Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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THREAVE, n., v. Also threve (Sc. 1707 Lady G. Baillie's Household Bk. (S.H.S.) lxiv.; Wgt. 1802 G. Fraser Lowland Lore (1880) 70), threive (Ayr. 1702 Munim. Irvine (1891) 318; Ags. 1896 J. Stirton Thrums 41; Ayr. 1923 Wilson Dial. Burns 190), thrieve (Rnf. 1707 W. Hector Judicial Rec. (1876) I. 332; Gsw. 1756 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1911) 472), †thriv(e) (Dmf. 1735 Clerk of Penicuik MSS.); thrave (Sc. 1706 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 422; Slg. 1745 Burgh Rec. Slg. (B.R.S.) 363; Ayr. 1758 Ayr Presb. Reg. MS. (10 May)), thraive (ne.Sc. 1972), and erron. form thraw (Inv. 1753 A. Ross Freemasonry in Inv. (1877) 73); I.Sc. forms trave, traeve (Sh. 1900 Shetland News (22 Sept.)), treiv (Sh. a.1936 Sh. Folk Bk. (1957) 6). [θri:v; θre:v; I.Sc. tre:v. See etym. note.]

I. n. ‡1. A measure of cut grain, oats, wheat, barley, or peas, or their straw, or of reeds or heather for thatching, consisting of two stooks or shocks, gen. containing twelve sheaves each, with variations (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; I. and ne.Sc., Per., Ayr., Wgt. 1972); twenty-four sheaves however set up (Sh., Bnff. 1972). Also in Eng. dial. Sc. 1701  Acts Parl. Scot. X. 261:
Ane hundred and fifty thraves of straw worth one merk per thrave.
Gsw. 1713  Records Trades Ho. (Lumsden 1934) 6:
Thirtie thrieve of straw for thatching the Alms house & the smiddie.
e.Lth. 1763  Trans. E. Lth. Antiq. Soc. X. 44:
The laird two thrivs of wheat straw thack. John Douglas one thriv of thack and a stouk.
m.Lth. 1763  Caled. Mercury (5 Jan.) 9:
Duddingston Loch Reeds to be sold in small or large parcels, fit for thatching, fencing of gardens, at six shillings per threave.
Ayr. 1785  Burns To a Mouse iii.:
A daimen-icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request.
Rxb. 1833  A. Hall Sc. Borderer (1874) 32:
Ait strae to be sauld in Mr Cromby's barn, at fivepence a threive.
m.Sc. 1869  J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 505, 726:
When oats are reaped with the hook they are always set up in shocks of twelve sheaves each, two shocks making a threve. . . . In West Lothian, fourteen sheaves of wheat is a threave. In Fife twenty sheaves of wheat.
Ags. 1894  F. Mackenzie Cruisie Sk. xiv.:
The wives delighted to boast of “four-and-twenty threave i' the day,” which was the maximum of work for an expert shearer.
Abd. 1900  C. Murray Hamewith 26:
I coont the sheaves I've stookit, by the thrave.
Ork. 1905  Orcadian Papers (Charleson) 33:
Each pair of baets so fastened was called a “band of bent,” twelve of which formed a thraive.
Sh. 1931  Sh. Almanac 194:
He alweys took a trave o' corn inta da but end o' da hoose.
Sh. 1956  Shetland Times (16 Nov.):
Wanted — 6 to 9 thraves of Oats. Short with grass in it, suitable for feeding sheep.

2. Transf. A large number or quantity, a bunch, crowd (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1972, trave). Hence a-threave, adv., in crowds. Sc. 1728  Six Saints (Fleming 1901) I. 150:
His synodical sermon, “The Trust,” which would require some threaves of his and its accusers to deliver such a sermon.
Sc. 1728  Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 36:
In came Visitants a Threave.
Slg. 1793  G. Galloway Poems 31:
When o'er their gills they meet in thraves.
Ayr. 1822  H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 204:
He's houkit thraives o' Irish bags — He's herrit coves o' brandy cags.
Sc. 1825  Scott Betrothed xxi.:
Minstrels singing ballads by the threave.
Sh. 1886  J. Burgess Sketches 111:
We wid a hed da hael trave o' da bairns ower.
Abd. 1904  Abd. Univ. Review (Summer 1943) 108:
A thrave o' ballants — niver min' the lass!

II. v. To act as a reaper in harvest on a piece-work basis of payment for the number of threaves cut. Hence thr(e)aver, thrivver, a reaper paid per threave (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 192, thrivver; ‡Per. 1972), threaving, reaping by the threave (Per. 1812 J. Sinclair Systems Husb. Scot. I. 329; n.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Per. 1881 D. MacAra Crieff 180). Now only hist. Mry. 1822  Farmer's Mag. (Nov.) 502:
Threavers have, in a few instances, been paid this harvest with 3d. for the threave of Wheat, and 2½d. for Oats and Barley.
Abd. 1832  W. Scott Poems 67:
To bid them muck the byre, or gang an' thrave.
Per. 1862  Edb. Ev. Courant (11 July) 4:
Threaving, save in some of the most retired localities, has been almost abolished in Strathearn and Strathallan.
Fif. 1876  Trans. Highl. Soc. 38:
Some farmers let the cutting of their crops to “thravers”.
Ags. 1890  Brechin Advert. (8 July) 3:
The merry bands o threavers.
Kcd. 1900  W. Gairdner Glengoyne I. 137:
In autumn she “threaved”.
Bnff. 1963  Scots Mag. (July) 355:
Pay was by the thrave of twenty-four sheaves — hence the name “thravers” sometimes given to the harvesters.

[O.Sc. threife, = I. 1., 1515, Mid.Eng. threve, thrave, id. Of Scand. orig. The [i] forms derive from O.N. þrefi, id., the [e] forms are either em.Sc. (a) variants of this or from an ablaut variant *þrafe, Sw. trafve, Dan. trave. O.Sc. thraf, 1450, Med. Lat. trava, 1331.]

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"Threave n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Jan 2018 <>



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