Early Scots (also called Older Scots) is the name given to the written tongue which was taking shape in the northern Middle English speaking lands of Scotland before 1450. Northern Middle English has itself was born out of Northumbrian Old English. Throughout this time, the speakers called their own tongue Inglis (English).

Early writings such as Barbour's The Brus and Wyntoun's Chronicle are better thought of as works written in northern Middle English rather than as forerunners to later Scots, a name first given to the tongue later, when it was Middle Scots.


Northumbrian Old English speakers had settled south-eastern Scotland as far as the Forth ea in the 600s and mostly yet dwelt there until the 1200s, which is why in the late 1100s Adam of Dryburgh spoke of his whereabout as 'in the land of the English in the Kingdom of the Scots', and why the early 1200s writer of de Situ Albanie thought that 'the firth of Forth cleaves the kingdoms of the Scots and of the English'.

Ric shifts in the 1100s helped the spread of the English tongue. Bodies such as the burghs first built by David I, mostly in the south and east of Scotland, brought new settlers into where they were built. Incoming towndwellers were mainly English (moreso from Northumbria, and the Earldom of Huntingdon), Flemish and French. Although the warlordship spoke French and Gaelic, these small townships seemed to have been speaking English as something more than a shared tongue by the end of the 1200s. Although the indwellers of even the greatest burghs would have reckoned in hundreds rather than thousands, a groundshift happened whereby many Gaels were drawn into the new setup and its tongue.

The rising economic sway of the burghs indrew further English, Fleming and Scandinavian inwandering. As the economic might of the burghs grew, Gaelic-speakers from the hinterland found it furthersome to gain a working knowledge of English. The institutional tung of the burghs was made up of wordstock of almost wholly Anglo-Saxon roots such as toft (homestead and land), croft (smallholding), ruid (land let by a burgh), guild (a trade gild), bow (a bent gateway), wynd (lane) and raw (row of houses).

Norman French and English were becoming working tungs of the Kingdom and in the 12th hundredyear the folk of the land were called "Franci, Angli, Scoti et Gallovidiani" (French, English, Scots and Galloway-men). The end of the House of Dunkeld led to the throne being given to three lowland households, the Balliols, Bruces and Stewarts who more and more linked themselves with the Anglish-speaking land within the kingdom. The outcome of this was the headtown shifted from Perth to Edinburgh, although Robert the Bruce was himself a Gaelic-speaker, and James IV (Stewart) also spoke it. By the 14th hundredyear, the kind of Northern English that come about from the above happenings, called Inglis by its speakers, had outshoved Gaelic (Scottis) and Cumbric in much of the lowlands and the Norman French of the court. It had also come to outshove Latin as a tung for writs and booklore. In Caithness, it came into contact with both Norn and Gaelic.


The main wordstock is of Anglo-Saxon roots though Scots kept many words which fell out of

use further south. The flow of outlandish borrowings, such as Romanish by way of churchly

and law Latin and French, was much the same as that of English at the time but was often

unlike in detail for that of the ongoing sway of the Auld Bond and the clever use of Latin

words in bookcraft.

Throughout this time many words of Anglo-Saxon wellspring, such as anerly (alone), berynes

(grave), clenge (cleanse), halfindall (a half deal), scathful (harmful), sturting

(tilting, wrangling) thyrllage (thralldom) and umbeset (beset), were now only or almost

only found in Scots.

French borne warfare words such as arsoun (saddle-bow), bassynet (helmet), eschell

(battalion), hawbrek (coat of mesh), qwyrbolle (hardened leather), troppell (troop), vaward

(firstward) and vyre (crossbow bolt) became part of the tung along with other French

wordstock such as cummer (godmother), disjone (breakfast), dour (stern, grim), fasch (irk),

grosar (gooseberry), ladron (knave), moyen (ways), plenissing (fittings) and vevaris


The wordstock of Scots was eked out by the speech of Scandinavians, Flemings, Dutch and

Middle Low German speakers through trade with, and inwandering from, the low kingdoms.

From Scandinavian (often by way of Scandinavian swayed Middle English) came at (that/who),

byg (build), bak (bat), bla (blue), bra (hillside, slope), ferlie (wonder), flyt (outtake),

fra (from), gar (compel), gowk (gowk), harnis (brains), ithand (tireless), low (fireshoot),

lug (an outgrowth, ear), man (must), neve (fist), sark (shirt), spe (foresight), þa

(those), til (to), tinsell (loss), wycht (fearless) and wyll (lost, bewildered).

The flemings inbrought bonspell (games match), bowcht (sheep pen), cavie (henhouse), crame

(a booth), furisine (flint striker), grotkyn (a gross), howff (hallyard), kesart (cheese

vat), lunt (lightstick), much (a cap), muchkin (a flowstuff mete), skaff (scrounge),

wapinschaw (gathering of folkward), wyssill (change of sterling) and the geldtokens plak, stek

and doyt.

A few Gaelic words such as breive (deem), cane (a tribute), couthal (deemhall of fairness),

davach (a mete of land), duniwassal (blue-blood), kenkynolle (head of the kindred), mare

(geldman) and toschachdor (leader) were found in early law writs but most became obsolete

early in the time frame. Gaelic words for landscape features have endured bogg (mire), carn

(pile of stones), corrie (hollow in a hill), crag (stone), inch (small island), knok

(hill), loch (mere or fjord) and strath (ea dale).


The Tung first came to light in bookcraft in the mid-14th hundredyear, when its written

word differed little from that of northern English byspeeches, and so Scots shared many

Northumbrian borrowings from Old Norse and Anglo-Norman French.

Wording from Legend of the Saints (Anglish: Folktale of the Holymen) 14th Hundredyear XXXIII.--GEORGE.

Ȝete of sancte george is my wil, gyf I connandes had þere-til to translat þe haly story, as wrytine in þe buk fand I. for he wes richt haly mañ & fele tynt saulis to god wane, nocht anerly thru his techynge bot erare thru sample geffine, hou men to god suld stedfast be & thole for hyme perplexite, of lyfe na ded dout hafand nane, bot to resyst ay to sathane & lordis of mykil mycht. & men callis hym oure lady knycht & men of armys ofte se I in til his helpe mykil affy, & namely quhen þai are in ficht.

Wording from The Brus by Barbour (1375 Downwritten by Ramsay in 1489) (a) THE POET’S PROEM. (Anglish: The wordwrights foreword.)

Storyß to rede ar delitabill, suppoß þat þai be nocht bot fabill, þan suld storyß þat suthfast wer, And þai war said on gud maner, Hawe doubill plesance in heryng. þe fyrst plesance is þe carpyng, And þe toþir þe suthfastnes, þat schawys þe thing rycht as it wes; And suth thyngis þat ar likand Tyll mannys heryng ar plesand. þarfor I wald fayne set my will, Giff my wyt mycht suffice þartill, To put in wryt a suthfast story, þat it lest ay furth in memory, Swa þat na lenth of tyme it let, na ger it haly be forȝet. For auld storys þat men redys, Representis to þaim þe dedys Of stalwart folk þat lywyt ar, Rycht as þai þan in presence war. And, certis, þai suld weill hawe pryß þat in þar tyme war wycht and wyß, And led thar lyff in gret trawaill, And oft in hard stour off bataill Wan [richt] gret price off chewalry, And war woydit off cowardy. As wes king Robert off Scotland, þat hardy wes off hart and hand; And gud Schyr Iames off Douglas, þat in his tyme sa worthy was, þat off hys price & hys bounte In fer landis renoenyt wes he. Off þaim I thynk þis buk to ma; Now god gyff grace þat I may swa Tret it, and bryng it till endyng, þat I say nocht bot suthfast thing!