Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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LEE, v., n.1 Also lei (s.Sc.). Sc. forms of Eng. lie, (to tell) a falsehood. [Sc. li:, s.Sc. + ləi]

I. v. 1. As in Eng. Pa.t., pa.p. leed, †leid, leet. Vbl.n. leein, ppl.adj. leein, leean, comb. leeing-like; agent n. leear, leer, lie(a)r, liar, dim. leearie (confused in rhyme with Leerie). Sc. 1747  Lyon in Mourning (S.H.S.) I. 189:
He had seen him frequently at Deel speed the leers with the Prince.
Sc. 1765  Child Maurice in
Child Ballads (1956) II. 273:
Ye leid, ye leid, ye filthy nurse, Sae loud's I heire ye lee.
Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 85:
The heart, they'll say, will never lee, that's leal.
Peb. 1793  R. Brown Carlop Green (1817) 118:
Leean' Dobie, Dickie's son, Wi' shoothers up and doon.
Sc. 1815  Scott Guy M. xi.:
Aweel, gudewife, then the less I lee.
Slk. 1827  Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) vi.:
Gude forgie me for a great leear, if I hae dreamed about ony body else.
Edb. 1839  D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xxiv.:
And so queer and leeing-like, that I, for one, would not believe them without solemn affidavy.
ne.Sc. 1881  W. Gregor Folk-Lore 23:
One convicted of lying was received among his fellows with the words of welcome: — “Leearie, leearie, licht the lamps, Lang legs and crookit shanks; Hang the leearie o'er a tree, That 'ill gar the leearie never lee.”
Fif. 1895  G. Setoun Sunshine & Haar 240:
He could lee like a dog lickin' a plate.
Kcb. 1899  Crockett Kit Kennedy xi.:
To call your enemy a “lee-er,” the ordinary pronunciation of commerce, is less than nothing. But the assertion that he is a “liar” must be backed with your knuckles on his nose.
Ork. 1907  Old-Lore Misc. I. ii. 62:
The men waarna jeust ower seur o' Velzian as he waas said tae be a filty leean taed.
Ags. 1915  V. Jacob Songs Ags. 51:
But saw ye naething, leein' Wind, afore ye cam' to Fife?
Fif. 1945 1 in proverb:
Lundie mill and Largo, the Kirkton and the Keirs, Pittenweem and Anster are aa big Leears.
Sh. 1960  :
If he düsno come til a wrang end, I'se lee da less.

2. With on: to tell a falsehood about, to slander (Sh., ne.Sc., Lth., wm.Sc., Gall. 1960). Now obs. in Eng. Wgt. 1708  Kirkinner Session Rec. MSS. (12 Feb.):
Hugh Milroy was judged exculpat by the Presbyterie by Janet Gordon her judicial acknowledging she lied on him.
Ayr. 1826  Galt Last of Lairds xviii.:
She was leed on if she wasna thranger wi' a Captain Gorget that was recruiting in the toun.
Bwk. 1863  A. Steel Poems 203:
Auld Scotia you're leed on; and loud the alarms — We're a' by the lugs, and will soon be in arms.
Fif. 1864  W. D. Latto T. Bodkin ii.:
She was sair leed on if she couldna tak' a dram.
Bnff. 1882  W. M. Philip K. MacIntosh's Scholars ii.:
You mind how they leed on the laddie afore, blamin' him for brackin' the leg o' Buchtie's sholt.
Mry. 1925 1 :
Fowk leeve lang efter they're leed on.

3. In a reduced sense, not implying the intention to deceive: to say something in error, to state by mistake (Sh., Cai., Abd., Ags., Per., Lth., Ayr., Gall., Uls. 1960). Sc. 1858  Sc. Haggis 41:
“No,” was the reply; but recollecting himsel he instantly added, “Faith, I'm leein'.”
Cai. 1902  E.D.D.:
A peasant in narration often prefaces a correction of his tale by saying “Na, I'm leean noo.”

II. n. 1. A falsehood, a lie (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Edb. 1798  D. Crawford Poems 55:
I'm no' come here to tell a lee.
Sc. 1817  Scott Rob Roy xviii.:
That's as muckle as to say, speer nae questions, and I'll tell ye nae lees.
Slk. 1823  Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) i.:
Weel I ken you're telling me nae lee.
wm.Sc. 1835  Laird of Logan 36:
Lee about is fair play — it's your turn to speak first now.
Sc. 1886  Stevenson Kidnapped xxix.:
It's a lee, it's a black lee … He leed in his throat that tauld ye that.
Ags. 1918  J. Inglis The Laird 19:
Ma faither says yon's a lee, ony wey.

Derivs. and Combs.: (1) lee-buik, a work of fiction, a novel; (2) leefu, false, lying, mendacious, fictional. Also leefu-like, liefu-, id.; (3) lee-like, id. (Rxb. 1954 Hawick News (18 June) 7, lei-like; sm. and s.Sc. 1960). Also lee-lookin, id.; (4) leesome, -sum, lei-, lie-, speaking in a lying or hyperbolical manner (‡Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); untrue, incredible (sm. and s.Sc. 1960); outrageous, shocking (Kcb. 1960). Also leesome-like, like a fiction, unplausible, incredible (Watson; Ayr., sm.Sc. 1960). (1) Kcb. 1911  Crockett Rose of Wilderness xxiii.:
The folk that drooned ither folk in this Murder Hole were named Faa — for the maist pairt, that is, or sae I hae heard. A man wrote a lee-buik aboot it.
(2) Dmf. 1836  A. Cunningham Lord Roldan I. ix.:
Scenes out of that liefu'like book, the Gentle Shepherd.
Rxb. 1847  J. Halliday Rustic Bard 165:
Awa, then, wi' yer leefu' says.
(3) Sc. 1830  Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) III. 70:
Mony a lee-lookin tale's true, howsomever, and that amang the number.
Sc. 1831  Ib. 304:
Throwin up on the stage! It's a lee-like story.
Slk. 1892  W. M. Adamson Betty Blether 29:
It's gey lee like, but it's nane the less true.
Ayr. 1895  H. Ochiltree Redburn viii.:
That's a terrible lee-like story; but I canna misdoot it when ye've telt me yerself.
(4) Rxb. 1825  Jam.:
If it's nae lee, it's een unco leesum like.
Dmf. 1836  A. Cunningham Lord Roldan II. i.:
Making the very truth liesome-like.
Ayr. 1887  J. Service Dr. Duguid 262:
If their stories o' ghaists an' siclike werena a' lees thegither, I can only say they were unco leesome like.
m.Sc. 1898  J. Buchan John Burnet iv. iii.:
When you tae are faun i' the hinner end o' life, ye'll no think it worth your while to mak up leesome stories.
Lnk. 1910  C. Fraser Glengonnar 101:
The story's leesome-like, and I scarcely look for ye to believe it.
Edb. 1916  T. W. Paterson Wise-Sayin's xiv. 5:
To sae nocht that he kens to be lee-some.
Dmf. 1958  :
That hirsel was a tremendous good bit for feedin sheep — it was leesome-like what they ate.

2. A misstatement not deliberately made, an erroneous remark, gen. used by the speaker in correcting himself (Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Lth., Ayr., Gall., Slk., Uls. 1960). Cf. v., 3. Abd. 1920  :
Three o' them — no, I'm tellin you a lee — fower o' them.

3. See quot. (Abd.30 1960). ne.Sc. 1881  W. Gregor Folk-Lore 26:
A black speck sticking to a tooth indicated that the one, on whose tooth it was, had been telling lies. Such black specks were called “lies.”

[O.Sc. le, a.1400, Mid.Eng. leȝen, leȝe (to) lie, O.E. lēoȝan, to lie. For the phonology cf. Dee, v., Dree, Flee.]

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"Lee v., n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Dec 2018 <>



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