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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BRAE, Bray(e), Brea, n.1 Sc. and n.Eng. dial., though occurring in recent literary Eng. [bre:]

1. The brow of a hill.  Used fig. of life's journey as implying an upward or hilly course, in phrs. to be up the brae, to be advanced in years, to gan(g) back the brae (Bwk. 1959), -doun the brae, to fail physically, esp. of an old person, to cease to prosper, to go to ruin, of one's fortunes, etc. Gen.Sc.Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 259:
Dinna gang ower near the edge o the brae.
Edb. 1874 J. Smith Peggy Pinkerton 30:
The laird wad be gey far up the brae noo' for he was an auld man in Jess's time.

2. A hill or hillside; the high ground adjoining a river bank. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery ii.:
The mountains, as they would have been called in England, Scotticé the deep braes, rose abruptly over the little glen.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 112:
A drunk Scotsman cowns for his granny and the mist on the brae.
Ags. 1916 A. Reid in Abd. Book-Lover II. No. 1 (May) 22:
The land o' the loch an' the river, The land o' the ben and the brae.
Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 25:
The lads on baith braes o' the Tweed, Wi' Irish chapies brave an' wude.
wm.Sc. 1998 Alan Warner The Sopranos (1999) 31:
They shuffled down the brae, neighbour's curtains still closed.
Ayr. 1792 Burns Banks o' Doon (Cent. ed.) i.:
Ye banks and braes o' bonie Doon.
Kcb. 1894 S. R. Crockett Raiders vii.:
It grieved me to see the bonny corn that had grown so golden on the braes anent the isle screeving up in fire to the heavens.

Hence braeie, adj., “declivous, having slopes, hilly” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2).Abd.2 1935:
Heughhead is awfu' braeie an' sair o' the horse.

3. A road which has a steep gradient. Also used fig. Often found in the names of streets, cf. Windmill Brae, Aberdeen, Bouly Brae, Arbroath. The Lth. quot. below might equally well come under section 2.Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Sc. Proverbs 18:
If a man's gaun doun the brae, ilka ane gies him a jundie.
Abd.(D) 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xviii.:
It's a vera stiff brae, an' ere we wan up to the kirk, it was gyaun upon eleyven o'clock.
Ags. 1889 J. M. Barrie Window in Thrums i.:
On the bump of green round which the brae twists, at the top of the brae, and within cry of T'nowhead Farm, still stands a one-storey house.
Lth. 1882 J. Strathesk Bits from Blinkbonny vii.:
We maun a' set the stout heart to the stey brae.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 24:
Juist than I heard the rummle o' the cairts comin doun the brae.

4. Upland, mountainous district, often occurring in the name of the district, e.g. Braemar, the Braes o' Balquhidder. Often in pl.Sc. a.1714 First Earl of Cromartie in Earls of Crm. (ed. Fraser 1876) II. 468:
So levying such force as they could, they obtained peacable passadge through Sutherland, and falling in to the brayes of Cathness they robed the country.
Ags. 1846 A. Laing Wayside Flowers (1878) 125:
The standard on the braes o' Mar, Is up, and streaming rarely.
Edb. 1843 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie's Wallet i.:
“Gae wa,” says he, “ye landlouper, and stay in the land ye lo'e best; the bonny braes o' Scotland . . . whaur the kindly heart an' the couthie hame gang thegither.”

5. Combs. No illustrations are given of such compounds as brae-tap, brae-side, etc., where hill is similarly compounded in Eng.

(1) brae-face, a hillside; (2) brae-foot, the foot of a hillside; †(3) brae-hag, “a steep bank with an overhanging edge of turf” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (4) brae-hauld, same as brae-hag, “forming or suitable as the retreat of a fish” (Ib.); (5) braehead, brea —, braeheid, the top of a “brae.” Gen.Sc.; †(6) brae-laird, braes —, “a proprietor of land on the southern declivity of the Grampians” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2); †(7) braeman, bray-, an inhabitant of a hilly region; one who inhabits the southern slope of the Grampians (cf. (6) above); (8) brae-set, situated on a slope; steep; †(9) brae-shot, (a) “a quantity of earth that has fallen from a steep” (Lnk. 1825 Jam.2); (b) “a large sum of money, to which one unexpectedly becomes heir: ‘He's gotten an awfu' brae-shot'” (Ib.).(1) Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 145:
It wore on towards tea-time and there was still no sign of the three men. ... Dougie took in one of the cows for milking, and his scanning of the brae-face revealed nothing.
(2) Cai. 1932 Neil M. Gunn The Lost Glen (1985) 14:
And now here he was walking from the brae-foot to its white gable-end ...
(5) Sc. 1737 Third Earl of Cromartie in Earls of Crm. (ed. Fraser 1876) II. 180:
When there are as maney stones as will finish the summerhouse and the wall, let the rest be laid to the brea head above the cowfold.
Sc. 1990 Scotsman 23 Jun 2:
... a miracle of the sea's bounty, so it seemed to me, as I stood on the braehead of St Monons, looking down over the rooftops through a white net of gulls,...
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 82:
You can see what I mean if you stand above Cairnorrie, which is the gate to central Buchan, and look towards the north, over the howe and up the brae and on and on, across the small irregular fields of corn and grass and turnips, to the last braehead that meets the sky.
Ags. 1990s:
Braeheid: n. hilltop.
Rxb. a.1860 J. Younger Autobiog. (1881) 325:
That cauld starry night out on Tweed braeheads, in the bield o' Paton's corn-stack.
(6) Sc. 1731 J. Mitchell Highland Fair 5:
No doubt! you are a great Man — no less than our Chief's Plenipotentiary Ambassador to the Braes Laird!
(7) Sc. a.1714 First Earl of Cromartie in Earls of Crm. (ed. Fraser 1876) II. 475:
The Earl being south, waiting on the King, the Strathnaver men and braymen of Cathness took opportunity in his absense to invad Sutherland.
Sc. 1823 Scott Q. Durward ii.:
“I am, master,” answered the young Scot, “a braeman, and therefore, as we say, a bowman.”
ne.Sc. a.1835 J. Grant Tales of the Glens (1836) 103:
A party of our Braemen would hastily heave on their currachs, and hurry down Deeside in order to reach the burgh before the vampires could be disengaged from their prey.
(8) Bnff. 1925 J. M. Caie in Scots Mag. (Aug.) 373:
A fearsome road's afore me, unco brae-set, dark an' caul', An' weel-a-wat I'm jist a thochtie lame.
Abd. 1924 Leebie's Wooin in Swatches o' Hamespun 67:
Taken home to Knapfeuich, a small, “brae-set” holding.
Ags. 1838 Montrose Standard (18 Jan.) 3/2:
In consequence of the snow and hard frosts, our brae-set streets have become very dangerous.

[O.Sc. bra, bray, brae, later variant brea (D.O.S.T.), n.Mid.Eng. brā (rare), Midland bro (1330), appar. ad. O.N. brá, eyelash = O.E. bræ̂w, bréaw, eyelid, O.H.Ger. brâwa, Ger. braue, with development of meaning from eyelash, eyelid, eyebrow, brow, to brow of a hill. Cf. Gael. bràighe, the upper part (of places), and bruach, a bank or brink (MacBain), both of which are represented by brae in Sc.]

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"Brae n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 Jun 2024 <>



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