Scottish Cant

Scottish Cant (often called Scots-Romani or Scotch-Romani) is a cant spoken in Scotland by Lowland Scottish Romani Travellers/Gypsies.[3]

Scottish Cant
Native toUnited Kingdom
Native speakers
(4,000 in Scotland cited 1990?[1])[2]
  • Mixed language.
    • Primarily a mix of Romani and Scots
      • Scottish Cant
Language codes
ISO 639-3trl


It is uncertain whether Scottish Cant is the result of Scottish Lowland Romani Travellers transitioning from speaking Romani to speaking a mixed language (like what happened to Romanichal Travellers in England with Angloromani and Romanisæl Travellers in Sweden and Norway with Scandoromani), or whether it is the result of Romani in Lowland Scotland merging with an indigenous Lowland Traveller group. The large number of Scots derived words and archaic Scots words within Scottish Cant vocabulary suggests that merging with another group, although it could just be that Lowland Scottish Travellers are fully Romani in their roots and they just picked up these words, similar to how Angloromani has picked up words such as ken and mort which are derived from English.

Up to 50% of Scottish Cant originates from Romani-derived lexicon.[4] This is because it is spoken by the Scottish Lowland Travellers/Gypsies, a traditionally itinerant group of Romani heritage.

Lowland Scottish Travellers/Gypsies are not to be confused with indigenous Highland Travellers, who are an entirely indigenous group of travelling people. They have their own language, distinct From Scottish Cant.

Scottish Cant is considered para-Romani language, like Angloromani and Scandoromani for example.

The Scottish Gaelic element in the dialects of Scottish Cant is put anywhere between 0.8% and 20%.[3]

Use of archaic ScotsEdit

Scottish Cant uses numerous terms derived from Scots which are no longer current in Modern Scots as spoken by non-Travellers, such as mowdit "buried", mools "earth", both from muild(s), and gellie, from gailey (galley), "a bothy".[3]

Gaelic influencesEdit

Loans from Gaelic include words like:[3]

  • cluishes "ears" (Gaelic cluasan or cluais, a dative form of cluas "ear")
  • shain "bad" (Gaelic sean "old")

Romani influencesEdit

The percentage of Romani lexical vocabulary is said to be up to 50% of the lexicon; some examples are:[3]

  • gadgie "man" (Romani gadžó "a non-Romani person")
  • pannie "water" (Romani paní)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ not clear if date applies to population in Scotland
  2. ^ Scottish Cant at Ethnologue (12th ed., 1992).
  3. ^ a b c d e Kirk, J. & Ó Baoill, D. Travellers and their Language (2002) Queen's University Belfast ISBN 0-85389-832-4
  4. ^ Wilde 1889, cited in Not just lucky white heather and clothes pegs: putting European Gypsies and Traveller economic niches in context. In: Ethnicity and Economy:Race and class revisited. C. Clark (2002). Strathclyde University.