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Community / History in a Wird: the meaning of ‘smoorikin’

Image: I Hear Dee

SHETLAND NEWS has teamed up with the I Hear Dee project to help spread the word about their work on promoting the local language.

Run by linguists Dr Viveka Velupillai and native Shaetlan speakers Roy Mullay, Julie Dennison and Andrew Blance, the I Hear Dee project aims to document and describe the contemporary use of the distinctive language variety.

Last year, I Hear Dee introduced Sheatlan predictive text on the Microsoft SwiftKey app, which is freely available on Android and iPhone devices.

In researching the history of the local tongue, the I Hear Dee team is regularly unearthing fascinating twists and turns.

It offers insights into the origin of the local language and how far travelled some of the words and phrases in regular use are. Shetland News will regularly share this work.

Below we share the story behind the sweet Shaetlan word ‘smoorikin’. It had, according to their findings, “a bit of a journey in its meaning”.

“It is composed of the Scots smuirich and the Middle Low German ‑kin. The Scots smuirich means ‘kiss, caress’ and is an intensive form of smuir, ‘smother, stifle, choke’ which ultimately goes back to the Proto-Germanic *smurōną, ‘to suffocate, strangle.

“The diminutive ending ‑kin indicates that something is small. The Low Germanic ending ultimately goes back to the Proto-Germanic diminutive *ikīną.

“So smoorikins have gone from being small suffocations to sweet kisses.

“We have chosen the spelling ‑kin due to the unstressed nature of the suffix which makes the pronunciation slightly different from that of e.g. ken, ‘to know’.”

The work of I Hear Dee can be followed on Instagram, Facebook and on YouTube. The group also has a website at

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