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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.

TATHE, n., v. Also taith, te(a)th; taid, ted; tath, tauth; and (chiefly ne.Sc.) toth(e), toath. [n. teθ, v. te:ð; em.Sc.(a) ted; tɑθ, ne.Sc. toθ, to:ð. See etym. note.]

I. n. 1. The dung of cattle or sheep left for manure on their grazing land (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Also in Eng. dial.Sc. 1777 Weekly Mag. (9 Jan.) 80:
Sheep's tath was the best and richest manure they knew of.
Ags. 1806 Farmer's Mag. (May) 159:
The outfield and the young stock folded on it during the summer and from that circumstance [was] said to be taithed; and this mode of management was called taid and quird.
Dmf. 1812 W. Singer Agric. Dmf. 355:
Sanded and impure hay, full of tathe or dung.

Combs.: ta(i)th-field, -fa(u)ld, -fold, toth-, a piece of enclosed pasture or fold in which cattle or sheep are confined to manure it with their dung, hence tath-folding, the enclosing of animals for this purpose. Hist.; teath-house, a rude shelter for herdsmen on a tathe-fold. Phr. taid and quird, see 1806 quot. above and Quaird.Sc. 1705 Observator (11 June) 3:
Crofts, Yards, Meadows, and Taith falds.
Arg. 1711 Arg. Justiciary Rec. (Stair Soc.) II. 259:
Where you was at that time makeing up teath house.
Abd. 1735 J. Arbuthnot Bch. Farmers 25:
A Toth-fold is a Field inclosed with a Dyke to keep in the Cattle in the Night-time, and for some Hours at Mid-day, who, during their Confinement dung the Field.
Sc. 1752 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 394:
They were harrowing the tath-field.
e.Lth. 1789 Session Papers, Petition G. Dalzell (2 Jan.) Proof 9:
It is the common practice in this part of the country to take even four crops after that-folding and dunging.
Arg. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIV. 143:
The spots thus manured are called That-fields.
Fif. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 IX. 609:
Fed on the natural pasture during the day, they [sheep] were enclosed in “tathe-folds” during the night. These folds, changed, every few days, for the sake of manuring the ground, were built by the shepherd.
Abd. 1877 W. Alexander Rural Life 29:
The method of toth-folding.

2. Coarse, rank grass which grows on ground dunged hy grazing animals (s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bwk., Lnk. 1972); a tuft or clump of such grass (s.Sc. 1808 Jam.); also applied to similar grass growing on other damp or nitrogenous soils. Combs. nolt tath, water-tath, see 1807 quot. Adj. tathy, of grass: rank, luxuriant, growing thickly in clumps (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Dmf. 1794 B. Johnston Agric. Dmf. 85:
‘The tath', or the luxuriant grass that had grown on those parts of the pasture where they had dropped their dung.
Sc. 1807 Trans. Highl. Soc. III. 468:
All grasses which are remarkably rank and luxuriant, are called tath, by the stock farmers, who distinguish two kinds of it; water-tath, proceeding from excess of moisture, and nolt tath, the produce of dung.
Slk. 1807 Hogg Shepherd's Guide 18, 127:
The dark-coloured tath that grows in abundance on drained ground that has formerly been marsh. . . . Soft and tothy food; such as grows in wells and awald lands.
Peb. 1835 Trans. Highl. Soc. 120:
A soft species of grass, known hy the general name of tath, or soft meadow-grass which appears early in spring.
e.Lth. 1907 Trans. Highl. Soc. XIX. 157:
“Tathy” pasture — i.e., pasture showing many dark luxuriant spots from the droppings of stock recently pastured upon it.

3. A kind of white sea-weed (Lth. 1911, taith). Comb. sea-tathe.e.Lth. 1795 Stat. Acc1. XVII. 70:
Oysters are found on a strong clay bottom, on rocks and stones, and sometimes, though but thinly, in what is called by the fishers sea tathe.

II. v. 1. Of cattle, horses, sheep: to drop dung upon land so as to manure it (Ags. 1808 Jam., “applied to black cattle only”); to graze cattle for this purpose. Vbl.n. tathing, the dung “of black cattle” (Ags. 1808 Jam.).Slk. 1743 R. Maxwell Select Trans. 123:
The Dung of Horses is not proper for sandy Grounds, being too hot, as may be observed from the Grounds they tathe upon in Summer.
Abd. 1752 Cushnie MSS. (Abd. Univ. Lib.) Tack of 9 May:
The said William Dun is obliged to Taith three or four years upon Heather.
Sc. 1776 Weekly Mag. (31 Oct.) 173:
Where the sheep go and ted among the heather, they enrich the ground.
Fif. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XVI. 93:
The tedding of the sheep may be found necessary to recruit these fields.

2. To manure land by turning cattle or sheep upon it, to manure exclusively by cattle droppings (Ags. 1806 Farmer's Mag. (May) 159, taith; Bnff., Abd. 1869 J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 726, tothe). Vbl.n. tathing, toathing.Abd. 1735 J. Arbuthnot Bch. Farmers 26:
Surrounding the Field with a Dyke which he designs to toth.
Kcd. 1766 Session Papers, Petition M. Lumsden (5 March) 13:
The Out-field Ground was divided into eighteen Parts or Folds, two of which being taithed every Year, the tenth's Year's Taithing was supplied by making Folds upon the Faugh-ground, that had been five Years old.
e.Lth. 1794 G. Buchan-Hepburn Agric. E. Lth. 50:
This out-field pasture was kept for the live stock upon the farm, which during the summer were folded, or what we call toathed, upon the brake that was next in rotation for being broke up.
Inv. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XX. 29:
If unfit for bear, it [the land] was tauthed in the preceding summer.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 425:
Sheep-tathing, confining sheep on a piece of land until they tathe or manure it.

Combs. (1) toathin-fauld, the fold in which cattle were enclosed to manure it; (2) water-tathe, v., to enrich land by flooding it and leaving alluvium. Vbl.n. water-tathing.(1) Bnff. 1927 Banffshire Jnl. (22 March) 7:
The “toathin fauld”, into which the cattle were driven at night.
(2) Sc. 1808 J. Walker Econ. Hist. Hebr. and Highl. (1812) I. 168:
When a field has been water-tathed . . . but for one winter, the growth of grass upon it is more early.
Dmf. 1812 W. Singer Agric. Dmf. 332:
There is a fashion in agriculture as well as in other things: water tathing for corn was very common at one time, but is now given up.

[O.Sc. tath, = I. 1., 1461, tath fawld, 1576, Mid.Eng. tathe, to manure land, O.N. tað, dung, teðja, to manure. The [teθ] forms may derive partly from the O.N. verb, partly from the oblique disyllabic cases of the noun.]

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"Tathe n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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