Introduction to The Complete Ulster-Scots Dictionary project

For over 20 years the Ulster-Scots Academy has been preparing the ground for its full, historical, two-way dictionary of the language based on the collections of the Ulster-Scots Language Society:

  • ‘Full’: in the sense that it will ultimately cover the entire written and spoken record of the language (including those long-established words that are part of the accepted and traditional ‘shared vocabulary’ with English). It is also ‘full’, i.e. ‘complete’, in the geographical sense. Because the traditional Ulster-Scots speaking region extended beyond Antrim and Down (particularly into Donegal and Londonderry), collections of Ulster-Scots words and texts from throughout the nine counties of Ulster are included.
  • ‘Historical’: in the sense that it provides a chronological record for each word - with dated citations excerpted from the text-base. These excerpted citations will help to distinguish historical and contemporary vocabulary items; to authenticate these in language development and education programmes; and to validate spelling and translation standards.
  • ‘Two-way’: in the sense that the dictionary will not be only ‘Ulster-Scots to English’, but also ‘English to Ulster-Scots’, in two separate volumes. The rationale and form of each volume is different according to the educational context: the ‘Ulster-Scots to English’ one is primarily an aid to reading and understanding Ulster-Scots and it alone will contain etymologies, while the ‘English to Ulster-Scots’ volume is an aid to writing and speaking Ulster-Scots in appropriate registers and contexts, and will include the identification of ‘shared vocabulary’. Both volumes are necessary for the proper validation of spelling and translation standards.

Within the Academy’s overall language development programme, this dictionary project is a core element. Indeed, the interdependent nature of each element has long been recognised in our language development programme:

  • A Tape Recorded Survey of native speakers (the audio record of the spoken language)
  • An Electronic Text-Base collection of Ulster-Scots writings (the archival and literary record of the written language)
  • An Ulster-Scots dictionary programme on historical principles (from Text-Base)
  • A Bible Translation Programme
  • Spelling and Translation Standards.

Because we are providing on-line texts of the source material (see TEXTS), each dated example that has been excerpted for the historical dictionary can be immediately referenced to its source. Indeed, access to the full context is provided as the Text Base is developed. This, we believe, is a unique feature in modern lexicography. The excerption process involves working through ‘key’ texts for each historical period systematically on a mostly chronological basis. Because of this, only a snapshot of ‘work-in-progress’ on the dictionary database can be provided just now. The strategy is to update and expand these on a regular basis. It is envisaged also that, when the text is ready for full publication, it will feature a searchable, on-line version of the historical dictionary, similar to that already available for the Hamely Tongue.


The Ulster-Scots Academy has been an integral part of the Ulster-Scots Language Society since 1993. The name "Ulster-Scots Academy" is registered to the USLS with the Intellectual Property Office.

Ulster Scots Academy


A new edition of Michael Montgomery’s From Ulster to America: The Scotch-Irish Heritage of American English recounts the lasting impact that at least 150,000 settlers from Ulster in the 18th century made on the development of the English language of the United States. This new edition published by the Ulster-Scots Language Society documents over 500 ‘shared’ vocabulary items which are authenticated by quotations from both sides of the Atlantic. A searchable online version of this dictionary is now also available here.


The Ulster-Scots Academy is currently working on the digitisation of Dr Philip Robinson's seminal Ulster-Scots Grammar and the English/Ulster-Scots part (with circa 10,000 entries) of a two-way historical dictionary of Ulster-Scots. These projects are planned to be completed and available on the site in 2016.



This site is being developed on a purely voluntary basis by the Ulster-Scots Language Society at no cost to the taxpayer. USLS volunteers have been involved in preserving and promoting Ulster-Scots for more than 20 years. All donations, however small, will be most gratefully received and contribute towards the expansion of the project. Thank you!

This site is being developed by the Ulster-Scots Language Society (Charity No. XN89678) without external financial assistance. USLS volunteers have been involved in preserving and promoting Ulster-Scots for more than 20 years. All donations, however small, will be most gratefully received and contribute towards the expansion of the project. Thank you!

(Friends of the Ulster-Scots Academy group)