22 phrases you’ll only hear in Glasgow
Alex Kapranos, Glasgow

A new, updated version of this article can be found here

The gallus Glasgow tongue is a funny old thing.

Pick apart the words and saying common only to Glasgow (or the west coast of Scotland/suburban sprawl, if we’re being truthful) and you’ll find a mixture of good old-fashioned Scots phrasing, pop culture references and terms of endearment that can double up as insults, depending on who you’re talking to.

We asked you to give us your favourite Glasgow phrases, and here are just some of them (along with a few treasures of our own), picked apart and put into true Glesga context.

Any more to add? Then put down the gingy bottle and gie us laldy over on Facebook and Twitter. And shut that window, cos it’s pure baltic in here.

1. Ginger

In a land famed for them, you would think that in Glasgow, ginger would be the word for red hair, for carrot top – but you would be wrong. Sure, it has that use too, but chances are that when your average Glesga punter asks you for some ginger, or even a gingy bottle, they’re either looking to quench their thirst with a fizzy drink, or they’re looking to score the 30p they’ll get for returning those prized glass bottles. Whether they mean Irn Bru specifically or fizz in general is up for debate – either way, now you’ll know to step away from the redhead and hand over a can instead.

2. Bolt ya rocket

Those of us with siblings (usually older) know all too well the angry cry of “bolt ya rocket!” Translated simply, it means go away – but with the added insult that you’re a rocket, or (to use another fine Scottish word), an eejit. Perhaps put to best use when someone tries to take a swig of your ginger without asking – use it sparingly for maximum effect.

3. How/how no?


Oh, I know this one, I hear you say. A request for instructions! Well, not quite. In Glasgow ‘how’ is just as likely to mean ‘why’ – for example: “Gonnae no dae that…” “How?” “Just gonnae no.” Add a ‘no’ on the end and you’re really driving the point home with a touch of indignation, Glesga style.

4. Piece

It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Forget your sandwich – that’s a posh lunch here. Going back to your granny and yer granny’s granny, that magical meal of two slices of bread and filling is known as a piece. Add jam and you’ve got yourself a jeely piece, made famous by that childhood song about a Glasgow high rise (“Oh ye cannae fling pieces oot a twenty story flat”) – and few among us would dare.

5. Away an bile yer heid

Let’s face it, Glasgow has plenty of phrases telling you where to go. Like some others, this one implies that you’ve to go for talking nonsense – so much nonsense, in fact, that you’ve to boil your own head in shame for being so ridiculous. We’re an incredulous lot, that’s for sure.

6. Shut yer geggy

There’s not a lot to this one, so stop going on about it. No, really. A geggy’s a mouth (or a mooth) and you’re being asked to refrain from opening it. In other words, zip it and haud yer wheesht.

7. Havnae a scooby

Scooby Doo casey karem

And you thought it was only cockneys who were fond of the old rhyming slang. If you ask a Glaswegian for directions and this is the response, they don’t have a Scooby Doo – in other words, a clue. Not to be confused with the city’s other scooby, the mighty scooby snack – an artery-clogging feast of a roll fit for the king of cartoon dogs himself.

8. Gaun yersel!

This one needs an exclamation – and it’s for special occasions only. We might have many a phrase for telling people to get lost, but nothing shows encouragement in Glasgow like a cry of ‘gaun yersel!’ (go on yourself). It’s often followed up with ‘big man’ or ‘wee man’ (depending on the recipient) and it’s a sure-fire sign that the speaker is behind you all the way. That it wasn’t on the Glasgow 2014 banners was a missed opportunity.

9. Boggin

Picture, if you will, wandering forth onto the streets of Glasgow in search of the mythical deep fried Mars Bar. You might love it – all oily batter and melted chocolate. But if you don’t, there’s only one word for your disgust, and that word is boggin. Example: “That’s boggin man!” You can also use this word in place of dirty or filthy – but use it to describe someone (to their face at least) and you might get a punch in the geggy.

10. Swally

Bridesmaids drink gif

What’s that clinking in your bag on the Friday walk home? A few bottles of plonk or cans of top quality lager, perhaps? That’ll be your carry out – and what’s contained within is ‘a wee swally’, or an alcoholic beverage or 10. Don’t be fooled by the singular – you can never have just the one when the word swally is involved.

11. Gallus

Gallus is more than a just a west end pub – it’s that swagger, the strut you save for walking into a club or dancing like Beyonce (or so you think). This one can swing either way, from the compliment (stylish, impressive, cheeky in a good way) to the all-out insult (mouthy, brash, needing to shut their geggy). It may have gone the way of ‘banter’ in recent times thanks to those pesky westenders (Glasgow Uni students, we’re looking at you) – but it’s still a pure gallus word to pull out on occasion.

12. Greetin

Leonardo DiCaprio crying gif

Leo says it all for us here. If you’re greetin, you’re probably not a happy chappy. The word can be used to describe anything from a bit of a moan to all-out sobbing – and it’s usually used in phrases, again, telling you to zip it. See also: greetin face – one of the best insults in the Glasgow collection.

13. Winch

Now, we’re not here to tell you about the birds and the bees. But we will tell you that your gran and your granda were at it back in the ballroom days. Your maw and da were at it too. And you’ve been at it since those school disco days when it was an introduction (“will you winch ma pal?”) – and probably many a Saturday night since. The Glasgow kiss means something altogether different here – and it’s a lot more pleasant, depending on who you’re kissing.

14. Bawbag

Remember when Hurricane Bawbag was a thing? Glasgow does – it’s a word we’ve attributed to many a pal or an enemy over the years, either in affection or irritation. We won’t give you the literal translation, but we will tell you that it’s another word for a dafty – not to mention a storm which hit Scotland so hard that even trampolines were on the run. It became a world-trending hashtag then – but it’ll always be in the Glasgow vocabulary.

15. It’s pure baltic

And speaking of weather, remember that glorious summer in Glasgow? No, neither do we. You’d think we Glaswegians would be used to the cold and the rain by now – and we are, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a whine about it. And that’s where ‘it’s pure baltic’ comes into play.

16. Check the nick

Us cynical Scots invented the snide look – and Glasgow has as many a phrase for ‘aye right’ as the eskimos do for snow. But check the nick flies high above the rest, summing up a thorough eyeballing in just three wee words. It’s similar to ‘look at the state of that’ – but with added weegie oomph.

17. Fandan

It might not have its own weather event yet, but give it time. A fandan is a lot like a bawbag, in that it can be term of endearment or abuse, depending on who’s talking. It’s also a certain female body part – imagine the Scottish equivalent of The Inbetweeners when we say “the room was wall to wall fandan” and you’ll get the picture.

18. Glaikit

Limmy's Show Dee Dee

The single best word to describe someone with a silly look on their face, this word translates as stupid, careless, gormless – daft, in a word. But let’s face it, daft isn’t as fun to wrap your mooth around as glaikit.

19. Buttoned up the back

Is someone trying to take you for a fool? Make a mug of you? Con you into doing something? Then this is the phrase for you. Utilised by many a Glasgow maw or da, it’s usually a question, as in “d’ye think ahm buttoned up the back?” – often in answer to “Can I get a loan eh a tenner?” or “Gies a lift to…” The answer, in case you’re wondering, is always no, they’re not.

20. Giein it laldy

It’s fast approaching midnight, you’ve had a wee swally and you’re feeling gallus. Should you rock up to a club and hit the dancefloor, there’s only one thing for it – and that’s giein it laldy. It means really going for it, getting mad wae it and regretting nothing. Forget tomorrow’s hangover – it’ll be soothed with texts from your friends telling you were totally giein it laldy last night. Worth it.

21. Taps aff

Remember when it was pure baltic? Well now it’s that one day of the year when the sun shines on gorgeous Glesga and us grateful, peely wally types take to the city’s many parks, benches or spare bits of grass. How do we know that the sun is out? Put that thermometer away – the only indicator Glasgow needs is a peek out the window to see if taps are oan or aff. There’s even a website which will tell you the current status, setting taps aff at around 17 degrees – but we’ve all seen the odd anomaly as low as 14 or 15.

22. Did ye, aye?

Did Ye Aye Willy Wonka Meme

Thank Glasgow comedian Kevin Bridges for popularising this gem of a put down. Nowadays, it’s a no brainer route to putting someone in their place, as with Mr Bridges sending up the waffle spouted by self-important celebrities. Whether it’s a pal spinning tall tales about what they got up to on their holidays or a co-worker going on about yet another wild weekend, nothing could top those eight little letters and a knowing smirk. Argument won, end of.

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Main photo: Alex Kapranos/Franz Ferdinand – Getty Images