Tune Origins – Teribus

I’d never heard of the tune ‘Teribus’. It sounds like Latin and I like the picture this conjures up of some guys snuck up against the north side of Hadrian’s Wall hearing the Romans on the other side playing the tune on their pipes, and nicking it from them.

Hadrians Wall

However plausible that may be – 🤔 – the word is actually part of the town cry/slogan of Hawick in the Scottish Borders – ‘Teribus ye teri odin’. The Hawick men are said to have used it at the Battle of Flodden (down the road from Coldstream) in 1513. The Hawick people, who call themselves Teris, still sing it every spring at the Common Riding, and the tune is the one we play.


No-one seems to be very sure what the phrase means or what its linguistic roots are. Different theories suggesting Old Norse, Middle English, and Gaelic, all have had their advocates and detractors. Some reckon it’s most likely to be a purely verbal reproduction of the sound of pipes and drums (possibly to the tune we know?) – like pipers and drummers do to reproduce a tune or a beating by mouth.

I do like questions that don’t have all the answers.