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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.

MEY, n., v. Also mei (Abd. 1891 Trans. Bch. Field Club II. 13). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. May, the fifth month of the year. [məi]

I. n.

Sc. form of Eng. 1979 Alexander Scott in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 70:
Mairch and April, Mey and June,
Here I come to lay me doun,
Come to lay me doun and dee,
Air and fire and yirth and sea.
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 25:
The warld is green! Like hinnymead
The harebells waucht their scent.
An elfin witcherie is Mey
Wi whaup an larksang blent.

1. Sc. Combs. and Phrs.: (1) May-bird, (i) the whimbrel, Numenius phœopus (Inv. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 X. 372; Uls. a.1908 Traynor (1953), Uls. 1962); (ii) fig. a person born in May; ¶(2) meycock, ? = the missel-thrush; (3) May-flood, a high tide occurring in May (Ork. 1962); (4) may-flooer, -flower, (i) the wild primrose, Primula vulgaris (Uls. 1953 Traynor; I.Sc. 1962). Cf. Meysie; (ii) the lady's smock, Cardamine pratensis (Rxb. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 33; Ayr. 1962); (iii) the lilac, Syringa (Kcb. 1962); (5) may fowl, = (1) (i); (6) May-gob, a spell of cold weather about the second week of May (Cai. 1903 E.D.D., Cai. 1962). See Gab, n.2; (7) May-gosling, a person who has been befooled in pranks associated with the first of May, the equivalent of an April fool; (8) May gowan, see Gowan; (9) Mey Jean, a “green” crab, i.e. one which has just or is about to cast its shell, a Piller or Spung, q.v. (Bnff. 1964); (10) May parr, a young salmon before it commences its descent of the river as a smolt in May; (11) May puddock, -paddock, a frog in the month of May when it is popularly supposed to close its mouth and remain silent till the end of summer. In proverbial phr. as mim as a May puddock, very demure and staid in behaviour (Ayr. 1822 Galt Entail lxxviii.; Sc. 1845 Edb. Tales (Johnstone) I. 178; Mry. 1914 H. J. Warwick Tales 91). Gen.Sc.; (12) May shell, the bone of the cuttle fish, Sepia officinalis; (13) May-skate, the sharp-nosed ray, Raja oxyrhynchus (Lth. 1811 Wernerian Soc. Trans. I. 533); (14) Mey-sob, see quot.; (15) May-spink, the wild primrose, Primula vulgaris (Abd., Kcd. 1886 B. & H. 329; Ags., Per. 1962). See Spink and cf. (4) (i); (16) May whaup, = (1) (i) (Uls. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 200; Sc. 1891 Century Dict. s.v.): ¶(17) Queen o' May, = (4) (i).(1) (i) w.Sc. 1878 Zoologist (Ser. 3) II. 329:
Whimbrel. May-bird. This name is universally applied throughout the Long Island or Outer Hebrides, and in many other parts of the West of Scotland.
Arg. 1953 Scotsman (1 Aug.):
They were whimbrel, known to Kintyre people as “May birds”, because they often arrive there on the first or second days of May.
(ii) Sc. 1825 Jam.:
It would seem that some idea of wantonness is attached to the circumstance of being hatched or born in this month. Hence the Prov., “May-birds are ay wanton.”
(2) Ayr. 1892 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 336:
The robin's left the ha' door, The meycock he's come back.
(3) ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 146:
The saying about the spawned haddock, “harrowster”, or “kameril”, is that it is not good till it gets three dips in the “May flood”.
Ork.5 1962:
Three drinks o the Mey fluid turns a sillock intae a cuithe.
(4) (i) Sh. 1947 Folk-Bk. (Tait) I. 84:
Mey-flooer. Primrose. Primula vulgaris.
(5) Hebr. 1871 Proc. Nat. Hist. Soc. Gsw. 111:
The great numbers of the Whimbrel seen in the Long Island in the month of May (and known there as “May fowl”) do not breed in the islands, but depart towards the end of the month.
(6) Sc. 1933 N. B. Morrison Gowk Storm i. vii.:
I recognise those gipsies, . . . they come round every year with the May-gobs.
(7) Sc. 1842 Chambers' Information 616:
There was also a practice of making fools on May-day, similar to what obtains on the first of the preceding month. The deluded were called May-goslings.
(10) Dmf. 1841 Penny Cycl. XX. 364:
The smaller summer parrs (called in Dumfriesshire, May parrs).
(11) Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 51:
Sit down beside her as ye were a Mess John . . . and had your mouth as mim and grave as a May-puddock.
wm.Sc. 1934 “Uncle Tom” Mrs Goudie's Tea-Pairty 19:
Lookin' at yin anither as mim's a May puddock.
(12) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 129:
Caumshell, or Clamshell, or Mayshell, a beautiful white piece of shelly or boney matter, in shape somewhat like a lady's slipper, frequently found driven in upon our shores. It is reduced by our nowt doctors to a fine powder, and blown through the hollows of quills into cattle's eyes, which have motes in them.
(14) Abd. 1885 Folk-Lore Jnl. III. 306:
During the first half of the month of May the sea assumes a dull colour . . . This goes by various names: “the gammicks o' Mey, the Mey-sob”.
(17) Lth. 1787 W. Taylor Poems 18:
The Queen o' May, in rocklay green Our Currie braes adorneth.

2. The wild primrose, Primula vulgaris. Cf. 1. (4) (i), (14) and (16). Cf. Meysie.Ags. 1876 G. Hay Arbroath 385:
The observance of May-day was much more common in the olden time than it is now . . . Young persons of both sexes were in the habit of going into the country to gather “the May,” — primroses, — and of walking along the cliffs to engrave their names on the Maiden Hillock at the Cove Haven.

II. v. Of wheat: to develop a yellow tinge in the foliage in spring. Only in vbl.n. maying. Also in Eng. dial.Per. 1841 Trans. Highl. Soc. 261:
It (wheat) is not so liable as some varieties to that yellowish tinge on the foliage which some call Maying.

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"Mey n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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