On our Northern Archipelago of Orkney, Scots is the language which is spoken, however some of our words & dialect are unique to our islands.  It’s similar in many parts to our neighbouring islands of Shetland, but not quite the same.  The language spoken on Orkney is called Orcadian.

Norse was spoken in Orkney when the Norse settlers came, which was spoken across Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, the Faeroes, Orkney and Shetland.  As the centuries passed each place developed it own language.  In Orkney and Shetland this was known as the Norn.

In 1468, Orkney was handed over to Scotland as a wedding gift alongside Shetland which was also gifted in 1469.  Despite the wedding never taking place, Orkney was never handed back to Norway.  Gradually as Scots was spoken Norn declined however some has survived to the present day and is still used locally, showing the strength of our language.

For more information on Orkney’s history visit the Orkneyjar website.

Here is some of our favourites from the studio and the ones we often use.

peedie adj. small.

peedie-breeks a little child

teeick, teeo, teewhuppo n. lapwing.

poots v. sulk

gablo, gavlo n. a crawling insect, specifically a largish black beetle

cloot n. a cloth

beuy n. 1. an expression of surprise, not necessarily addressed to a male.  2. a form of greeting used when addressing a familiar male of any age, ‘Weel buy, whit’s deuan the day?’ 

Beuys o beuys  Unbelievable!  Goodness me!

whar pron. who.  ‘Whar’s that gaan along the road?’  Who is that going along the road?

New lambswool collection has been named after Orcadian words and will be launching Autumn 2017.


Referenced – The Orkney Dictionary by Margaret Flaws and Gregor Lamb

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