Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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MITHER, n., v. Also midder (Sh., ne.Sc.); mideer (Sc. a.1818 Mother's Malison in Child Ballads No. 216 A. xxii.); moder (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.), moeder (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.); ¶medder (n.Sc. c.1805 Child Ballads (1956) V. 221). Sc. forms of Eng. mother. Hence mitherlie (Sc. 1825 Jam.), midderly (Abd. 1923 R. Cassie Heid or Hert vi.), mitherliness (Sc. 1825 Jam.), mitherless (Per. c.1800 Lady Nairne Mitherless Lammie i.; Abd. 1844 W. Thom Poems 104). [Sc. ′mɪðər; Sh., ne.Sc. ′mɪd-]

I. n. 1. Sc. gen. combs. and derivs.: (1) clocksmidder, a hen with chickens (I.Sc. 1963). See also Clock, n.1, III.; (2) midder bag, the bag of instruments carried by a doctor when attending a birth; (3) mither's bairn, a spoilt, indulged child. Gen.Sc.; (4) Mither's caridge, Mother's carritch, see Carritch, n., 1. (1) and (10) below; (5) mother-di, moderdai, -dy, see Die, n.2, 3.; (6) midder-herdit, steered or shepherded by one's mother; (7) mother-hill, in regard to a sheep: the stretch of land on which it grazed with its mother; (8) motherie, a small delicately-coloured shell used for making necklaces (Bnff., Ags. 1963). Prob. a shortened dim. form of mother-of-pearl; (9) mither's pet, the youngest child of a family (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 348; Cai. 1903 E.D.D.). Gen.Sc.; (10) Mother's Questions, a simplified form of the Shorter Catechism, compiled in 1731 by the Rev. J. Willison of Dundee for the use of mothers in teaching their children. See also (4); (11) mother-side, the maternal side or line of descent, mother being orig. the uninflected genitive case. Gen.Sc. Cf. 3. (1); (12) moder-sook, a shoreward drift or current by which seamen steered towards the shore in bad visibility before the marine compass came into general use (Sh. 1963). See also (5), ebb-midder s.v. Ebb, and Souk; (13) motherstone, see quot.; (14) mither wife, a mother, a married woman who has borne a child. (1) Sh. 1897 Shetland News (19 June):
A lauchter o' as pretty shikens is could rin wi' a clocksmidder.
(2) Bnff. 1957 Banffshire Jnl. (20 Aug.):
The advent of the “midder bag” was only just in time; the next night the stork descended on the village in the early hours, and it was put to full use.
(3) Sc. 1896 A. Lang Monk of Fife i.:
Of me, in our country speech, it used to be said that I was “a mother's bairn.”
(6) Abd. 1936 Abd. Univ. Review (July) 199:
Peer Bathie, midder-herdit, unco shy, Cam' ben the kirk in her best Sunday trim.
(7) Kcb. 1898 Crockett Standard Bearer i.:
It is the nature of sheep to return if they can to their mother-hill.
(8) Sth. 1953 People's Friend (3 Oct.):
The shells most suitable are very tiny and beautifully-made with a faint blue and pink colouring. They are called Motheries and are found on the shore at Golspie.
(10) Lnk. 1910 C. Fraser Glengonnar 60:
His mother tells that when the weans were wee she used to mak' them learn the Singles and the Mother's Questions on the Sabbath efternoons.
(11) Sc. 1768 Boswell Corsica II. 58:
Being uncle by the mother-side to Eurysthenes.
(13) Per. 1799 J. Robertson Agric. Per. 17:
A bed of rock marle, which crumbles down when exposed to the air, and forms a good soil of the same colour with the rock; which some farmers call motherstone soil.
(14) Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Miller ii.:
Mither wives, and laddie weans, Attack them whiles wi' clods an' stanes.

2. Combs. in plant-names: (1) mother die, the yarrow, Achillea millefolium (Abd. 1963) (see quot.). Found in n.Eng. dial. = red campion; (2) mother's heart, the shepherd's purse, Capsella Bursa-pastoris, because of its heart-shaped seed-pod (s.Sc. 1903 E.D.D.); (3) mother of wheat, a flowering plant found in fields of young wheat given as (i) the ivy-leaved speedwell, Veronica hederifolia (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 155); (ii) the common fumitory, Fumaria officinalis (Lth. 1950 per B.B.C. Broadcast). (1) Abd. 1949 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 214:
I see the white “Mother Die” flowers which we pulled in defiance of superstition. We would run home with them, hoping all the way that our mothers wouldn't die because we had plucked the flowers.

3. Phrs.: (1) man and mother son, every man, every human being, mother being orig. the uninflected genitive as in 1. (11) above. The Eng. form mother's son is found in Burns Tam o' Shanter 220; (2) mither o' the mawkins, the little grebe or dabchick, Podiceps ruficollis (see quot.) (Slg. 1867 Zoologist II. 905), “applied in one village, to the dabchick from its diving capabilities and the way in which it suddenly disappears when pursued” (Slg. 1885 Trans. Slg. Nat. Hist. and Archaeol. Soc. 63); †(3) mither of the sea, midder o' de sea, a benign goddess who was the source of life and vitality to all sea creatures (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork. 1929 Marw.). (1) Sc. 1713 R. Wodrow Corresp. (1842) I. 473:
There are some phrases reckoned Scotticisms, “signify to a hair,” and “man and mother son.”
(3) Ork. 1891 Sc. Antiquary V. 70:
“The Mither of the Sea” — She was a great and benign being, who gave vitality to every living creature in the sea.

4. In I.Sc. usage of anything large of its kind, e.g. a large full-grown ling (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Sh., Cai. 1963); a large seed potato (I.Sc. 1963). Also taati-midder, id. (Jak.). Sh. 1898 Shetland News (30 July):
If doo's gaen tu gie him [a pig] blaedig wi' dis füshinless dirt, auld wattery midders, . . . doo sall get da feedin' o'm dysel.
Ib. (17 Sept.):
Dey wir monie a güde muckle midder o' a ling taen 'uto him.

II. v. Vbl.n. in comb. mothering stone, a standing stone or large boulder believed to have magic powers in giving fertility or in easing the labours of child-birth. Sc. 1948 Scots Mag. (July) 284:
“Mothering stones”, as they were sometimes called, were thought to confer human fertility or to ease the course of child-bearing. Not more than a generation ago pilgrimages were made by women about to become mothers to the stone known as Clach-na-Bhan . . . in Glen Avon.

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"Mither n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2021 <>



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