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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

EERIE, adj. Also eery, †e(i)ry, erie, †ir(e)y, †irie. Also used adv. [′i:ri]

1. Of persons: affected by a fear of the supernatural which gives rise to feelings of uneasiness or loneliness; less commonly, apprehensive in general. Gen.(exc. I.)Sc.Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis:
In Scotland they say that one is Ery, or Iry, when he is afraid of some Apparition or Ghost, or what he fancies to be one.
Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems 194:
I'm unco irie and Dirt-feart I make wrang Waft.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 18–19:
At last the welcome sky began to clear, The birds to chirm, an' day light to appear; This laid her eery thoughts.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Halloween xix.:
He whistl'd up lord Lenox' march, To keep his courage cheary; Altho' his hair began to arch, He was sae fley'd an' eerie.
Sc. 1823 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 176:
The gudeman, wha was ettling to be Bailie at the first election, grew unco eerie about it.
Sc. 1830 Scott Demonology x. 397:
I have been myself at two periods of my life . . . engaged in scenes favourable to that degree of superstitious awe which my countrymen expressively call being eerie.
Lnk. 1886 J. Stewart Twa Elders 150:
A story is told, 'twill make you feel errie [sic].

2. Gen. of things: inspiring fear of the supernatural; uncanny, weird, ghostly, strange. Gen.Sc. Now accepted as Eng.Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 186:
Death in all his irey pride Devoid of fear behold.
Ayr. 1792 Burns Works (1800) II. 404:
Be thou a bogle by the eerie side of an auld thorn, in the dreary glen.
Dmf. 1823 J. Kennedy Poems 105:
The hoolet hoo'd from hollow tree, Mair eerie by the hum of night.
Slk. 1885 Blackwood's Mag. (Nov.) 646:
There stands the gudeman's loom That used to gang sae cheerie, Untentit noo, and toom, Makin, a' the hoose sae eerie.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped xxiv.:
For the best part of three nights [we] travelled on eerie mountains and among the well-heads of wild rivers.
Abd. 1920 C. Murray Country Places 40:
Nae cry frae frichtened mawkin, Snared in the dewy grass, Nor eerie oolet huntin' Would wauken you then, my lass.
Ags. 1927 V. Jacob Northern Lights 1:
For oh! the North's an eerie land And eerie voices blaw Frae whaur the ghaists o deid men stand Wi' their feet amangst the snaw.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood ii.:
But it's an eerie bit when the sun's no shinin'.
m.Sc. 1998 Lillias Forbes Turning a Fresh Eye 32:
It's an ower lang day
Syne I saw the mune ...
Wi her eerie skenklin
Ower tree an scaur.

3. Of persons and things: gloomy, dismal, melancholy.n.Sc. 1734 W. Fraser Chiefs of Grant (1883) II. 326:
I knew he lov'd his bottle, and open'd his breast when erie.
Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck I. 275:
He was an unprofitable guest — a dirty droich, an' a menseless glutton — an' it was weak an' silly in ony true Christian to be eiry for him.
Bwk. 1832 W. A. Foster in Minstrelsy of the Merse (ed. Crockett 1893) 153:
His sangs gie life when owre a glass — They cheer us when we're eerie. Edb. 1866 J. Smith Poems 48: A lintwhite sat in her mossy nest, Ae eerie morn in spring: An' lang she look'd at the cauld gray lift.

4. Derivs.: (1) eerifu', uncanny; (2) eerily, weirdly, drearily; Gen.Sc.; (3) eeriness, an undefined sense of fear; dread; (4) eeri(e)some, uncanny, gloomy (Sh.10, Abd.27, Fif.16 1949); (5) eeriesomeness, uncanniness, state of being eerie (Abd.27 1949).(1) Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. 74:
There, whar Will-o'-the Wisp sheds his eerifu' lowe.
(2) Kcb. 1890 A. J. Armstrong Musings 150:
The win's souchin' eerily.
Sc. 1949 R. J. B. Sellar in Scots Mag. (Dec.) 209:
A sudden piercing and eerily-whistling wind leapt out at us to remind us that the orderly seasons don't apply on Ben Muichdhui.
(3) Sc. 1724 Ramsay Vision vi. in Evergreen I. 215:
Debar then affar then All Eiryness or Feir.
Abd. 1875 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 41–42:
It was with a certain feeling of hesitancy, and even of “eeriness,” that Saunders Malcolmson slowly lifted the latch.
(4) Cld. 1818 Edb. Mag. (Dec.) 503:
A' the kye stoppit chowan' their cud, and gied a dowf an' eerisome crune.
Abd. 1889 W. Allan Sprays I. 16:
An eerisome mane through the loanin comes doon.
Edb. 1891 R. A. Dakers in Mod. Sc. Poets (ed. Edwards) XIV. 147:
But silent it crept by the spreadin' beech tree. . . . An' 'twas far on its eeriesome flicht to the sea.
(5) Sc. 1897 “L. Keith” My Bonnie Lady vi. 60:
The eeriesomeness of the sleeping world had no terrors for her as she stepped out.

[Etym. obscure. N.Mid.Eng. eri, c.1300, O.Sc. hery, a.1400, ery, 1501, erie, 1572, id.]

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"Eerie adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jun 2024 <>



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