Shetland Dialect

Shetland Dialect

As you may have gathered, Shetland has a strong Scandinavian heritage. Why is that? Shetland belonged to Norway until 1469, when Princess Margaret of Norway and Denmark was wed to King James 3rd of Scotland, Margaret's father didn't have enough money to pay for the wedding dowry. He gave away Shetland (and Orkney) with the intention of buying us back at a later date but that never happened, so we've been Scottish ever since.

It’s not just our heritage that is Scandinavian, it is also reflected in our language. Over 90% of Shetland’s place names are Norse in origin. There is a common misconception that we speak Gaelic in Shetland, but we don't and actually never have.

We have our own dialect, which is derived from Old Norse. Shetland dialect is still spoken to this day and I'm going to teach you a few words that may come in useful while you're here.

Shetland dialect

I am a born and bred Shetlander so speak dialect but when on tour, I will do a lot of "knappin" (pronounced ka-nappin) This is when we speak in "proper" English to visitors so that we can make ourselves easier to understand.

Two ways of greeting people in Shetland is "noo den" = "now then" or "hiyi" instead of "hiya". On the other side, a way of saying "bye for now" is "cheers enoo".

Shetland dialect

We use "cheers" for a few things in Shetland. We use it in the regular way as a toast and we use it as "thank you". “Cheers tae dee” = thanks to you.

"Peerie" means "small" and "muckle" means large. A place that always catches people's eye is The Peerie Shop and The Peerie Shop Cafe. The Peerie Shop is a great place to go for unique gifts and some local arts, crafts and books.

Tingwall, Shetland place names

One word I love is “spaegie” as there is no direct translation for this. This is when your muscles are sore, stiff and tired the day after doing serious exercise.

My favourite Shetland word is “filsket”. The Shetland Dictionary translates this as “high-spirited” but I also think it includes a bit of mischief, too. 😉

If you would like to know more about Shetland dialect, check out the Shetland Dictionary at the Shetland Forwirds website

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