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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1934 (SND Vol. I). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

AY, AYE, int.(adv.) = Yes. [ɑɪ]

1. Used very much as in St.Eng. yes in answer to an affirmative or negative question. Aye is also common in English dial. It is considered an archaism in modern educated English speech or writing unless in nautical language or in voting in the House of 1994 Herald 27 Oct 12:
Several sources maintain that they were told not to address the prince with "Fit like?" - the universal greeting in these parts - and that they were specifically instructed to answer his questions with "yes" and not "aye."
Abd.(D) 1909 G. Greig Mains's Wooin' 17:
“Are they a' beddit, Maggie?” “Ay.”
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 124:
'Ye'll hae strenth in yersel for haein witnessed Hew's end.' 'Aye, I hae that.'
'Ma faither's freen James Guthrie, that suffered at the Restoration, I saw him killt. It niver leaves ye. When I falter, I think on it and it gars me gang on.'
Edb. 1879 Stevenson and Henley Deacon Brodie (1924) Act I. Tab. i. Sc. 2:
Brodie. “You are more fortunate than you deserve. What do you say, Procurator?” Lawson. “Ay is he!”
Edb. 1998 Gordon Legge Near Neighbours (1999) 52:
'Excuse me,' she said, 'but are you feeling okay?' 'Aye,' said Sandy, 'doing away. This you off, is it?'
Gsw. 1993 Margaret Sinclair Soor Plooms and Candy Balls 7:
Mammy kin ah get ginger, tae take the taste away,
Aye help yersel' son, then get oan oot tae play.

2. Followed often by rebutting, strengthening or sarcastic statement.Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xi.:
“Is his health so much deranged?” “Ay, and his affairs an' a'.”
Edb. 1893 W. G. Stevenson Wee Johnnie Paterson 1:
An' when a wummin's been mairrit for three-an'-twenty year — ay, it's a lang time! though I couldna wish a kinder or a better man than John.
Kcb. 1912 A. Anderson Surfaceman's Later Poems 5:
Ay Tam, puir Tam, sae fu' o' fun He faun' this warld a fecht.
Rxb. 1921 Kelso Chron. (17 June) 2/7:
Ay, it [golf] seems a bonnie game, a nice game, but what's the wee ba' for?

3. Introducing a statement; a form of greeting = Hullo, there ye are, sometimes sarcastically. Also aye aye, sometimes as a warning (Sh., Ork., Cai., Bnff., Abd., Ags., Fif., Edb., Arg., Gsw., Ayr., Dmf., Rxb. 2000s).Rs. 1991 Bess Ross Those Other Times 61:
"Ay, man," John Clark spoke to the three men.
They looked towards him. "Ay, man," they all replied.
"Ay, ay," Alec MacIntyre said.
Abd.(D) 1909 G. Greig Mains's Wooin' 9:
Ay, ay, Souter, ye're aye stickin' in?
Bch.(D) 1926 P. Giles in Abd. Univ. Rev. (March) 110:
Ay man, aye at th' buik.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 131:
A couple of times he'd met another ghost on the street, going to or from his work. Deacon Brodie, or a monk or something. 'Aye,' the monk nodded as he passed. 'Aye,' said Major Weir. They were from different countries but they never even blinked.
Per. 2004:
When Ah say 'ay ay' tae ma dug she kens no tae touch.
m.Lth. 1811 H. MacNeill Bygane Times 44:
“Ay! Donald,” quo this sneerling Leddie, “Are you the son of John Macreddie!”

4. = Just so, that's it, in answer to a previous statement; gen. doubled.Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality viii.:
“Ay, ay,” said Cuddie, “e'en sae! I kenn'd we wad be put to our travels again whene'er you suld get three words spoken to an end.”
Bnff. 1881 W. M. Philip Kirsty MacIntosh's Scholars 49:
Ay, ay, its been my fortin to plou' the lan', and it seems to be his to plou' the sea.
m.Lth. 1811 H. MacNeill Bygane Times 25:
Aye, aye! — I guess'd how things wad end!

5. Used with rising tone to indicate doubt or question. Often aye, right.Sc. 1886 R. L. Stevenson Kidnapped i.:
“Ay?” said Mr Campbell.
Sc. 2002 Scotsman 10 Jul :
We were greatly amused to read David Murray's quote upon stepping down from his throne at Rangers: "Being chairman of a football club can seriously damage your wealth." Aye, right.
Sc. 2003 Sunday Mail 7 Dec 66:
At the time of his decision to shelve retirement plans, Sir Alex said he'd restructure his work schedule to ease the pressure.
Aye, right. The only apparent change has been to commit himself more to the job.
Sc. 2004 Daily Record 2 Aug 31:
It's not enough that our soldiers are being killed in Iraq and have no proper equipment. Now they are up in court charged with cruelty.
Lawyers admit this is a test case and there could be hundreds more. No one wants compensation? Aye right. Bring our boys home now.
Gsw. 1988 Michael Munro The Patter Another Blast 3:
aye When said in an ironic tone of voice this means that you don't in the least believe what you have just been told. It can be said on its own or with rhyming additions such as aye, Hawkeye, aye, hooch-aye; aye, Popeye; aye, doogie-eye. A variation is eye, that eye which is accompanied by pointing a finger at your own eye. At is most economical nothing at all need be said if you put your forefinger to your lower eyelid. Perhaps all this is related to the old-fashioned expression 'all my eye' meaning nonsense. This affirmative also turns up at the ends of queries that exemplify what I call the Self-answered Question eg 'Is that your pint, aye?' or 'You comin wae us tae Balloch, aye?' The opposite of this is seen in such constructions as 'You'll no be wantin any dinner, naw?'
Uls. 2002 Belfast Telegraph 12 Oct :
Actually it's clear Diana is all but saying 'clear off.' Yet evidently Wharfe really believes that if he was in a uniform she'd go for it. Aye right.

6. Phrases: (1) Ou ay = that's so.Abd.(D) 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb viii.:
Ou ay, I ken the loon an' you's been aye haein' bits o' sharries noo an' than.
Ags. 1888 J. M. Barrie When a Man's Single xix.:
“Ay,” he said, with a chuckle, “but I've a snod bit cornery up there for mysel'. Ou ay.”

(2) Deed ay(e) = yes indeed.Kcb. 1894 S. R. Crockett Raiders xvi.:
Silver Sand put his hand into his pocket and poured out of a purse a full gowpenful of golden guineas, . . . “Keels remarkable profitable,” he said. “Deed aye,” I replied.
Rxb.(D) 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes an Knowes 11:
“It's a grand day!” “Deed ay!” says A.

(3) Ay, sang = a mild oath. (See Sang, int.)Abd. 1917 C. Murray A Sough o' War (1918) 26:
Ay, sang! the Shirra had the gift, an' tongued me up an' doon.

[Origin uncertain. Does not appear in St.Eng. before 1575 and at first written I as in Shakespeare. Supposed by some to be conn. with yea and by others with ay(e) = ever. For the latter cf. nay from O.N. n + ei, ever. See etym. note to Aye.]

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"Ay interj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Apr 2024 <>



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