A ghillie or gillie is a man or boy who attends to someone (originally his employer and/or guests) on a hunting or fishing expedition in Scotland.

A ghillie may also serve as a gamekeeper employed by a landowner to prevent poaching on his lands, control unwelcome predators and monitor the health of the wildlife.



Word history

The origin of this word dates from the late 16th century, from Scottish Gaelic gille ‘lad, servant’, cognate with Irish gile or gi-olla.

Historically, the term was used for a Highland chief's attendant, also sometimes called a Gallowglass if he was also a soldier or guard, but this use became rare before the 20th century.

A gilhie-wetfoot, a term now obsolete (a translation of gillie-casfiiuc/s, from the Gaelic cas foot and fliuch wet), was the gillie whose duty it was to carry his master over streams. It became a term of contempt among the Lowlanders for the 'tail' (as his attendants were called) of a Highland chief.

Other uses

  • Ghillies, or Ghillie Brogues, are also a type of shoe with laces along the instep and no tongue, especially those used for Scottish country dancing. Although now worn for dancing and social events, ghillies originated as a shoe that would dry quickly due to the lack of a tongue, and not get stuck in the mud because of their laces above the ankle.
  • In a perhaps more recent and certainly competing shoe-related use, Ghillie has also been used to describe laced shoes where rings or loops that project over the tongue are attached to the upper as an alternative to the use of eyelets punctured in the upper; this style is often seen on athletic shoes.
  • Gillie is also a rather unusual surname.