Scottish Gaelic songs (Òrain Ghàidhlig)

Songs in Scottish Gaelic can be arranged into two main categories - rhythmic songs, such as waulking songs and puirt-à-beul (mouth music), in which the tune is more important than the words; and songs in which the words are more important. The tunes of songs of the latter type can change from one verse to the next to fit the words.

Waulking songs (Òrain luaidh)

Waulking songs are traditionally sung by women while waulking or fulling cloth, which involves a group of people beating newly woven tweed rhythmically against a table or similar surface to shrink it and make it water proof. Often one of the women would sing the verses and the others would sing the chorus, which is often made up of vocables (nonsense syllables).

Waulking songs were probably last used for waulking cloth in the 1950s. They are also sung in Nova Scotia by women and men, and are known as milling frolics.

Mouth music (Puirt-à-beul)

This type of song is intended mainly for dancing to, and the rhythm is more important than the words. They are also a way to sing fiddle tunes, especially in Cape Breton, where knowing the words are an inseperable part of learning such tunes.

It's common to sing three or more of these songs in succession, sometimes getting faster and faster with each one.

Love songs (Òrain gaoil)

Lullabys (Talaidhean)

Laments (Tuiridhean)

Other songs


Information about Gaelic Songs and music

Scottish folk songs

Courses in Scottish Gaelic songs and language

Gaelic singers and groups

Information about Scottish Gaelic | Phrases | Numbers | Family words | Terms of endearment | Colours | Time | Dates | Comparison of Celtic languages | Celtic cognates | Celtiadur | Tower of Babel | Songs | Links | My podcast about Scottish Gaelic | Learning materials

Songs in various languages

English | French | Georgian | Icelandic | Irish | Manx | Māori | Ndebele | Scottish Gaelic | Welsh | Zulu | Songs in multiple languages

Songs from: Bangor Community Choir | Bangor Welsh Learners' Choir | The Crazy Choir | Simon Ager


Green Web Hosting - Kualo

Why not share this page:


Conversations - learn languages through stories

If you like this site and find it useful, you can support it by making a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or by contributing in other ways. Omniglot is how I make my living.


Note: all links on this site to, and are affiliate links. This means I earn a commission if you click on any of them and buy something. So by clicking on these links you can help to support this site.

Get a 30-day Free Trial of Amazon Prime (UK)