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A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)

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First published 1951 (DOST Vol. II).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Drift, Dryft, n. [e.m.E. drift (c 1300), related to Drive v.]

1. A drove or herd (of cattle or sheep); a team. Also attrib. with nolt, sheep. a1500 Henr. Fab. 2258.
Gaif thow not me this drift Airlie, quhen thow wes eirand on ȝone bank
1495 Crim. Trials I. 23.
[The said John Stow stole a] drift [of sheep]
1551 Hamilton Cat. 32.
Cursit is the drift of thine oxin and the flockis of thy scheip
1557 Crim. Trials I. 398.
For reskewing … of the saidis gudis, followit the drift quhill the said xvi day of Februar
1576 Lanark B. Rec. 71.
Ane kow ane penne, ten cheip ane d., baith at fair tyme and dryftes ganging throw the tounes muir
1585 Acts III. 426/2.
The transporting of the saidis nolt and scheip … in grite nowmeris and driftis
1661 Stirling Comm. Good MS. 3.
To Humphray Shaw & another to go to St Ninians and stop a highland drift
1682 Peebles B. Rec. II. 102.
With the reservation of drifts betuixt the waters betuixt Peebles Water cald and the tree bridges
With the reservation of the drift nolt and drift sheep
1700 Argyll Justic. Rec. I. 199.
Ane large black mear ... with other three peices of horses making up drift of the whole

2. A driving force, impetus. a1500 Henr. Fab. 2515.
This wedder … followit ay sa ferslie on his fa, With sic an drift, quhill dust and dirt ouerdraif him
1533 Boece xi. xiv. 433.
The eistyn wynd, with ane terrible drift blewe the sand … in the face of Constantinis armye
1535 Stewart 10785.
The snaw so snell ay dryvand with sic drift
1540 Lynd. Sat. 4360 (B).
Scho puft and ȝiskit with sic riftis, That verry dirt come furth with driftis

b. Driving snow. 1569 Sat. P. x. 320.
In snaw, sleit, drift, wind, froist, hailstanis, & rane
16.. Hist. Kennedy 45.
Ane day of snaw, as the same wes werrie thik of drift
1684 Brodie Diary 483.
I … was weatherbeaten by such great drift and snow, with wind, that I could not winn throu

3. Putting off, delay, procrastination. a 1558 Q. Mary in Keith Hist. App. 102.
Hir Hienes gaif sufficient significatioun that scho intendit na drift of tyme
1563 Knox II. 380.
The bischope … , after much ado, and long dryft of tyme, cam in the Quenis will
1569-73 Bann. Memor. 39.
The judgment of the wryter is, that thair is no treuth meanit, but onlie drift of tyme till that the quenis factione may assemble new forces
c1590 Fowler I. 99/58.
Fabius … who by great craft ferse Anniball and drift of tyme ourcame
a1605 Montg. Ch. & Slae 656.
He … seiks ay Delayis of tymes be driftis
c1610 Melville Mem. 41.
Leontius casting in many doutis and occasions of drift

4. A scheme or plan. 1570 Sat. P. xxii. 35.
A wylie wicht … Quhais deuillische dryftis puttis all in poynt to spill
c1590 Fowler II. 82/4.
He had commed very weill to his drifts and obtened the end off his desyrs gif [etc.]
1597 Bk. Univ. Kirk III. 915.
I pray, Satan's drift be not to break our agreement
1637 Antiq. Aberd. & B. IV. 127.
It is verie evident that there onlie drift and purpose is … to have stirred the said Lord Fraser to [etc.]

5. A horizontal passage in a mine. 1608 Hilderstoun Silver Mines I. 56 b.
Hardin claith to mak coveris over the men in the drift to keip the watter from thaime
Ib. 104 b.
Sax great cuddeis that caryis the mettell betuix driftis

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"Drift n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Mar 2023 <>



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