What follows is a guest article from a new writer to this blog. Richard Marrison is from Budapest, Hungary. He has an MBA in Cultural Anthropology and loves history. His love and passion for history got him to indulge in creating content on history-related topics. Historically, Scotland has experienced a variety of language shifts fromContinue reading "GETTING GAELIC."


What follows is a guest article from a new writer to this blog. Richard Marrison is from Budapest, Hungary. He has an MBA in Cultural Anthropology and loves history. His love and passion for history got him to indulge in creating content on history-related topics.


The Evolution of The Gaelic Language.

Historically, Scotland has experienced a variety of language shifts from both the Germanic and Celtic lineage. While Scottish English is the widely accepted and spoken language, Gaelic or Goidelic is interwoven in Scotland.

Scattered around Scotland retain their Gaelic names; for instance, Dundee is named after the Gaelic, Dùn Dè, which means Tay Fort. Other such instances are Ballachulish, which translates to Baile a’ Chaolais or Village by the Narrows in Gaelic.

More such examples permeate even the music, folklore, and rich culture and pop culture, proving that the Gaelic language has been sustaining since its first revival in the 19th century.

A brief History of Gaelic Language

Roughly more than 2500 years ago, the Celtic language speakers arrived in Ireland. While there is no such recorded evidence of its use, the Ogham inscriptions from the 4th century CE are a sample inscribed in Primitive Irish or Archaic Irish, the oldest form of Goidelic. During the same period, people from Ireland migrated to Scotland and the Isle of Mann, where the Irish language evolved into two different languages: Scottish Gaelic and Manx.

The 7th century saw the Archaic Irish transform into Old Irish, which by the 10th century became the Middle Irish. It lasted for three more centuries until the 13th century and is characterized by emerging dialectical variation in writing, famous Viking raids, and Norse settlements. The latter had some impact on the vocabulary of the then Irish language.

The 12th century saw the Norman invasion, and they used their language of Norman French alongside Irish and English. It left a severe impact, especially on the southern dialectics. Then arrived the Classical Irish, the language of literature and poets.

The Modern Irish language continued until the 1800s when several factors such as the Great Famine and the advent of National Schools endangered its use. In the 19th century, attempts were made to revive the language by issuing an Irish language newspaper, Modern Irish Literature, and The Official Standard. Thus, establishing the Irish language as a living language. It is the first national language of the Republic of Ireland and is also studied as a ‘heritage language’ in schools.

Gaelic in Scotland

The founding language of Scotland and its ancient tongue- Gaelic, made its way from Ireland to Scotland during the 6th century. Closely related to other Celtic languages such as the Welsh, Breton, Cornish, Irish Gaelic, and Manx Gaelic, it soon became the primary language of the medieval Kingdom of Alba.

The Irish migrated to Scotland and set up the Gaelic kingdom on the west coast of Scotland (present-day Argyll). It is corroborated by the medieval writings of the 7th and the 8th century, such as the Senchus for n-Alban and Historia ecclesiastical Gentis Anglorum, respectively.
However, neither archaeological nor invasion records have surfaced, which leaves the historians to believe that it might have sprung from the Proto-Celtic language spoken by the natives in the British Isles.

After the intermarriage between both sides, it began expanding to the Pictish people from the 8th century onwards. They merged into the Kingdom of Alba by 900, and Pictish was replaced entirely by Gaelic until it became extinct.

Gradually, Gaelic became the dominant language in northern and western Scotland. There was dense usage in Galloway, West Lothian, and Mid Lothian. Similarly, many people spoke Gaelic in Renfrewshire, Clyde Valley, Ayrshire, and eastern Dumfriesshire.

It remained the mother tongue of the Alba kingdom until the 18th century. The whole country was named Scotia, Latin for Scotland, and Gaelic was known as the lingua scotia or the language of Scotland. From the tiniest cities to the largest, people interacted in Gaelic throughout Scotland until its decline.

The Decline of Gaelic

When Scotland united with England in 1707, the English language began dominating the lands of the Scottish people. The number of people speaking Gaelic began to dwindle as English was established as their primary language.

Many Scottish rulers and noblemen began speaking in English to interact better with their counterparts on the Southern border. It was the preferred spoken language in schools, churches, and other communities during the late 19th century.

Culture, religion, and population are some of the major catalysts for the advent of the English language. It spread like wildfire all over the country, and Gaelic was tucked away and preserved in some remote places.

The internal policies and legislation played a vital role in the shift from Gaelic to English. The Education Act of 1872 was one such legislation that propelled English by ordering its sole use in teaching-learning behavior.

Despite being unfamiliar with any language other than Gaelic, all children had to learn it in school. Primarily, English was used, which confined Gaelic from the mainstream to only a few households towards the northern parts such as the Outer Hebrides, the Isle of Skye, and the Highlands.

Gaelic in the Present Time

The great famine and Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries forced some Scots to go overseas, leaving their possessions behind. However, they carried with them the Gaelic language and culture. They sowed it in different parts of the world, such as Dunedin in New Zealand, Banff and Nova Scotia in Canada, and Albany in the USA.

Although only 1.7% of people retain their Gaelic skills in Scotland, it is not only spoken but celebrated there. Not limiting to Scotland, Gaelic is spoken in different neighboring countries, even if it is at a lower percentage.

Kilts, tartans, and dynamic cèilidh mixed with Irish stepdance in Gaelic folk music are significant attractions in many pubs across Scotland and other countries. Many music festivals, such as Celtic Connections, Harris Arts Festival, and Barra Live, where Gaelic traditional music is celebrated with a large audience. The Royal National Mòd is another famous festival that endeavors to promote and preserve the Gaelic language through teaching and learning.

It has been showcased on our television as a popular series called the Outlaw King and the Outlander. They became instant hits, especially among Gaelic lovers, to portray all things native to the Gaelic. The Bard’s Tale is a video game with a theme about ancient Scotland using Gaelic folk songs.


Gaelic is a beautiful language with diverse phonology. Unlike Pictish, it hasn’t lost its place in history and requires revival. It is a part of Scotland and is thriving against odds. I love many words and phrases, but I should wrap up ‘mar sin leibh’ or goodbye.

Richard has his own website detailing some of the history his site History Ten is currently highlighting..


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