NUMPTY n. a foolish person

Numpty was included in the 2005 Supplement to the Dictionary of the Scots Language with the following definition: “a stupid person, an idiot”.

In the revised edition of the Concise Scots Dictionary (CSD), to be published in December, the definition has been shortened to the kinder: “a foolish person”.

Numpty has been adopted by the rest of Britain and has its own entry in the Oxford English Dictionary where it’s labelled “British slang, originally Scots”. Our first DSL example is from the Scotsman of January 7 1989: “…the MacDiarmid-led backlash of 60 years ago against Scottish kailyard numpties, ...”.

A later example also from the Scotsman expands the meaning as in: “The numpties remain. Some are so sunk in numptitude that only advanced genetic engineering, and the substitution of chimpanzee cranial parts, could effect a transformation towards more sentient life.” (March 27 2003).

Numptitude was thought, by the editors of the 2005 Supplement to be a one-off. No, it isn’t. This is from the Herald of August 7 2007: “Scottish Labour suffers from the Perverse Law of Numptitude which rules that those most vulnerable to losing their seats tend also to be the ones the party can least afford to lose.”

So numptitude has caught on: the Daily Star of November 8 2017 shows: “Lord Sugar wants the two outfits – Team Numptitude and Team Where The Hell Do The Producers Find These People …” Yes, lexicographers need to be vigilant.

Scots Word of the Week is written by Pauline Cairns Speitel of Scottish Language Dictionaries located at 9 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh.

Visit their website at

You can also contact them by email at