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Exclamations, Oaths, and Swearing in Medieval Scots

by Sharon L. Krossa

Last updated 31 Oct 2002  

The main source of information about exclaimations, oaths, and swearing in the medieval Scots language is literature. This can be problematic, since litarary usages, especially in poetry, are not always accurate reflections of every day spoken usages. However, we can only work with the evidence available, and literature is that evidence.

Examples from the mid-16th century play Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis by Sir David Lindsay of the Mount:

Diligence (male) to audience (line 32-3):

For quhy, be Him that Judas sauld,

Solace (male), replying to Rex Humanitas (a king) (line 191):

I wait not, Sir, be sweit Saint Marie:

Wantonnes (male), greeting Rex Humanitas (a king) (line 475):

Good morrow, Maister, by the Mes!

Wantonnes (male) to Rex Humanitas (a king) (line 475):

Rycht weill, be Him that herryit Hell:


Scots Scots is a language closely related to English. There are many terms, some more respected than others, used for the modern Scots language and/or specific dialects of Modern Scots, including "Broad Scots", "Lallans", "Lowland Scots", "Aberdonian", "Doric", "Glaswegian", and many others. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Scots speakers themselves called their language "Inglis", while in the 16th century they took to calling it "Scottis".

Some linguists consider Scots to be a separate language from English, others consider it a dialect of English. Since the categorization of independent language vs. dialect is a subjective one, there is no "one true answer". I choose to refer to Scots as a language for several reasons, including that I find it makes it easier to talk about and explain the linguistic situation in both modern and medieval Scotland.

Note that "Scots" has several other, more common, meanings in addition to referring to the Scots language, including, as an adjective, the meaning "Scottish" and, as a noun, the meaning "more than one Scottish person".


Lindsay Lindsay of the Mount, Sir David.Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis. Edited by Roderick Lyall. Canongate Classics, ed. Roderick Watson, vol. 18. Edinbugh: Canongate, 1989. Original edition, 1552? Order paperback from Amazon.com Order paperback from Amazon.co.uk

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