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

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First published 1983 (DOST Vol. V).
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Pith, Pyth(e, n. Also: pithe, pitht, picht; pyth(t, pycht; pigh, pygh. [ME. and e.m.E. piþþe, pythe, pith(e, also peth (c 1450), pyf (15th c.), OE. piþa.] Pith, in various usual senses.Since when in a rhyming position the forms pigh, pycht rhyme with with only, these forms are probably merely orthographic.

1. The pith of a tree or plant; also, applied to the inner part of a grain of barley. 14.. Acts I. 337/2.
That thai [the malt-makers] lat it [the barley] akyspire and schut out all the pith of it, quhare it aw bot to chip and cum at the tane end
1560 Rolland Seven S. 1488.
The auld [tree] … That pith inlaikis
Ib. 10493.
Thair was na herb that sprang, He knew the pith

b. spec. Sexual potency; ‘virility.’Cf. Chaucer's use in Wife of Bath's Prologue 475. c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 80.
Fra I had preveit his pitht the first plesand moneth Than suld I cast me to keik in kirk and in markat
a1568 Moffett Bann. MS. 259 b/22.
Preif nevir thy pith so far in play
a1570-86 Maitland Maitl. F. clxxv. 17.
Thocht ȝe heff … ȝour pithe prewit thame [ladies] amang
1584 Sempill Sat. P. xlv. 400.
Scho sayned it with hir halie hand, The pure pith of the pryouris wand

c. proverb. in one or other ( ? or both) of the above senses. — a1598 Ferg. Prov. No. 689.
Pith is good in all playes

d. Strength, vigour or toughness (of a material thing). e. The strength-giving quality (of food or drink); ‘virtue’. f. Strength of mind or spirit.d. a1400 Leg. S. v. 485.
Tel … Quhy thu vnbent thi bow sa sone. Bot, he quod, I sa had done, It suld hafe bene son out of pyth To schot ony takil vith
c1420 Wynt. iv. 1634.
And halestayne wycht Fell wyth sik fors and wyth sic pyth
15.. Bk. Dean Lismore p. 48.
A viddy or a raip of pycht A heltyr for to hang thé vitht
e. 1456 Hay I. 250/25.
In the fors and pythe of that mete, he travailit xl dais and fourty nychtis, but ony refectioun
Ib. II. 118/11.
And than is mare spedefull till him metis of gude pith and starkare metis na till otheris
a1689 Cleland 59.
There's als much vertue sonce and pith In Annan, on the water of Nith … Als any water in all Greece
f. a1508 Kennedy Pass. Christ 17.
In till oure hert … We ar … Throu spirituall pith … Stranger than … Sampson
1561 Q. Kennedy Compendious Ressonyng (ed.) 182 (G).
With the haill pytht off my ingyne

2. Physical power, strength; vigour; might.In the quot. from Barb. = military power.(According) to my (etc.) pith, with all the strength at my command; as far as lies in my power.To prove or preve a person's pith, to test one's own, or another's, strength or mettle.(1) 1375 Barb. iii. 599.
The Erle off the Leuenax … saw that he wes nocht Off pith to fecht with thai traytouris
(2) c1420 Wynt. iii. 417.
Than ware he febyll and off na pyth [C. pithe, W. pigh; rh. wyth]
Ib. v. 1691.
That he wald have … supprysid hyr vyleusly, Na ware the pyth [W. that pigh] scho put agayne
Ib. 3689.
In pyth off oure yhowthed
1456 Hay II. 27/20.
And rycht as God has gevin to the knycht pithe, hardynes and hye curage [etc.]
c1460 Alex. (Taym.) (ed.) 240.
With that he haid sic pith in all his play That in all stryf he haid the maistrie ay
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 783.
Is nane sa prouit in this part of pyth is his peir
Ib. 1290. c1475 Wall. iii. 95.
Was na man than … So growane in pith
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xc. 65.
Quhill thow art stark and young, With pith and strenth into thi ȝeris grene
1535 Acts II. 345/2.
The schott of gunnys [etc.] … and vther small artalȝerie … is sa felloune and vneschewable to the pith and hie curage of … vailȝeand mene
1535 Stewart 9570.
Thocht in my persone I be waik of pith, And lyke ane woman into lym and lith
Ib. 19705.
The ȝoung childer thocht tha had mennis pith
c1550 Rolland Ct. Venus iv. 673.
He is not ane man to rin in our barrace For laik of pith he is sa puir and peild
1633 Rutherford Christ's Napkin 16.
Ye have no pith to put up the door and bout in
a1646 Wedderburn Voc. (1709) 25.
Plus satis remisi vires, I gave it no pith
(3) c1420 Wynt. iii. 343.
Dalyda … askyt oft … Quhar in hys [Samson's] fors stud and hys pyth [W. pygh; rh. wyth]
Ib. iv. 1741.
He … All his pyth put in tyll spede
1456 Hay I. 287/23.
Thai have na traist … in God … bot in thair awin propre pythe and vertu of corps
a1500 Henr. Fab. 2125 (Ch.).
Quhen that my pith micht not beir it on loft
Id. III. 114/22.
No grume … of my pytht may pair wyrtht half a prene
1513 Doug. viii. vii. 160.
Ȝour strenth exers and pythis schaw
1560 Rolland Seven S. 2628.
At lenth to wryte it tyrit thair pith and pen
Ib. 9866.(4) c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 107 (C).
For that he with all pyth & peyne Resisted than hys sawes ageyne
c1420 Wynt. iii. 421.
And he tyt wp that nayle wyth pyth
c1460 Alex. (Taym.) (ed.) 1682.
King Nicolas with all pith and talent Hit him ane straik
1535 Stewart 265.
The hand of God … smytis with sic pith [etc.]
c1550 Rolland Ct. Venus i. 3.
Quhen Eolus … With passand pith fra Poleartike come doun
a1605 Montg. Ch. & Slae 260 (W).
My punsis lap with pithe
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 927.
Gologras … Pertly put with his pith at his pesane
1535 Stewart 9884.
Tha preuit vther so pertlie with thair pith
1681 Colvil Whig's Suppl. (1681) i. 52.
We'l both defend with all our pith
(5) 1614 Crim. Trials III. 288.
That ȝour ll. sall have ever pour to command, according to my pithe
1653 Vindication of the Late Generall Assembly 29.
The … prophane persons in the land … do zealously and to their pith, oppose … that … way
1667 Lang MSS. I. 355.
I will to my pith endeavours not to be unworthy of the honour
(6) c1420 Wynt. ii. 18.
Othir natyownys … lathe wes … in tyll were thaire pythys prowe
a1500 Rauf C. 863.
Thay preis furth properly thair pithis to prufe
c1475 Wall. (1969) x. 288.
Wp drayff the dust quhar thai thar pithtis prowyt
a1508 Kennedy Pass. Christ 443.
Apoun [him] all thai schot, Preiffand thair pith, quha fastest couth him sair
1513 Doug. v. ii. 52 (Sm.).
Quha best on fuit can ryn, lat see, To preif his pith [C. picht] to wersill, and beir the gre
c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 504.
Pertlie to preif thair pith thay preist
1573 Davidson Sat. P. xl. 135.
Thay did him not mischeif, As thay did his companȝeounis … With pynefull panis, quhen thay thair pythis did preif
(7) c1420 Wynt. i. 769.
He is a best of mekyll pytht [W. pigh; rh. wytht]
a1500 Seven S. 434.
A serpent … set hir ȝarne With all hir pith to sla this barne

3. Force or vigour (or reasoning); substance. 1571 Misc. Bann. C. III. 139.
Mr. Kingismell … said he never red ane better wreittin, of more pith and better order, nor it was
a1605 Montg. Ch. & Slae 1163 (Wr.).
Then Hope replyde, and that with pith, And wisely weigh'd his words therewith Sententiously and short
1606 Birnie Kirk-b. xix.
But the practicians now keepes vp for thé as good a reason in oddes, that lyke a pittard hes more pith nor all the rest whatsoeuer

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"Pith n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Jun 2023 <>



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