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Scottish Gaelic language

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Scottish Gaelic
Scots Gaelic
Native toUnited Kingdom, Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand
RegionScotland, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and Glengarry County, Canada
Native speakers58,552 in Scotland.[1] 92,400 people aged three and over in Scotland had some Scottish Gaelic ability in 2001[2] with estimates of additional 500[3]–2000[4] in Nova Scotia, 1,610 speakers in the United States in 2000,[5] 822 in Australia in 2001[6] and 669 in New Zealand in 2006.  (date missing)
Language family
Writing systemGaelic alphabet (Roman alphabet)
Official status
Official language in Scotland
Language codes
ISO 639-1gd
ISO 639-2gla
ISO 639-3gla

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Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig, pronounced "Gah-lick") is a Celtic language. It is commonly called just Scots Gaelic in English. It is a sister language of Irish Gaelic and Manx Gaelic; all three are Goidelic languages. These are related to the Welsh language, Cornish language and the Breton language (these three are Brittonic or Brythonic languages).


In past times, the Scottish Gaelic language was spoken across all of Scotland except for the Northern Islands (Orkney and Shetland).[7] In the later part of the Middle Ages, the kings of Scotland began to speak English and looked down on the Scottish Gaelic. After the union of England and Scotland, the Scottish Gaelic was snubbed and looked down on even more, and English took over.

Scottish Gaelic today

Scottish Gaelic today is basically that of the Scottish Gaelic spoken in the Outer Hebrides and on Skye. Generally speaking, the Scottish Gaelic spoken across the Western Isles is similar enough to be classed as one major dialect group, but there is some regional variation.

A census in the United Kingdom in 2001 showed that a total of 58,652 (1.2% of the Scottish population aged over three years old)[8] in Scotland could speak some amount of Scottish Gaelic at that time. Only the Western Isles of Scotland have more people who can speak the Scottish Gaelic than not (61% of the people here speak Scottish Gaelic). The place in Scotland with the biggest percentage of Scottish Gaelic speakers is a village called Barvas on the Isle of Lewis. There, 74.7% of the people there speak the Scottish Gaelic.

Children in Scotland do not have to learn Scottish Gaelic in schools, though it is becoming a more popular subject as Scottish Gaelic is an important part of their Scottish culture.

Scottish Gaelic is also used overseas. It is estimated that 1,000–2,000 in Nova Scotia, Canada can speak some Scottish Gaelic.


  1. Census 2001 Scotland: Gaelic speakers by council area from Comunn na Gaidhlig (
  2. "News Release – Scotland's Census 2001 – Gaelic Report" Archived 2013-05-22 at the Wayback Machine from General Registrar for Scotland website, 10 October 2005. Retrieved 27 December 2007.
  3. "Nova Scotia Museum's Curatorial Report No. 97". 
  4. Gaelic in Nova Scotia from
  5. "Language by State – Scottish Gaelic" Archived 2012-01-11 at the Wayback Machine on Modern Language Association website. Retrieved 27 December 2007
  6. "Languages Spoken At Home" Archived 2007-06-21 at the Wayback Machine from Australian Government Office of Multicultural Interests website. Retrieved 27 December 2007
  7. Orkney and Shetlands spoke Old West Norse because they were so long part of the Norse overseas settlements.
  8. Kenneth MacKinnon (2003). "Census 2001 Scotland: Gaelic Language – first results". Retrieved 2007-03-24.