/ The Edinburgh Guide
Edinburgh — By Andy Hayes on February 18, 2010 at 8:06 am
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Your Embarrassment-Free Guide to Edinburgh Pronunciation

Let’s face it – Edinburgh’s streets and attractions are filled with Auld Scots names and unusual old English pronuncations/spellings.  Heck, even the city’s name can be a sticking point for pronunciation for the unfamiliar!  So, here’s the PlanetEye Embarrassment-Free Guide to Edinburgh Pronunciation.

Don’t be the embarrassed swan!


It isn’t Edinburg and it isn’t Edinboro.  Make sure you get the “gh” for the spelling part.  But the wonderful ways that tourists pronounce the city’s name is hilarious at best and confusion at worst for the unititated.

As they say, Edinburgh doesn’t rhyme with Pittsburgh.  You say “Edinburra – the gh is dropped and you add a bit of a rolled r to the back.

I should also point out this applies to all Scottish ‘burghs: Musselburgh, Newburgh, etc.

Cockburn Street

Cockburn Street is the wonderful spiral lane that connects Waverley Bridge with the Royal Mile, and on either side you’ll find an assortment of wine bars, pubs, tattor parlours and those weird shops where you can buy pleather trousers.   But what you will not find here is anyone saying “Cock Burn.”  It’s pronounced Coburn.  The ‘ck’ is silent.


This one is a bit contentious.  I actually live in this area, so I hear the word all the time, and locals would pronouce it with reference to its historical root:  holy (as in holy church) plus ‘rood’ that sounds more similar to “rude” than “hood.”

The problem is you’ll hear the BBC say Holyrood as if it is the same as Hollywood, just switching the W for a R.  To be honest I don’t think that correct, but it seems to be the precedent.   In other words, no matter what you say, you’ll be fine on this one.


As you no doubt will have gathered, there aren’t lakes in Scotland but loch.  (There are a few exceptions, such as Lake of Menteith, but for the most part, they’re all lochs).  But they are not “locks” – the ch is pronounced harshly like in Hebrew, German, or Dutch.   If you aren’t multi-lingual then you might be clueless at this point.  That’s ok.  Just go ahead and say lock.


You’ll hear this word a lot and will have no idea how to spell it.  It’s the traditional dance evening that the word refers to, and if you have the opportunity to go to one while you’re here, you should.  It’s pronounced “kay-lee” believe it or not.

Brougham Street

Brougham Street is over in the Tollcross area on the west side of town.  It’s a real funny name – there’s lots of letters in there.  But most people say “bro” then sort of breathe and finish the “am” without clearly pronouncing the letters in the middle.   The English will also pronounce the h, but for sure you drop the gh in the middle.  If you are having trouble with this, just mumble it – you’ll be surprised that everyone will know which street you mean, because nobody is really sure how the heck you’re supposed to say this one.


Cranachan is a tasty Scottish pudding (dessert) made with a devilish concoction of oats, raspberries, double cream, and a splash of Drambuie.  It is fantastic.  But to order it you need to be able to pronounce it.  The problem is the “ach” in the middle is pronounced “ik“.  Cran-IK-in.  “Crannikin” if I had to write it down.   Now you know how to say it, order it.  It’s good.

Sgian Dubh

This one almost deserves extra credit because if you know what one is, you’re doing well!  A proper men’s kilt outfit, or a Prince Charlie outfit, will include a knife that the man wears on the top of his hose (sock).  The word is of course a direct descendent of Gaelic, which makes pronunciation difficult.

“Sgian” is sort of pronounced like “skiing” – but with less emphasis.  So more like “ski-an” (pretend you’re a farmer with a heavy accent and say skiing…).  “Dubh” is easy and just said like “do” or “due”.  All together now:  “ski-an due”


An appropriate place to end our lesson: Slainte is the Scottish word for ‘cheers’ – it isn’t used as much as it should be, but if you feel the need, be sure you say it right:  “slan” (rhymes with flan) + “chuh” or “cha” – it doesn’t sound anything like it looks.  It doesn’t really rhyme with anything I can think of

Extra Credit:  include the world “var” (rhymes with bar) afterwards – it just adds emphasis.

Photo by contagiousmemes

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  • Daniel Hunt says:

    Full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors as usual Mr Hayes and Holyrood is NEVER prounounced as in holy – and that is from someone who works in the Holyrood area and an old Edinburgh resident. I really wish you would promote Edinburgh accurately.

  • A brave effort. I would agree with Daniel Hunt about Holyrood pronunciation. You’ve omitted Calton Hill which some people insist on calling Carlton rather than pronouncing it kawlton. The thing that makes me cringe is seeing Princes Street spelt as in singular female instead of plural male.

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