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

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First published 2001 (DOST Vol. X).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Swey(e, Sway, v. Also: suey, swe, swy, suy. [ME and e.m.E. swy(e, swey(e, swe (all 14th c.), sway(e (c1500), ON sveigja to bend, LG swâjen to be moved hither and thither.]

1. intr. To collapse, fall (doun). Also fig. 1460 Hay Alex. 17985.
With that apoun his bede he sweyis doun And fell in-till a slomering like a swoun
1513 Doug. ii x 86.
Quhar thir towris thou seis doun fall and sweye, And stane fra stane doun bet
1533 Bell. Livy II 103/27.
The hewmondis of Romanis semyt as thai war sweyand doun
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. xli 50.
So hard ar thair hittis, Some sueyis, some sittis
fig. 1460 Hay Alex. 1491.
Mony maisteris makis ane battall sweye Quhan that nocht ane will till ane vther obey [Cf. 1456 Hay I 67/5-7, quhare every man is ylike grete maister that folk is bot in divisioun … and sone efter cummys to perdicioun]
1531 Bell. Boece I 32.
To behald ane young prince regnand above ony realme is siclike as quhay wald se the commoun weill sweyand doun

2. Of a balance: To move in a particular direction. Only in fig. context. c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 149/104.
For thocht I hald him evinlie the ballance And but ane cuir full micht till him wey Ȝett will he tak ane uther and gar it suey
a1570-86 Maitl. F. 448/4.
Giff iustlie hie thy ballance did not suey He was ay prest Goddis treuth to plant alwey
1581-1623 James VI Poems I 223/204.
Jehoua … ueyed … The Christianis faultes uith faithless Turkis, the uechtis uould not stand euen, But suy upon the faithles syde
1642 Baillie II 17.
We have taken this purpose of wryting … that … yow might have these things fresh in memorie … so once to cast the ballance as it might not sweigh back againe

b. fig. To move first to one side then the other, to vacillate. 1562-3 Winȝet II 35/23.
Quhen the auctoritie of the Kirk drew thame fra this side, and the familiaritie of thair techear drew thame abak agane … sua thai, sweand and swounand betuix thame twa [etc.]

3. tr. To cause (a balance) to swing to one side; to turn, divert (one's thoughts) in a particular direction. Only in fig. context. 1513 Doug. Concl. 21.
Thus sen I feill down sweyand the ballans, Heir I resyng vp ȝyngkeris observans
1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 45.
The quene sweyit the ballance of hir mynd and followit the appetyte of hir lust

b. To influence (a person's opinion) towards one side or another. 1631 Red Bk. Menteith II 133.
To swey ȝour Lordshipis mynd

4. intr. To lean or incline (to, towards, also on side), to favour (one person, side or course of action rather than another). 1460 Hay Alex. 9929.
Swey neuer on side to na man be parciall
a1568 Scott iii 13.
Swey as thay swey, be blyth quhen thay ar licht
1569-73 Bann. Memor. 253.
Thei thocht that the said Mr. Johne Craig, … sweyed over meikle to the sword-hand
1598 James VI Basil. Doron 69/8.
Suey nather to the richt hande nor the left, ather louing the riche or pitteing the poore
1598 Misc. Spald. C. I 120.
The Devill … albeit he hes a thraw by God, and swyis to the Quene of Elphen is rasit be the speking of the word Benedicite
1645 Misc. Hist. Soc. I 121.
I am hairtlie content that … ȝe sway … to ȝour nephewis part thairoff
1724 W. Guthrie Christians Gt. Interest Explan. Scots Word 80/15.
To sway or swey towards a thing, is to bend towards it

5. tr. To wield (a sword or sceptre) as an emblem of authority. 1581-1623 James VI Poems I 3/13.
And after thee none worthier shalbe seene To sway the sword and gaine the laurell greene
1607 Misc. Abbotsf. C. 70.
None sall be fund … Cepteris to swey a meitter man I mein
1611-57 Mure Dido & Æneas i 126.
Thow and thy race sall swey the scepter thair
1650 Fugitive Poetry II xxiv 9/15.
Ordain'd of God to swey the sword

b. To have the command of, control, direct. 1632 Lithgow Trav. 117.
The diuine maiestie doth swey the moments of things
1650 Fugitive Poetry II xxiv 4/1.
That Providence that sweys the spheres
1681 Lauder Observes 44.
John Lesly, … who swayed the greatest dignities a subject was capable of, having been the king's commissioner, chancelor [etc.]

c. intr. To rule, hold power. a1639 Spotsw. Hist. (1655) Sig. a5.
That you may long happily sway and your posterity after you to the worlds end
1669 Jus Populi 52.
Who could more powerfully sway in the palace than eunuchs, grooms and libertines?
1666-74 Fraser Polichron. 435.
The prevalency of the usurping power then swaying

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"Swey v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Apr 2024 <>



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