In Ireland we use the word "haveral" as a derogatory term which kind of means greedy glutton or someone that is careless and caused some kind of a mess. We often put dirty before it.

If you let someone have a bite of your sandwich and they eat the whole thing. You ate the whole thing you dirty haveral.

If you lend your car to someone and they return it full of rubbish like empty cans and food wrappers. Look at the state you left my car in you dirty haveral.

If someone walks in with dog poop on their shoe and gets it on the good carpet. You're after getting sh1t on the good carpet you dirty haveral.

I can't find any etymology for this word anywhere.

Can anyone shed some light on the history or etymology of this word ?

  • 1
    Speculation: in case it is related (I don't know and I have no source for it), the word haver / havre in the Nordic languages is an older form meaning "have". And there's all / allt with the very same meaning as English all. So in case Old Norse is relevant, this might have meant something like "have-it-all". (Probably not to be confused with Scots/English haver originating from Old Norse hafri (modern Nordic havre) meaning oats.)
    – Lundin
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 9:48
  • First you have to spell it right ;) "haverel (ˈheɪvərəl). n. a person who talks nonsense or who babbles." And then tell Google that you did not mean haverhill.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 21:50
  • In Irish do you say "haver", someone who blabs or lies, too much talk? "Don't haver, laddie ...", don't blab. it's a normal word in Scotland.
    – Fattie
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 3:26
  • @Lundin FWIW I really see no connection at all there; unfortunately seems like an irrelevant or wild guess. I for example am ultimately "from Scandinavia" via the Orkneys/Shetlands and I just don't see any connection there, it's a coincidence; seems completely unrelated? One could offer dozens of words in various languages that sound vaguely similar, I fear. There's rarely any real "etymology" for (let's say) folk, non-academic, languages.
    – Fattie
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 3:45

5 Answers 5


According to the Scottish Educational Journal:

Gomeni, however, was rather regarded as a "born-fool," whereas "haveral" was more of a "scatterbrain" or fool on occasion. On this assumption James VI. and I. was no "gomeril," but often enough a "haveral."

Neither word has any certain etymology, though Jamieson in his dictionary would fain endow gomeril with a misty Norse ancestry. "Haveral" is from the common Scots verb, haver (haiver), to yammer, to yatter.

(Here's a reference to the Scots verb, and here's a more formal documentation of its early appearances.)

For the other half of our word: According to this publication, -el is a common suffix used in Scots to form dialectal words.

The more common spelling is haverel, which appears quite frequently in lexicons; I was also able to find alternate spellings like havrel and havril here, and that dictionary, as well as some others, agrees that it's from Scots.

It deserves mention that most dictionaries define haveral and its litany of mutant siblings as 'nonsensical babbling,' which is a narrower use than what you seem to see. But the journal snippet confirms that it may have once had, and perhaps still has, a broader semantic range.

  • "would fain endow"++
    – tchrist
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 2:09
  • @tchrist - rather opaque to the modern reader, isn't it? Still, seems it was once a thing people said. Commented May 26, 2023 at 2:12
  • 1
    I shouldn't think it opaque to the modern reader, for that would mean they know no Shakespeare and thus fail to qualify. :) Thou know’st the mask of night is on my face, / Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek / For that which thou hast heard me speak to-night / Fain would I dwell on form, fain, fain deny / What I have spoke: but farewell compliment! Use their search: "fain occurs 67 times in 149 speeches within 39 works."
    – tchrist
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 2:20

The Dictionaries of the Scots Language shows two main related usages with some variants in spelling. Earliest usages dates from late 18th century.


, n., adj., v. Also haverat, -ill, haivrel(l), hav(e)rel, -il, haeveral, haiveral(l), heveril; hyveral (Sh.). [′he:v(ə)r(ə)l]

I. n. A foolishly chattering or garrulous person, a fool, half-wit, simpleton (Sc. 1808 Jam., haveril; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 251, haiverall; Wgt. 1880 G. Fraser Lowland Lore 157; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl., haiverel; Ayr.1 1910; Mry.1 1925; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; n.Sc., Fif., m.Lth., Kcb., Rxb. 1956); an ungainly person (m.Dmf.3 c.1930); a lounger, lazy person, a sloven (Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 255; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., hyveral, ‡Sh. 1956).

  • Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 34: A muckle mouth't haverel it is just like yoursel. Ayr. 1789 D. Sillar Poems 92: up your head, an' think nae shame, Tho' for't ilk hav'rel sud you blame.

II. adj. (sometimes indistinguishable from n. used attrib.). Garrulous, speaking foolishly (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin vii.; Kcb. 1956); foolish, stupid, silly, nonsensical (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl., haiverel, 1934 Mid-Uls. Mail (1 Dec.)

  • Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (1925) 54: Frae some poor poet, o'er as poor a pot, Ye've lear'd to crack sae crouse, ye haveril Scot!

From haiver (verb, tr. and intr. To talk in a foolish or trivial manner, speak nonsense, to babble, gossip. Gen.Sc.) whose origin is unclear:

[Orig. very doubtful. The word may be simply imit. of quick or rambling speech (cf. Habber), or phs. (as Sh. usage seems to attest, if it is the same word), from obs. Eng. hav(i)our, O.Fr. avoir, deportment, behaviour, in pl., manners, extended to mean specif. foolish or trivial behaviour, fuss, “carry-on,” and mainly restricted to talk. The v. usage would then be derived from the n. Cf. haivins, s.v. Havin(g)s.]

  • 1
    I wonder if it's pronounced like the name of the Massachusetts town, Haverhill. That is, "hey-vril." Probably not, that's just our accent. So then, "have-a-rule?" Commented May 26, 2023 at 7:23
  • Google sure thinks so. NO... I did not mean "haverhill".
    – Mazura
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 21:50
  • The town "Haverhill" would seen top be utterly unrelated. "Haver" ("babble", "talk") is a completely commonplace word in Scotland, perhaps out of date now.
    – Fattie
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 3:32
  • @Fattie Then you need to play this song more often for the youth.
    – J D
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 18:17

Per Merriam-Webster, the word haverel, meaning "a garrulous half-wit," comes from the verb to haver. As TFD states, to haver means (in certain dialects) "to talk nonsense; babble."

  • +1 because this belongs in the Q which neither defines nor spells it correctly.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 21:52
  • Indeed, just as Mazura says.
    – Fattie
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 3:40

In Scotland, for anyone born before - say - about 1960, "haver" (simply "hay-ver") is a very commonplace word that just means "talk a lot", "babble".

Thus, you'd yell at your children "Don't haver" or "stop havering".

If someone tells a tall tale or just talks to much, you'd tell them "Shut your mouth, you're havering."

I've never heard "haverel" but it's clearly just the same word.

This is completely commonplace, and any older person, from the North, could tell you that.

I've read the various dictionary guesses at etymology, and they seem totally fatuous, invented, unfounded. I've never heard the form "haverel" but it would seem as obvious as changing say "babble" to "babbler".

For anyone from, let's say, the WW2 era or before it's a commonplace word.

I'd say I'd a bit down from "bonnie" or "braw" (which any normal, literate, functioning non-Scots English-speaker would know as "Scots words"); let's put it on the "next level down" of broadly-known Scots words.

If the question is literally "What's the etymology", it's inconceivable anyone or any "dictionary" would have a clue; patois are barely understood.


My OED (Compact Edition, 1971) has "haver" as Scots dialect for 'foolish talk', with citations from 1787 on. Their entry also states that the word is more often used in the plural, "havers". Their following entry is "haverel", meaning a person who is engaged in foolish talk.

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