Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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LIKELY, adj., adv., n., v. Also leikely; likly (Abd. 1893 G. Macdonald Heather and Snow (1917) xxviii., 1929 Abd. Univ. Review (March) 130), lickly; l(a)ekly. As adv. also in form likelies, -ys (Fif. 1895 G. Setoun Sunshine and Haar viii.). Sc. forms and usages. [′ləiklɪ; Abd. + ′lɪkle, I.Sc., Cai. ′lɛk-]

I. adj. Good-looking, handsome, comely (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Fif. c.1850 R. Peattie MS.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Uls. 1953 Traynor, also likely-looking; Sh., Ayr., Gall., Uls. 1960); capable or competent in manner (Per., Fif., m.Lth., Ayr., sm. and s.Sc. 1960). Obsol. in Eng. Hence laekliness, good looks. Ags. 1814  J. Ross Poems 99:
She's weel-bred an' likely-like.
Sc. 1819  Scott Bride of Lamm. xxiv.:
A likely lass she was then, and looked ower her southland nose at us a'.
Sh. 1898  Shetland News (5 Feb.):
For laekliness, diel bit der better is ony lassies.
Rxb. 1927  E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 14:
Thon young doctor's a rale leikely-leike fallih.

II. adv. Also likely-like. 1. Probably, in all likelihood (Sc. 1881 A. Mackie Scotticisms 12). Gen.Sc. In Eng. only with most, very. Abd. p.1768  A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 195:
They'll likelylike lie dark, for aftimes we Things latten alane to dwindle to naething see.
Ayr. 1833  J. Kennedy G. Chalmers 198:
I'll likely hurt your tender feeling by a time.
Abd. 1871  W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxxviii.:
Lickly Maister Gibb 'll be lea'in' 't an' biggin' a bit cottage till himsel' aboot the Broch.
Cai. 1902  J. Horne Canny Countryside 65:
“Oh, fat else! A funeral lekly” with artful carelessness.
Gsw. 1935  McArthur & Long No Mean City 314:
“Likely he winny care,” retorted the boy.

2. In a likely or probable manner, plausibly. Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 87:
She never minds her, but tells on her tale Right bauld an' bardoch, likely like an' hail.

III. n. Likelihood, probability, chance (Sh., Abd., Fif., Ayr., Kcb. 1960). In phrs. to loss or tine one's lickly, to lose one's chance (Kcd. 1960), to spile a guid likely, to belie appearances (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 120); also to upset the probability or prospect of a good bargain, sale, advantage or the like (Abd. 1954). Abd. 1790  A. Shirrefs Poems 86:
In a' likely, I my jo maun tyn.

IV. v. With til. To associate (a thing) with (a person), to impute or ascribe to, to think (a thing) likely to be done by, lay to one's charge. Cf. Liken. Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 105:
A wid 'a' nivver tean't inta ma hehd to ha'e lickliet it till 'im.

[O.Sc. likle, = 1., c.1470, as a n., 1680.]

Likely adj., adv., n., v.

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"Likely adj., adv., n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 17 Jan 2019 <>



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