Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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STRATHSPEY, n. Also †Straspae. [strɑθ′spe:; ne.Sc. + -′spəi]

1. A dance, essentially for accompaniment by the fiddle, and orig. for two, now for four dancers in a set, with a series of steps resembling those of the Highland fling and the reel, at a slower tempo (Sc. 1825 Jam.); a tune for this dance. Gen.Sc., not clearly authenticated before the mid 18th c. Sc. 1776  E. Topham Letters from Edb. 265:
Another of the national Dances is a kind of quick minuet, or what the Scotch call a Straspae.
Ayr. 1792  Burns The Deil's Awa iii.:
There's hornpipes and strathspeys, man, But the ae best dance ere cam to the land was the deil's awa wi' th' Exciseman.
Ayr. 1790  Burns Tam o' Shanter 117:
Hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels.
Sc. 1824  Scott Redgauntlet Letter xii.:
Jigs, and reels, and “twasome dances,” with a strathspey or hornpipe for interlude.
Ags. 1897  A. Reid Bards Ags. 529:
Jigs, strathspeys and polkas.
Sc. 1927  C. A. Malcolm Piper in Peace & War 14:
Before a piper can become a pipe-major, he must satisfy the authorities of his ability as a composer, and a player of pibrochs, marches, and strathspeys.
Sc. 1947  H. Farmer Hist. Music Scot. 233:
The Strathspey. Although not mentioned under this name at this period, it would seem that the instrumental pieces that go by the name of port (puirt) in the Skene and Straloch MSS., which have the precise characteristics of this dance, may be recognised as its progenitor.
Sc. 1964  J. & T. Flett Trad. Dancing 87:
Strathspeys and schottisches are both slow tunes in 4/4 time. They have a crotchet rhythm. . . . In a strathspey, the four beats in each bar are almost evenly accented (there is, of course, a slightly stronger accent on the first beat of each bar), and many of the beats are made up of a semi-quaver and a dotted quaver.

Combs.: (1) strathspey minuet, appar. a slow variant of the above; (2) strathspey reel, a strathspey. Both obs. exc. hist. (1) Sc. 1756  M. Calderwood Journey (M.C.) 195:
Lady Hellen and Lord Garless danced a strathspey minuet.
Sc. 1781  W. Fraser Chiefs of Grant (1883) II. 473:
The Dutchess was in such spirits that she began every night with a Strathspey minuet.
Sc. 1964  J. & T. Flett Trad. Dancing 90:
There were “slow strathspeys”, but within living memory such tunes have been solo pieces for the expert fiddler, and the only dance ever known to have been performed to them was the Strathspey Minuet, a Scottish form of the Minuet which was completely dead by 1850.
(2) Sc. 1747  Lyon in Mourning (S.H.S.) I. 109:
We cannot have a bag-pipe just now, but I shall sing you a Strathspey reel.
Sc. 1749  H. A. Thurston Scotland's Dances (1954) 93:
The Montgomeries' rant — a strathspey reele. Conteraller's rant — a strathspey reele.
Sc. c.1750  Abd. Univ. Review (Autumn 1956) 351:
Bremner includes about a dozen tunes of this class in his Collection of Scots Reels . . . Edinburgh, 1757–60, all labelled “Strathspey,” but adds a footnote to the first of them “The Strathspey Reels are play'd much slower than the others.”

[From Strathspey in Moray, where the dance may have originated. O.Sc. stravetspy [sic], c.1620.]

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"Strathspey n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Sep 2018 <>



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