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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

ETHER, n.2 An adder; sometimes used to denote any species of snake and also employed fig. to describe a malicious or spiteful person. Also a(i)ther, ethir, ethther, etther, ethert; edder, aidder, aidert, eddart; yedder (Dmf. 1899 Country Schoolmaster (Wallace) 371), n.Sc. See also Nether. [′ɛðər, ′eð- Sc., but n.Sc. ′ed-, ′ɛd-]Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems II. 110:
Frae fertile Fields, where nae curs'd Ethers creep, To stang the Herds that in Rash-busses sleep.
Sc. a.1796 Merry Muses (1800):
But like an ether puff'd and blew.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 95:
An etther wi' a rattlin' tail.
Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes III. xviii.:
Did ye ever see an edder lyin' ower a stane as gin he was naething but a stick himsel', bidin' 's time?
Dmf. 1874 “R. Wanlock” Moorland Rhymes 91:
Ye'll fin' a' pleasures tasted there En's wi' an ethert stang.
m.Sc. 1898 J. Buchan John Burnet i. ix.:
Ye've slippit awa' yince, ye ether, but I'll see that ye'll no dae't again.
sm.Sc. 1923 R. W. Mackenna Bracken and Thistledown 117–118:
They meant that the miller's wife, who was a termagant, as we all knew (Willie Shed said she had a tongue like an ether) was in one of her tantrums.
Ags. 1932 A. Gray Arrows 63:
As fause as is an edder, That crawls in the slime and dirt, Sae fause is the ill callant That does a lassie hurt.

Combs.: 1. etherbell, atherbell, adder-bell, edder bill (Gall. a.1897 R. Ringan's Plewman Cracks 24), the dragonfly (Dmf. 1899 J. Shaw in Country Schoolmaster (ed. Wallace) 343, atherbell, etherbell); see also Ather-bill and Bull, n.6 3.; 2. etherstane, a small perforated prehistoric stone or bead used as an amulet; 3. fleein' ether, adder, = 1. (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2, adder; 1923 Watson W.-B.; Rxb.4 1944).1. Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 168:
It haunts mosses and moors: it bites hard when caught, and is called adder-bell in some districts in Scotland.
2. Sc. 1771 T. Pennant Tour 1769 95:
The same virtue [of curing diseases] is said to be found in the crystal gems, and in the adder-stone, our Glein Naidr; and it is also believed that good fortune must attend the owner.
Ayr. 1788 Burns Fête Champetre vii.:
When Politics came there to mix And make his ether-stane, man.
Rxb. 1802 J. Leyden in Minstrelsy (ed. Scott) II. 370:
The adderstone, among the Scottish peasantry, is held in high veneration . . . the name is applied to celts, and other round perforated stones — The vulgar suppose them to be perforated by the stings of adders.
Sc. 1851 D. Wilson Arch. and Ann. Scot. 303:
The very same story is told of the Adderstane in the popular legends of the Scottish Lowlands as Pliny records of the origin of the Ovum Anguinum.
3. Bwk. c.1830 W. Brockie in Minstrelsy of the Merse (ed. Crockett 1893) 169:
Ye never watcht the fleeing ether Abune the mossy stank.
Rxb. 1919 Kelso Chron. (15 Aug.) 3/3:
The dragon-fly — the “fleeing-ether” of our childhood — calling up memories of many a futile chase.

[O.Sc. edder, eddir, etc., from c.1400, O.E. naed(d)re, an adder. The original initial n was lost through wrong division of the word after the indef. art. For d and th interchange see D, 4.]

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"Ether n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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