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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SPINDRIFT, n. Also spündrift, spunedrift, speendrift, spiendrift, spendrife, spönddrift (Sh. 1904 E.D.D.), spondrift. Reduced forms spönd, spuind (Sh. 1892 Manson's Sh. Almanac). Also fig. [′spɪn-, Sh. ′spøn-, ne.Sc. ′spin-]

1. Sea spray whipped up by gusts of wind and driven across the tops of the waves (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 433; Ayr. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1953 Traynor), called by sailors ‘smoke'. Orig. Sc., now also in St. Eng. (see etym. note).Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Journal 26:
Garring the dubs flee about them like speen-drift.
Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail lxxxix.:
The ocean boiling with tremendous violence, and the spindrift rising like steam.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 22:
The shepherds flew like spien-drift to the hill.
Sc. 1872 D. Landsborough Arran 134:
The two blasts . . . meet in the centre of the bay, and agitate the sea and throw aloft the spindrift in a way truly fearful.
Sc. c.1890 A. Lang Poet. Works (1923) I. 34:
Suthern wunds gar spindrift flee Abune the clachan, faddums hie.
Sh. 1926 “Junda” Klingrahool 10:
Da spündrift cam in owre da aest sea waa An drave trough da yard lek da moorin snaw.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 249:
Da spönd o' da sea gaed ower wis.
Abd. 1917 Hamespun Rhymes (Smith) 20:
See lan'ward come some broken wrack In spendrife tae the shore.
Sh. 1930 Shetland Almanac 194:
Doon cam' he, stoorin' laek spündrift.
Bnff. 1956 Banffshire Jnl. (16 Oct.):
The stue an' sma' steens fleein ahin him like speen-drift.
Per. 1990 Betsy Whyte Red Rowans and Wild Honey (1991) 148:
' ... I had a darlin' wee hoose, ... Noo I can get daen nothing but pacing up and doon inside that tea-box. If I lose the head some day and give it a hard kick, I am sure it will fa' doon about me. Some days I'd like tae fie it a twa or three good hard kicks and makin' it intae spin-drift! ... '
ne.Sc. 1991 Lilianne Grant Rich in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 23:
Skirlin and lauchin, ilk wi spindrift weet,
At the waves' edge the bairns their taes try in

2. Snow blown up from the ground in swirls by gusts of wind, driving snow (Abd. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1953 Traynor).Bnff. 1869 W. Knight Auld Yule 20:
Now the snaw in spune-drift flew.
ne.Sc. 1954 Mearns Leader (1 Jan.):
Noo nearhan' blindet wi' the blawin' speen-drift.

[The history of the word is somewhat complicated. It is first found in O.Sc. in the forms spenedrift, spindrift, = 1., a.1600, then in Forbes as above as speendrift, 1754, then in the form spoondrift in 1769 in the Dict. of the Marine by Falconer (who was a Scotsman), which form became less common by the end of the 19th-c., when the form spindrift, was adopted as the modern usage. N.E.D. connects the first element with the nautical spoon (later also spoom) of a ship, to run before the wind, not found in Sc., and of unknown orig. But the Sc. evidence does not fit into this view and there are two serious objections to it; firstly, that a Sc. form spindrift should have ousted the reg. Eng. form spoondrift, which is in any case later in appearing, and, secondly, that the form spene- (from James Melville, who was an Angus man) cannot represent Eng. spoon, though the spelling spunedrift shows later confusion with Spune.]

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"Spindrift n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Mar 2023 <>



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