Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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FA, v., n.1 Also faa (Sh., Ork.), faw (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. fall. See P.L.D. § 78.1. (1). [Sc. fɑ:, m.Sc. + f:]

I. v. A. Sc. forms: pa.t. fell; pa.p. fa(a)n, fa'en, faun, fawn; fawin (Abd. a.1787 J. Skinner Amusements (1809) 93); vbl.n. fa'in; †fan (Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 25).

B. Sc. usages: 1. tr. To befall, gen. used in exprs. of blessing or imprecation, as fair, fause, fout, gude, shame, etc. fa. Gen.(exc.wm.)Sc. See also 9. (2). Sc. 1725  Ramsay Gentle Shep. i. i.:
Kind Patie, now fair fa' your honest Heart.
Per. 1739  A. Nicol Poems (1766) 17:
Fair fa' your Lordship's canny hand.
Ayr. 1786  Burns To a Haggis i.:
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face.
Sc. 1816  Scott O. Mortality viii.:
A daft auld whig randie, that ne'er was in the house (foul fa' her!) till yesterday afternoon.
Edb. 1844  J. Ballantine Miller 135:
Foul fa' the Scot wha wad whomle thee doun.
Dmf. 1894  R. Reid Poems 131:
I pledged my soul upon the spot, Whatever fate micht fa'.
Sh. 1931  Shet. Times (14 March):
So, güd faa de fur a' it du's ivir don fur wis.
Bnff. 1951 9 :
In acknowledgement of the toast “Here's gweed health tae ye,” it was usual to answer “Sae fa ye,” i.e. “the same to you!”

2. intr. To fare, to experience (good or bad) fortune. Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore 72:
Well will she fa' that wins his wife to be.

3. tr. To have (something) fall to one's share, to obtain, win, come by. Also used in pass. to be fallen to, to be destined to. Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore 103:
Well mat he be, as well mat ye be a' That's helped my dear Lindy's heart to fa'.
Ayr. 1795  Burns Heron Ball. No. 1. i.:
Wha in a' the country round The best deserves to fa' that?
Slk. 1813  Hogg Queen's Wake 146:
Ah! he is fallen to fight a knight Whom man could never tame.
Sc. 1871  P. H. Waddell Psalms xxxvii. 29:
The rightous sal fa' the yird.

4. Hence with extended meaning: (1) gen. with canna, maunna, mayna, to venture to obtain, to aspire, lay claim to. Sc. 1750  J. Ritson Sc. Songs (1794) II. 104:
The Whigs think a that weal is won, But faith they ma' na fa' that.
Ayr. 1795  Burns A Man's a Man iv.:
A prince can mak a belted knight, A marquis, duke, an' a' that! But an honest man's aboon his might — Guid faith, he mauna fa' that!
Edb. 1812  P. Forbes Poems 14:
To name ilk book, I manna fa'; There's scores an' dizens in a ra'.
Sc. a.1832  Scott Works (1895–6), Gl. 450:
“We maunna fa that,” we must not hope to get that.
Abd. 1845  P. Still Cottar's Sunday 136:
A heart sincere they plainly shaw that, . . . Sae very few I find can fa' that.

(2) To have a right to obtain, to deserve (Sh. 1950). Ayr. 1795  Burns Heron Ball. No. 1. iii.:
Wi' Lords and Dukes let Selkirk mix, And weel does Selkirk fa' that.
Sh. 1914  Angus Gl.:
Du düs na faa to get aa yon.

(3) Usu. in neg. sentences: to be able to obtain or keep; to afford (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Ork.5 1950; Abd.6 1913). Abd. c.1750  R. Forbes Jnl. from London (1755) 35:
The leave o' the gentles wis drinkin wine a fouth tho' I might nae fa that.
Edb. 1772  R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 16:
He that some ells o' this may fa' . . . Bids bauld to bear the gree awa'.
Abd. 1828  P. Buchan Ballads (1875) II. 200:
My lady cannot fa' sic servants as thee.
Sh. 1898  Shet. News (30 July):
Folk canna fa ta be geein' him sweet mylk noo.

5. (1) Impers. as in Eng. but with indirect obj.: to fall to one as a duty or turn (Sh.10 1950); to be appropriate to, to suit. Edb. 1796  A. Steel Twa Cuckolds 10:
To treat her wi' a glass o' wine, It weel me fa's, or I'm mistane.
Sc. 1808  Jam.:
It faws me to do this, or that, it is my turn.
Rnf. 1813  E. Picken Poems II. 81:
I've heard the carle get the wyte O' what it fasna me to write.
Abd. c.1850  Greig and Keith Last Leaves (1925) 136:
It's I am the Duke o Athole's nurse, An' I'm sure it well does fa' me.
Ayr. a.1855  H. Ainslie Pilgrimage (1892) 339:
It fell my place and pride To see the dawty ower the dale.

(2) Pers.: To be under obligation or necessity, to be in duty bound, to have (to be, do, etc.) (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Sh.10 1950). Sc. 1700  Sir A. Balfour Letters 34:
At Mouline (where you will fall to dine) enquire for the monasterie.
Sc. 1779  Swinton Weights and Meas. 134:
This account, as inconsistent with the other authorities, falls to be rejected.
Cai. 1845  Stat. Acc.2 XV. 16:
Eminent men. Under this head falls to be noticed the late Rev. David Mackay.
Sc. 1952  Abd. Press and Jnl. (15 March):
Fencing, dung, grass seed sown 1951 and ploughing of the fallow land will fall to be taken over at valuation.

6. To become (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 201; Sh.10 1950). Sh. 1886  J. Burgess Sk. and Poems 20:
Guid gaird my sowl, boy! I tink doo's faa'n a füle.

7. intr. To diminish in bulk, to crumble, fall to pieces, as of limestone in slaking or clay in frost (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh.10, Arg.3 1950), or of fruit in boiling (Slg.3, Gsw., Kcb.1 1941). Also in Eng. dial. Rarely of persons, to shrink (from age or illness). Sc. 1757  R. Maxwell Pract. Husbandman 120:
The like burning will also be proper for the blue Clay if it does not fall with the plowings. Though the Clods do not burn to Ashes, the Heat will make them fall the more easily by the subsequent Labour.
Kcd. 1813  G. Robertson Agric. Kcd. 373:
[Lime] is laid down in cartloads on the end ridges of the field, where it remains till it has fallen.
Bwk. 1880  T. Watts Woodl. Echoes 112:
I'm wae tae see ye look sae lean, . . . Hech! man, but ye've fa'en sair o' late.

8. To cause to fall, to cut. Rare. Lnk. 1808  W. Watson Poems 67:
Yer haffets may be thick enough E'er yon ane help to fa' them.

9. Phrs.: (1) at (the point o') faaing feet, at the point of parturition (Ork. 1929 Marw.; Ork.5 1950): also in form at 'e feet-fa'in (Cai. 1900 E.D.D.). Cf. Norw. på fallende fot, id.; (2) fair fa masel(l), an expression of self-congratulation = “who can compare with me?” Used also as a n.phr. (Cai.3, Bnff.2, Abd.9 1945) and adj. = happy-go-lucky; †(3) fa'en meat, see quot.; (4) fa'en wid, roughly-dressed boards with bark or any unevenness along one edge, waney wood (Abd.27 1951); †(5) fallen-star, (a) in pl.: the fresh-water alga, Nostoc commune (Sc. 1808 Jam.), growing like a jelly on rocks and so called from having no apparent origin other than having fallen from the sky: see Ramsay Rise and Fall of Stocks in Poems (1721) 281; also falling-stars; (b) the sea-nettle, Medusa aequorea, “on the sea-coast” (Sc. 1825 Jam.); †(6) fa'un brigs, the game of “London Bridge” (see quot.); †(7) falling neive, a cheating way of firing a marble (see quot.); (8) to fa aff ane's feet, to tumble, fall down (Abd.9, Fif.10, Lnk.11, Kcb.10 1941); (9) to fa afore, to occur to, come to one's mind (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl. s.v. it; Sh. 1950); (10) to fa awa, (a) to waste away, decline in health. Gen.Sc. Now obs. in Eng.; (b) to faint (Sh., Mry., Bnff., Abd., Ags. 1950); (11) to fa by, †(a) to miss, tr. and intr., to fail to reach or get; †(b) to go amissing, be mislaid (Sc. 1825 Jam.); (c) to be laid aside by illness (Ib.; Abd. 1950), specif. of childbirth (Sc. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc. 1950). Cf. (21) (b); (d) to collapse, faint (Sh.10 1950; Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. Ork. Par. (1922) 151, Ork.5 1950); (12) to fa doon throw yinsel, to lose heart (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (13) to fa in, (a) of the body: to shrink, shrivel (Cai. 1900 E.D.D.); (b) of a river: to subside, esp. after a flood (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Wgt. 1950); (14) to fa in fancy wi, to take a fancy to (Sh.10, Ork.5, Gsw., Lnk.11 1950); †(15) to fa in hands wi, to start courting (Sc. 1825 Jam.); †(16) to fa in twa, to give birth to a child (Sc. 1825 Jam.); (17) to fa o' [of], “to abate” (Abd. 1825 Jam.), i.e. prob. to lower (of price); (18) to fa on the dram, to have a drinking bout (Fif.10 1942); (19) to fa on (wi') = (15) (Bnff. 1950); (20) to fa oot (up)on, to scold, lose one's temper with, speak angrily to (Abd.15 1880; Abd.27, Ags.19 1950); (21) to fa ower, (a) to fall asleep. Gen.Sc. Hence at the faun-ower, on the point of falling asleep (Abd.27 1950); †(b) to fall in labour (Sc. 1825 Jam.); (22) to fa thegidder, to rally (after exertion), to collect oneself; (23) to fa through (throw), (a) to make a botch of, to mismanage, bungle, freq. in regard to speaking formally and grammatically or affectedly (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Abd.27 1950); †(b) to miss, come short of, too late for; (c) to abandon (a task) from negligence or laziness (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Ags.19 1950); (d) with (one's) claes, to grow very thin; †(24) to fa twa fauld = (16). See Twa; (25) to fa upo(n), (a) to blame (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Sh.10 1950); (b) only in ppl.adj. faan upon, of meat, fish, etc., not fresh, tainted, “off,” (Ib.; Ork.5 1950): also faan alone, id. (Sh.10 1950); of meal, spoilt by the grain not being either ripe or well dried in the kiln (Cai. 1907 D. B. Nicolson in County of Cai. 71, 1916 T.S.D.C. II, fain); †(26) to fall with, to go to ruin or waste (Abd. 1905 E.D.D. Suppl.). See Wuth; (27) to fa wi bairn (child), to become pregnant (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Bnff.2, Abd.27, Fif.10 1945). (2) Abd. 1923  H. Beaton Benachie 147:
Fine an' cheery an' fair-fa'-masel i tha markets, bit naethin' less nor slave-drivers fin ye're atween the stilts.
Abd. 1928  Abd. Wkly. Jnl. (16 Aug.) 6:
Ye wid think naething o' making a wardle's winner o' me, fin a' the time it's aye fair-fa' masell wi' you.
Bch. 1929  per
Fair fa masel' for bakin an' brewin, shapin' an' shewin'.
(3) Rxb. 1825  Jam., s.v. Hog and Tatoe:
It is customary with those who have store-farms to salt the “fa'en meat” (i.e. the sheep that have died of “the sickness,”) for the use of the servants through the winter.
(5) (a) Sc. 1816  Trans. Highl. Soc. 210:
Tremella nostoc, which the common people imagine to be the remains of what they call falling stars, resembles jelly, and is found growing among grass.
(6) s.Sc. c.1830  T. Wilkie in Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1916) 127:
At the Fa'un Brigs (Fallen Bridges) the players form a bridge, by two of them joining their hands. . . . As the last is running through, the brig falls and detains him.
(7) Abd. 1904  Abd. Weekly Free Press (9 April):
The summit of dishonesty, however, was reached by that player who employed the “falling neive”. This style resulted from a lad taking aim and then rising on his toes till he lost balance and almost fell half-way towards the ring before he delivered his marble.
(8) Ayr. 1889  H. Johnston Glenbuckie xv.:
We swung roun' aboot like peeries till . . we were ready to fa' aff our feet.
(9) Sh. 1950 13 :
Hit wis dan faan afore me ta try an win ta da banks.
(10) (a) Fif. 1878  “S. Tytler” Scotch Firs II. x.:
What hauds the mistress's e'en that she canna see her man's fa'n awa' day by day?
ne.Sc. 1891  A. Gordon Carglen 204:
My puir laddie fell awa' in a decline.
Gall. 1951  :
He's fa'en awa frae his claes, he's thin after an illness.
(11) (a) Sc. 1721  J. Kelly Proverbs 19:
All was tint that fell by . . . as if no Blows were amiss, but those which did not hit.
Sc. 1787 [ J. Elphinston Propriety II. 82:
Id. of punishment, the whole (and more) was deserved.]
Sc. 1825  Jam.:
To fa' by one's rest, to be sleepless.
(11) (b) Gall. 1738  Session Bk. Minnigaff (1939) 618:
To William M'Kie . . . under his necessity by two precepts, the precepts falen by but consistent with memory . . ¥4 10 0
Sc. 1784  A. Wight State of Husbandry III. 670:
As I heard of your being from home, I deferred it, lest the specimen should have fallen by, and not gone to hand.
Sc. 1832  A. Henderson Proverbs 70:
A' is no tint that fa's bye.
(c) Abd. 1845  G. Murray Islaford 121:
And when a servant-lass fa's by, Her comrades pass her with a sigh.
Abd. 1871  W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xlix.:
Some jots o' wark at the Manse offices, that's been lyin' owre sin' he fell bye.
(13) (a) Sc. 1887  Stevenson Mem. and Portraits 177:
He was all fallen away and fallen in; crooked and shrunken.
Edb. 1894  P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 192:
Noo he was a' fa'n in an cruppen thegither: juist a ruckle o' banes.
(b) s.Sc. 1843  W. Scrope Salmon-Fishing 92:
She [river] is quite fallen in, and there will be no good fishing till there comes a spate.
(14) Sc. 1859  C. Graham Mystifications (1869) 28:
She now fell in fancy with his snuff-box.
(15) Ork. 1880  Dennison Sketch-Bk. 42:
The ill luck o' an honest woman tae fa' in hands wi' thee.
(16) Rnf. 1788  E. Picken Poems 50:
She fell in twa wi' little din, An' hame the getlin' carry'd.
(18) Ayr. 1870  J. K. Hunter Life Studies 51:
They fell on the dram, and raised a rippet somehow.
(19) Fif. 1864  W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxxii.:
The name o' her guidman was Jeames Witherspoon, . . . land-steward on the estate o' Burleyrackit, when her and him fell on.
Kcb. 1894  S. R. Crockett Raiders viii.:
Anither lad that I ken o', he's mair anxious to fa' on wi' the lass, I'm thinkin'.
(20) Abd. 1877  G. Macdonald M. of Lossie I. xv.:
Her unique privilege of falling out upon her husband.
Abd. 1935  A. F. Murison Memoirs 25:
One day, when the Master fell out upon Sandy, I ran up to him, seized his arm.
(21) (a) Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore 18:
She'd start an' fumper, an' fa' o'er again.
Edb. 1772  R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 47:
For whan I've toom'd the muckle cap, An' fain wud fa' owr in a nap.
Sc. 1823  J. Lockhart Reg. Dalton I. 286:
Ellen Hesketh wakened me — I had just fallen over.
Rnf. 1873  D. Gilmour Pen' Folk 12:
Satisfied that I had “fallen over”, she tucked the bed-clothes round me.
Dwn. 1886  W. G. Lyttle Sons of the Sod ii.:
Whun ma ma fa's ower a'll get ye something tae eat.
Kcb. 1897  S. R. Crockett Lochinvar xxxiv.:
Surely ye could either hae comed afore he fell ower or let him hae his sleep oot.
Rxb. 1921  Hawick Express (12 Aug.) 3:
Yin feels th' benefit o' a drop aboot bedtime. It helps tae make yin fa' owre.
Sh. 1922  J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 133:
I fell ower, an' da first 'at waukened me wis noise.
Abd. 1923  H. Beaton Benachie 172:
Ye hae been tyaavin' wi' her a' day. Ye maun be at the faun-ower.
(b) Ags. 1790  D. Morison Poems 121:
Cathrine falls o'er, and hame she brings anither.
(22) Abd. 1929 4 :
Lat me sit doon a meenit an' fa' thegidder.
(23) (a) Per. 1766  A. Nicol Poems 51:
The minstrel fairly tint his skill, For he fell through ilk tune.
Sc. 1825  Jam.:
By her foolish airs, she's fa'n through her marriage.
Slk. 1825  Hogg Songs (1852) 96:
The minister's fa'n through the text, An' Meg gets a' the blame o't.
Edb. 1894  P. H. Hunter J. Inwick v.:
It's whan a body taks on han' to mak a speech, an' syne fa's through't, that he maks himsel maist rideec'lous.
m.Sc. 1917  “O. Douglas” The Setons x.:
His accent is wonderful, too. He hardly ever falls through it.
(b) Sc. 1825  Jam.:
It is often said to a traveller, who has arrived late, “I fear ye've fa'n through your dinner between towns.”
(c) Ags. 1887  Arbroath Guide (22 Jan.):
Dear neebor, what's come ower ye noo That wi' yer muse ye've fa'en thro'?
(d) Sc. 1811  Edb. Annual Reg. IV. ii. lxxxiv.:
He has fallen through his clothes. Grown thin so that his clothes don't fit him.
(25) (b) Sh. 1899  J. Spence Folk-Lore 243:
Da twartree piltiks i' da skjo ar noo faan upun, bit dey'll dö fir saide bliggs.
(27) Gall. 1722  Session Bk. Penninghame (1933) I. 479:
The said Jannet . . . confessed . . . that she fell with child and parted with it in May last.
Rnf. 1813  E. Picken Poems II. 3:
How blear-e'ed Kate had fa'n wi' bairn.

II. n. †1. (1) That which befalls one; fate, fortune, lot. Edb. 1773  R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 90:
Sic be their fa' wha dirk thir ben In blackest business no their ain.
Ayr. 1786  Burns Address to the Deil xvi.:
Ye came to Paradise incog, And play'd on man a cursed brogue, (Black be your fa'!)
Abd. 1824  G. Smith Douglas 60:
If e'er a captain's post shall be my fa', I'll maybe be mair sparin' o' my jaw.
Gsw. 1842  A. Rodger Stray Leaves 175:
May happiness ay be their fa'.
Ork. 1885  Dennison Peace's Almanac 127:
Ale tae the auld folk, milk tae the bairns, May this be our fa'.
Fif. 1896  “G. Setoun” R. Urquhart iii.:
It would be the best fa' that could fa' ye; though I would be wae for the wife's sake.

(2) Share, portion; specif. a sub-division of land. Sc. 1757  R. Maxwell Pract. Husbandman 369:
A farm is divided into what are called Croft and Field Lands, and these are subdivided into falls. The Croft Land into four falls, and the Field Land into two.
Ayr. 1766  Prestwick Burgh Rec. (1834) 97:
They imployed John Foulds . . . and Mathew Pen . . . to measure and divide the same into thirty six loatts or falls.
Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore 15:
Frae mang the stock, his honour gat his fa', An' got but little cunzie, or nane awa.
Sc. 1794  J. Ritson Sc. Poems II. 65:
There without strife Got settled for life, An hundred a year to his fa', man.
Slk. 1807  Hogg Mountain Bard 18:
O whar are ye gaeing, ye beggarly lown? Ye's nauther get lodging nor fall frae me.

(3) A duty falling to one by rotation, turn. Sc. 1721  R. Wodrow Corresp. (1843) II. 557:
It is my fall to go to the next assembly.

2. The distance over which a measuring-rod falls.

(1) In lineal measure: 6 ells or 6.22 imperial yards. Now used as equivalent to the pole, i.e. 5½ yards (Ags.17, Arg.3, Ayr.9 1951). Rnf. 1713  W. Grossart Shotts (1880) 240:
The smith has four pounds for every fall of the chain . . . and four pounds for mending the grips yearly.
Ayr. 1790  A. Tait Poems 233:
Get but your hips owre your breeks' spare, 'Till gar you spout ten fa' and mair.
Abd. 1811  G. Keith Agric. Abd. 551:
6 ells Scotch (equal to 18 feet) make a lineal fall.
Arg. 1937 1 :
Faa. Old measure for drains = 6 ells. The drains were let out by contract at so much “the faa”. The official pole, 5½ yards, is now the standard measure, but is, I believe, still called the “faa”.

(2) In square measure: the part of a Sc. acre or 36 square ells = 38.15 square yards: in formal usage always in the form fall (Sc. 1808 Jam.). The collective pl. fa is frequent. Ayr. 1756  Burns MS. (Alloway Mus.):
All and whole these seven Acres and eighteen Falls of the said Alexander Campbell's Property in the Barony of Alloway.
Fif. 1776  Weekly Mag. (30 May) 319:
All his property in the burgh consisted only of twenty roods, or twenty falls of land.
Abd. 1801  Farmer's Mag. II. 214:
The quantity of ground was only 62 falls 14 ells, wanting 1 fall and 22 ells of four square chains or two fifths of an acre.
Ags. 1894  J. F. Mills Jamie Donaldson 3:
Jamie's garden comprises “sax fa' o' grund.”
Ayr. 1938  Scotsman (28 July) 1:
Also a bit of ground adjoining [Mauchline] Church of 24 falls or thereby. †(3) A certain quantity of kale, phs. originally the produce of a square fall.
Rnf. 1700–10  W. Hector Judicial Rec. (1876) 339:
Kaill, per fall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10s. 6d. Sc.
Ayr. 1707  Arch. and Hist. Coll. Ayr. & Wgt. IV. 232:
Four pence two pennies scots, resting of a fall of Colewort.

3. A dip or hollow in the ground; a small ravine (Abd.27 1950). Abd. 1844  W. Thom Rhymes 50:
A' drippin' frae the hunter's flash, Safe shelter'd in yon shady fa'.

4. “A waterfall in a tide-race between two points of land” (Ork. 1929 Marw.; Ork.2 1950).

5. A shrinking, a diminution in size. Cf. v., 7. Edb. 1773  R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 43:
His buik has dree'd a sair, sair fa' Frae meals o' bread an' ingans.

6. Combs.: (1) faa-buird, fall-board, †(a) a window shutter hinged at the foot; (b) the lee side of a boat (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., faa-buird; 1908 Jak. (1928)): Cf. (4); †(2) faw-cap, “a stuffed cap for a child's head, to guard against the bad effects of a fall” (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.); †(3) fa-share, a share or portion; (4) faa-side, the lee side of a boat, “when she is being rowed nearly head to wind” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.); (5) fa-tae, a lean-to building, a penthouse, a to-fa (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Mry., Bnff., Ags., Fif., wm.Sc., Kcb., Dmf., Rxb. 1950). (1) (a) Dmf. 1820  Blackwood's Mag. (June) 281:
The old woman . . . pulling a pair of “fall-boards” belonging to a window, instantly opened [it].
(3) Edb. 1894  P. H. Hunter J. Inwick xix.:
I was thinkin I wad tak Tam's Croft an' Whunny for my fa'-share.

[O.Sc. has fall, v., to befall (1375), to become (1420), to be appropriate to (1438), to obtain (1470), n., a land measure (1388). For n., 4, cf. O.N. fall, a tide. The Sc. verbal usages are in many cases due to the impers. Eng. construction becoming personalised, e.g. me falls becoming I fall. Many of these are also found in Eng. dial.]

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"Fa v., n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Dec 2017 <>



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