What is the Scottish word for man?

The Scottish language contains many unique words not found in other forms of English. When it comes to the word for “man” in Scots, there are a few possibilities depending on the context and specific Scottish dialect. In this article, we will explore the various Scottish terms for man and their history.

What are the main Scottish words for man?

The most common Scottish words for man are:

  • Chiel – This is the most well-known and widely used Scottish term for man. It is used across Scotland.
  • Laddie – This means a young man or boy. It is an affectionate term.
  • Loon – Similar to laddie, this refers to a boy or young lad.
  • Guy – Used in the same context as in standard English to refer to a man.


Chiel is the quintessential Scottish word for man. According to the Dictionary of the Scots Language, chiel dates back to at least the 15th century in Scotland and is still in common usage today. It can refer to a man of any age. The word may be derived from the Old and Middle English term “childe” meaning youth. However, in Scots it has long been used as a general word for man or fellow.

Laddie and Loon

Laddie and loon are specifically used to refer to a young male. Laddie is an affectionate term for a boy and young man. Loon also signifies boy or lad. These words likely come from the Scottish Gaelic language. In Gaelic, “laogh” and “leanabh” mean boy or young male. They entered Scots as laddie and loon. Just like chiel, laddie and loon remain common vocabulary in modern Scottish English.


Guy is used in Scottish English the same way it is used in other English dialects to refer to a man generally. Scotland likely adopted this word after it entered English from the French “guise” meaning person. Guy has been part of Scots since the 16th century and remains prevalent today.

What are some other Scottish words for man?

Beyond the main terms already discussed, the Scots language contains a trove of creative and unique words for man. Here are some examples:

  • Carle – An older or peasant man
  • Chappie – A casual and friendly word for guy
  • Hiney – An aggressive or threatening man
  • Kerl – A rough, rascal man
  • Mannie – An affectionate term for a nice man


Carle is a word used for a peasant man or a grumpy old man. It dates back to at least the 13th century in Scotland. The term “carlin” is the female equivalent, referring to an older woman. Carle may come from a Norse origin, or it may share ancestry with an old French word for an armed man.


Chappie emerged more recently as a very casual and friendly way to say guy or man. It is often used like “hey chappie” when addressing someone. The word seems to have come into Scottish English in the early 20th century. It eventually spread through the rest of the UK as slang. Nowadays, chappie can sometimes have a condescending tone.


This Scots term refers to a threatening, aggressive, or nasty man. Someone you would not want to mess with! Hiney has roots going back to Old Norse words like “hinn” meaning that one over there. So a hiney is a “that guy” who spells trouble! The word has been used in Scotland since at least the early 1500s.


In Scots, kerl refers to a man who is rough, rowdy, or unsavory. He might be viewed as a rascal or scoundrel. Kerl dates back to Middle Low German usage in Scotland in the 1500s. The Old English cognate “ceorl” also meant a commoner, peasant man or churl.


Mannie is a affectionate Scots term for a nice, pleasing man. Often it has a meaning like “my man” or “my guy.” The word has been common since the 1700s. It is a diminutive form of the standard Scots “man”. The -ie ending makes it a loving nickname.

How did these Scottish male terms develop?

The development of these Scottish vocabulary words for man reflect the influences on the Scots language over history. Here are some of the ways these terms emerged:

  • Borrowings from Old Norse – Words like carle and hiney entered Scots through Norse invasions and settlements
  • French Influences – Guy came from the French “guise” and became popular after the Auld Alliance
  • Scottish Gaelic Origins – Laddie and loon have Gaelic roots
  • Germanic Cognates – Kerl is related to Old English and German words
  • Diminutives – Mannie uses the -ie ending to create a diminutive of man

Scots is a Germanic language closely related to English, but it has influences from its Celtic, French, and Norse neighbors that shaped its vocabulary over centuries of contact.

Norse Borrowings

Scotland had extensive contact with Norse people from Scandinavia through raids and migration. Many Old Norse words for man like “karl” entered the Scots language. Carle retains this Norse heritage.

French Cultural Influences

The Auld Alliance between Scotland and France brought many French terms into Scots after the 13th century. Guy became popular after emerging from the French “guise.”

Gaelic Word Origins

Scotland has both a Germanic and Celtic linguistic heritage. Words like laddie and loon came from Scottish Gaelic terms for boy and lad.

Germanic Cognates

Kerl has cognates in Old English such as “ceorl” due to the shared Anglo-Saxon influence on Scots as a Germanic language.


Scots uses diminutives like -ie to create affectionate forms of words. This is how man becomes mannie in Scottish slang.

How do you use these Scottish man terms?

Here are some examples of how these words for man are used in Scottish English:

  • “See that chiel o’er there?” – Referring to a man in the distance
  • “That laddie just left the pub” – Talking about a young man
  • “Quit it, you daft loon!” – Chastising a silly lad
  • “Thanks very much, guy” – Thanking a random man
  • “The auld carle was grumbling” – Describing an old complaining man
  • “Nae bother, chappie” – Responding casually to a man
  • “I wouldnae mess with that hiney” – Referring to a nasty man
  • “The kerl was up tae nae good” – Talking about a rascal man
  • “What a sweet mannie” – Describing a nice man

These examples demonstrate the flexibility of Scottish male terms. Chiel, laddie, and loon are very common, while carle, hiney, and kerl describe more specific types of men. Mannie is used affectionately.

What are the plurals for Scottish man terms?

Here are the standard plural forms for these Scottish words for man:

Singular Plural
Chiel Chiels
Laddie Laddies
Loon Loons
Guy Guys
Carle Carles
Chappie Chappies
Hiney Hineys
Kerl Kerls
Mannie Mannies

Most simply add -s or -ies. Hiney is an exception, with the plural hineys. Now you know how to pluralize these Scottish terms!

How did man develop in the Scots language?

The basic word “man” in Scots developed from Old English and has Germanic roots. Here is a quick evolution:

  • Proto-Germanic – *manwaz – The reconstructed ancestor of the English word
  • Old English – man – Found in writing by the 8th century
  • Middle English – man – Carried over from Old English
  • Scots – man – Used since the 14th century, derived from Northumbrian Old English

So Scots simply retained the Germanic word “man” over time. The term’s antiquity in English allows it to spawn many new variants in Scottish dialect.

Proto-Germanic Origins

The Proto-Germanic reconstruction “*manwaz” is the ancestor of the English word “man.” This demonstrates its ancient Germanic roots.

Old English Man

The modern word emerged intact in Old English by the 8th century, essentially unchanged from Proto-Germanic.

Middle English Retention

“Man” continued on into Middle English without alteration after the Norman Conquest introduced French influence.

Scots Inheritance

As a Northumbrian form of early English, Scots adopted “man” in its 14th century literary debut. It remains recognizable today.

What are some variations of man in Scots?

While standard Scots uses “man,” some variants exist in different Scottish dialects, such as:

  • Mon – Used in parts of Aberdeenshire and Angus
  • Mehnnie – Found in parts of Moray and Nairn
  • Maun – Used in parts of Caithness and Sutherland
  • Bodach – A Gaelic loanword for old man in Scots


In northeastern dialects of Scots, “mon” is used instead of man, such as “how ye daein, mon?” It seems to come from the Dutch “man” based on trade links.


“Mehnnie” is another northeastern variant of man, used in Morayshire. This may derive from the Dutch/Low German “man” as well.


In far northern Scots of Caithness, one finds “maun” instead of man, such as “yon maun ower thonder.” The roots are unclear.


“Bodach” comes from Gaelic and refers to an old man. It is borrowed into some Scots dialects when referring to elderly males.

What are the etymological origins of man?

The word “man” has existed for millennia extending back to Proto-Indo-European linguistic roots. Here is a summary of the etymology:

  • PIE Base – *manu – Meaning human being
  • Proto-Germanic – *manwaz – Evolved from the PIE base
  • Old English – man – Directly inherited from Proto-Germanic
  • Scots – man – Derives from Old English/Anglian roots

The Indo-European ancestry of “man” is evident in many cognate terms across languages like Latin “homo.” Scots inherited the word through unbroken descent from ancient forms.

PIE *manu

The Proto-Indo-European root “*manu” meant human being or person. This most ancient reconstructed base gave rise to many descendants.

Proto-Germanic *manwaz

The Germanic languages evolved “*manwaz” from the PIE root, which survives into Old English as “man” and the source for Scots.

Old English Man

By the 8th century, the modern form “man” had developed in Old English, passed down directly from Germanic predecessors.

Scots Man

Through Northumbrian Old English, the Scots language adopted “man” in its literary beginnings in the 1300s. The ancient etymology remains intact.


In summary, the Scots language contains a diverse collection of words referring to men and males. Chiel, carle, loon, and others have unique Scottish origins and connotations. While Scots inherited “man” from Old English, creative variants like mannie also emerged. The long evolution of these terms reflects the mixing of languages and cultures in Scottish history.

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