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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

FAIN, adj.1, v. Also faen (Sh.), fen (Ork.). Sc. usages of Eng. fain. [fe:n Sc., but fæn Sh., fɛn Ork.]

I. adj. 1. Glad, pleased; happy, content. Now only dial. or poet. in Eng. Adv. fainly.Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 160:
Wow! that's braw News, quoth he, to make Fools fain.
Sc. 1755 Johnson Dictionary s.v.:
Fain, adj., glad; merry; chearful; fond. It is still retained in Scotland in this sense.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Twa Dogs 137–8:
My heart has been sae fain to see them, That I for joy hae barket wi' them.
Abd. 1787 J. Skinner in Burns and his Rhyming Friends (ed. Ross 1928) xv.:
And mair than that, I'll no be fain Gin ye neglect it.
Sc. 1816 Scott B. Dwarf ii.:
My gude dame's fain to see you.
Ayr. 1821 Galt Ayr. Legatees v.:
I would fainly have retired.
Rxb. 1826 A. Scott Poems 48:
But whan we meet again, I'll be right fain To hear your mind upo' rail-roads again.
Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Proverbs 143:
They were never fain that fidged, nor fou that licket dishes.
Kcb. 1885 A. J. Armstrong Friend and Foe xxiv.:
An' we'll a' be fain to see ye stan' yer trial wi' faith an' fortitude.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 205:
Perhaps he has been in grips with the baldin (halibut), and fainly hoped to feast on its barr cuts.
Ork. 1915 Old-Lore Misc. VIII. i. 43:
Naethin wad deu nor save da puir bothy fae bean hung bit tae gae ower da tettles o 'is hoose, whit 'e waas fen tae deu tae save 'is wazzan.

2. Loving, affectionate (Mry.1 1928; Ags.10, Fif.17 1941); amorous. Adv. fainly.Ayr. 1789 D. Sillar Poems 212:
Young Willy's heart grew wondrous fain.
Dmf. 1808 J. Mayne Siller Gun 62:
She sees, wi' sorrow, on the plain Jock getting fu', and Jenny fain.
Edb. 1856 J. Ballantine Poems 198:
But daunder down to Kelvin Grove, There's routh o' lassies fair an' fain.
Gsw. 1877 A. C. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 192:
Nor cot, nor palace — east or west — Contain'd a fainer pair.
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 72:
When the maids are ripe for courtin', Youths are fain but shy to woo.
em.Sc. 1920 J. Black Airtin' Hame 9:
Yet when the e'enin's droopin' we're fainly airtin' hame.

3. With o': fond of (Sh.12, Ork.2 1952).Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 104:
Featless [sic] folks is any fain of other.
Abd. 1759 F. Douglas Rural Love 20:
Quo John, “I'm sorry That ye sud be sae fain o' gear, To sell your dother like a mare.”
Ayr. 1786 Burns Twa Dogs 37–8:
Nae doubt but they were fain o' ither, An' unco pack an' thick thegither.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxix.:
Heaven, that ye are sae fain of.
Bnff. 1871 Banffshire Jnl. (10 Jan.):
Sic glories will be flung As gar us aye the fainer be O' Scotlan' an' her tongue.
Abd. 1920 R. H. Calder Gleanings II. 8:
Them 'at's fain o' fair roads 'ill nae gae far wrang.

4. With the inf. = (1) eager, willing; (2) used in expressions conveying a polite command (see quot.).(1) Sc. a.1776 Herd MSS. (ed. Hecht 1904) 148:
“My hinnie, my life, my dearest,” quoth he, “I'll make ye be fain to follow me!”
Lnk. 1882 J. Carmichael Poems 104:
Switherin' lest she should fa', and yet tae rin richt fain.
Sc. 1991 John McDonald in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 91:
close-mooths yeuky wi the unkent;
fain tae drap their gett -
a drucken stramash, or a steive corp.
(2) Ork.1 1941:
“Thu'll be fain tae deu so and so”, i.e. go and do it.

5. Used adv. in the various meanings above: gladly, kindly, fondly; pleasantly (see 1812 quot.).Hdg. a.1801 R. Gall Poems (1819) 33:
As gude's her word, she cried fu' fain, That she had lighted on her ain.
Sc. 1812 Scott Rokeby iii. xxviii.:
This morn is merry June, I trow, The rose is budding fain. Footnote: Fain, in old English and Scotch, expresses, I think, a propensity to give and receive pleasurable emotions, a sort of fondness which may, without harshness, I think, be applied to a rose in the act of blooming.
Ags. 1867 G. W. Donald Poems 79:
Their broken taes an' blistered heels She tends fu' fain.
Rnf. 1870 J. Nicholson Idylls 51:
When 'neath my grey plaidie, wi' heart beatin' fain, I speired in a whisper, if she'd be my ain.

II. v. 1. To like, be fond of, gen. used neg. (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh.10, Ork.5 1950). Cf. Ill-fain; (2) With aboot (Ib.), ower (Sh.12 1950), gen. of a dog: to fawn over, to show affection demonstratively towards.(1) Sh. 1922 J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 31:
I wis in a kind o' a perdikament wha ta tak' da side o', for I didna fain ony o' da twa, an' Willa in parteeklar.
Ork. 1929 Marw.:
I dunno fain that craig sin I nearly geed afore it.
2. Sh. 1914 Angus Gl. 42:
I kent at I wis welcome, cause when I cam in da dogs began to fain aboot me.
Sh.13 1950:
Shü fained aboot da young bairns a lok.

[The v. meanings of fain, obs. in Eng. since c.1600, have been influenced by Norw. dial. fegna, to welcome, O.N. fagna, id., if not directly derived from it.]

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"Fain adj.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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