Show Search Results Show Browse

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

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology

Abbreviations & symbols Cite this entry

About this entry:
First published 2001 (DOST Vol. IX).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Slak(e, Slaik, v. Also: slaike, slayke, scla(i)k, slack, slakk-. [ME and e.m.E. slake(n (c1220), slak (Cursor M.), sclake (16th c.), early ME also slakien (c1175), OE slacian, f. slæc, Slak adj. Cf. Slok(e v., Slok(k)in v.] tr.

1. Only Doug.: To release, let out (sail, a horse's reins) in order to gain speed. 1513 Doug. iii viii 28.
We … went on burd … Syne slakis down the schetis and maid sayll [L. velorum pandimus alas]
1513 Doug. v xiv 7.
Now the le schete, and now the luf, thai slak
1513 Doug. viii xii 83.
Ay mar and mair dredand persute behynd, Sclakand schetis, and haldand rowme at large
1513 Doug. x v 34.
1513 Doug. xi xvii 48.
Sum hasty … at the flycht Sclakis thar brydillys, spurrand in all thar mycht
(b) 1513 Doug. v iii 84.
The cartaris smate thar horssis fast in teyn With renȝeys slakkyt
1513 Doug. v xiii 123.
Thar renȝeis … With hys awin handys leit do slyp and slakkis [Ruddim. slakis]

b. To slacken, loosen, cause a release of tension. 1528 Lynd. Dreme 1020.
One schip did spedalye approche … And syne did slake hir salis, and gan to creip towart the land
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 72.
Quhen that the peple doith repent Than God sall slak his bow, quhilk ȝit is bent
1611-57 Mure Dido & Æneas i 280.
Some sailes pull in, … some tacklings slacks

c. In Nisbet after Purvey. c1520-c1535 Nisbet Luke v 4.
Slake your nettis to tak fisch
c1520-c1535 Nisbet Acts xxvii 40.
Thai … slakit … the junctouris [P. ioyntours] of gouirnalis

d. fig. To relax control. 1664 Pitcairn Spiritual Sacrifice 453.
If we do but a little slack our hand in watching, … atheistical thoughts may on a sudden break

2. To reduce, mitigate or remit (a penalty); to relax or abandon (a siege); to end (a quarrel); to give up (an intention); to fail to carry out (an action). b. With personal object: To pardon (a person). c. Const. infin. d. Quasi-absol. 14.. Acts I 90*/1.
Nor ther sall nayn of thir mendis wyth ony prayer be loussit na slakyt
1501 Doug. Pal. Hon. 1003.
At ȝour requeist He sall gang fre … Than Venus bad do slaik sone my arreist
1527–8 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 93.
Quhar the said Thomas occupyit nocht the said hous ve ordand sa meikill of the maill to be slakit [pr. salakit]
a1538 Abell 17b.
That for pete of thame he [sc. the besieger] suld slaik the sege
c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 1141.
The squyer hartlie him ressauit … And sa did slaik that mortall feid
1560 Rolland Seven S. 1990.
Thankand ȝour grace that … Ȝour sonnis deid … ȝe haue done slaik
1596 Dalr. II 473/9.
The seueritie of that sentence mitigatet efterward was and slaked, till perpetual prisone
1596 Dalr. II 143/26. 1627 Reg. Privy C. 2 Ser. II 25.
That yow have … slaked and delayed the executioun of the said commissioun
b. 1570 Sat. P. xxiii 28.
Quhen the Duke put thé to banischment … he was diligent To get thy peax and slaik thé of that weir
c. 1567 Sat. P. iii 69.
To dance that nycht thay said sho sould not slak … And baid fra bed vntill sho hard the crak
d. 1595 Duncan App. Etym.
Remitto, to send back, to slack

3. To assuage, mitigate, ease, occas. to the point of cessation (sorrow, pain, etc.). b. With personal object: To relieve (a person) of (sorrow or pain), to comfort (a person). a1400 Leg. S. xxix 497.
Allace! ded, quhen wil thu tak Me & [al] my sorou slak?
c1475 Wall. xi 1138.
The deid tharoff is ȝeit in remembrance, I will lat slaik off sorow the ballance
a1500 Bernardus 147.
It wyl slak sum part of sowrowis ser Of othir wyffys the sorow for to her
a1500 Bernardus 146.
1562-92 Wode's Psalter (Treble) 154.
Uhan shall my sorowfull sighing slayke
c1600 Montg. Suppl. ix 43.
Hald ȝour tung Ȝour paynis to slaik
a1605 Montg. Sonn. li 5.
Vhilk slaiks my sorou, so to heir thé sing
(b) 1662 Forbes Cantus (1666) xxiv.
Dolor after death, Should slack
b. a1400 Leg. S. xxxix 254.
Prayand thame … Hyme of his sorou for to slake
1513 Doug. i iii 99.
He wyth his wordis gan slaik thar mynd and swage
a1585 Polwart Flyt. 230 (H).
Salues, to slaik thé of thy saires
1635 Dickson Wr. 58.
He being now slaiked, is like a bruised lamb … that seems to be eased [etc.]

4. To reduce or moderate the force or intensity of (a passion, conviction, courage, anger, disease, etc). b. With personal object, const. of the passion. a1500 Henr. Prayer 26.
Vse derth, O lord, … And slak thy plaig that is so penetryfe
c1475 Wall. vi 224.
Quhar men may weipe, thar curage is the less; It slakis ire off wrang thai suld radres
c1475 Wall. vii 672.
He thocht to slaik Makfadȝanys hie curage
c1515 Asl. MS I 200/8.
For to stanche & slaike thair pryde I sall [etc.]
1501 Doug. Pal. Hon. 980.
I … Do slaik my wraith
1533 Boece 238.
This batell aduersare, has nocht aluterlie slakkit ȝoure curage
1540 Lynd. Sat. 2538 (Ch.).
How we sall slaik the greit murmell Of pure peopill
1570 Cal. Sc. P. III 435.
We … fyndis our seiknes no thing slaikit
1596 Dalr. II 255/7.
Huntlie … sa sharplie … sett on thame that thay … the Inglismen, slaiking thair force, cam never twa myles beyond Tueide
1596 Dalr. II 405/15.
Nouther to slaik ony thing of thair furie afor tha had won Edinburgh
1676 Brodie Diary 356.
I heard my uncl Francis was drawing near his end; that he had noe desir of Mr. James Urquhart's compani, for he did slak his grounds
b. a1578 Pitsc. I 398/3.
The Inglischemen … slaikit of thair curage, tuike porpos … to … flie

5. To satisfy (an appetite or desire); also, to vent (one's anger) on. b. With personal object.(1) a1500 Henr. Fab. 526 (Bann.).
Syster, ȝe watte, of sic as him a scoir May nocht suffise to slak ȝour appetyte
a1500 Henr. Orph. 281 (Ch. & M.).
Thus gat he noucht his t[h]rist to slake no[r] mend
a1500 Henr. Orph. 558.
Bot he suld drink ineuch … to slake the birnand thrist
a1500 Henr. Fab. 2619.(2) a1585 Maitl. Q. 250/23.
The goddis … among them selfis accord On me thair yre to slaik
b. 1581 Hamilton Cath. Tr. in Cath. Tr. (STS) 84/16.
Granting to euerie kirk man his prettie vinche vith quhome sindrie tymes he can nocht be slakit
1609 Crim. Trials III 75.
Ȝe said, and he war the Devillis man, ȝe had gevin to him the thing that wald slaik him [sc. he had killed him]
a1651 Calderwood VII 603.
Have ye not als good teachers as are in the land? … may ye not be slaiked with your owne?

c. transf. ? To consume (a quantity of liquid (cf. Point n.3)) in a greedy fashion or ? an example of Slaik v. in the sense: To consume in a messy fashion, to lick up.This usage is not exactly paralleled in the fairly extensive later and mod. use of Slaik v. a1598 Ferg. Prov. MS No. 1590.
Ye look lyk a sow slacking a poynt

6. To extinguish, put out (a fire)(a) c1475 Wall. vi 842.
Wallace gert slaik the fyr
(b) 1672 Craven Ch. in Orkney I 52.
[He] caused the said officers … extinguish and slack out his fyre

7. ? To overwhelm, overcome. a1578 Pitsc. I 121.
James Earle of Douglas … past fordwart with displayit banner to slaike the kingis airmie … quhilk nochtwithtstanding being mekill les nor the Earle of Douglas airmie ȝeit they excellit far in strength and curage abone thair enemeis

8. intr. Of a cloud: To release (rain). c1460 Wisd. Sol. 475.
Quhen the cloud slaikis, the rane our-strenklys the erde

9. Of courage, sorrow, disease, etc.: To diminish, lessen or become less intense, to moderate or subside. c1475 Wall. xi 128.
A man he slew ay at a straik. The layff fled fast; thus can the power slaik
1533 Boece 266.
That … the hardyment of the army suld nocht slaik, the kingis chargeit [etc.]
1533 Bell. Livy I 250/10.
Gif the pest slakit ane litill, thai suld glaidly send support
1535 Stewart 10297.
Thair curage than begynnis for to slaik, Waxand … dull and sad
1535 Stewart 13225.
Remeid, To caus the seiknes fra the heid to slaik
c1550 Rolland Ct. Venus i 346. c1475 Wall. xi 528.
The myst scalyt [1570 slaikit], the son schawyt fayr and brycht
1587-99 Hume 95/33.
The feuer began to slaik
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. xx 4.
Els dolour, eftir death, Suld slaik, vhen I war slane

b. Of a person or animal: To undergo a reduction or diminution, also, to the point of cessation, in respect of (an emotion, attitude, etc.); to weaken or fail in (some respect); to cease from, of an activity. Also without const.(1) c1475 Wall. v 656.
On othir thing he maid his witt to walk, Prefand giff he mycht off that languor slaik [M. slalk]
1535 Stewart 35983.
Se ȝe be blyth and glaid, And slaik also of all ȝour syte and sorrow
1567 G. Ball. 232.
I will ȝow exhort … To slaik of ȝour sleuth, & schaw furth the treuth
(2) 1533 Boece 255.
Thai slaik, and failȝe in corage
(3) a1568 Scott xx 44.
My body bad lat be, And of thy siching slaik
1604-31 Craig i 13.
The fleeis els full, from sucking more will slake
1638 Henderson Serm. 339.
They will be busy when their master or mistress are looking to them, but when their back is turned, then they slack of that
(4) 1596 Dalr. II 214/32.
The peple, throuch the dinn and cry tha maid, slaiket nocht lytle
1638 Adamson Muses Thr. I 94.
I must not slack, For by and by the tide will call us back
1657 Balfour Ann. III 427.
Quhen the cow slack'd, they haue a way to presse her nipples [etc.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Slak v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 5 Feb 2023 <>



Hide Advanced Search

Browse DOST: