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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SYE, v., n.1 Also s(e)y, sie; sei-, si-; cie (Mry. 1708 E. D. Dunbar Social Life (1865) 212). See also Sythe. [sɑe]

I. v. 1. tr. To pass (liquid) through a sieve, to strain, filter (Sc. 1808 Jam., sey; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Fif. 1909 J. Colville Lowland Sc. 68, sie; Per., Fif., 1915–26 Wilson; Ork. 1929 Marw., sie; Rxb. 1942 Zai; I., n.Sc., em.Sc. (a), s.Sc. 1972). Hence syer, siar, syar, a filter, a sieve, esp. for straining milk (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Ork. 1929 Marw., siar; Ayr. 1930; I. and n.Sc., Ags., Per. 1972).Kcd. 1819 J. Burness Plays, etc. 289:
Guid fresh sowens that was sey'd yestreen.
Mry. 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. 198:
Ye'll be stappin' oot in a filie efter ye sy yer milk.
Per. 1898 C. Spence Poems 142:
Seyin' sowens, and spinnin' harn.
Sh. 1900 Shetland News (16 June):
Shü tristid da fresh butter aff o' da kirn trow da cloot 'at shü hed for a syer.
Abd. 1922 G. P. Dunbar Whiff o' Doric 21:
There wis seyers an' cogs.
Sc. 1946 F. M. McNeill Recipes from Scotland 66:
“The syein' o' the so'ons”, when the contents of the bowie are poured over a fine sieve.
Abd. 1961 People's Jnl. (16 Sept.) 11:
Efter she syte the milk.

Combs.: (1) sey-clout, a piece of gauze or open cloth, gen. stretched across a round wooden frame, through which a liquid is strained (Ayr. 1928; I. and n.Sc. 1972), also sying-clout, id. (Sh. 1904 E.D.D., Sh. 1972); (2) sye-dish, sidish, a milk-strainer (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Fif. 1869 J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 726; ne., em.Sc. (a) 1972); (3) sye-milk, sey-, id. (Bnff. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 195; ne.Sc. 1972); (4) sye-sowens, sey-sones, seisons, a similar vessel used for straining Sowans (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 153, sey-sones).(2) Ags. 1712 A. Jervise Land of Lindsays (1853) 342:
A sowing sidish a coll riddle and tuo backits.
s.Sc. 1838 Wilson s Tales of the Borders V. 54:
The syndins o' my mither's sye-dish.
Ags. 1912 A. Reid Forfar Worthies 9:
Nane o' yer sidish cloots here.
(3) Mry. 1708 E. D. Dunbar Social Life (1865) 209:
A symilk and creamen dish.
Abd. 1759 Trans. Highl. Soc. (1902) 90:
If a skimming drain or seymilk or even a spoon that is not well scalded or boiled touch any part, it will spoil the whole.
Abd. 1961 People's Jnl. (16 Sept.) 7:
Sye milks for strainin' the milk fae the byre.
(4) Sc. 1897 J. Colville Byways Hist. 39:
The mixture, called sids, is put in cold water to steep, and then into a big dish with a perforated bottom, to strain over another dish. This upper sieve or strainer is the seisons — that is to say, what sies or strains the sowens.
Abd. 1951 Hotch-Potch 14:
Pour the contents of the bowie through a sye-sowens or sieve.

2. To drain (vegetables or the like) of the water in which they have been boiled (I.Sc. 1972).Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. 98:
When cooked, [the potatoes] were “sied”, peeled and put back in the pot hanging over the fire.

3. intr. To pass or trickle as through a sieve, to percolate (Sh. 1972).Abd. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 65:
The reek . . . wud redder sey throwe the spy-holes' i the clam an' smuchty wa's.

II. n. 1. A strainer or sieve, for liquids, esp. milk (Cld. 1880 Jam.; ne., wm.Sc. 1972). See also milk-sye s.v. Milk, I., 1. (39).Abd. 1928 J. Baxter A' Ae 'Oo' 27:
A Tinkler wife, blae wi' caul', beets like seys.
Sc. 1935 Sc. N. & Q. (March) 47:
It's roch an' richt at yon toune — Th' milk ne'er sees th' sey.
ne.Sc. 1967 Scotland's Mag. (March) 24:
A sowens sye or sieve is a small wooden trough with a bottom of white iron perforated just like a grater.

2. A drip, drop, the least little amount, appearance or indication (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Also in n.Eng. dial.

[O.E. sīon, O.N. sía, to strain, filter. For the n. cf. also O.N. sía, Mid. Du. sye, a strainer. The word has been obs. in Eng. exc. dial. since the 17th c.]

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"Sye v., n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 May 2024 <>



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