Here are some words which you will find as you travel around the countryside in the "back of beyond". Many of these words can be found in place names too.
- Ben - mountain or hill
- Boorachie - a mound or small hill
- Brae - a hill or slope
- Brak - a hollow in a hill
- Corbett - a mountain between 2,500 feet and 3,000 feet
- Corrie - a hollow in the side or between mountains
- Donald - a hill in the Lowlands over 2,000 feet
- Drum - long narrow ridge
- Glen - a valley with steep sides, often with a stream running through it.
- Haugh - land beside a river
- Law - a rounded, conical hill
- Linn - deep narrow gorge
- Loan - a cattle track
- Munro - a peak over 3,000 feet. "Munro Baggers" attempt to climb them all!
- Ness - a headland
- Nether - lower of two places or roads
- Strath - a river valley, broad and flat
- Wynd - an alley or lane
Many Gaelic and other ancient language words have become assimilated into place names in Scotland. Here are a few which crop up quite frequently because they relate to land features.
- "Aber" or "Inver" - the mouth of a river as in Aberdeen (mouth of the Dee) and Inverness. It can also mean the confluence of two rivers as in Aberfoyle and Aberlour (meaning loud confluence).
- "Ard" - high, as in Ardrossan (the height of the little cape).
- "Auchter" - high ground, from the Gaelic "air uachdair" which means "on top of". Auchtermuchty is "high ground of the pig-rearing" and Auchterarder is the "upland of the high stream".
- "Bal" - in Gaelic the word "baile" means a town or a village so it crops up in the names for many such places including Balnagowan (village of the blacksmiths), Balquhidder (fodder village) and Balmore (big village - which it is not!) and Balmoral.
- "Blair" - from the Gaelic "blar" for a moor or open space although it also means "battle" since any piece of open ground could be used for a fight. Examples are Blairgowrie (plain of the goat) and Blair Atholl.
- "Cairn" - a heap of stones. You can't get a bigger heap of stones in Scotland than the Cairngorm mountain range but there are also places such as Cairnholy (chambered cairns) and Cairnryan at the side of Loch Ryan.
- "Cambus" - is a bay or a creek as in Cambuslang and Cambusnethan.
- "Car" - means a rock as in Carfin (white rock), Carluke (rock by a hollow) and Carrick (sea rock or cliff).
- "Clack" or "Cloch" are both variations on the Gaelic word "clach" meaning "stone" and can be found in place names such as Clackmannan (stone of the mythical figure Manau) and Clachnacuddin (stone of the tubs, where the women rested their containers of water after filling them at the river).
- "Craig" is from "creag" meaning a rock as in Craigievar (pointed rock), Craigellachie (crag of the rocky place and the Clan Grant rallying cry), Craiglockhart (rock of the encampment) and Kincraig (head of the crag).
- "Dun" - a type of small iron age fort or a fortified dwelling, as in Dundee or Dunbar. It sometimes becomes " Dum" as in Dumfries and Dumbarton.
- "Eilean" - an island, Eilean Donan being the most well known.
- "Gair" is from the Gaelic word "gearr" meaning short and is used in places such as Gair Loch (short loch) and Girvan (short river).
- "Gart" - there are a number of possible origins of this word - Old Norse ("gardr") Brittonic ("garth") and Gaelic ("garradh") - meaning some kind of enclosure. Many of the placenames incorporating "gart" are found around Glasgow such as Gartcosh (foot of the yard) and Gartnavel (apple yard).
- "Glas" - green as in Glasgow, the dear green place.
- "Inch" - is from "innis" meaning island. Inchcolm is the island of Colm (Columba) and Inchinnan is the island of Finnan. Perth is sometimes called the smallest city in the world because it is built between two inches - the North Inch and the South Inch on the river Tay.
- "Inver" means the mouth of a river as in Inverness (mouth of the Ness, from "nesta" meaning "roaring or rushing one") and Inveraray (mouth of the river Aray). It can also mean the confluence of two rivers as in Innerleithen (rivers Leithen and Tweed).
- "Ken" and "Kin" - derived from the Gaelic word "ceanin" meaning head and found in such places as Kenmore (big headland) Kinlochleven (head of Loch Leven) and Kinbuck (buck's head).
- "Kil" - from "cill" meaning church as in Kilbarchan (church of St Barchan), East Kilbride (church of St Bride) and Kilmacolm (church of Colm or Columba).
- "Kin" - end or head as in Kingussie or Kinlochleven (head of Loch Leven).
- "Kip" - a jutting or projecting point of a hill, the peak. Inverkip has both a hill and a river mouth!
- "Kirk" - a church as Kirkintilloch, Kirkcaldy or Kirkwall. It is derived from the old Norse word "kirkja" (and/or the German word "kirch").
- "Kyle" - is from the Gaelic word "caol" meaning slender or thin and is often applied to narrow stretches of water such as the Kyles of Bute and the Kyle of Lochalsh. But Kyle in Ayrshire (the area in which Robert Burns was born) is said to be named after King Coel (yes, the Old King Cole who was a merry old soul in the nursery rhyme).
- "Loch" - the Gaelic and now Scottish word for a lake (the only lake in Scotland is the Lake of Menteith near Aberfoyle, and that may have been a cartographic error copying "lairg" meaning low lying ground). In addition to bodies of water, there are places like Lochaber (still, stagnant lake) and Lochgelly (clear lake).
- "Mor" - again from the Gaelic, this time meaning "big" such as Ben More (the big hill) and Morven (the big glen).
- "Pit" - there are over 300 place names in Scotland beginning with these three letters, particularly in areas previously occupied by the Picts - such as Pitlochry. Scholars believe that it is derived from a word meaning "a part" or "a share".
Here are some special places...
- "Back court" - the area behind a tenement building shared by all the residents. This was where the washing was hung out to dry.
- "Bothy" - originally a building on a farm providing accommodation for unmarried farm workers. Today it is used to describe a hut or cabin used by workers on a building site can shelter from bad weather. This use has been extended to huts or cottages used by hillwalkers for shelter or sleeping overnight.
- "Buroo" - the office at which the those out of work sign on for their unemployment benefit. To be "on the burroo" is to be unemployed. It is derived from "Employment Bureau" the old name for a Jobcentre.
- "But-an-ben" - an old-fashioned rural cottage of two rooms, usually a kitchen and combined living room/bedroom. Made famous by Sir Harry Lauder "I've a wee wifie waitin, in a wee but-and-ben"
- "Howff" - a regular meeting place, usually a pub, where friends gather. Derived from a Dutch/Flemish word "hof" which is a courtyard or enclosed space.
- "Midden" - the area at the back of a tenement where the communal dustbins and refuse were kept.
- "Single end" - in a tenement or block of flats, the single-end was one room only, without even an inside toilet.
Where else would you like to go in Scotland?
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