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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

LIEF, adj., adv. Also leaf, leef, leif; lieve, le(i)ve, leave, leeve; and reduced forms lea, lee, lei. Comp. liefer, le(e)ver; lear, leer (Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Agric. Ayr. 692, Uls. 1953 Traynor); loor (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 33; n.Sc. 1808 Jam.), leur, lure; lourd (see II.); lurd(e), loort. Superl. liefest; lieferest, leverest (Ork. 1887 Jam.).

I. adj. 1. As in poet. or arch. Eng.: dear, beloved.Sc. 1825 Jellon Grame in Child Ballads No. 90 B. xiii.:
Altho his father should wish me woe, His mother to me was leeve.

2. Predic. in phr.: lief is me, gen. in contracted forms leez(e), leaze, lease, leese, leis, me, lit. “dear is to me”, I like, love, am very fond of or pleased with, as an expression of affection or regard, blessings on … Gen. with on. Now only poet. and, as used in 1861 quot., arch. See 3.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 398:
Leese me that bonny Mouth that never told a fool tale.
Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 24:
Leez me on thy snawy pow, Lucky Nansy.
Ayr. 1785 Burns There was a Lad v.:
This chap will dearly like our kin', So leeze me on thee! Robin.
Rxb. 1821 A. Scott Poems 179:
Leeze me on the mailin that's fa'n to my share.
Slg. c.1860 Trans. Slg. Nat. Hist. & Arch. Soc. (1923) 10:
Oh, leese me on St. Ringans yet, 'Twill aye be dear tae me.
Sc. 1861 W. E. Aytoun Ballads I. 33:
Me were lever hanged and drawn.
Fif. 1894 J. Menzies Our Town 27:
Man, my fellow man, wad deprive me o' this. Leeze me on the higher pooer.
Abd. 1930 Weekly Scotsman (5 April) 2:
O leeze me aye my ain land, Though ither lands are fair.

In various erroneous usages, due to misunderstanding of the orig. construction. In the 1891 quot. the phr. appears to be taken as = Eng. dear me!Ags. 1865 A. Reid Bards Ags. (1897) 456:
Leeze me, lassie, but I lo'e thee.
Ayr. 1891 H. Johnston Kilmallie I. 190:
“Leeze me,” thinks I, “for all the whisky he has had surely it canna have taken to his head.”
Kcb. 1897 T. Murray Poems 124:
Since then I've seen her wale o' smiles Nae doot, ye'll leeze me o' my lot.

3. In conditional expressions with hae, as I had [sc. it] as lief, liefer, liefest. In Mid.Eng. the verb would came to be substituted for had (no doubt partly through the ambiguity of the reduced form 'd) and lief then construed as an adv. See further under II.Sc. 1724 Ramsay Ever Green (1875) I. 225:
I had leur ficht for fisch.
Edb. 1772 in Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 71:
Gif I hadna lure I cou'd command ilk Muse as sure.
Sc. 1803 Broom of Cowdenknowes in Child Ballads (1956) IV. 199:
I had lourd he had taen them a'.
Kcb. 1895 Crockett Bog-Myrtle ii. ii.:
They had as lief learn sune as syne.

4. Used as an intensive: entire, absolute, in combs.: (1) with alanelief-alane, leaf-, leave-, leive-, lieveahlane, leve o' lane, lief an len, leifih-lane, lief-on lone, leef(ie)-lone, leafu(l)-lane, leefu(l)-, liefu-, livefu-; leevefa leen; livan-lane, livin-, leevan-, -in-; luffalaen, löf-aleen (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., Sh. 1960); with lanele(a)-lane, lee-, -lone, -leen, gen. taking the constr. with the poss. pron. as my, your, etc. lief alane(s) (see Lane, 2.); also lief her etc. lane; quite alone, all by oneself, in solitary state (Sc. 1808 Jam. leefow-; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 104, lee-lane; Cai. 1902 E.D.D., livan-lane; Uls. 1905 Uls. Jnl. Archaeol. 124; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., lee(fu)-lane; Per., Fif. 1915–26 Wilson, lee-lane; Sh., Ork. (leevan-leen), n.Sc. (leefu-leen), em.Sc. (-lane), Ayr. (lee-lane), Kcb. (leefu-), Slk. (lee-), Uls. (lief-lone) 1960).Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (1848) II. 345:
Whilk gart some aft their leeful lane Bring to the warld the luckless wean.
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Poems 98:
Then leaves her, pain'd in waesome manner, Her liefu' lane thro' woods to wan'er.
Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck xv.:
Keatie's at hame her lievahlane.
Sc. 1819 Scots Mag. (June) 527:
His livan' lane the road he's tane To the hauntet Stanebyres-shaw.
Ayr. 1821 Galt Annals iv.:
Charlie Malcolm, who had come all the way that day his leaful lane, on his own legs from Greenock.
Ags. 1822 A. Balfour Farmers' Three Daughters 256:
An' live in a hole of a house my lief alane, like Tibbie Jack?
Abd. 1867 A. Allardyce Goodwife 5:
I've been a' day my leefu leen.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 37:
Black Jock wus i' the hoose her leevan leen.
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 78:
Said the Laird o' Littlefirlot, While he sat 'im liefu' lane.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xxii.:
And you your lee-lone in a strange place.
Fif. 1895 S. Tytler MacDonald Lass xii.:
What is to become of me and the bairns . . . left to pine our leelones here?
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo 51:
It was juist as if the bottom o' the warld had tummled oot and left me my leave-a-lane, wi' nocht to grup by.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 198:
He leev'd lee-lane. He did it lee-lane. Left leifu'-lane in a big hoose.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood ii.:
What will that puir man o' mine dae his lee lane?
Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 22:
Him an' Willa wis sittin' dir lief a lanes. Da bairns wis awa.
Fif.17 1959:
To gan yer leefu' lane = to walk unaided, of a toddler.
m.Sc. 1976 Walter Perrie A Lamentation for the Children (1977) 14:
Ae simmer nicht he met a lass, a tinker chiel aa leaf her lane.
Abd. 1990 Stanley Robertson Fish-Hooses (1992) 174:
Donnie walked awa with the sheltie, and he left peer Charlotte on her leaf alane intae the lonely road.
Sc. 1991 T. S. Law in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 31:
the lane sodger lad
his leefou lane.
His leefou lane
wi a wurld o dool an luve.
Abd. 1994 Stanley Robertson in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 19:
"Weel I bide mi leaf alane in the middle o this huge forest and if ye come hame wi mi and be mi hoosekeeper for one month and a day I will grant ye aa yer wishes,"

(2) with langleeve-lang, le(a)ve-, trisyllabic leevy-lang, and reduced forms lea-lang, le(e)-, lie-, corresp. to Eng. livelong, all (day, night, etc.) long, the whole (day, etc.), freq. implying tedium or dreariness. Gen.(exc. I.)Sc., now somewhat liter. Also in transposed forms lee(vy)-day lang.Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 117:
To Echoes we should lilt and play, And gie to Mirth the lee-lang Day.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 55:
There let me sit and sing the leave-lang day.
Ayr. 1794 Burns It was a' for v.:
I think on him that's far awa', The lee-lang night and weep.
Slk. 1823 Hogg in Blackwood's Mag. (March) 318:
He watched … the lee-lang night.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 3:
[He] in his cave the lee day lang Sat culyieing thee beside the shore.
Sc. 1829 Hugh Spencer in Child Ballads (1889) III. 281:
He wad hae ridden oer meel or mor A leve-lang summer's day.
Dmf. 1873 A. Anderson Song of Labour 166:
An' naething ava to mak siccan a sang As ye dae aboot her a' the leevy day lang.
Ags. 1874 C. Sievwright Love Lilts 10:
Sweeter than the cushats croodle Maggie sings the lee-day lang.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Merry Men v.:
Puir souls in the deid thraws, warstlin' the leelang nicht wi' their big ships.
Gall. 1912 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 292:
We enjoyed oorsel's the leelang day.
ne.Sc. 1958 Scottish Studies II. i. 47:
An' that's a' he did, the lee-lang day.

5. Hence, from the connotation of loneliness in the above; solitary, desolate, eerie. Only poet. and esp. in ballads. The forms liefu, leefu are also found, developed out of liefu-lane above.Sc. a.1800 Lord Thomas and Fair Annet in Child Ballads (1885) II. 189:
And he is on to Annie's bower By the lei light o the moon.
Edb. 1812 P. Forbes Poems 7:
Ye'r lang leefu' love lament About a limmer.
Slk. 1818 Hogg Tales (1874) 236:
Lie thy lane, step-dame; An' liefu' be thy lair.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 42:
The lee-light that December gies Was lairing in the wast.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxvi.:
There's no ane to cheer me across the hearthstane, A' the lee winter nicht I maun dozen my lane.
e.Lth. 1885 S. Mucklebackit Rural Rhymes 256:
Wee Effie, sae mazed, she sank on the swaird, In a leefu' an' sleepy-like dwam.

II. adv. As in Eng. dial. use: dearly, gladly, willingly (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 256; Slg. 1952). Freq. in conditional expressions I wad as lief, liefer (loor, etc.), I would rather. Compar. also leifer. Gen.Sc. In 1893 quot. used wrongly for Eng. “had better, be as well to”. The forms of the phr. in which the verb was omitted led to loor itself being taken as a verb and to the forms l(o)urd, used quasi pa.t. or pa.p. Hence the tautology in first 1871 quot. See I. 3.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 19:
But I loor chuse in Highland glens To herd the kid and goat — man.
Sc. 1765 Child Maurice in Child Ballads (1956) II. 275:
I rather lourd it had been my sel.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 99:
I lear by far she dy'd like Jinken's hen, Or we again met yon unruly men.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To G. Hamilton i.:
As lieve then, I'd have then, Your clerkship he should sair.
Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Ballads I. 350:
Shame fa' his silly head wad do't; I loor my love were in a mire!
Fif. 1816 A. Mercer Craw-Court 19:
But ye wad loort the harrows grieve.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man (1972) x.:
I lurde see the cross on the handle of sword or spear ony time afore that hanging at the paunch of priest.
Fif. 1844 J. Jack St. Monance 17:
“I lurd,” says Tam, “they had baith gane, Rob.”
Sc. 1871 Ballad Minstrelsy 321:
I'd lever lourd it had been mysel.
Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms xci. 2:
My God, I maun lippen him liefest.
m.Lth. 1882 Mod. Sc. Poets (Edwards) IV. 174:
To move ye frae yer ain daft gate I'd lief ding ower the Bass.
Fif. 1893 G. Setoun Barncraig 29:
Ye'd as lief own up till't, like a man.
s.Sc. 1897 E. Hamilton Outlaws iv.:
I'd liefer trust myself to the rankest thief in Cumberland than to the honestest man that ever hailed from Liddesdale.
Sh. 1899 Shetland News (12 Aug.):
I wid far leever dell at wance.
Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. 47:
The saying went, “A weaver leevar than want,” which meant that a woman would rather have a weaver for her husband than have no husband at all.
Gall. 1928 Gallov. Annual 66:
I wad liefest lie where the muir-fowl cry In my ain Grey Gallowa'.
Ags. 1956 Forfar Dispatch (19 Jan.):
It's mebbe no' the bonniest nor yet the brawest — but it's the ane ye'd liefest bide in.
m.Sc. 1986 Colin Mackay The Song of the Forest 162:
Fight. Listen. Fight. That is the food of our mouths we harvested today, says Finella, and I woud leifer put a torch to each sheaf and let the red rooster crow from one end of the field to the other, than let they bloody murdering men take even one grain of what is rightfully ours,

[O.Sc. lefe, dear, beloved, a.1400, pleased, willing, c.1450, adv. gladly, a.1520, leif is me, c.1580, leis me, a.1568, O.E. lēof, dear, pleasant. Lief alane, lee lane, is a relatively recent formation on the analogy of lee(ve) lang, Mid.Eng. lefe longe. Cf. Mid.Du. leve lange, Ger. liebe lange (of day, night, etc.) where leve, liebe, beloved, pleasant, is sim. used as an intensive.]

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"Lief adj., adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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