Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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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). [′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.

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 18 Nov 2019 <>



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