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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

SPAIK, n., v. Also spa(i)ke; speck (Ork. 1734 P. Ork. A.S. (1923) I. 65), and Abd. forms spyaak, spyake, spyauck; ¶spage. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. spoke. See P.L.D. §§ 32, 141. 1. [spek; Abd. ‡spjɑ:k]

I. n. 1. (1) As in Eng. (Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 47, 1776 D. Herd Sc. Songs II. 143; Ags. 1815 G. Beattie Poems (1883) 165; Dmb. 1817 J. Walker Poems 74; Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 98; Abd. 1880 Jam., spyauck; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 267; Inv., Ags., Dmb., Lnk., s.Sc. 1971).

¶(2) Transf.: a tree branch.Cai. 1869 M. McLennan Peasant Life 260:
She plucked up the bourtree branch . . . and pointed out “the spaik.”

2. One of the arms or sails of a windmill.Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxxv.:
Flingin' oot oor legs in a' directions like the spaikes o' a windmill.

3. A wooden bar or batten: (1) in gen. and specif. a stake, slat or pale in a wooden fence or rack (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Inv., Lnk. 1971).Gsw. 1723 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1909) 171:
Kaibers, spakes, dalls and planks.
Sc. 1833 J. C. Loudon Encycl. Archit. § 990:
The hayracks to be made 2 feet and a half wide; the rungs (spokes) of 1 inch and a half deal.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 6:
A claam a fence o spakes an stuckeens.

(2) the perch of a bird's cage, a roosting-bar (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Inv., Lnk., s.Sc. 1971). Hence ppl.adj. spaikit, of a bird: on its perch, roosted (Peb. 1958); phr. to drap or fa' aff the spaik, to collapse with weariness, sleep or astonishment (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Slk. 1971).Sc. 1827 W. Motherwell Minstrelsy 70:
Your cage will be made of the beaten gold And the spakes of ivorie.
Dmf. 1921 J. L. Waugh Heroes 11:
No' the slim, strecht-backet canaries but crampit, hurkle-backet, roon-shoudered wee sowls, so uncomfortable lookin' on a spake.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 18:
Fair leike ti faa off the spake wui the wuddles an the vexes o woark.

(3) one of the rungs of a ladder (Per., wm.Sc., Kcb., Rxb. 1971). Rare and obs. in Eng.Sc. 1892 Stevenson Across the Plains 197:
The weedy spokes and shafts of the ladder.

(4) one of the bars of wood on which a coffin rests when it is being carried to the graveside (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 268; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Per., Kcb., Rxb. 1971)Ork. 1712 A. W. Johnston Church in Ork. (1940) 100:
Bier for the poor and four hand spages.
Slk. 1767 Session Papers, Haitly v. Cairncross (24 April) 22:
The deponent was informed by those who attended the body to the grave, that Hillslop carried the right shoulder spake.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 40:
They brought out the corps — and being laid right on the spakes. . . .
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie civ.:
When the coffin was borne to the entrance of the sepulchre, the spakes were drawn out, and the undertaker's men, having carried it within the enclosure, it was placed on two planks over the grave.
Ags. 1880 Brechin Advert. (6 Jan.) 4:
Nor will he grudge the spokes or pall to bear.
Dmb. 1894 D. MacLeod Past Worthies 26:
Mort-cloth, spokes, an' ither etcetras connected wi' the burial.

(5) the pole on which the Clavie is hoisted at the Old New Year's ceremony at Burghead.Mry. 1960 Folklore LXXI. 225:
The Clavie itself is made from an Archangel tar-barrel sawn in half and fixed upon a six-foot pole called the Spoke. The tapered staves of a demolished herring-cask are joined to the Clavie's lower edges by wooden pegs (not by nails) and the other ends of the staves firmly fixed to the Spoke.

4. In pl.: the legs of a pair of spectacles (Fif. 1970).

5. Fig., phs. from 3. (3) or (4): one who is the means of helping or counselling another, providing support, moral example or the like, gen. in neg. or disparaging contexts (Abd. 1913–29).Sc. 1808 Jam.:
One who has been hurtful to another by his company or counsel, is said to have been an ill spaik to him.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xli.:
He hisna been gryte spyauck for him ony wye. He's jist been a rael constable man.

II. v. 1. In ppl.adj. spaikit, (1) made of spokes or bars of wood (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 268; Lnk., Rxb. 1971); (2) see I. 3. (2).

2. To stretch (the legs) widely, to spread-eagle; to pull apart, e.g. the forking branches of a tree (Rs. 1929).

[O.Sc. spake, spoke of a wheel, a.1400, bar of wood, 1467, of a coffin, 1626, spakit, spoked, 1643, O.E. spāca, a spoke. Meaning II. 2. is from Gael. speuc, spéic, id., a borrowing from Sc. with extended sense.]

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"Spaik n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jul 2024 <>



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