Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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GHAIST, n. Sc. form and usages of Eng. ghost. See P.L.D. § 32. Also †gaist, †gaste; †guest (Edb. 1821 W. Liddle Poems 199, Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 66), gase. [Sc. ge:st, but Bwk. + gɑst]

1. With Eng. meaning (Ags., Fif., Bwk., Rxb. 1954). Sc. 1722  Ramsay Three Bonnets 36:
'Cause Sober they can get nae Rest For Nick, an' Duniwhistle's Ghaist.
Ayr. 1791  Burns Tam o' Shanter 87–8:
Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh, Whare ghaists and houlets nightly cry.
Sc. 1815  Scott Guy M. lv.:
The like o' them's used wi' graves and ghaists, and thae things.
Ags. 1918  V. Jacob More Songs 19:
Ghaists i' the air, Whaups cryin' shrill, An' you nae mair.

Hence ¶(1) ghaistry, n., all that is connected with ghosts; (2) ghaisty, adj., ghostly, haunted by ghosts; eerie. (1) Abd. 1865  G. Macdonald Alec Forbes III. xvi.:
There! that's spicy — for them 'at likes ghaistry.
(2) Rxb. 1881  Border Counties Mag. 180:
Ferr oot ayount the ruif o' the derk spreds the ghaisty waste o' air.
Abd. 1929  M. Angus Singin' Lass 10:
I saw a reid reid lowe, Whaur tinker fouk wull ne'er set fit, Far ben in the ghaisty howe.

2. Sc. usages: †(1) a sickly, thin, or undersized person; used as a term of contempt (Tyr. 1930 per Uls.3). Lnk. 1805  G. M'Indoe Poems 50:
Vile gashan, gapean, gabbin gaist.
Ayr. 1887  J. Service Dr Duguid 25:
He was an only wean, a suckered gaste, and spoiled from the first.

(2) In combs.: ¶(a) ghaist-craft, a churchyard; (b) ghaist cramp, an injury supposed to be due to a visitation of a ghost or spirit; (c) ghaist-rid, adj., ghost-ridden. (a) Kcb. 1897  G. O. Elder Borgue 30:
Nae boggles noo to be seen about dark nooks and the ghaist-craft.
(b) Ork. 1880  Dennison Sketch-Bk. 40:
Ye see . . . sheu wus speerit-b'und, or gotten what some ca' the g'aist cramp.
(c) Rnf. 1807  R. Tannahill Poems 27:
With unsuccessfu' search the ghaist-rid three, Hae socht the boortree bank, an' hemlock lee.
Ags. 1924  M. Angus Tinker's Road 7:
An unco place for a Tinker's Road On sic a ghaist-rid moor!

(3) (a) A piece of shaly coal in its ashy state after burning, a white slaty cinder (Sc. 1808 Jam., 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 31; Kcb.6 c.1916, guest; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., gaist, guest, 1942 Zai; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Fif., Peb., Gall., Dmf. 1954). Hence gaisty, white-burning and shaly (Ib.; Dmb. 1930, gaisy), gaistcoal (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 217), gaisty coal (Zai 67); (b) “a piece of coal-leaf [see Coal, n. 5.] on a grate” (Watson W.-B.). (a) wm.Sc. 1807  J. Headrick Agric. Arran 217:
The dauch always left a large guest; whereas the coal burnt into a fine white ash.
Sc. 1824  S. E. Ferrier Inheritance I. xvii.:
Mr Ramsay sat by the side of the expiring fire, seemingly contemplating the gaists and cinders which lay scattered over the hearth.
e.Lth. 1912  in Scotsman (19 Jan.):
“Gase” — Fine white ashes from a fire. “G'wa', stapp some gase atween yer taes,” said an old pit-woman to a lad who complained that the skin between his toes had got broken through working among water, “and that'll soon heal them.”

[O.Sc. has gast(e), g(h)aist, gest, from 1375. In 2.(3)(b) above gaist may represent Guest, an omen of a stranger's coming.]

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"Ghaist n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jun 2019 <>



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