When watching the popular Starz series Outlander, there is a learning curve for some of the Gaelic, Scottish slang and pre-English words and terms, but ScreenRant has broken down some critical terms for an armchair guide to the show which should be returning in the late fall. In the last week of May, Outlander made its U.S. debut on Netflix, so even fans new to the series use a glossary of their own to catch up on some keywords.
The first word is Sassenach which is first used in relation to Claire and Frank when they arrive in Scotland for their second honeymoon after the war, and it refers to their English heritage. When the word is first heard on the show, it’s playful and used jokingly, but when Claire travels back in time, it is used in a more disparaging fashion, referring not just to an English interloper, but for anyone not born in Scotland, or an outlander.
The next term is Highlander, which refers to someone from the Highlands of Scotland, located in the far north. The Scottish Lowlands border England, but it’s the Highlands that held tighter to the Celtic traditions, which pit them against the English.
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Jacobite, as in the Jacobite Rebellion, refer to the Scots loyal to James II (Jacob is an old name used for James). James II, a Stuart king was thought by the Scottish Catholics to be the true heir to the throne, and the Jacobites kept this hope alive for 60 years which culminates in the Battle of Culloden, where Claire believes that Jamie has perished.
Bonnie/Bonny is a compliment for women, often used with the word lass, meaning beautiful woman. The word plausibly comes from the French bonne meaning good, or the Latin bonus, meaning the same. The masculine version of the word is braw.
A word which is heard often is ken, which means to know.
“When a Scottish Highlander asks if you ‘ken,’ they are explicitly asking if you ‘know.’ It can blend together into the words that precede and follow, since it’s often used in phrases like ‘I didn’t know,’ or as they’re spoken in conversational Scottish, ‘I dinna ken’.”
In Outlander, it is perhaps a natural jump from the word Laird to Lord, but initially, Colum MacKenzie, the Chieftain of the MacKenzie Clan, is referred to quietly as the laird, but it’s because he’s not a nobleman and only gets the title after he is selected at the clan gathering over his brother, Dougal.