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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

LITHE, adj., n., v. Also lyth(e); ¶leethe (Abd. 1925 A. Murison Rosehearty Rhymes 13, 96), by confusion with Eng. lee; lyde, ley'd (Ags. 1854 Arbroath Guide (6 May) 3), lieed (Ags. 1919 T.S.D.C.). [Sc. lɑeð, Ags., Gall. + lɑed]

I. adj. ‡1. Of persons, etc.: gentle, mild, genial, kindly, affectionate (Bnff. 1961).Abd. 1827 J. Imlah May Flowers 30:
O! never can thy beauty win, A hame mair lithe — a heart mair leal.
Abd. 1866 Banffshire Jnl. (20 March) 5:
I will ever hae a lythe heart to Kemnay.
Abd. 1904 W. Farquhar Fyvie Lintie 5:
Adieu! dear Musie, blate but blithe aye, Lang may your he'rt be hale and lithe aye.
Bnff. 1933 M. Symon Deveron Days 21:
An' it's lythe we'll lie in Appin, When the lang day's deen.
Mry. 1958:
Mither and Hame are twa lythe words.

Deriv. lythesome, id. Also of weather.Abd. c.1850 Vagabond Songs (Ford 1904) 169:
My heart an' a' she's stown awa' Wi' the lythesome, blythesome blinkin' o't.
Ayr. 1892 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 175:
The weather is lythsome, An' out come the bansters and bauns.
Per. 1897 R. M. Fergusson Village Poet 23:
An intelligent face, bright, sharp and lithesome.
Sc. 1936 J. G. Horne Flooer o' Ling 55:
It's lythesome noo at e'enin.

2. Of a place, etc.: calm, sheltered from the elements, cosy, snug (n.Sc. 1961). Hence lytheness, n., shelter, snugness.Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 155:
Like thee they scoug frae street or field, An' hap them in a lyther bield.
Cai. 1776 Weekly Mag. (25 Jan.) 145:
I'm quite contentit, man, wi' this lythe bield.
Mry. 1804 R. Couper Poems I. 68:
Aft look they to yon rising cott, Lyth on the sunny brae.
ne.Sc. 1842 Blackwood's Mag. (March) 299:
Occasionally the first child comes very soon — a circumstance ascribed to the lytheness of the sandhills.
Abd. 1844 W. Thom Poems 44:
When a' the warld is cauld an' dark, There's licht an' litheness there!
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin iv.:
At the lithe side o' a whun buss, wi' a nestfu' o' raw gorbets on his knee.
Ags. 1886 Brechin Advert. (18 May) 3:
The lyde side o' an auld steen dyke wis a welcome shelter.
ne.Sc. 1929 M. W. Simpson Day's End 22:
I'll be lyther on the by-road When the day's darg's dune!
Bnff. 1934 J. M. Caie Kindly North 11:
It's a bonny-lyin' craftie, fine an' lythe ayont the hill.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 191:
"There was siccan a well on Willie's Muir when I was a laddie," he said. "Aye there was a hollow at the head of the muir and a spring of clean cauld water that came out atween the stones in the middle o a lythe place wi auld whin bushes round it. ... "
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 13:
I look far ower by Ythanside
To Fyvie's laich, lythe laans,
To Auchterless an Bennachie
An the mist-blue Grampians.

Used fig. in phr. a lythe side (tae), a soft spot, a liking or favour (for), a favourable disposition (towards), one's good graces (ne.Sc. 1961).Mry. c.1850 Lintie o' Moray (1887) 30:
Auld Robbie had nae lithe side to a brawl.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin ix.:
I cud na juist blame him a' thegither for ha'ein a lithe side to Tibbie.
Abd.15 1900:
He's wun up the lythe side o' her — he has ingratiated himself with her.
Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains and Hilly 200:
He wisna an ull craitur, Watty, tho' he hid a lythe side to the bawbees.

II. n. 1. Calm, peace, stillness; tranquillity. Obs. in Eng.Abd. p.1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 183:
But yet the lythe about his heart that lay By some sma inklings show'd itsell that day.

2. Shelter, protection from the weather, a sheltered spot, the lee side of anything (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.; n.Sc. 1961). Hence lythie, sheltered, litheless, unsheltered, unprotected.Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 62:
An' she frae onie bield was far awa', Except stane sides, and they had little lythe.
Abd. 1813 W. Beattie Tales 30:
Or if perforce of endrift styth, He is oblig'd to seek a lyth Amo' the byres and barns.
Ags. 1820 A. Balfour Contemplation 305:
There, seated in a lythie nook, You'll tent my twa three lammies play.
Abd. 1844 W. Thom Poems 104:
His wee, hackit heelies are hard as the airn, An' litheless the lair o' the mitherless bairn!
Abd. 1879 G. Macdonald Sir Gibbie liv.:
I see a great scythe Swing whaur yer nestie lies, doon i' the lythe, Liltin' laverock!
Ags. 1880 Brechin Advert. (21 Sept.) 3:
But we are in the lithe, gudeman, And carena for the wun'.
Bnff. 1914 R. H. Calder Gleanings 31:
Tak' them ootbye to the howes o' Lagnafadyean; there's meat an' lithe there.
Kcd. 1932 L. G. Gibbon Sunset Song 57:
Sometimes they hiddled in the lithe and the sleet sang past to left and right.
Abd. 1957 Buchan Observer (4 June):
There was just light enough to let them discern two figures in the “lythe” of the stack.
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 16:
An fyles on a stull Mey nicht
I wid tak a daaner roun
By Spital an College Bounds
To the lythe o the Aal Toon.

Fig. in phrs. in the lithe o', under the pretext or screen of, to tak the lithe o, to shelter behind, lit. and fig., use as a screen or protection.Abd. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 7:
If we “tak the lithe o' him,” we are not worse than those, politicians and others, who shelter behind authority.
Abd. 1929 J. Milne Dreams o' Buchan 5:
An' a fordel o' meal an' aul' claes as weel She got in the lythe o' the bairn.

3. A period of calm, a lull, respite. Obs. in Eng. in 15th c.Mry. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 17:
Fin Rab, Jock an' wee Jamie … were aff for the squeel, a lithe cam' ower the wark.

III. v. ‡1. To shelter, give protection from weather (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.; Abd. 1961).Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems viii.:
When ance she [the Muse] kindly lyth'd his back, He fan' nae frost.
Abd. 1899 Drachlaw MS.:
The cosy gairden in the howe Is lythed frae winds by Ardie's knowe.
Abd. 1933 Sc. N. & Q. (Nov.) 176:
They planted belts to lythe th' airt.

2. (1) To thicken or mellow soup or gravy, gen. by the addition of flour, oatmeal, etc. (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 196; s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. sc. Poetry Gl.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Abd., Bwk., Uls. 1961). Vbl.n. lithin, the flour, meal or milk added for this purpose (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 136; Patterson; ne.Sc. 1961); to add meal to boiling water by letting it trickle through the fingers, in making porridge (Gall. 1934, lyde). Found in n.Eng. dial. Also fig. Comb. ¶creest-leydit, “thickened with impudence” (Gall. a.1900 “ Mulciber Veritatis” Gallowa' Herds 6).Sc. 1809 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 608:
An' now a days there's nae sic thing As lovin' hearts o' nature's lythin'.
Sc. 1821 Blackwood's Mag. (June) 320:
A brimming cog of “kail” Old Scotia's barley-broth, commix'd with “greens”, And lithed into consistency with “beans
Sc. 1826 M. Dods Manual II. 99:
Turkey beans stripped of their blackening outer husk, are admirably adapted for lithing barley broth.
Sc. 1833 Chambers's Jnl. (May) 136:
Nae kail will be lyth'd by the fat of his rib.
Abd. 1882 W. Forsyth Writings 9:
An' a' to lythe their Aulton brose An' mak' their Aulton parritch thicker.
Abd.1 1929:
Mak' a lythin' o' flooer o' meal and a drap ream an' mak yer soup maumy.
Gall.2 1943:
In steeping the porridge over-night — to avoid the creation of lumps — the meal should be placed in the right hand with the palm upwards and the meal should be allowed to trickle down into the pan and the piles loosened by movement of the fingers. Over 70 years ago I heard the word used in the house of my grandfather … Very few folks … know about this old fashioned system of “lyding the parritch”.

Hence lythie, -y, thick, mellow, of soup, etc. (Rxb. 1825 Jam.); smooth and palatable to the taste (Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 253); lithiness, a proper thick consistency, of soup.Sc. 1737 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) IV. 130:
Cogue-fous of the lythy kail.
Sc. 1824 J. Wilson Tournay viii.:
He maun be cockered up wi' spice and pottages, strong and lithy.
Sc. 1837 M. Dods Manual 118:
Some soups are very good when made the day before they are to be eaten, as the top-fat can be removed in a cake, and they also attain more complete consistence (Scotticè, lithiness), without losing their flavour.

(2) To make water thick or turbid with mud or sludge.Sc. 1812 R. Bald Coal-Trade Scot. 13:
The coalmaster frequently inquired if the sinkers were lything the water, that is, making it of a thick and muddy colour by their operations.

[The same word as Eng. lithe, supple, pliant. O.Sc. lithe, to assuage, influence gently, a.1400, lyth, cosy, c.1470, O.E. līðe, gentle, mild, līðan, to make mild, mollify.]

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"Lithe adj., n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 May 2024 <>



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