Yer Spraffin' Mince! The Leith Slang Dictionary Online



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A Load Ay Spraff


This dictionary is compiled of slang words used by people from Leith aged 18-25. The words are taken from several sources, but only one published source: Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting, which is set in Leith and includes many slang terms still in use today.

Origin of Slang Words

Where do Leith slang words come from? Many words come from Scots dialect though it is interesting to note that not many Leith slang words have Celtic/Gaelic etymological roots. Some slang is borrowed for example ‘defo' and 'dob' which are both Australian and have probably been adopted by a generation of people who watch Australian soap operas such as 'Neighbours.' Some words such as 'gadge' come from the Romani:

"Romani was once spoken by most British Romanies. It was the language of a travelling population ('Gypsies') that immigrated into Britain from the early sixteenth century onwards, spoken by various clans who appear to have entered the country independently, coming from France, Germany, and Scandinavia. They settled all over the country, continuing to specialise in trades that made them mobile. Quite often, they were evicted from the places they occupied, and so continued to travel. For a while, the border area between Scotland and England was a favourite area of settlement. Although Romani is no longer spoken there, many local dialects in Northumbria have incorporated words of Romani origin into the local slang. Examples are gaji 'woman', chavvy 'boy', to nash 'to run', peeve 'drink', yag 'fire', and many more. Edinburgh slang also contains a large number of Romani-derived words. A few words, like pal (originally 'brother'), have entered common English slang." (26/4/2005)


Spelling and Pronunciation:

Many words in Scots like ‘aheid' for ‘ahead,' ‘aff' for ‘off' which represent words in the English language pronounced with a Scottish accent and not everyone's accent is the same, even in Leith. For this reason the pronunciation is only indicated.

Leith slang words are mostly spoken and not often written, so the spelling of a word will vary depending on the writer's interpretation of the pronunciation. This can vary widely.Since the advent of the ‘blog,' (web log), people have started creating highly personalised and informal journals, a useful source of modified spelling. The headwords in this dictionary are those believed to be most widely used, followed by the common variants. The 'ing' ending has been used for clarity, though a word like 'bevvying' can be written either way, like in Trainspotting:

"he's in a pure bevvying mood..." (74), Secks says "ah'v goat the bevvyin under control.” (58)

For clarity, my dictionary is structured so that a word with several meanings is entered separately for the different definitions.


Citations come from a variety of sources and have all been provided by either a link or a reference. It should be noted that only those who have access to the Oxford English Dictionary online will be able to follow the OED links.


Definitions have been made as clear concise as possible and suggestions are made for synonyms in Leith slang.

There are slang words in Trainspotting which have a slightly different meaning to the younger generation. The adjective ‘tidy' when used to describe a man in Trainspotting means that he is a strong fighter, but in the age group 18-25 I have never heard it to be used in this way. ‘Tidy' in my group means 'attractive, handsome or beautiful' for a man or a woman, or it means 'good, useful, convenient.' For this reason, this dictionary should not be regarded as a glossary to 'Trainspotting.'


Where possible, etymology has been suggested. In the etymology section of the dictionary I have included references to entries in other dictionaries.


Many slang words come from the tendency in Leith to add ‘ey' to the ends of names. Ryan Giggs becomes ‘Giggsy,' ‘Leith Academy' becomes ‘Leithy.' Some words have followed this pattern and have been used so frequently in this way that the ending cannot be separated from the stem word without changing its meaning ie. ‘wifey' meaning ‘woman.' I have chosen to include only words whose meanings are modified in this way. Please see the disclaimer for a further note on inclusions.

Though I will not be able to make changes to this dictionary, please see the discussion board if you are interested in the subject and would like to comment.



(c) 2005 Lindsey Mountford, University of Leicester.

Last updated 29/4/2005