Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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W, letter of alphabet. The twenty-third letter of the alphabet, called as in Eng. double u (Sc. †[′dubl′u] (Ayr. c.1770 D. Landsborough Contrib. Local Hist. (1879) 16; Bnff. 1836 Ellis E.E.P. V. 777; Abd., Per. 1910)), also †[′ulu] (Bnff. 1836 Ellis E.E.P. V. 777), representing the voiced bilabial fricative sound [w], and functioning as a semi-vowel of [u] quality.

1. w disappears in pronunciation, though freq. remaining in spelling as an etymological survival: (1) as in Eng., in unstressed position in answer, Hizzie, 'll (= will), 'd, -(o)ud (= Wad), would. Cf. owld (Sc. 1786 Corresp. Boswell and Johnson (Walker 1966) 319), Athin, Athoot, Backart, Forrit, Atweel, Sae, adv., Co', v., Corter, Barra, Sorra, harra (Harrow, n.1), marra (Marrow, n.1), etc.; (2) initially before o, u, as in Oo, n.1, Oof, Ouk, oman, umman (Woman), Oobit.

2. w has been retained in Swurd in I., m. and s.Sc.

3. w develops: (1) in s.Sc. from the sound [uə] representing O.E., Mid.Eng. in Wuppen, wurpie (Orpie), Wortchat, Wort, Wutter. See P.L.D. § 105. After h the sound became [ʍ], see 7. below. Cf. also the spelling jwost (= just) in Hogg Winter Ev. Tales I. 282, and Wacht, num. adj. This change is now practically obs.; (2) in ne.Sc. after a back consonant c, k, or g before orig. , ō as in cweel (Cule, Queel), gweed (Guid), gweel (Guil), skweel (Schule); Cwintry, cwile (Quile), Cwite; (3) occas. before initial [u] as a glide, as in Wir, our, woonderstand (Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 3). Cf. Woozlie, Oozlie.

4. w alters in various ways in comb. with other consonants: (1) in wl, where w has now disappeared in Sc. although Murray D.S.C.S. 131 records its survival in s.Sc. in (w)lisp about 1850; (2) in wr where w was pronounced in many areas until the late 19th c. (see Ellis E.E.P. V. 714, 726 for Rxb., Bwk.), and is still heard as [w] in Sh. and Ork. (see P.L.D. § 165) and as [v] in ne.Sc. (see V, letter, 3. (1) and P.L.D. § 76.5). Jam.2 records [v] also for e.Lth. in 1825. In many cases a separate syllable [wə] was developed, as in uryt (Sc. 1701 Rec. Sc. Cloth Manuf. (S.H.S.) 244), woronged (Sc. 1712 W. Fraser Red Bk. Grandtully (1868) II. 303), waratch (Wratch) (Slk. 1824 Hogg Tales (1837) V. 175), warang (Peb. 1838 W. Welsh Poems 59), weraeter, werunkled (Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 9, 46), wirann (Wran) (Ork. 1891 Buckley & Harvie-Brown Fauna Ork. 105), oorat (Wrat) (Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 126), wyrack (Wrack) (Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 61). Cf. also Titty Wren. This pronunciation became obs. in Eng. in the 17th c.; (3) in sw-, w(i) is vocalised to [u] (cf. (5) below) in Souch, Sool, Soom, v.1, Soop, Soople, soord (Swurd), sool (Swill, n.1), sungle (Swingle); (4) in skw-, squ-, in I.Sc. w is retained with loss of the guttural, as Swarr, n.3, Sweeg, v.2, Swink, v.3, Swint, v.2, Swite, Swittle; (5) in twe-, twi-, w is freq. vocalised in s.Sc., hence toonty (Twenty), tone (Twin), tolt (Twilt), poss. also Toorl.

5. w appears for v: (1) initially in mn.Sc., esp. on Moray Firth coast (Mry. 1791 The Bee (15 June) 216), and in nn.Sc. in, e.g. weggybon (Vagabond), Wallipend, Weeshin weshel (Vessel), weesit, visit, wein, vein (Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 212, 361), weeve (Vieve), Wile, adj. Cf. also wellow, value (Sc. 1700 Seafield Corresp. (S.H.S.) 315), wolintarily (Sth. 1716 W. Fraser Sutherland Bk. (1892) II. 215), waice, voice (Cai. 1874 in Ellis E.E.P. V. 696, obsol.), werry, weesible (Mry. 1927 E. Levack Lossiemouth 9, 11), welwet, wermin (Mry. 1973). See P.L.D. § 137.1; (2) medially occas. as in Nerwish, Ower, rewel (Raivel). For w > v, see V, letter, 3.

6. w also alternates with u as a spelling in vowel-digraphs or is added as a sign of length or diphthongisation after back vowels, freq. indicating the vocalisation of -l, hence bowat (Bouet), How, n.1, Mows; Braw; cawm (Cam, n.1), cawnle (Cannle), dow (Doo), nawbal (Nabal), Pawkie, adj., caw (Ca', v.1), faw (Fa), fow (Fou), waw (Wa, n.), Cow, v.1, Cowt, n.1, Dowie, adj., Gowd, Row, v.1 See O, letter, 2. (2), 3. (5).

7. w also occurs in the consonant digraph wh ( < O.E. hw, O.N. hv), in which the breath element, indicated by h, has been retained in Sc. and Scottish English, representing the breathed lips-back fricative [ʍ, also hʍ] in contrast to St.Eng. [w]. In O.Sc. the sound wh- is written quh-, a spelling surviving into the early 18th c. (see Q, letter). (1) wh- is regular in Sc. initially except: (i) in nn. and mn.Sc. where it has become f- in all words except wheel which is never recorded with f, poss. as the change seems to have taken place in the 15th c. before wheeled carts were used in n.Scot. Except in the pronominal words, the f- is now obsol., as in Faal, Faup, Fite, Fusker, Fuskie, Fussle, v.1, Fumper, Fup; in sn.Sc. only the pronominal words are so altered. See P.L.D. §§ 122, 134, Dieth §§ 124–6 and Fa, pron., Fan, adv., Far, adv.2, Fat, pron.; (ii) in Crm. and Lth. (Newhaven and Cockenzie), where w [w] is freq. substituted. See P.L.D. § 76.4, 151.1. and Wilson Cent. Scot. 19; in Montrose wharf is pronounced [wɑrf], and this feature may have been more widespread formerly in E. Coast fishing areas. [wɪt-] is a common variant for [ʍɪt] in Whitsunday throughout Scot.; (2) wh develops (i) from h- before o in s.Sc. (and occas. in Ork.) as an extension of the process in 3. (1) in Whoast, whope (Hope, n.1). Whorn, Whull, Whilter, n.1 See P.L.D. § 105.1.(2) and H, letter, 2.(2). It is merely graphic in Whoo, adv.; (ii) from qu- in Sh. (esp. e.Sh.) and occas. elsewhere as in queen, queer, question, quick [(h)ʍin, ʍir, ʍɛstjən, ʍɪk]. Cf. rewhirement, wharter (Sh. 1918 T. Manson Peat Comm. 202), Whack, v.2; (iii) from thw-, see T, letter, 9. (2) (v); (iv) from w as local, esp. m.Sc., variants in whan, Wand, wheesel, Weasel, whap, Wap, v.1, n.1, whummle, Wummle; also from tw- locally. See Whine and cf. (ii) above and Q, letter, 3. For the phonetic development of [xʍ] after back vowels in s.Sc. see P.L.D. § 111. Etymologically w originates in O.E. w, O.N. v, Du., L.Ger. w, and from ȝ after back vowels as in Eng.

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"W ". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Nov 2017 <>



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