Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

A Comprehensive Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Scottish Dance Instruction Pages And Technical Terms Explained
By Reuben Freemantle And Laurence Abbott

This Scottish Country Dancing (SCD) website is intended as a reference to the traditional dancing of Scotland. It contains two main elements:

  • Dance Instructions A-Z Dance Cribs which provides succinct descriptions of over 8000 Scottish Country Dances in a form readily accessible to the preparer of a dance programme;
  • Comprehensive DICTIONARY Of Dance Terms which provides detailed definitions of the formal terms used in those instructions and by Scottish Country Dancers and teachers.

Note that this site is concerned only with the enduring elements of Scottish Country Dancing, primarily the dances and how to perform them. Ephemeral matters such as dance events and the response to Covid lockdown are covered only in the respect of any long-term, post factum, benefit.

How to use this Scottish Country Dancing website

To find the description of an individual dance, select Dance Instructions A-Z Dance Cribs (on the side navigation bar on every page) which links to a list, in alphabetical order, of those Scottish dances for which a Scottish Country Dance crib (instruction) is supplied. Dancing instructions originate from one or more of:
Charles Upton's SCD MiniCrib;
our own MaxiCrib;
the deviser; and, sometimes,
other sources.
Wherever a Scottish Country Dance is referenced from any other page in this site, a live link leads direct to the specific Scottish Country Dance instruction page.
Many of these Dance Instructions A-Z Dance Crib pages also contain crib diagrams, dance notes, background dance information and links to Scottish Dances YouTube Videos.
Alternative indexes list those dances for which there is a Keith Rose's Crib Diagram, those for which there is a Scottish Dancing YouTube Video, those suitable for children, those suitable for ceilidhs, those by the more prolific devisers, those compiled in RSCDS publications and those with various rarer formats.

To find the definition of any technical term used in the description of a dance, select Comprehensive DICTIONARY Of Dance Terms (on the side navigation bar on every page) and then select from the alphabetical list of links. This is the simplest way to find the explanation of a Scottish Country Dancing term.
You may then discover that the definition refers to a closely associated term. If so, follow the link at the bottom of the page to find the associated page. For example, when you have found the description of Strathspey half poussette, it refers to Strathspey poussette at the same logical level and to the logically higher levels Poussette movements and Complex figures.
Alternatively, if you know that the term is related to one of the main links on the side navigation bar, choose that link. Then, sometimes via an intermediate link, find the exact term you seek. For example, if you seek Corner positions, go to Set structure. Then, via the link at the bottom of the page, to Positions and on to the desired page. This approach consolidates the reader's understanding of a topic by showing its relationship to the various associated topics. Those wishing to adopt this method may find the following description of the structure of this website helpful.

The structure of this Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

On every page in the left margin:
the floating left arrow provides an alternative means of returning to the page viewed immediately previously;
the floating up arrow provides a means of returning to the top of the current page.

The navigation bar on the right hand side of each page shows the main elements of the structure. The function of each button is described below in the order in which it appears on the navigation bar.

This Home Page is primarily concerned with how to use the website.

Dance Instructions in this Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Written and diagrammatic instructions along with videos of performance of Scottish Country Dances comprise the largest part of this site; by analogy with a language, this material may be regarded as the "literature" of Scottish Country Dancing. The navigation bar buttons in this section index the individual dances by name in various subsets.

Dance Instructions A-Z Dance Cribs links to an alphabetical list by dance name of descriptions of over 7000 Scottish Country Dances. This page also contains an explanation of the format of these dance instruction pages.

Crib Diagrams links to an alphabetical list of Keith Rose's Crib Diagrams, the Pilling-style diagrams which many dancers prefer to the written format of Dance Instructions A-Z Dance Cribs. Every dance diagram for which there is a written format is also shown on the Dance Instructions A-Z Dance Cribs page for that dance; those dance diagrams for which there is no written form for that dance appear only on the Crib Diagrams page.

Scottish Dances YouTube Videos links to an alphabetical list of those freely-available videos of Scottish Country Dances which have sufficient educational merit to warrant inclusion; regrettably, there is a video for less than half of those dances which are indexed under Dance Instructions A-Z Dance Cribs though, fortunately, the number of available videos and their quality are both increasing. Perversely, some popular dances have so many videos that they spill onto one or more supplementary pages which are not separately indexed. Every video for which there is also a written format crib is linked from the Dance Instructions A-Z Dance Cribs page; those for which there is no written or diagrammatic form are shown only on the appropriate Scottish Dances YouTube Videos page. At the bottom of every video page, there is a link to Scottish Dancing YouTube Videos Explained; this, in turn, includes a link to Advice on preparing videos which provides recommendations on how to make a video so that it is more accessible and useful to the inexperienced dancer.

Ceilidh Dances and Children's Dances list, with links, those dances which are deemed more suitable for these groups.

Dance Devisers lists the dances of the more prolific devisers and RSCDS Books lists the dances collected in those publications.

Alternative Dance Selections lists dances with the rarer combinations of Types Of Dance and Types Of Sets such as Medleys in Longwise sets and 5 couple square set dances. Following the isolation problems associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, it also includes a page covering Dances for small numbers of dancers.

Dancing Terms in this Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

This part of the website provides an explanation of the technical terms used in the written and diagrammatic instructions for the Dance Instructions referenced above and generally in the teaching of Scottish Country Dancing. Following the analogy in the previous section, this material may be regarded as the "grammar" of Scottish Country Dancing.

Comprehensive DICTIONARY Of Dance Terms links to an alphabetical list with a page for every technical Scottish Country Dancing term defined.

Terms Introduction covers organization and conventions, notably the significance of Italic font, and the arrangement of content in this part of the site.

Subsequent navigation bar buttons in this section index the major topics under which the individual terms are classified. As formally shown in the main page of the Site Map, the page for each individual term is arranged hierarchically under one of the following eight logical headings, all of which are included in the side navigation bar: Types of dance; Footwork; Hand positions (and other niceties); Types of sets; Set structure; Figures; Complex figures; Timing; and Flow of the dance. The relevant part of the Site Map is shown at the bottom of each page with links to every page at the same logical level (except where it would duplicate the side navigation bar) and to every logically associated page at the next lower level, if any. Thus, for example, the page, Usage of steps, has the following links:

Foot positions
Usage of steps
Travelling steps
Setting steps
Steps for jigs, reels and hornpipes
Steps for strathspeys
Fitting the steps to the music
Other steps.

Types Of Dance is concerned with the classification of Scottish Country Dances by musical tempo and has links to:
Quick tempo, Reels, Jigs, Hornpipes, Strathspeys, Medleys and Ceilidh dances.

Footwork covers the Scottish Country Dance steps needed for Scottish Dances classified by musical tempo with main links to:
Foot positions;
Usage of steps; Steps for jigs, reels and hornpipes which has detailed descriptions and diagrams in the lower level links: Slip step, Skip change, Pas-de-basque and Step up (or down); Steps for strathspeys which has detailed descriptions and diagrams in the lower level links: Strathspey travelling step, Strathspey setting step, Highland Schottische setting step and Step up (or down) in strathspeys; Fitting the steps to the music and Other steps. This section is intended as supplementary material to those learning Scottish Country Dance Footwork from a qualified teacher.

Hand Positions (and other niceties) covers the various ways in which hands are joined (Holds or Grips) and includes some other matters of SCD etiquette (Eye contact, Bow and curtsey and Precedence).

Types Of Sets describes the formats of The set in Scottish Country Dancing, the numbers of Scottish Country Dancers required for each format and Room capacity (the number of Dancers who can be accommodated in a given space). The essential feature, Progression, which, in most Scottish dances, enables every Dancer to perform at least one Repeat in every Place of the Active set, is covered in detail, as are the more complex forms of Progressive set.
Each type of Longwise set is covered with an especially full description of the 2 couple repeat in 4 couple set and the 3 couple repeat in 4 couple set formats. The various types of Square set and the Triangular set are covered under Circular sets along with those rarer associated forms for fixed numbers of Dancers. Round the room sets covers those dances in which the Active sets (a variable number) are disposed around the edge of the dance floor; these are mostly Progressive. Music for Scottish Country Dances gives an introduction to the musical structure necessary for the various formats.

Set Structure is concerned with the "geography" of the various formats of The set and "navigation" within and around it. The defined terms are categorized under the main links: Dancers; the Positions within The set to and from which they move; and the absolute and relative Directions by which they achieve those movements.

Figures covers all the basic choreographed movements from which the complete Repeat of a Scottish dance is made up. This section defines the simpler movements which the beginner learning dancing needs to master because they will appear in most class or ball programmes. They are also the building blocks from which the more Complex figures are constructed.
Traditionally, publications of the Royal Scottish Country Dancing Society (RSCDS, the Scottish Country Dancing key authority) used the terms Progressions for those Figures which interchange the Places of two adjacent Couples in a Longwise set and Formations for those which do not. Nowadays, the RSCDS has chosen to use Formations to cover both but Figures is shorter and more widely used.

Complex Figures lists those dancing movements which are either combinations of, or derivative forms of those on the Figures pages. They are in no way logically different but it can be helpful to those learning Scottish Country Dancing to know that mastering these is of secondary priority because they occur much less frequently. Note however that, because these occur in many traditional Scottish dances and so appear in most class or ball programmes, Crown triangles, Double triangles and Hello-goodbye setting are included in the basic Figures section rather than here, even though they are quite complex.

Timing covers the number of bars allocated to each Figure, the Phrasing of Figures to suit the distance to be traversed and Covering. Accuracy in these is especially satisfying to the Scottish Dancer.

Flow Of The Dance is concerned with one of the most important factors in what makes the Scottish Country Dancing experience into a delight: the way in which the Finish of one Figure is subtly modified to suit the subsequent Figure. Flow between repeats covers the transition between one Repeat and the next; Flow between figures covers the transition between Figures within the Repeat.

Terms Diagrams links to a list of the 100+ diagrams used in the Dictionary part of this website to illustrate technical terms. Each individual Terms Diagram is shown in full size and has an extended navigation bar with links forward and backward within the list where relevant. Where appropriate, a link is also provided here to the Terms Diagram showing the conventions applicable to this type of Terms Diagram. A further link, Explanation of this diagram, leads to the principal page on which the Terms Diagram appears in context; hovering over the link shows the name of that page.

Terms Videos links to a list of videos, each illustrating the named technical term. Some of these, mostly relating to Footwork, have been specifically prepared for teaching; most are videoclips taken from videos of dances in which the term arises.

Miscellaneous pages

Note that these pages are either support (website "housekeeping") pages or are not specifically related to dances or to dancing terms, and all of the links listed here are found on the navigation bar of every page.

SCD Miscellany links to a collection of pages loosely associated with Scottish Country Dancing: the first group relates specifically to this website, for example, Acknowledgements and Donations; the second covers some general topics such as Scottish Country Dancing history; the third covers some specific topics such as Advice on preparing Scottish Country Dancing YouTube videos, Poems And Songs; the fourth contains instructional videos which demonstrate Scottish Country Dancing Steps and Figures; the fifth contains videos of dance displays; and the last two are for amusement.

Resources is primarily concerned with links to and from this site.

Search This Site links to a page with recommendations on how best to find what you are looking for on this site. It includes advice, applicable when all the more straightforward options have been exhausted, on using Google Custom Search or FreeFind to search for text specified by you.

The Copy Page Link button copies each page address (URL) to your clipboard, making it easy to add links from any page on this site to your 'Copy' clipboard. These links can be pasted into cribs, text documents (like Notepad, Word, Google Docs, OpenOffice), emails, PDFs, social media sites like FaceBook, X, YouTube, WhatsApp, other browsers etc.

For example, if you are on the Montgomeries Rant dance crib page and you click the 'Copy Page Link' button, you will probably see a note saying "This page link (URL) is now copied to your clipboard, to paste wherever you wish:" Dismiss the note by clicking 'OK' and then you can navigate to wherever you want the link to show and click paste.

This will place the full, exact URL (page address, page link) of the page on this site that you were on, to wherever you have chosen for it to appear.

Note that the positions of videos is not fixed, so if you refer to a specific video on a page, it will may well appear on a different video page later, but the URL for each main video page remains fixed.

Additional links on some pages

A few pages, most notably those linked from Terms Diagrams, carry links to closely-associated pages.

Contact, Translate This Site and Privacy Policy appear on the navigation bar of this SCDD Home Page, only.
These three items have their conventional significance.

The Site Map, which also appears on the navigation bar of this SCDD Home Page, only, consists of a main page with links to three other pages: one page contains links to every page indexed in Dance Instructions A-Z Dance Cribs; the second contains links to every page indexed in Crib Diagrams; the third contains links to every page indexed in Scottish Dances YouTube Videos.
The main page also contains links to every other page on the site sorted into a logical order with a section for each major topic.


The Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary is a comprehensive online resource dedicated to Scottish country dancing. It provides detailed information about various Scottish country dances, including step-by-step instructions, formations, and terminology. The site is designed to assist both beginners and experienced dancers by offering clear explanations and diagrams to help understand the intricate movements and patterns involved in the dances.

One of the key features of the SCD Dictionary is its extensive collection of dance descriptions linked to videos of the dance. Each entry includes the dance's title, type (such as reel, jig, or strathspey), and the number of bars. Detailed instructions for each part of the dance are provided (where available), making it easier for users to learn and practice the dances. The site also includes information on dance etiquette, the history of Scottish country dancing, and tips for dance classes and social events.

The SCDD serves as an educational tool, offering information about each dance, links to videos, crib diagrams, and other external resources to further aid in learning and enjoying Scottish country dancing.

© COPYRIGHT 1982 onwards All Rights Reserved
Reuben Freemantle and Laurence Abbott
No part of this dancing site may be reproduced in any form without our written permission,
except for the cribs on the Scottish country dance instruction pages, but you still need to see the Copyright page for details.

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