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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.

OWERHEID, adv., adj. Also ower-head (m.Lth. 1870 J. Lauder Warblings 68), owrehaid, owre-hede, -heid, ourheid, -hede, -hehd, overheid, o'erhead. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. overhead. [ʌu(ə)r′hid]Sh. 1991 William J. Tait in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 45:
An, hingin laich owerhaid, da lift
Roefs in my soety haad an daurs
m.Sc. 1996 John Murray Aspen 14:
the screich fae the pins
the slorrop fae the blades
an the skirl owerheid
fae the pliver, the peewee
an the whaup.
Lnk. 1998 Duncan Glen Selected New Poems 47:
It is doon to Lower East Side. It is
the Café le Metro ... Owreheid a train passes through the airtificial lichts
o the nicht.
Dundee 2000 Matthew Fitt But n Ben A-Go-Go 108:
Helicopters gurred owreheid, returnin commissars, held up by the storm, til their posts at Ceilidh Command.

I. adv. 1. At an all-over price, on an average reckoned per head (I. and ne.Sc., Ags., Wgt. 1964); in gross, unpicked, unselected; taken all over one with another, for the most part, over all (Fif. c.1850 R. Peattie MS.).Sc. 1701 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 289:
To Jon patersone, shoemaker, for 2 pair shoos to my selfe, a pair to william at 2 lib 8 sh the pair over heid.
Sc. 1726 Edb. Ev. Courant (31 March–4 April):
And the Copartnery's hail Farms of Peterhead Cropt 1725 . . . which will be set up at £4 13sh 4d. Scots per Boll overhead.
Abd. 1760 Aberdeen Jnl. (27 Oct.):
Oak, Beech, and Chestnut Plants, 2 Years old, at 1s. sterl. per 100 overhead, and 1s. 3d. if picked.
Abd. 1775 Fraserburgh Herald (24 Jan. 1939):
I oblidge myself to pay to you Nine Shilling Scots for each piece of the said stone long and short over head.
Per. 1799 J. Robertson Agric. Per. 516:
The rent, over-head . . . was under 1s. 6d. per acre.
Sc. 1808 Jam.:
One is said to buy a parcel of cattle ourhead, when he gives the same price for every one of them, without selection.
Sc. 1824 Scott St. Ronan's W. i.:
Their bind was just a Scots pint over-head and a tappit hen to the bill.
Edb. 1895 J. Tweeddale Moff 35:
For what think ye I made ower heid for my knowte? . . . Exactly fourteen and six aboon the highest guess.
Abd. 1923 R. L. Cassie Heid or Hert xiv.:
The fairmers, a' ower-heid, war rael weel pleased.

2. In a commotion, or confusion, head over heels, untidily, in a slovenly fashion (Bnff. 1880 Jam.; I. and ne.Sc. 1964); also owerheids.Mry. 1806 J. Cock Simple Strains 119:
They'll a' be o'erhead, in a cairn, Gin Mammy miss, again, her bairn.
Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms lxxv. 8:
The wine it's fu' red, an' it's a' owre-hede.
Ork. 1991:
They lived owerheids, and they pairted the bairns at Christmas (in an Orkney conversation about promiscuity etc among former North Isles whaling families).

3. In phr. to bring o'erhead, of a subject mentioned: to bring to the forefront, to one's notice, up for discussion.Lth. 1822 Farmer's Mag. (Feb.) 87:
An mair than that, sin' we hae brought it o'erhead; there has been nae sic wheat i' the Lothians sin' they brought in thae scartin English pleughs.

II. adj. 1. Average, general (Abd. 1964).Abd. 1882 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 105:
If the man gave a “bode” for one or two “stirks,” Sandy would loudly declare that he had offerred less for what formed really “the pick” of the lot than the average “owreheid” price to himself.

2. Untidy, slovenly, rough and ready. slap-dash, careless (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 121; Mry. 1925; Sh., Ork. 1964).Bnff. 1869 W. Knight Auld Yule 70:
But little kenn'd the bodies gaffin, When cheeks war weet, For a' his pranks and owrehead flaffin, That he could greet.
Abd. 1936 Huntly Express (10 Jan.) 6:
Roch Annan' wis weel named awite an owerheid, haiveless, stock.
Abd. 1964:
He's an owerheid gallus breet o' a chiel.

[Ower + Heid. O.Sc. has ouerheid, precipitately. For I. 1. cf. Ger. überhaupt, on an average.]

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



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