Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SKREICH, v., n., adj. Also skreech, skri(e)ch, skreegh, skreigh, skri(e)gh, skrighe, screich, scri(e)ch, screech, scriegh, scr(e)igh, scree(c)gh, skriek, skreek, screek, screak. Owing to the phonetic ambiguity of the spelling -ch, it is not always possible to distinguish the word from Eng. screech. [skriç; skrik]

I. v. 1. intr. To shriek, scream, screech, utter a high shrill cry (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). Gen.Sc.; of a horse: to neigh, whinny; to make a screeching, grating noise (Cai., Abd. 1970). Vbl.n. scriechin, skreighing. Sc. 1715 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 68:
What wad gar her skirle And skriegh some Day.
Sc. 1745 Scots Mag. (June) 275:
The scrieching pyets daubed a' our barn.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 25:
The howlet screekt, an' that was warst of a'.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Auld Mare viii.:
How thou wad prance, an' snore, an' skreigh.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xi.:
I doubted Mary wad waken you wi' her skreighing.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry 140:
Pipe and fiddle, Skrieghin' and screedin' fiddle-diddle.
Crm. 1835 H. Miller Scenes 325:
Launch down the yawls ane by ane, an' dinna let their keels skreigh alang the stanes.
Sc. 1881 Stevenson Thrawn Janet:
Her screighin' an' laughin' as was a scandal to be heard.
Ork. 1904 Dennison Sketches 2:
The women yarmed an' skreeked eneuch tae gluff the Trow himsel'.
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo 162:
He began to screich and yowl.
Cai. 1922 J. Horne Poems 41:
He yelps an' skreeks 'e hale day lang.
Ayr. 1927 J. Carruthers A Man Beset vii.:
It [the key] had been making such a screichin' in the lock.
Sh. 1958 New Shetlander No. 46. 9:
The gale scriechs in the wires.

2. tr. To emit with a yell, to shriek out, to utter in a shrill tone (Sh., n.Sc., Per. 1970). Ayr. 1786 Burns Earnest Cry ii.:
Screichan out prosaic verse.
Edb. 1801 H. MacNeill Poems II. 25:
Rebellion loud, wi' dread alarm, Skreighed wild her cry.
Per. 1893 Harp Per. (Ford) 362:
The Croaker screiched alood — “Ye will rue! Ye will rue!”
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 70:
Hymnies are scraicht to the meesic-fan.

II. n. 1. A scream, screech, shriek, a shrill cry or call (Sc. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc. 1893 Dunbar's Wks. (S.T.S.) III. 224, skreek; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Rnf., Dmf. 1930; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). Gen.Sc.; a screeching, grating noise. Also fig. Adj. skreichie, addicted to shrill yelling or laughing (Fif. 1954). Sc. 1700 J. Clark Christ's Impressions 10:
To hear the horrible Skrieks of the damned wights there.
Sc. 1713 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) II. 240:
Her screichs and cryes are inexpressible.
Ayr. 1790 Burns Tam o' Shanter 220–1:
So Maggie runs, the witches follow. Wi' mony an eldritch skreich and hollo.
Fif. 1806 A. Douglas Poems 10:
The cries o' bairns, the skrieghs o' wives.
Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xxiii.:
The skreigh of duty which no man should hear and be inobedient.
Mry. 1865 J. Horne Poems 8:
Curlews' screeches were garring ring Our rocks.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 38:
Aye sheu gae paercin' skreeks.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 139:
He heard a lang sliding skreigh doon the shank, then a crash.
Ags. 1890 A. Lowson J. Guidfollow 234:
Then raise the Diel, wi' Owlet's screigh!
Sc. 1928 Scots Mag. (July) 274:
We wadna bide a donnert organ here, Wi' wheeplin' screigh or wamblin' wailin' tear.
Sh. 1931 Sh. Almanac Companion 189:
Shu gae a aafil screecgh, an' loupit i' da air laek a maa.
wm.Sc. 1948 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 182:
A screigh that made the roots of my hair stand up and shiver.

Phr. scri(e)ch o' larks, -laivrocks, day-break (Cai., Arg., Rxb. 1921 T.S.D.C. IV.). The phr. has been adapted from skreek o' day s.v. Skreek.

2. The swift, Micropus apus (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 265), from its shrill cry.

III. adj. Fig. Clamant, importunate, sheer (Per. 1921 T.S.D.C., in phr. skreigh misery). The entry given in Jam. MSS. (a.1838) XI. 167 for Lth. as skreegh, a miser, may be due to a misunderstanding of this use. This adj. usage is however odd and may originate in some deformation of Skire, adj., 3. Edb. 1866 J. Smith Poems 40:
Sic dreich wark — sic skreich wark.
Edb. 1878 J. Smith Peggy Pinkerton 3:
A skinny, lantern-jawed, skreech-misery lookin' apology for humanity.

[O.Sc. skryk, (to) screech, screke, scryke, 1513, skrech, a shriek, 1549, altered form of Eng. screak, of imit. orig. Cf. also Skraich, Skrauch.]

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"Skreich v., n., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 May 2021 <>



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