Key to pronunciation: Scottish English

View the pronunciation model for Scottish English here.

The pronunciations given are those in use among educated urban speakers of standard English in Scotland. While avoiding strongly regionally or socially marked forms, they are intended to include the most common variants for each word. The Scottish English variety is therefore Scottish Standard English rather than Scots English. The keywords given in this key are to be understood as pronounced in such speech.

Words associated with Scotland are given British and American pronunciations alongside the Scottish pronunciation(s). Where a word is associated with an additional part of the English-speaking world, further pronunciations in the appropriate global variety of English are also given.

To hear the pronunciation spoken aloud, click the blue play icon to the left of each transcription.

Note from Catherine Sangster, Head of Pronunciations

“A few of our Scottish English pronunciations lack audio at present. We create our audio with freelance actor-phoneticians in our Oxford recording studio, but since spring 2020 it has been unsafe for us to run these sessions. We are working on addressing this backlog as soon as we can do so safely.”


Scottish English As in…
i fleece
ɪ kit, happy
ɛ dress
a trap, bath, palm
ɔ lot, cloth, hawk
ʌ cup
u foot, goose
ʌr nurse
ɛr herd
ɪr bird
ir here
er square
ur cure
ar start
ɔr north
or force
ə alpha
e face
ʌi price
ʌʊ mound
o goat
ɔɪ choice
ər letter

/ᵻ/ represents free variation between /ɪ/ and /ə/

The words nurse, herd and bird, all pronounced with the same vowel British English and U.S. English, are often pronounced differently from each other in Scottish English. As in these examples, the pronunciation typically follows the spelling. Words of this sort with the spelling ear (e.g. learn) usually have /ɛr/.

Scottish English also has a pattern called ‘Aitken’s Law’, which in the OED is reflected in the pronunciations of words which have /ʌɪ/ in British English. In Scottish English, if the vowel is followed in the same syllable by /v/, /ð/, /z/, /ʒ/, /r/ or a suffix (such as -ed), or comes at the end of a syllable, it is pronounced /aɪ/. In other positions it is pronounced /ʌi/. In this way, Scottish English makes a distinction between pairs of words such as tide /tʌid/ and tied /taɪd/.


Scottish English As in…
b big /bɪɡ/
d dig /dɪɡ/
jet /dʒɛt/
f fig /fɪɡ/
ɡ get /ɡet/
h hut /hʌt/
j yes /jɛs/
k kit /kɪt/
l lɛg /leɡ/
m mud /mʌd/
n net /nɛt/
ŋ thing /θɪŋ/
p pit /pɪt/
r red /rɛd/
s sit /sɪt/
ʃ ship /ʃɪp/
t tip /tɪp/
chip /tʃɪp/
θ thin /θɪn/
v vet /vɛt/
w win /wɪn/
z zip /zɪp/
ʒ vision /ˈvɪʒ(ə)n/
x loch

Words which have /ð/ in British or American English are usually pronounced the same as /θ/ in Scottish English, but there is an interaction with Aitken’s Law (discussed above) such that the vowel of a word with a ‘voiceless’ /ð/ (such as assythment /əˈsaɪθmənt/) retains the vowel as if the following sound was voiced.

The consonants l, m, and n can take on the function of a vowel in some unstressed syllables. It should generally be clear when this interpretation is intended, but in cases of potential ambiguity, the consonant symbol may appear with a diacritic, as in the British and U.S. pronunciations. The use of brackets around /ə/ indicates that some speakers may not pronounce the /ə/; in some cases this means the following consonant would take on the function of the vowel (e.g. U.S. saddle /ˈsæd(ə)l/).

After a vowel, Scottish English is similar to U.S. English in that it can have /r/ regardless of the sound which follows, whereas British English retains the /r/ only when it is followed by a vowel. Scottish English therefore has /r/ sounds where British English does not, in words such as mar (Scottish /mar/, unlike British English /mɑː/).


The symbol ˈ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable is pronounced with primary stress. The symbol ˌ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable is pronounced with secondary stress. The symbol ˈˌ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable may be pronounced with either primary or secondary stress.