Scotland Records World’s Earliest Use Of F*ck

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 06 Apr 2020 18:59
Scotland Records World's Earliest Use Of F*ckScotland Records World's Earliest Use Of F*ckPA Images/PolyGram

The world’s earliest record of the use of the word f*ck has been unearthed, and it turns out it’s been around for a very long time.


The word was found in a Scottish manuscript penned by a student who was in lockdown during the plague – sound familiar?

The script, named the Bannatyne Manuscript, was written hundreds of years ago and is reportedly kept locked away in the National Library of Scotland.

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The manuscript was written by George Bannatyne in 1568 and is a collection of poems – not what you were expecting, right?


The actual phrase used was ‘wan fukkit funling’ between two poets, William Dunbar and Walter Kennedy, insulting one another.

I’m unsure what that actually translates to, but maybe I’ll try throw it into my every vocabulary to see how it goes down.

The discovery came in light of a new documentary airing tomorrow night, April 7, called Scotland – Contains Strong Language featuring Scottish singer Cora Bissett.

Cora Cora BBC

In the documentary, it’s confirmed that the manuscript is the earliest surviving record of the use of the F word.

A spokeswoman for the National Library told The Scotsman:

The Bannatyne Manuscript is a collection of some 400 poems compiled by the young Edinburgh merchant George Bannatyne in the last months of 1568, when an outbreak of plague in Edinburgh compelled him to stay indoors. It is one of the most important surviving sources of Older Scots poetry.

The manuscript remained in his descendants’ possession until they gifted it to the National Library’s predecessor – in 1772.

It has long been known that the manuscript contains some strong swearwords that are now common in everyday language, although at the time, they were very much used in good-natured jest.

In particular the great slanging match between the poets William Dunbar and Walter Kennedy has been infamous for giving us the earliest known examples of these terms in written form.

ScotlandScotlandPA Images

On the programme, Bissett dubs the fact Scotland hold the rare manuscript as ‘something to be proud of’.

She says:

It might never quite make the tourist trail, but here in the National Library we have the first written ‘f*ck’ in the world. I think that’s something to be proud of.

Maybe this explains why the Scottish swear so much?

You can watch Scotland – Contains Strong Language tomorrow, April 7, on BBC Scotland at 10pm.

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: Film and TV, Bannatyne Manuscript, BBC Scotland, Cora Bissett, F*ck, Life, Scotland, Scotland - Contains Strong Language, Swearing


The Scotsman
  1. The Scotsman

    Scotland's claim to fame as birthplace of the F-word revealed