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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SWEEP, v., n. Also †suipe, swipe (Rnf. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 70, Abd. 1913 W. Fraser Jeremiah Job 20, Bnff. 1937 E. S. Rae Light in the Window Dedic.), swype (Abd. 1887 R. S. Robertson On Bogie's Banks 78; Bnff. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (24 July) 2), sweyp (ne.Sc.). Sc. forms and usages. For other Sc. forms see Soop. [swip; ne.Sc. swəip]

I. v. A. Forms. Pr.t. as above. Pa.t. sweepit (Uls. 1879 W. G. Lyttle Readings by Robin 73; Gen. (exc. ne.) Sc.), sweept (Cai. 1896 J. Horne Canny Countryside 64), sweeped (Sc. 1772 Weekly Mag. (13 Feb.) 222; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 42), swypit (ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 125), swyped (Sc. 1700 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 279). Pa.p. sweepit (Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xiv.), sweeped (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 26), sweept (Sc. a.1714 Earls Crm. (Fraser 1876) II. 498, 1830 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 326), swyppet (Abd. 1789 Aberdeen Mag. 29).

B. Usages. 1. As in Eng. (1) Vbl.n. sweeping, suipen, in combs. (i) sweeping board,? skirting board; (ii) suipen malt, malt which has spilled from the mill-stones and is swept up by the miller as one of his perquisites.(i) Ayr. 1758 Ayr Presb. Rec. MS. (16 Aug.):
3 an ½ Deals for sweeping Boards and fessons to the window.
(ii) Ags. 1730 Arbroath T.C. Rec. MS. (14 May):
The nether mill to have close crubbes and no suipen malt be allowed hereafter to the millners.

(2) Phrs.: (i) sweep-the-fluir, a move in the game of Chucks (see quot.) (Ags., Fif., wm.Sc. 1972); (ii) to swype one oot at the door, see quot.; (iii) to swype one's tails upon, to disdain, show contempt for, esp. as a social inferior, to ignore, “cut” (Abd. 1940); (iv) to sweep the bride(groom), see quot.(i) wm.Sc.1 c.1900:
A figure in the game of chucks or fivestones in which four pieces are set out in a square and the fifth thrown. While it is in the air the centre of the “floor” is touched or “swept”, and the falling piece caught. On the next throw, one “chair” is lifted, on the next throw again its space is touched or “swept below”, the “chair” remaining in the hand, and on the following throw it is set down again. This is repeated for each chair, the whole phrase being recited to the appropriate move. Where sofa is substituted. the pieces are set out in twos, and where table, in a square formation.
(ii) Mry. 1904 E.D.D.:
If one was leaving a house and did not wish the new tenant to be comfortable and remain long in the house, the house had to be swept clean out at the door and the besom left outside the door. The phrase is ‘to swype ane oot at the door.'
(iv) Sh. 1964 J. & T. Flett Trad. Dancing 71:
[In Whalsay] during the Bride's Reels, the men “sweepit the bride” with straw brushes. Four or five men stood around the dancing-space waving these brushes over the dancers. heads, disarranging their hair and tickling their faces with the ends of the straw and the dangling ribbons. The bride, however was to remain untouched. The Bride's Reels were followed by the Bridegroom's Reels there the girls took the straw brushes and “sweepit the bridegroom”, though again the bridegroom was the only man in the company who was not well and truly swept.

2. To work or walk briskly or energeticallv (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 231).

II. n. 1. As in Eng., a sweeping motion, a curving course or extent, a circular view or panorama.Abd. 1865 G. MacDonald Alec Forbes xiv:
Nane o' yer saft buirds, that ye can sleek wi' a sweyp o' yer airm.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xlv.:
Takin' a swype clean doon fae that bit elbuck at the back o' your infeedle, to the burn side.
Bnff. 1920 Banffshire Jnl. (14 Dec.):
Hame! on ae han' a swype o' hicht an' howe.

2. A swift motion of the clouds.Sh. 1894 Williamson MSS. (24 Jan.):
He wis ower greet a sweep apo da sky da night for him to be ony better.

3. A cord or piece of rope by which the stone-sinkers of a herring-net were attached in the old type of net (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 188; Mry. 1883). Hence sweep-stane, the stone-sinker of a herring-net (Gregor).

4. Sweepings, refuse (Sh. 1904 E.D.D.); fig. a contemptuous term for a worthless, ill-natured or brutish fellow (I.Sc. 1972), also in Eng. slang usage.Sh. 1904 E.D.D.:
A drunken sweep, a tirrin sweep.

5. A flounder with a black back, sc. like a chimney-sweep (Fif. 1911).

6. A copious draught, a long drink (Bnf. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 231).

7. Knowledge, skill,? sc. a sweeping command or range of some subject, by extension from 1. (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 231).

8. A nickname for a member of the Anderston Volunteer Corps, a body of horse raised in Glasgow in 1803 during the Napoleonic Wars (Gsw. 1973 W. W. Barr Glaswegiana 97).

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



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