In 10th century Scotland the principal language was Gaelic. This language has contracted in the last thousand years, becoming the language of the Highlands, then in more recent centuries, losing ground to the growing dominance of English, in various forms, as the Highlands emptied of its native population. Today Gaelic is still spoken in the west, and on the islands, with - arguably - its stronghold in the Outer Hebrides. Now all Gaelic speakers speak English/Scots as well. Gaelic remains a vigorous force in written and spoken prose and poetry as seen at the Mod, an annual festival of Gaelic song and poetry.
Scotland's other language is Scots, a form of 'English' which has grown from a Northumbrian dialect of Anglo-Saxon (just as the dialect of the Thames Valley in England evolved to become what is called today 'Standard English').
Scots has absorbed French, Germanic and Norse influences and was the standard speech of court until James VI of Scotland inherited the English crown in 1603 and moved to England. Finally, with the Union of Parliaments in 1707, English became the official language of administration. Scots is still spoken in the North-East, among the farming and fishing communities beyond the Grampian mountains, where it can still be heard in all its richness, colour and vigour.Some Scottish Words
The following words that travellers may encounter have become part of standard English as used in Scotland:
lochs - lakes
glen - valley
firth - an estuary, river mouth, or inlet from the sea, similar to a fjord
kirk - church
cairn - stone monument or grouping placed on a hillside and used by ancient peoples for many purposes
links - dunes
shire - an area of land or section of the country
munro - any mountain over 3,000 feet; named after Sir Hugh Munro who first listed all 284 of them
neeps and tatties - turnips and potatoes (traditionally eaten with haggis, the national dish)