Word of the Day



a valley, especially in Scotland

Origin and usage

The Late Middle English word glen derives from the Scottish and Irish Gaelic word ‘gleann’. The word refers to a particular type of mountain valley in Scotland and Ireland.


The type of valley that the word glen describes is usually bordered by sloping edges rather than the deep and jagged sides of a ravine, but this can vary depending on location. In Ireland, the glens of the northeast part of the country which faces Scotland were formed from huge glaciers that once stretched along the entire northern Irish coastline. A glen is typically quite long and deep, but there are some areas in America which are referred to as glens and are shaped more like a narrow gorge than what is typical in Europe. Throughout much of Ireland and Scotland the word glen is used in place names such as the Great Glen and Glencoe.

The term glen is often used in poetry, particularly that written by the Romantic poets of the late-18th and early 19th century. The image of tall green hillsides sloping down into dark valleys was popular with the Romantic poets, who often focused on nature in their writing. Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland, often incorporated descriptions of Scottish topography into his writing.


“For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men.”

(Christina Rossetti)

“Thou stock dove whose echo
resounds thro’ the glen.”

(Robert Burns)


dale, dell, gully, vale

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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