Guides to Scholarship


ABELL (G340): See especially the Dialects section in the volumes for 1920–26; the English Dialects section in the volumes for 1927–72; and the Dialects/British Isles section in later volumes.

MLAIB (G335): See especially the Dialectology section of the English Language division. (English Language and Literature division in the volumes for 1922–25; English Language and Literature I/Linguistics in the volumes for 1926–66; Indo-European C/Germanic Linguistics IV/English in those for 1967–80; and Indo-European Languages/Germanic Languages/West Germanic Languages/English Language in later volumes.) Researchers must also check the heading “Scots English Dialect” in the subject index to post-1980 volumes and in the online thesaurus.

“Year’s Work in Scottish Literary and Linguistic Studies” (O3070).



Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL). U of Dundee, 2004. 30 Dec. 2014. <>.

An electronic version of

  • A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue from the Twelfth Century to the End of the Seventeenth (DOST). Ed. William A. Craigie et al. 12 vols. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1931–2002. PE2116.C7 427′.9411.

  • The Scottish National Dictionary: Designed Partly on Regional Lines and Partly on Historical Principles, and Containing All the Scottish Words Known to Be in Use or to Have Been in Use since c. 1700 (SND). Ed. William Grant and David D. Murison. 10 vols. Edinburgh: Scottish Natl. Dictionary Assn., 1931–76. Reduced print ed.: The Compact Scottish National Dictionary: Containing All the Scottish Words Known to Be in Use or to Have Been in Use since c. 1700, Arranged Partly on Regional Lines and Partly on Historical Principles. 2 vols. Aberdeen: Aberdeen UP, 1986. PE2106.S4 427.9.

Dictionary of the Scots Language consists of five data files: DOST main file, DOST Additions (the data published at the end of vol. 10), SND main file, SND Supplement (data from the supplements in the first three volumes, but with the completely new entries integrated into the SND main file), and SND New Supplement. Users can search text or browse headwords in a single file, in both DOST or the three SND files, or in all five files simultaneously (the default). Users can perform keyword or phrase searches in the full entry for a word (the default) or limit searches to headwords, geographic label abbreviations, citations, illustrative quotations, works cited, authors cited, etymologies, senses, or dates. Users must be certain to read the Search the DSL page for information about the search engine’s handling of Boolean operators, right truncation, diacritics, special characters, and punctuation. Since abbreviations have not been expanded, users will need frequent recourse to the lists of abbreviations (hidden away in DOST Prelims [click Abbreviations] and SND Introduction [scroll to the bottom of the Go To pull-down menu]). Effective use of the DSL requires an understanding of the scope and editorial practices of the two dictionaries it digitizes.

DOST is a historical dictionary of the Scottish language based on literary works, documents, records, and other manuscript materials. Because of the nature of the sources and changes in the language, the fullest coverage is for 1375–1600 (with words after 1600 confined to those no longer current or not coinciding with English usage), and because of changes in editorial policies and procedures, entries after vol. 2 are much more thorough. Typical entries record parts of speech, selected variant spellings (with a full index of these variants in each volume), etymologies, definitions, and illustrative quotations. Users should note that additions and corrections are collected at the end of each volume. Accuracy and thoroughness make this the essential source for the historical study of the language and interpretation of Scottish literature to 1700 and a necessary complement to the Oxford English Dictionary (M1410). For a discussion of the excerpting procedures, editing, and editorial problems, see A. J. Aitken, ““ DOST: How We Make It and What’s in It”,” Dictionaries 4 (1982): 42–64; for an overview of changes in editorial practices, see Margaret G. Dareau, ““DOST: Its History and Completion”,” Dictionaries 23 (2002): 208–31. Reviews: (pt. 1) Percy W. Long, JEGP: Journal of English and Germanic Philology 32.2 (1933): 235–38; (pts. 1–2) Bruch Dickins, Modern Language Review 28.2 (1933): 243–44; (pt. 17) Hans Heinrich Meier, English Studies 43.5 (1962): 444–48; (pts. 19–21) A. Fenton, Scottish Studies 10 (1966): 198–205.

SND is a historical and dialectal dictionary of the Scottish language from c. 1700 to the mid-twentieth century that includes the following:

(1) Scottish words that do not occur in St[andard] Eng[lish] except as acknowledged loan words; (2) Scottish words the cognates of which occur in St[andard] Eng[lish]; (3) words which have the same form in Sc[ottish] and St[andard] Eng[lish] but have a different meaning in Sc[ottish] . . . ; (4) legal, theological or ecclesiastical terms which . . . have been current in Scottish speech . . .; (5) words borrowed since c. 1700 (from other dialects or languages) which have become current in Gen[eral] Sc[ottish], or in any of its dialects. . . .

A typical entry records variant spelling, part(s) of speech, status (e.g., obsolete, archaic, dialectal), meaning(s), pronunciation, inflections, etymology, and illustrative quotations (for the order of these, see vol. 1, pp. xlvi–xlvii; pp. 35–36 in the SND Introduction at the DSL site). Vol. 10 includes various appendixes (Scottish forms of personal names, place-names, fairs and markets, and a table of Scottish weights and measures [pp. 299–317]); a list of abbreviations used in entries (pp. 318–23); additions and corrections (pp. 325–536); a list of works quoted (pp. 537–74; click on the Search Bibliographies link at the DSL site); and scientific terms with Scottish connections (pp. 575–91). For the history and significance of SND, see A. J. Aitken, R. W. Burchfield, and Hugh MacDiarmid, ““The Scottish National Dictionary: Three Comments on the Occasion of Its Completion”,” Scottish Review 1 (1975): 17–25. Like Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, which it continues, SND is an essential source for the historical study of the language and interpretation of Scottish literature and an important complement to the Oxford English Dictionary (M1410). Review: W. F. H. Nicolaisen, Archiv 214.2 (1977): 403–05.

The preceding are complemented by J. Y. Mather and H. H. Speitel, eds., The Linguistic Atlas of Scotland: Scots Section, 3 vols. (London: Croom Helm, 1975–86). The best concise dictionary is Mairi Robinson, ed., The Concise Scots Dictionary (Aberdeen: Aberdeen UP, 1985; 819 pp.). For its potential uses, see Mairi Robinson, ““The Concise Scots Dictionary as a Tool for Linguistic Research”,” The Nuttis Schell: Essays on the Scots Language Presented to A. J. Aitken, ed. Caroline Macafee and Iseabail Macleod (Aberdeen: Aberdeen UP, 1987) 59–72. For a history of dictionaries of Scots, see Margaret Dareau and Iseabail Macleod, “Dictionaries of Scots,” The Oxford History of English Lexicography, ed. A. P. Cowie, vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon–Oxford UP, 2009) 302–25.