Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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CAMSTAIRY, CAMSTARY, CAMSTEERIE, adj., n. and adv. Also in forms camstarie, camstrarie, camsterry, camsterie, camstera, camsteery, cumstrarie, etc. [kɑm′ste:r, -′sti:ri, -′stɛr, -′stre:r, kʌm′st(r)e:r, -′stu:ri]

1. adj. Perverse, unmanageable, riotous; given to quarrelling; excitable (Fif.10 1938). Ags.1 1926 says: “prob. obsol. in talk,” and Arg.1 1938 says: “rare (prob. borrowed).” W. Aiton in Agric. Ayrsh. (1811), Gl. 691 gives the form comstairy, and the form cumsturie is given for Lnk. by A. Wardrop in Hamely Sketches (1902) 92. Sc. 1769  D. Herd Sc. Songs (1776) II. 40:
And when she is fu' she is unco camstarie.
Abd.(D) a.1807  J. Skinner Amusements (1809) 68:
Time enough to turn camsterry When we're auld and doited.
Ags. 1875  J. Watson Samples of Common Sense in Verse 15:
Our camstairy neebours across the saut dub Are aye yarkin' up like the barm in a tub.
Edb. 1821  W. Liddle Poems 44:
In case a clammehuet then Get o'er the crown: Frae some camstera drunken loun An' think it fun.
Lnk. c.1779  D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 62:
I think ye're a cumstrarie piece o' stuff.
Ayr. 1822  Galt Sir A. Wylie II. i.:
Howsever, I daresay, the auld countess is nae sic a camstrarie commoditie as may be ye think.
Kcb. 1894  S. R. Crockett Raiders xxxiii.:
She turned camsteery wi' him, an' gang in harnass she wadna.

Hence (1) camstrariness, obstinacy, perversity; (2) camsterious, “very frisky (of a horse)” (Cai.8 1934). (1) wm.Sc. 1835–1837  Laird of Logan II. 55:
E'en yoursel', Jenny, for a' your camstrariness, couldna hae done itherwise than I did.

2. n.

(1) An obstinate, unmanageable person. Slk. 1818  Hogg Brownie of Bodsbeck I. iii.:
“Here's for ye then, auld camstary,” says they; “an unlucky fish gets an unlucky bait.”

(2) An uproar (Fif.10 1938). This meaning seems to be a modern development. Ags. 1934  L. Spence in Gallov. Annual 12:
When the fouk made sic a camsteerie, she seemed fair fleggit.
m.Sc. 1898  J. Buchan John Burnet of Barns iii. i.:
If John Burnet cam hame and fund this gaun on, he wad mak a rare camsteery.

3. adv. Helter-skelter, in disorder. Known to Lnl.1 1938. Edb. 1928  A. D. Mackie Poems in Two Tongues 38:
And the sky wi' a' its starlicht In glory wid us droon, Gif like a rashel o' hailstanes It cam camsteerie doon.

[O.Sc. campstarie, perverse, unruly, a.1605 (D.O.S.T.). For first element, cf. Campruly, and for second, cf. Steer.]

Camstairy adj., n., adv.

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"Camstairy adj., n., adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Feb 2019 <>



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