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Doric, the Language of Aberdeen?

Feb 2024

Language ,

Scots is one of the main languages of Scotland but even Scots has numerous dialects, one of which is Doric, the dialect of Aberdeen and the northeast of Scotland. Doric is such a distinct dialect that some even argue it is a language of its own. However, we must mention that in recent years it has been questioned whether if Scots itself is even a language.

If you are unsure of what it sounds like, Doric has made an appearance on the international film scene in the animated Pixar film, Brave, where one of Princess Merida’s suitors, Young MacGuffin, speaks it.

No one in the film (and perhaps many in the audience) can actually understand MacGuffin, probably leading many to think he is just babbling, but he is in fact speaking Doric. To the untrained ear, Doric can be a real struggle to understand or even learn.


In Competition With Gaelic

Doric used to be spoken more widely in the north of Scotland area but its usage has declined over the years.

In recent years, it has also faced competition with Gaelic. While the government is insisting on councils investing in reviving Gaelic, many may argue that Doric is more important for the areas around Aberdeen.

In a poll conducted by Press and Journal, over 40% responded in favour of efforts being put towards preserving the Doric dialect. Only 29% of respondents said Gaelic should be prioritised.

There have been several efforts to help preserve the Doric dialect. For instance, the famous children’s book about the Gruffalo had a revamp recently to reflect the different dialects in the Scots language and went on sale at the end of last year. Doric was one of the chosen dialects amongst Orcadian Scots, the Shetland dialect and Dundonian.

Back in 2014, bus operator First Aberdeen tried to boost the dialect and launched a bus with all information on both the interior and exterior of the bus in Gaelic.

On all other buses in their fleet, First Aberdeen has included at least one Doric phrase. First Bus driver Davie Davidson who helped with the launch of the bus said:

“Sen we cairry a haill bourach o littleens an visitors tae the ceity, I howp ‘The Doric Bus’ an the Doric blads steekit up on aa the buses wull help tae mak fowk mair aware o the mither tongue, an mak siccar at it’s aye tae the fore.”

This translates to:

“Given we transport lots of children and visitors to the city, I hope ‘The Doric Bus’ and the Doric messages on board all the buses will help raise awareness and ensure our dialect continues to prosper.”


The Doric Dictionary

As Doric is difficult to understand, Robert Gordon University decided to help oil executives who were visiting Aberdeen for an industry showcase back in 2013.

When the visitors arrived at the airport, they were greeted with a humorous Doric Dictionary put together by the University to help them better understand the local dialect. The dictionary was so popular it was later on re-published to raise funds for the National Literacy Trust.

A common characteristic of Doric is changing the sound of “wh” to “f”. So “what” becomes “fit”, “when” becomes “fan” and “who” becomes “fa”.

It gets more complicated than that, too, as spelling, grammar and words differ between towns, however if you’re looking to improve your pronunciation as you learn the Doric language, our tips are sure to help you out.

Here is a list of some of our favourite words in Doric with the English translations. If you have any to add, leave us a comment.

Doric Words



There is no doubt that Scots and Doric sound radically different to the point of unintelligibility. Considering this, do you think Doric counts as a dialect or its own language?

It can sometimes be tricky to conclude whether a language or local dialect is dead or even extinct, but there has been the revival of the Manx language, so could the same happen for Doric?

Let us know your opinion on Facebook or Twitter. If you are looking for a professional agency offering translation & interpretation services in Aberdeen, contact us today.

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