Dictionary definitions of `bonny' admit to chiefly British (or even Scots), but give no further hint of the possible tinges of this word. Bonny (adj.) means attractive, fair; fine, excellent [M-W].

Perhaps I perceive it as slightly archaic, hence this post. Is this word (still) functioning in the meaning given, and what are the caveats of its usage? Is it the teensiest bit pretentious, or otherwise out of the ordinary? If not, what might be typical usage?

(I know about bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond. I know about blithe and bonny ladies. I know about one wife or another being `very bonny, thank you'. These, and a perhaps a few other titbits I acquired somewhere, more or less defined the word for me, and I'm finding it difficult to shift away.)

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    It isn't used in AmE.
    – TimR
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 21:52
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    Mostly Scots, mostly conversational.
    – Hugh
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 21:52
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    No, it is not neutral. It sounds very regional (namely Scottish). Within Scotland I don't know.
    – Mitch
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 21:53
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    I've heard it exclusively in Scottish songs and literature and have heard it used for males and females (bonny lads and lasses). Commented May 26, 2015 at 22:04
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    The Collins treatment is fairly comprehensive, though I'd say the usages are all unmarked in Scotland and Northern England, but marked for mild humour ('... cost a bonny penny') or twee familiarity ('What a bonny baby!') elsewhere in the UK. Commented May 26, 2015 at 22:58

2 Answers 2


To settle one point bonny is still in common usage within Scotland and is sometimes heard south of the border. A fine day could be called 'a bonny day' a good night in the pub might be referred to as 'a bonny night out' and the attractive barmaid 'a bonny lass'. In England it is more likely to be used regarding a child.


I don't know whether it's current in Scots and/or Scottish English; but in an American context, "bonny" was once used in the South and Appalachia in poetic speech; it can still be found in a few stock phrases.

I'd say that it's primarily a Scottish-sounding word, but it can sound like a Southern or Appalachian regionalism under just the right circumstances.

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