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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

THEAT, n., v. Also theet, theit, thete; thait, thet(t). [θit; em.Sc.(a) θet]

I. n. 1. Gen. in pl.: the ropes or chains attached to a horse's harness by which a plough, harrow, carriage, etc., is pulled, the traces (Sc. 1808 Jam., 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 66; Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson; n.Sc., em.Sc.(a), Lnk. 1972). Comb., deriv. and phr.; strett theats, at full stretch, without relaxing (see Strait, I. 3.); theater, a trace-horse in a cart or plough (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 273; em.Sc.(a), Lnk. 1972); theat-horse, id. (Id.); trace-theats, trace-ropes or chains (Fif. 1972); also thitter (Ags. 1990s), = theater.Per. 1727 Caled. Mercury (3 July):
A Dark Brown Horse, . . . his Legs were gall'd with the Theats.
Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Journal 26:
Sometimes the theets brak.
Rs. 1779 W. MacGill Old Ross-shire (1909) 170:
Thetts for horses, 9 harrows with 9 thetts.
Bnff. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 IV. 395:
The straw brechem is now supplanted by the leathern collar, the rashen theets by the iron traces.
Ags. 1818 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 126:
The theats or traces are pieces of rope, fastened by a knot at the end into a couple of boards clasped round the horse's neck.
Fif. 1831 Fife Herald (10 Feb.):
The old carle, in overtaking his vehicle, called on an ancient comrade in the village for a thet.
wm.Sc. 1835 Laird of Logan 163:
Crack gaed the thaits, and the swingletrees flew ower the craft in splinters.
Per. 1898 C. Spence Poems 92:
Away the wheelless carriage flew As if the thetes the furies drew.
Abd. 1957 G. S. Morris Bothy Ballads II. 31:
It's up an' doon the lang rigs, he niver slacks a theet.
Ags., Per. 1967 Dundee Courier (9 Nov.):
Names like brecham, hames, theats, swingle-tree and soam tend to be forgotten.
Fif. 1998 By Word of Mouth: Scottish Oral History Group newsletter 10:
"Nairn's yaised horses tae get their stuff up (from the harbour) tae their factories. Mind, they had tae gang up The Peth/Path and they didnae like it, for it was gey steep. Weel, they yaised whit they ca'd thet horses - they wis horses that led anither horse. ... "

2. Assistance by means of a trace-horse, a tow, a pull (Ags., Per. 1972).Per.4 1950:
A'll need a theat up the brae wi this load.

3. Fig.: restraint, control, the normal bounds imposed on conduct, “the traces”; the discipline acquired by habit and practice, order, esp. in phrs. in or out o the theat(s), to be, kick, loup, etc. ower the theats (ne.Sc., Ags. 1972). To draw wi lang theats, to manage (a situation) indirectly, wire-pull (Abd. 1962), to slack(en) or lat slack the theats, to relax pressure, to take things more easily, to slow up. Out o theat is sometimes used to mean ‘in addition to what is expected or required', extra, supererogatory (Mry., Abd. 1972).Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis:
Ye are out of theet, i.e., ye are extravagant or in the wrong.
Sc. 1730 T. Boston Memoirs (1852) 48:
A new upstart, one that broke the thetes.
Sc. 1825 Jam.:
Out of thete, is a phrase applied to one who is rusted, as to any art or science, from want of practice. One is said to be quite out of thetes, when one's conduct or language is quite disorderly.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb ii., xviii., xliv.:
Keep baith laird an' tenan' straucht i' the theets. . . . 1 wud be owre the theets ere we got weel streiket. . . . Fan ance fowk's at oor time o' life they sud be willin' to lat the theets slack a bit.
Ayr. 1897 H. Ochiltree Out of her Shroud x.:
Some o' them loup the theats a'thegither.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 124:
Tho' I've kicked owre the theat.
Abd. 1928 J. Baxter A' Ae 'Oo' 14:
A' the wark wis oot o' theit.
Bnff. 1939 J. M. Caie Hills and Sea 8:
[He] poor't oot sic lang-nebbit wirds, onslackenin' his theets.
Bnff. 1970:
A dram's richt aneuch in its place, bit Mains gyangs oot o' theet wi't.

4. Fig. Attraction towards, inclination for, attachment to, sc. the notion of being held by or drawn to a thing, in phr. to hae (nae) theat o.Per., Lnk. 1880 Jam.:
“I hae nae thete o' that,” I don't like that, I have not a good opinion of it.
Ags. 1886 A. Willock Rosetty Ends 110:
No haein' muckle theat o' siller that was won in a way she didna ken o'.
Ags. 1896 Barrie Sentimental Tommy x.:
You wouldna believe that I could ever have had any thait o' being made queen.

II. v. 1. To harness (a horse) in traces.Abd. 1958 Huntly Express (15 Aug.):
He led them an' he backit them, he reeled them roon an' roon, He'd them theated, ay, an' cairted.

2. To draw, convey in a vehicle, tow, pull (Per. 1928).Fif. 1902 D. S. Meldrum Conquest of Charlotte iii. iii.:
I was theating home Nochty's neeps wi' Nochty's horse.

[O.Sc. thett, traces, c.1460. Orig. obscure. N.E.D. suggests a connection with O.N. þéttr, tight, taking the strain, but there are phonological as well as semantic difficulties.]

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"Theat n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jun 2024 <>



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