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The Scottish National Dictionary

The Scottish National Dictionary Association (SNDA) was founded in 1929 to foster and encourage the Scots language, in particular by producing a standard dictionary of modern Scots. This primary aim was fulfilled in 1976 with the completion of the 10-volume Scottish National Dictionary (SND), covering the language from 1700 to 1976. Material for SND is drawn from a wide variety of written and oral sources of Lowland Scots from Shetland to Ulster. SND was produced under the editorial direction of William Grant (from 1929-1946), and of David Murison (from 1946-1976).

The inception of SND was greatly influenced by Sir William Craigie (the original editor of DOST) who gave a lecture in Dundee in December 1907 on the action necessary to involve local people in collecting 'Scots words, ballads, legends, and traditions still current'. Soon afterwards, the Scottish Dialects Committee was set up, with William Grant as convener, to pursue an 'investigation into the present condition of the Scottish dialects'. Grant proposed finding correspondents in the different dialect areas who would be provided with lists of words culled from written sources and printed slips for new words or meanings, and four volumes of the Transactions of the Scottish Dialects Committee (1913, 1916, 1919, 1921) containing a preliminary dictionary. In the 1920s the goals of the Committee became more focussed and in 1924 Craigie gave a series of lectures on 'The Study of the Scottish Tongue' in order to recruit volunteers to assist with the study of Scots and to help produce the new Scottish dictionary. In 1929 the Scottish National Dictionary Association (SNDA) was founded to foster and encourage the Scots language. William Grant was the driving force behind the collection of Scots vocabulary and his persistence in the face of many obstacles ensured that the project had a solid foundation. The first fascicle of the SND was published to great acclaim in 1931.

A wide range of sources were used by the editors in order to represent the full spectrum of Scottish vocabulary and cultural life. Literary sources of words and phrases up to the mid-twentieth century were thoroughly investigated, as were historical records, both published and unpublished, of Parliament, Town Councils, Kirk Sessions and Presbyteries and Law Courts. More ephemeral sources such as domestic memoirs, household account books, diaries, letters and the like were also read for the dictionary, and a wide range of local and national newspapers and magazines, which often shed light on regional vocabulary and culture. Given the fact that Scots has often been perceived as inappropriate for formal situations (including formal written text) during the period from 1700 to the present day, many words and expressions that were in regular everyday use did not appear in print. In order include this rich linguistic oral heritage, field-workers collected personal quotations across the country.

When David Murison took over the editorship of the dictionary in 1946, following William Grant's death, he greatly increased the number and range of written sources and expanded the coverage of oral material. He improved the layout and clarity of the entries, revealing the healthy position of modern Scots usage in spite of centuries of neglect. Murison was therefore instrumental in encouraging the study of modern Scots and fostering respect for it as a language. He was responsible for the completion of Volume III, and for overall control of Volumes IV to X.

An award from the Heritage Lottery Fund enabled SLD to bring the dictionary up-to-date. This New Supplement may be found on online on the DSL.

Ordering details

The Scottish National Dictionary is now only available as the 2-volume Compact Scottish National Dictionary.  The 10-volume set is out of print.


The entire SND is online as part of Dictionary of the Scots Language.

The 2-volume Compact Scottish National Dictionary
(with magnifying glass)
is available from:

Scottish Language Dictionaries
25 Buccleuch Place
Edinburgh EH8 9LN
Phone: 0131 650 4149

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