sounding unstressed affixes are also confused, for example -it and -ate and the prefixes im- and em-. Metathesis (or possibly misinterpretation of abbreviations) gives such forms as perfound for profound.

With the loss of inflections, change of word class became an important method of word creation, for instance allowing verbs to be used as nouns and vice versa, and nouns increasingly to function as pre-modifiers of other nouns (Görlach, 1991). Participles likewise pass readily into adjectival use.

Other types of word formation include:

  • aphetic forms, e.g. fect n. < effect;
  • reductions, e.g. monzie ‘a disparaging term for a Frenchman’ is a clipped form of monsieur, with -ie added;
  • back formation, e.g. grede < gredy;
  • metanalysis, e.g. nother adj.2 from the wrong division of ane other;
  • false etymology, e.g. forfaltour is based on forfat ‘forfeit’ with influence from forfalt ‘to commit a fault’.

Onomatopoeia gives for instance thud, first recorded in Douglas. For others in Douglas, see Bawcutt (1976: 158).

Reduplications[73] and lengthy phonesthetic formations enter the record in large numbers in the 18th century. A few are already recorded in OSc, e.g. brittill brattel, hiddy-giddy, hirdy-girdy, joukerie-pawkry, linsie-winsie, quhillylilly, quhilly-quha, topsolturvie. SND s.v. hochmagandy cites a source a1700 (and cf. hochurhudy).

The completion of DOST will no doubt facilitate detailed studies of word formation in OSc.

4.3 The relative proportions of vocabulary from various sources[74]

The native element is a surprisingly small part of the vocabulary of Scots, as of English. As we have seen, both languages were profoundly altered by linguistic contact first with ON and then with AN. Both later embraced a model of elaboration based on French and Latin.

Table 1 gives a summary of the etymological sources in a sample of DOST. The figures are based on a random sampling of one word in forty from the volumes of DOST published up to the time of the study, giving 868 items and 983 etymologies.[75] The data are divided into three categories:

  • originals (occurring in OE or in source languages);
  • derived forms (created in OSc by affixation, change of word-class, or other processes of word-formation);
  • compounds (created in OSc).[76]

Figures are also given separately for ‘more frequent’ and ‘less frequent’ items, based on the DOST editors’ use of large or small type for the headwords.

Table 1: Sources of the vocabulary of OSc

all more
originals derivatives* compounds*
n % n % n % n % n % n %
OE 340 34.6 171 39.0 169 31.1 103 23.8 102 29.7 135 65.5
total French 271 27.6 119 27.2 152 27.9 137 31.6 116 33.8 18 8.7
total F/L 105 10.7 47 10.7 58 10.7 53 12.2 46 13.4 6 2.9
F/Italian 1 0.1 1 0.2 0 0.0 1 0.2 0 0.0 0 0.0
total Latin 82 8.4 25 5.7 57 10.5 48 11.1 30 8.7 4 1.9
total Romance 459 46.7 192 43.8 267 49.1 239 55.2 192 56.0 28 13.6
total Scand 82 8.4 46 10.5 36 6.6 29 6.7 29 8.5 24 11.7
Flem/Du/LG 22 2.2 6 1.4 16 2.9 13 3.0 6 1.7 3 1.5
Gael 6 0.6 5 1.1 1 0.2 6 1.4 0 0.0 0 0.0
Celtic 2 0.2 1 0.2 1 0.2 0 0.0 1 0.3 1 0.5
total Celtic 8 0.8 6 1.4 2 0.4 6 1.4 1 0.3 1 0.5
Greek 1 0.1 0 0.0 1 0.2 1 0.2 0 0.0 0 0.0
Anglicised 3 0.3 0 0.0 3 0.6 2 0.5 0 0.0 1 0.5
total multiple 9 0.9 5 1.1 4 0.7 5 1.2 1 0.3 3 1.5
Onomatopoeic 7 0.7 2 0.5 5 0.9 3 0.7 3 0.9 1 0.5
Proper names 8 0.8 3 0.7 5 0.9 4 0.9 1 0.3 3 1.5
Unknown 43 4.4 7 1.6 36 6.6 28 6.5 8 2.3 7 3.4
grand total 982 100.0 438 100.0 544 100.0 433 100.0 343 100.0 206 100.0

* includes words subject to derivation or compounding in OE or before borrowing into Scots.
Percentages are rounded to the first decimal place.

The category of ‘multiple etymologies’ is necessary for the small body of loans whose possible sources cross the boundaries of the named etymological groupings. Words of unknown origin are also quite a substantial component. Other, very minor, sources that did not appear in the sample include German (e.g. centiner) and Italian (e.g. squadrate).

It can be seen that the proportion of Romance loanwords is remarkably high (nearly half of the total), while the proportion of OE words is just over a third; and that this relationship persists even when we look only at the ‘more frequent’ category. This high proportion of words of Romance origin is found also in English, with over 50% of the vocabulary in The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary being of Romance origin (Finkenstaedt, Wolff et al., 1973: 119). But in English, the proportion of Latin is almost identical to that of French, whereas in the DOST sample, loans from Latin are considerably less numerous. This is probably only partly due to the assignment of some loans to our additional category of indeterminate French/Latin.

In the DOST sample, ON and Flemish/Dutch/Low German are also quite numerous, but the contribution from Gaelic is very small. Dareau (2001), examining the computerised DOST files from Po- to the end of W, but lacking V, found an even lower proportion of Gaelic loans, possibly in part because the letters S and T are both particularly large in Scots (as in English), while W is lacking in Gaelic.[77] The overall figure for Gaelic loans in DOST will therefore, no doubt, be less than our 0.6%.

Comparing the ‘more frequent’ and ‘less frequent’ categories, we find that OE, ON, Gaelic and the ‘multiples’ are similar in having a higher proportion of ‘more frequent’ than ‘less frequent’ words in the sample. Surprisingly the Flemish/Dutch/Low German language group does not share in this pattern, although it is, like ON and Gaelic, a contributor to the everyday vocabulary.

The Romance words maintain their position in the derivatives category. However the proportion of compounds formed on Romance roots is considerably smaller. OE and ON again behave similarly in having higher proportions of the compounds than of the originals. That is, they contribute disproportionately to the elements that remain productive in the language.[78]

A high proportion (40.9%) of hapax legomena are of unknown origin, but 43.2% are of Romance origin, 25% being Latin, indicating a high degree of ad hoc borrowing from Latin by individual writers.

Table 2 compares the sources of loan words in the DOST sample with Barber’s (1976) figures for EModE (1500-1700) based on a 2% sample from OED.[79]

Table 2: Comparison of neologisms, 1500-1700, in DOST and OED*

% of
% of
L 393 55.4 33 17.8
F/L 20 2.8 19 10.3
F 121 17.0 62 33.5
Gr 35 4.9 1 0.5
It 16 2.3 F/It 1 0.5
Sp/Port 16 2.3 0 0.0
G/LD/Du 9 1.3 Flem/LG/Du 9 4.9
ON/Scand 11
Gael/Celtic 2
other langs 15 2.1 total 13 7.0
onomatopoeic 9 1.3 3 1.6
proper names 1 0.1 3 16
unknown 63 8.9 19 10.3
other 12 1.7 22 11.9
total 710 100.0 185 100.0

* OED figures based on Barber (1976: 167, 194-5)

The ‘other’ category includes various ad hoc alterations of words of OE origin, which form a higher proportion of the DOST sample, perhaps just indicating a higher proportion of oddities and erroneous forms in DOST’s more intensive coverage. Both Scandinavia and the Low Countries appear to be more important to the Scots vocabulary in the MSc period, while the Spanish/Portuguese element is important for OED, reflecting contacts in the New World.

The most striking contrast, however, is the reversal of the positions of Latin and French in the two samples, even allowing for the indeterminate French/Latin category being larger in the DOST sample. This tends to confirm the impression of Craigie (1935), who thought that he detected a preference for French rather than Latin forms in OSc. This difference may suggest that the Scots were less preoccupied than their English contemporaries with ‘inkhorn’ terms and the self-conscious elaboration of the vocabulary (see §2.5.2). It is probably not simply an effect of DOST’s less full coverage for the period 1600-1700, as the falling away of the Latin contribution is apparent before 1600 in the DOST sample.

We can also look at changes in sources of the vocabulary over time. Many of the dates are approximations, so the figures must be treated with caution.[80] The first appearance of an item in the dictionary record is only a terminus post quem, a point after which the word is known to be in the language. Many, especially those that were part of the popular (as opposed to learned) vocabulary, could have been in the language long before they were first recorded. Any word correctly identified as OE or ON would have been in the language before the record of Scots as such begins (apart from rare later intrusions from England, as W. F. H. Nicolaisen has pointed out to me); and the period of borrowing from AN also pre-dates all but the earliest documentary witnesses (occasional place-names) of Scots. The large peak in the last quarter of the 14th century is to a large extent an artefact of the documentary record, marking the beginning of the corpus of literature in Scots with Barbour’s Bruce and Legends of the Saints. The age of the makars and the beginnings of literary prose in Scots show up as another surge of new vocabulary from the late 15th century to the late 16th century.

As we would expect, the ‘more frequent’ items tend to enter the dictionary record earlier. After 1475 they are overtaken by the ‘less frequent’ items and rapidly fall away to zero. Figure 4 shows the dates of first citation for originals, derivatives and compounds. Derivatives show a second, larger, peak in the period 1550 to 1574. Compounds show no marked peak, but a fairly constant low level.

OE, ON and Romance all show the initial late 14th century peak, high levels in the late 15th to the late 16th centuries and a falling away thereafter, in line with the overall pattern (Figure 5). However, if we separate the French, French/Latin and Latin contributions in the sample (Figure 6) we see that Latin does not show the first peak, and falls away early (from 1575 on). These patterns for French and Latin contrast with Barber’s findings for English:

ME loans are predominantly from French, with a minority from Latin; in the fifteenth century the number of Latin loans increases; and in the eModE period the loans are mainly from Latin, with a minority from French. (1976: 86)

Barber found that the highest rate of borrowing from Latin in Early Modern English was between 1591 and 1660 (p.161). His median date for Latin loans is estimated to be approximately 1636, whereas that for the DOST sample is more than 80 years earlier, at 1550. Since the medians for French loans in the two languages are much closer (1555 and 1565 respectively), it seems unlikely that the difference in the figures for Latin is merely an artefact of DOST’s less full treatment of the period 1600-1700.

Finkenstaedt, Wolff et al (1973: 88) point out that the reshaping of the English vocabulary in the Early Modern period (particularly 1520-1620) was fundamental to the character of Modern English, adding about 15% of the core vocabulary of the modern language. This Early Modern English expansion in the vocabulary was accompanied after a delay of 20-50 years by an increase in the rate of vocabulary loss. The fact that Scots lost its independence precisely during this period of enormous lexical change reflecting scientific and global discoveries was critical for the future development of the language.

[55] This section is a revised version of the latter part of Macafee (1997).

[56] Some ONhb words and forms have entered StE, e.g. whisper and little.

[57] Northumberland and Ulster Scots edge appears to represent a survival of the expected Vowel 16, unless influenced by the homonym edge. The additional Ulster form aitch confirms that the lengthened forms have Vowel 3.

[58] As in ModSc, “I’m thinkin it micht rain”, “Somebody’s wantin ye on the phone.”

[59] However, Ó Maolalaigh (1998: 13) points out that the requirements of alliteration and rhyme show that a consonant was probably still present in the conservative poetics of Classical Irish, i.e. from the 13th century to the 17th or 18th century.

[60] Licgan, the OE infinitive, should have given *lidge.

[61] ON /đ/ corresponds to OE /d/ in such words as moder, later mother and fader, later father, but here the /đ/ forms are the result of a 15th century native sound-change (Jordan and Crook, 1974: §298).

[62] With a few Scandinavian forms also penetrating StE.

[63] Before the migration from the Continent, the Anglo-Saxons fronted the pronunciation of Germanic k before vowels, before j (as in the infinitive ending), and word-finally after i and ī. Jordan and Crook (1974: §177) reconstruct the sequence phonetically as [k] > [kç] > [tç] > [ʧ]. Since the spelling remains <c>, the chronology is unclear, but the difference becomes phonemic when new front vowels arise after k as a result of i-umlaut (crudely, the fronting and raising of vowels when i or j followed in the next syllable) early in the OE period.

Germanic sk became palatal in almost all environments in OE, perhaps as [sk] > [sç] > [ʃ]. The cluster /skr/, however, may actually have remained in the South-West of England, the North Midlands and the North (ibid: §181).

Some OE inflectional endings had a front and some a back vowel, thus creating different phonetic environments in different forms of the same word, either directly or because of the influence of the vowel of the inflection upon the vowel of the root in earlier sound-changes. The variants are usually levelled by analogy.

OE /j/ and /w/ from Germanic and ww correspond to Scandinavian /gg/. In early ME, the semi-vowels /j/ and /w/ were absorbed into any preceding vowel, hence ey ‘egg’, true, etc. (ibid: §189, 190; and see §6.9 below).

Whey (< OE hwe) has a Scots form whig, apparently by analogy with forms like egg. Likewise fleg appears alongside fley ‘frighten’ (< ON fleygja ‘let fly’ – the sense is closer to that of OE āfliean ‘put to flight’). The late appearance of these forms (17th century) makes the derivation problematic.

[64] When West Germanic g was followed by j, this ‘lengthened gg’, gave /ʤ/, written <cg>, in late OE (see Jordan and Crook, 1974: §192).

[65] E.g. ModSc sill ‘the fry of fish, especially of herring’, found mainly in Shetland and Fife, and its derivative sillock ‘saithe in its first year’, found in Orkney and Shetland, Caithness and Moray. The earlier borrowing of ON síld ‘herring’ gives the usual Scots form sile.

[66] Kink has a palatalised variant kinch n.2, apparently by analogy.

[67] Translation: Hail, supernal star! Hail, in eternity, in God’s sight to shine! A lamp in darkness to discern by glory and divine grace; for this day, the present age, and all eternity, angelical queen! Our infernal darkness to disperse, help, royalest rose. Hail, Mary, full of grace! Hail, fresh feminine flower! Have compassion, govern us, maternal virgin, both root and rind of compassion.

[68] A curious macaronic habit in the Latin documents of medieval Scotland is the use of the French definite article before vernacular names, not only French names, but also Scots ones (see la and le). Likewise the names of nobles regularly appear in Latin and Scots contexts with de, e.g. Robertus de Bruce.

[69] We do also find, as in England, a large Northern component. Northern are, for instance:

  • /w/ rather than /gw/ (later French /g/), e.g. weir (cf. Standard French guerre), and wardon = guerdon ‘reward’;
  • /g/ before a rather than /ʤ/ (later French /ʒ/), e.g. garden;
  • likewise /k/ rather than /ʧ/ (later French /ʃ/), e.g. cerse = search; kinch = chance ‘the fall of the dice’; campioun = champion. However, Lower Norman also had /ʤ/ and /ʧ/: ‘such forms therefore may not simply be designated as Central French’ (Jordan and Crook, 1974: §223). Similarly inconsistent are Northern /ʧ/ forms for Western and Central /s/ in words like hurcheoun, but /s/ in e.g. civil(l, cité and Scots sybow (= ONF chiboule > English dialectal chibol).

[70] It has been suggested that AN a > au was influenced by the English development (south of the Humber) of ā to ō̞ in words like home (Pope 1934: §1152) (see §6.4).

[71] Peculiar to OSc are reverse spellings such as quomon for commoun, quonciens for conscience, quottar for cottar (the late A. J. Aitken, personal correspondence).

[72] A useful reference source for affixes is Partridge (1958).

[73] On which, see Thun (1963).

[74] This section is based on Macafee and Anderson (1997).

[75] The number of etymologies is larger because of compounds. Entries for cross references, erroneous forms and variant forms were excluded from the sample.

[76] Compounds are a difficult category in historical lexicography, as there is no clear boundary between compounds and collocations. The identification of an item as a compound depends very much on editorial judgment.

[77] P is small in Gaelic, being non-native, but this part of the sample overlaps between the two studies so this does not contribute to the difference.

[78] Moskovich and Seoane report a similar finding for ME on the basis of letters A-C in MED. They conclude that “Scandinavian loans have been so integrated in the English vocabulary as to make them behave exactly the same as any other native word” (1996: 196).

[79] The revised (1997) edition of Barber adds further examples, but the overall picture for OED remains the same.

[80] Where the date of a citation is expressed in DOST as a date-range, the figure used was the mid-point. In rare cases where a text is only dated to a particular century, the mid-point of the century was taken. C[irca] and a[nte] in dates were ignored.

Macafee, Caroline and †Aitken, A. J. (2002) ‘A history of Scots to 1700’ in A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue vol. XII, xxix-clvii. Online https://dsl.ac.uk/about-scots/history-of-scots/vocabulary/