Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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THEAT, n., v. Also theet, theit, thete; thait, thet(t). [θit; em.Sc.(a) θet]

I. n. 1. Gen. in pl.: the ropes or chains attached to a horse's harness by which a plough, harrow, carriage, etc., is pulled, the traces (Sc. 1808 Jam., 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 66; Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson; n.Sc., em.Sc.(a), Lnk. 1972). Comb., deriv. and phr.; strett theats, at full stretch, without relaxing (see Strait, I. 3.); theater, a trace-horse in a cart or plough (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 273; em.Sc.(a), Lnk. 1972); theat-horse, id. (Id.); trace-theats, trace-ropes or chains (Fif. 1972). Per. 1727  Caled. Mercury (3 July):
A Dark Brown Horse, . . . his Legs were gall'd with the Theats.
Abd. 1754  R. Forbes Journal 26:
Sometimes the theets brak.
Rs. 1779  W. MacGill Old Ross-shire (1909) 170:
Thetts for horses, 9 harrows with 9 thetts.
Bnff. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 IV. 395:
The straw brechem is now supplanted by the leathern collar, the rashen theets by the iron traces.
Ags. 1818  Scots Mag. (Aug.) 126:
The theats or traces are pieces of rope, fastened by a knot at the end into a couple of boards clasped round the horse's neck.
Fif. 1831  Fife Herald (10 Feb.):
The old carle, in overtaking his vehicle, called on an ancient comrade in the village for a thet.
wm.Sc. 1835  Laird of Logan 163:
Crack gaed the thaits, and the swingletrees flew ower the craft in splinters.
Per. 1898  C. Spence Poems 92:
Away the wheelless carriage flew As if the thetes the furies drew.
Abd. 1957  G. S. Morris Bothy Ballads II. 31:
It's up an' doon the lang rigs, he niver slacks a theet.
Ags. 1967 ,
Dundee Courier (9 Nov.):
Names like brecham, hames, theats, swingle-tree and soam tend to be forgotten.

2. Assistance by means of a trace-horse, a tow, a pull (Ags., Per. 1972). Per. 1950 4 :
A'll need a theat up the brae wi this load.

3. Fig.: restraint, control, the normal bounds imposed on conduct, “the traces”; the discipline acquired by habit and practice, order, esp. in phrs. in or out o the theat(s), to be, kick, loup, etc. ower the theats (ne.Sc., Ags. 1972). To draw wi lang theats, to manage (a situation) indirectly, wire-pull (Abd. 1962), to slack(en) or lat slack the theats, to relax pressure, to take things more easily, to slow up. Out o theat is sometimes used to mean ‘in addition to what is expected or required', extra, supererogatory (Mry., Abd. 1972). Sc. 1710  T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis:
Ye are out of theet, i.e., ye are extravagant or in the wrong.
Sc. 1730  T. Boston Memoirs (1852) 48:
A new upstart, one that broke the thetes.
Sc. 1825  Jam.:
Out of thete, is a phrase applied to one who is rusted, as to any art or science, from want of practice. One is said to be quite out of thetes, when one's conduct or language is quite disorderly.
Abd. 1871  W. Alexander Johnny Gibb ii., xviii., xliv.:
Keep baith laird an' tenan' straucht i' the theets. . . . 1 wud be owre the theets ere we got weel streiket. . . . Fan ance fowk's at oor time o' life they sud be willin' to lat the theets slack a bit.
Ayr. 1897  H. Ochiltree Out of her Shroud x.:
Some o' them loup the theats a'thegither.
Abd. 1916  G. Abel Wylins 124:
Tho' I've kicked owre the theat.
Abd. 1928  J. Baxter A' Ae 'Oo' 14:
A' the wark wis oot o' theit.
Bnff. 1939  J. M. Caie Hills and Sea 8:
[He] poor't oot sic lang-nebbit wirds, onslackenin' his theets.
Bnff. 1970  :
A dram's richt aneuch in its place, bit Mains gyangs oot o' theet wi't.

4. Fig. Attraction towards, inclination for, attachment to, sc. the notion of being held by or drawn to a thing, in phr. to hae (nae) theat o. Per. 1880 ,
“I hae nae thete o' that,” I don't like that, I have not a good opinion of it.
Ags. 1886  A. Willock Rosetty Ends 110:
No haein' muckle theat o' siller that was won in a way she didna ken o'.
Ags. 1896  Barrie Sentimental Tommy x.:
You wouldna believe that I could ever have had any thait o' being made queen.

II. v. 1. To harness (a horse) in traces. Abd. 1958  Huntly Express (15 Aug.):
He led them an' he backit them, he reeled them roon an' roon, He'd them theated, ay, an' cairted.

2. To draw, convey in a vehicle, tow, pull (Per. 1928). Fif. 1902  D. S. Meldrum Conquest of Charlotte iii. iii.:
I was theating home Nochty's neeps wi' Nochty's horse.

[O.Sc. thett, traces, c.1460. Orig. obscure. N.E.D. suggests a connection with O.N. þéttr, tight, taking the strain, but there are phonological as well as semantic difficulties.]

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



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