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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

ELF-SHOOT, v. comb. To shoot (cattle, etc.) with an elf-arrow or Elf-shot. Most commonly found as pa.ppl. and ppl.adj. elf-shot, shot by such an arrow, hence, bewitched (Uls.4 1950). Also elfe-shoot.Arran 1716 in Bk. of Arran (1914) II. 295:
Ferquhar Ferguson . . . interogate if he did not take upon him to cure people that were Elf Shot.
Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shepherd Act I. Sc. i. in Poems (1728):
My Byar tumbled, nine braw Nowt were smoor'd, Three Elf-shot were; yet I these Ills endur'd.
Lnk. 1806 J. Black Falls of Clyde 120:
Next you'll a warlock turn. . . . Drive down the barns and byars, prevent our sleep, Elfe-shoot our kye, an' smoor 'mang drift our sheep.
Dmf. 1810 R. H. Cromek Remains 296:
They [elf-arrows] were shot into cattle with such magical dexterity that the smallest aperture could not be discovered, but by those deeply skilled in Fairy warfare, and in the cure of elf-shooting.
Rxb. 1820 in Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. (1912) 45:
When a cow happened to be seized with any sudden disease (the cause of which was usually ascribed to the malignant machinations of the fairies), she was said to be elf-shot.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 210:
A horse-shoe is put thrice through beneath the belly, and over the back of a cow that is considered elfshot. Elfgirse is given to this cow; a burning peat is laid down on the threshold of the byre door.
Per. 1835 J. Monteath Dunblane Trad. 64:
He was in consequence [of a certain cutaneous malady] . . . pronounced elf-shot, by the old women who frequented his mother's house.
Bnff. 1869 W. Knight Auld Yule 120:
I've seen. . . . The kye elf-shot — O smirk ye as ye will, I've heard the dart gang whizzin' by my lug.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 124:
When an animal or even a person had died suddenly, they were supposed to be elf-shot.

[O.Sc. has elfe-shote, -shooteing, 1650.]

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"Elf-shoot v. comb.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 May 2024 <>



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