Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SYVER, n., v. Also siver (Dmf. 1922 Rymour Club Misc. III. 100), cyver (Gsw. 1884 H. Johnston Martha Spreull (1930) 50), syvor, -our, suivre; ¶syther (Gsw. 1744 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1911) 173); and, without v, sire, syer (Gsw. 1740 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1911) 60), sayer (Gsw. 1741 Ib. 81), ¶soyer, seier, sayre. The form seyd given by Jam.1 is appar. a mistake for seyr. [′sɑe(v)ər; ne., s.Sc. səi(ə)r]

I. n. 1. A ditch, drain, water-channel, specif. a field-drain lined with stones, and gen. covered in to form a small culvert (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ork., n.Sc., Wgt. 1972). For rumbling syver, see also Rummle, v., 2. (4) (ii). Comb. syver-hole, the hole by which a field-drain flows through a wall. Abd. 1719  Third S.C. Misc. I. 37:
Ridding the Syr and ditch.
Slg. 1759  Session Papers, Wallace v. Morison (15 Jan.) 36:
The lentil on the head of the syver-hole through the stone-dyke.
Bnff. 1792  Trans. Bnff. Field Club (1889) 59:
The soyer was more a water run for springs and under water than a surface drain.
Lnk. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 VII. 145:
The manse lies in a swamp, the inconvenience of which the present clergyman has remedied by sivers, as they are here called.
Sc. 1821  Scott Pirate xv.:
Leaving a fur in the ground would carry off water like a causeyed syver.
Sc. 1829  G. Robertson Recoll. 592:
Drains on this plan, in the rumbling suivre system, by narrow ditches filled with small stones.

2. A street gutter (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1942 Zai, syre; Dmf. 1962 Stat. Acc.3 191, syre; m. and s.Sc. 1972). Also attrib. Comb. syre-water, the rain-water, etc. flowing in the gutter, fig. rubbishy talk, balderdash. Edb. 1701  Town Council Proclamation (19 Dec.):
The Magistrats have appointed the middle part of the Street betwixt each two Closses, a little beyond the Syre, to be the common place for laying down the Filth and Ashes of both Closses.
Gsw. 1718  Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1909) 22:
Severallis of the neighbourhead there do gather middens upon the streets and in the gutters and sayres.
Slg. 1739  Slg. Burgh Rec. (1889) 247:
Throwing in redd, rubbish, or nastiness, into or so near by the syvours.
Wgt. 1810  G. Fraser Sketches (1877) 81:
The streets, pavements, syvors, or vennels of the Burgh.
Fif. 1862  St Andrews Gazette (12 Sept.):
To creep an' crawl like a jackall, or a siver rotten.
Ags. 1888  Barrie Auld Licht Idylls ix.:
Catching the porter in a pan as it ran down the sire.
Ayr. 1889  H. Johnston Glenbuckie xxiv.:
These guileless laddie-weans, sitting by the syver-edge.
m.Lth. 1894  P. Hunter J. Inwick 62:
Stan'in wi' their boynes an' pails at the siver.
Dmf. 1903  J. L. Waugh Thornhill 162:
Syrewater, most utter rot, infernal impudence.
Arg. 1906  N. Munro Daft Days xiii., xvi.:
He stood on the syver-side. . . . The gulls that quarrelled in the syver sand.
Rxb. 1925  E. C. Smith Mang Howes 19:
Streets clairty wui creeshy glet threh fooel seier an brander.
Fif. 1931  Glasgow Herald (8 Aug.):
Staundin' alang the syver like a clutter o' doos on a rone-pipe.

3. The opening of the drain-trap in a street gutter, freq. including the grating which covers it (Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 266). Gen. (exc. Sh.) Sc. Also attrib. Fif. 1845  Stat. Acc.2 IX. 168:
In under draining, we put into the trench a mass of stones, two feet in depth, having a siver.
Ags. 1946  “D. Twitter” Tales 15:
I luit my hei fa' doon a sire.
Edb. 1960  Sc. Daily Express (12 Sept.):
Choked “sivers” near St. Bernard's Bridge.
Ork. 1971  Orcadian (11 March):
He had gone over a sire cover in Finstown.

4. A mill-stream, a side-channel for ascending salmon in a river, a grille or salmon trap on this (Bnff. 1860).

5. A kitchen-sink (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein).

II. v. To cut a drain or water-channel. Ayr. 1776  Session Papers, Fergusson v. Earl of Cassillis (21 Dec.) Proof 51:
The workers appear to have syvered the level while it was in the clay.
e.Lth. 1782  Session Papers, Darg v. Nisbet (26 Feb.) App. 2:
Driving a level to the limestone . . . Syvering and filling it up.

[O.Sc. scyoure, 1513, sivour, 1538, syre, 1553, drain, prob. from a Mid. Fr. dial. form of O. Fr. essavier, essevour, a drainage channel, Late Lat. *exaquaria < exaquatoria, id. Cf. Mod. Fr. dial. essivière, essaivoir, id. Eng. sewer, of the same ultim. orig., corresponds to Old North. Fr. dial. se(u)wiere, Late Lat. seweria. The Sc. form would appear to be an independent borrowing from Fr.]

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"Syver n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Jun 2019 <>



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