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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SLATE, n. Also sleit (Cai. 1934 John o' Groat Jnl. (9 Nov.)); slett- (Abd. 1899 J. Milne Poems 21). See also Sclate. Sc. form and usages: as in Eng.; transf. a flat piece of hardwood nailed on to the under and fore-sides of an oar to prevent wearing against the thole-pin, “the part of an oar which works in the humilband” (Sh., Ork. 1970). Sc. combs. and derivs.:

1. slate-band, a type of argillaceous schist (Cld., Gall. 1825 Jam.; Fif., Lnk. 1970). Also in form slatyband, id. (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 61), “a fissile ironstone consisting of alternating clayband and blackband laminae” (Sc. 1920 Special Reports Mineral Reserves Gl. (Mem. Geol. Survey) XI.); 2. slate-barn, a barn with a slated roof, as distinct from a thatched or tiled roof. Cf. 5. (1) below; †3. slate-club, a type of friendly society or charitable organization set up by journeyman tradesmen for the assistance of out-of-work members of the trade, and acting as a kind of labour exchange, the accounts of the loans being kept on a slate. The system was later adopted in England on a general basis with the formation of dividing or sharing-out clubs, sometimes known as Birmingham Societies. See also 5. (2) below; 4. slate diamond, a popular name for iron-pyrite crystals (see quot.) (Bwk., wm.Sc. 1970); 5. slate house, (1) a house with a slated roof as distinct from a thatched or tiled one (Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., Ags. 1970). Cf. 2. above; (2) = 3. above; 6. slate-keeper, the person in charge of a slate-club or slate-house, see 3. and 5. (2) above; 7. slate-pen, slate-pencil. See also Pen, n., 2. (2); 8. slater, slatter, slettar, slatroo (Ork.); the slate-coloured insect freq. found under flat stones, the wood-louse or sow-bug, Oniscus asellus Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Uls. 1953 Traynor Gl.). Gen.Sc., also in n.Eng. dial.; 9. slaties, n. pl., the game of hop-scotch, freq. played with a piece of slate (Bnff. 1970).1. Gall. 1820 S. Smith Agric. Gall. 20:
The proper schistus, the schiefer of the Germans, called by English miners shiver, and in Galloway slate-band.
2. Dmf. 1779 Dmf. Weekly Jnl. (10 Feb.):
A large new built slate barn.
3. Edb. 1778 Session Papers, Journeymen v. Master Tailors (30 June) 5:
Prohibiting and discharging the journeymen-taylors in this shire, or any person appointed by them, to keep a slate-club or house of call, for journeymen-taylors out of work.
4. Per. 1841 Trans. Highl. Soc. 18:
Iron-pyrites, in cubical crystals, known by the name of “slate diamonds”.
5. (1) Peb. 1775 M. Armstrong Tweedale 108:
A wild and solitary site for a slate house.
Dmf. 1776 Dmf. Weekly Mag. (16 July):
A slate-house at the foot of the Old Flesh Market in Dumfries.
(2) Edb. 1778 Session Papers, Journeymen v. Master Tailors (7 July) 8:
The journeymen taylors keeping slate-houses, or houses of call, for journeymen out of work, had been attended with inconveniences to the lieges and master taylors.
6. Edb. 1778 Session Papers, Journeymen v. Master Tailors (30 June) 6:
The slate-keeper shall be obliged to give instantly, when required, inspection of the slate or list of journeymen out of work, to any master-taylor who shall make such a demand.
7. Gsw. 1899 Country Schoolmaster (Wallace) 339:
Slate-pen is ‘caum' — a black-lead pencil ‘waud.'
8. Sc. 1739 E. D. Dunbar Social Life (1866) 145:
Give him, twice a day, the juice of twenty slettars, squeezed through a muslin rag in whey.
Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 153:
Beetles, and slaters and snails and spiders.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders xxxviii.:
The slaters and little beasties running among the thatch.
Rxb. 1919 Kelso Chron. (14 Feb.) 2:
710 “leather jacket” larva, and a few “slaters”.
Lth. 1945 Weekly Scotsman (14 April):
The woodlice that lurk beneath big stones he called “slaters”.
9. ne.Sc. 1955 Bulletin (20 June):
Two other names for the game, slaties and beddies.

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"Slate n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Mar 2023 <>



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