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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HELLY, n. Also helli(e), helie and in combs. †hella-, hely-, heli-. [′hɛlɪ]

1. The week-end, the period from Saturday evening until Sunday night or Monday morning (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., helie, 1914 Angus Gl., helli, Sh. 1957).Sh. 1888 J. R. Tudor Ork. and Sh. 133:
The fishermen and boys return to their homes every Saturday, for the helie, as they term the interval between sunset on Saturday and sunrise on Monday.
Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 93:
Aboot da Helly, Synnie reads, Frae what dey caa da “press.”
Sh. 1949 New Shetlander No. 14. 7:
They were coortin couples at Ludyvoe, when the boys were haem at da helly.

2. A series of festive days, esp. the period in which Christmas festivities are held from 25th Dec. to 5th Jan., Old Style, ending in Uphellyaa. See also Up-helly-aa, and Boo-helly s.v. Boo, n.1 In Phrs. and Combs.: (1) hellamet (Sh.), highameat (Ork.), the last meal eaten by a dying person (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)), or by an animal before being killed (Ork. 1929 Marw.); a morsel of food (Jak.). Phr. to get ane's hellamet, to receive due retribution (Jak.); also jocularly, to catch one's death of cold, etc. (Ib.); (2) hel(l)iday, helly day, a festive day, a day during the helly, often in phr. da hellidays a Yül (Ib., Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.); (3) helliflounder, the halibut, Hippoglossus hippoglossus (Sh. c.1930 Fishery Board Gl.); (4) helli-lamb, a lamb slaughtered for the Yule helly (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)); (5) helli-peats, helly's-, peats brought home for use during the helly (Ib.); (6) helli's kost, helys-, food prepared for the helly (Ib.).(2) Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 30:
As geud warld wus whin Sunday wus held a heliday, the sam' is ony ither heliday i' Yule.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 172:
In the corner of the butt-end lay the knockin' stane and mell, for the purpose of shelling bere, or barley, as a delicacy for helly days and Sunday dinners.
(5) Sh.9 1947:
Folk with their peats a long distance from the house might say: “We'll hae ta dad wis awa ta da wearied stack agen fur da helly's paets.”

[Norw. helg, holiday, O.N. helgr (dat. and acc. helgi), holiday, festival, helgi, holiness, sanctity. For the combs. cf. Norw. helligdag, feast day, Norw. dial. helgakost, helgamet, food for feast days, helleflynder, = (3), because commonly eaten on holy-days (cf. halibut = haly + butt, a flat fish).]

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"Helly n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jul 2024 <>



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