We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What does "Great Scott" Mean?

By Cathy Rogers
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Although most sources agree that the expression "Great Scott" refers to an exclamation of surprise, wonder, shock or disbelief, sources do not agree on its origin. Several sources purport that its origin relates to a colorful General in the U.S. Army, Winfield Scott.

Scott, who joined the army in 1809 at the age of 23, was originally nicknamed Fuss and Feathers due to his preoccupation with uniform and procedure. He became a hero in both the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. It was during the Mexican War, however, that he was possibly re-named "Great Scott."

In 1846, President James Polk sent General Scott and his troops to fight with Mexico over the territory that is now New Mexico and California. Scott and his men won numerous battles and successfully occupied Mexico City in 1848. Although these facts are quite verifiable, the actual reason for the first utterance of "Great Scott" is, however, not so clear.

Some sources report that Scott was smug and boastful, such that the use of the expression "Great Scott" would actually be a form of sarcasm. We do know that following his army service, Scott campaigned as the Whig candidate for U.S. President in 1852. During this campaign, many jeered him as Great Scott. He lost the election by a narrow margin to the Democratic candidate Franklin Pierce,

Other possibilities on the origin of the phrase include that it is uttered similar a German greeting Gruess Gott, or Great God. Therefore, some feel the expression "Great Scott" is a euphemism for Great God. If this is the case, the phrase could be what is termed a minced oath, similar to how one might say darn in place of something more offensive.

No matter what its origin, the expression has taken on a life of its own. Those who have adopted Great Scott as a name include a TV series, a band, a store chain, a wrestler and at least one television cartoon character. The phrase itself is frequently used by comic book heroes, and actors in movies and television. Great Scott is uttered in the movie Back to the Future, in The Chronicles of Narnia series of books, and by Mr. Wilson, a character in the Dennis the Menace TV series.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon190104 — On Jun 25, 2011

"Great Scott!" is from The Great Big Greek Lexicon of Liddell and Scott published by Oxford. The abridged smaller lexicon is called the Little Liddell.

By anon133550 — On Dec 11, 2010

Correction: 'Grüß (Gruess) Gott' is a Southern German greeting that means 'Greetings of God' or 'God Bless', not 'Great God'.

The word 'great' in this context would be 'groß (gross)', similar in sound, but very different in meaning. This may be where the mistake in this article derived from. 'Great Scott' is more likely an attempt to anglicize the German.

By anon43442 — On Aug 28, 2009

People say Great Scot because Scots are great (people from Scotland).

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.