…but what does “Sauntering” mean?

“Sauntering” is a fairly common word in Scots, in daily life “sauntering” means to amble/ ramble/ meander. It’s an unhurried way to get somewhere or get something done. If you say someone is “sauntering around”, it can also imply a cockiness or confident and you might hear the phrase, “sauntering around like he owns the place”.

It’s a late Middle English word, which probably dates from the mid 17th Century and at that time, it didn’t seem have the same link to confidence as it does now. It meant only to go at a leisurely gait. Rabbie Burns the  greay Scottish poet was said to “saunter the hills”, perhaps seeking inspiration from the landscape and that seems to tie in with older definition which included the ideas of wandering whilst musing or wandering in wonderment that was the accepted definition in the late 15th century.

It has been suggested that the word derives from the Anglo-French “sauntrer” which in turn comes from “s’aventurer” = “to take risks.”


I’ve chosen it because of this mix of meanings. For me, essentially it’s a word from home in Scotland, to me it means to travel and to remember to take the time to enjoy, and appreciate the views.


From Thoreau on Walking (Bartleby Harvard Classics)

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks,—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived from “idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going à la Sainte Terre,” to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word form sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere.

For this is the secret of successful sauntering.

8 thoughts on “…but what does “Sauntering” mean?

    1. Strangely, I was raised in Glasgow and now live in Edinburgh with regular trips up to Loch Awe through my childhood, done the North Coast 500 route (before it was named that), been up to Uist a couple of times – so essentially, been around Scotland a wee bit in the past 26 years – I know the word stravaiging but I’ve still never heard anyone use the word aloud. Is is specific to a certain part of Scotland perhaps?


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