Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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GLEY, v., n., adj., adv. Also glee, glei, gly; †glie (Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums ii.), †glye. [I., n. and em.Sc. (a) gləi; ‡wm. and em.Sc. (b), Gall. gli:]

I. v. Obs. in liter. Eng. since 16th c., but still found in n.Eng. dial.

1. To squint; to cast a sidelong glance, to look askance (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 249; Sh.10 (gly), Cai., Abd., Ags., Per., Fif., m.Lth., Hdg., Lnk., Kcb., Dmf., Slk. 1954). Per. c.1800  Lady Nairne Jamie the Laird ii.:
His legs they are bow'd, his e'en they do glee.
Sc. 1819  Scott Bride of Lamm. xxvi.:
Fremd servants, like the chield Lockhard, to be gledging and gleeing about.
Edb. 1828  D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) xii.:
But I could scarcely keep from laughing when I glee'd round over my shoulder, and saw a glazed leather queue hanging for half an ell down the braid of my back.
Fif. 1853  J. Pringle Poems 49:
I noo gley'd up to Clatchart Crag, to see Gif a' were trim an' trig as things should be.
Ork. 1880  Dennison Sketch-Bk. 30:
Vile smoosan, ferry-l'upan' whelps, that gong gleyan' aboot a honest man's hoose.
Sh. 1897  Shet. News (16 Oct.):
Is yon da wye at doo's staandin' laek a güse glyin' at da thinder?
Bnff. 1937  E. S. Rae Light in the Window 23:
Haudin war work parties in her hoose and at the same time gleyin doon her nose on the somebuddies that are fechtin'.
Bch. 1946  J. C. Milne Orra Loon 22:
Gleyin' at the wifie Writin' wi' the chack.

2. To avert the eyes, to look away bashfully or tactfully; “very often used of those persons who have not the courage to look one full in the face, but peer out at the corner of one eye with the other shut or half-shut” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 66). Sc. 1721  J. Kelly Proverbs 339:
There's a time to Glye, and a time to look even. There is a time when a Man must overlook things, which at another time he would take notice of.
Sc. 1874  W. Allan Hamespun Lilts 373:
What's the use o' glee in' aye, gin she is sic a charmer?

3. To look with one eye, to take aim (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 233; Abd., Ags. 1954). Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 66:
Ye widna need t' miss; for ye've gleyt lang an' sair.
Per. 1879  P. R. Drummond Bygone Days 97:
A hole in the fence, through which he pushed his murderous weapon, squinting, “gleeing,” and arranging his position.

4. Fig.: †(1) To swerve aside, go astray; to miscarry; (2) with aboot: to squander, to be wasteful (Ags.19 1954). (1) Ayr. 1838  J. Morrison M'Ilwham Papers, Letter ii. 16:
I maun confess it wi' sorrow, ye are gleed a wee frae the principles o' yer forebears.
Hdg. 1908  J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 141:
. . . an' my faigs it was he Wha'd hae taen Montague, gin his scheme hadna gley'd!

II. n. 1. A squint, a east in the eye (ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1954); a sidelong or sly look (Sc. 1808 Jam.), a glance (Sh., Cai., Abd., Ags., Per., Edb. 1954). Also in n.Eng. dial. Edb. 1828  D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) xiv.:
Keep us all! what gleys he gied about him to observe that the folk were looking at him.
Abd. 1882  W. Forsyth Writings 9:
Their een hae a' ae common gley . . . An ugly squint breek-pouch-wise aye, That's oot o' place in honest men.
Ags. 1894  J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) i.:
Princie [a horse], as be ca'd him, ga'e a gley roond wi' the white o' his e'e that garred Sandy keep a gude yaird clear o' him.
Fif. 1895  “G. Setoun” Sunshine & Haar viii.:
The whole kirk ta'en a gley at the old man sittin' wi his e'en glistenin'.
Mearns 1933  Scots Mag. (Feb.) 337:
She shook her head and Rob's gley grew dim. When the doctor came in he found Rob dead.
Bch. 1940  Songs N.-E. (ed. A. Keith) 30:
Geordie Burnet wi' the gley, He lay upon Coburty's ley.

2. Squintness, irregularity (Abd., Ags. 1954); fig. error. Abd. 1921  R. L. Cassie Doric Ditties 19:
O' weel-taul' tales an' history She hid a gey bit bing, An' cud red up, wi' little gley, The sib folk o' a king.
Abd. 1951  Buchan Observer (20 Feb.):
If feering poles were used, time was spent in getting them into a perfectly straight line, and by reason of the length of the stakes a little irregularity at the base, or ground level, amounted to quite a “bit o' gley,” or a “thraw,” when viewed along the top.

3. Aim (Abd., Ags. 1954). Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 65:
Tack gueede gley afore ye fire, an' be sure an' nae miss.

Phr.: to be aff the gley, “to be . . . wide of the mark, to be wrong” (E.D.D. s.v. glee; ‡ne.Sc., m.Lth. 1954). Abd. 1900  E.D.D.:
Ye're a wee bittie aff the gley.

III. adj. Squint-eyed (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 249; Ags., Hdg., Peb., Lnk. Rxb. 1954); off the straight, squint, awry; fig. mistaken, in error (Per. Wilson). Combs.: gley-e'ed, squint-eyed (Bnff., Abd., Ags., Per., Clc., m.Lth., Peb., Ayr., Slk. 1954); ¶gley-mou'd, squint-mouthed. Fif. 1827  W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 165:
Quo' the bauld laird o' Innergellie To gley-mou'd Sipsie.
Ayr. 1887  J. Service Dr Duguid 253:
He was sheevil-shot, humphy-backit, reel-fitted, and gleeyed.
Arg. 1907  N. Munro Daft Days (1915) ii.:
It's a pity you cannot marry the glee party, as Mr Dyce calls him, and be done with it.
w.Sc. 1929  R. Crawford In Quiet Fields 31:
He wis ta'en wi' the stranger, nearly gleye'ed he grew, Till the clatty thing hatt the wee man on the mou'.

IV. adv. Off the straight, squint, awry, esp. fig. in phr. to gae (gang) glee (Ags., Clc., Peb., Rxb., Slk. 1954). Cf. Agley. Rnf. 1835  D. Webster Rhymes 202:
Baxter lads ding him ajee With barm swats and barley bree, Until the sense and wit gaes glee.
Lnk. 1893  J. Crawford Sc. Verses 14:
Her wee, fat, bittly legs gang glee, An' o'er she wuntles.

[O.Sc. has gley, to squint, c.1590, glee, id., 1618; Mid.Eng. glēȝen, to squint. Ulterior origin obscure.]

Gley v., n., adj., adv.

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"Gley v., n., adj., adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Feb 2019 <>



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