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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.

THREE, adj., n. Sc. forms ‡thrie (Sc. 1701 G. Turnbull Diary (S.H.S.) 402); s.Sc. threi (Rxb. 1923 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 11), threy (Dmf. 1820 Hogg Winter Ev. Tales I. 282; s.Sc. 1873 D.S.C.S. 173), thraie (Rxb. 1904 Border Mag. (Sept.) 168), thriy (Dmf. 1828 Carlyle Letters (Norton) I. 149); I.Sc. forms tree (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 17, Sh., ‡Ork. 1972); and velarised forms hree (Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson, wm.Sc. 1972), hrei (Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 23); chree. See P.L.D. §§ 103, 165 and T, letter, 9. (1) (iii). [θri:; s.Sc. θrəi; I.Sc. tri:; i]

I. adj. As in Eng. Sc. forms.Dundee 1988 Ellie McDonald in Joy Hendry Chapman 54 29:
I went tae watch a marathon last week.
Near two thousand puir dementit craiturs,
like ain hauf nakit, forbye thrie waiters,
Santy Claas, seiven fairies an a freak
w.Lth. 1990 Sunday Times Scotland (7 Oct):
Whit did ye jine wi' your chree humpit brig?
wm.Sc. 1994 Sheila Douglas in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 58:
"Threi," grinned Rob proudly. "Mind oo hed another yin? Hei's caaed efter yow."

Sc. combs., phrs. and derivs.: 1. three-bawbee, adj., costing three half-pence, hence cheap, worthless; n., in pl., a jocular name for a penny-farthing bicycle (Abd. 1900); 2. tre'cord, of a rope: with three strands; 3. three-fauld, three-fold. See Fauld, n.1; 4. threefold, the marsh trefoil or bog-bean, Menyanthes trifoliata (Gall. 1905 E.D.D.; Sh. 1972). Also in n.Eng. dial., phs. orig. a corruption of trefoil altered to threefold because of its ternate leaf structure; 5. three-four, three or four, an approximate or indefinite number, a few, freq. used attrib. following the indef. art. (ne.Sc., Per., Ayr. 1972); 6. three-lives, a children's game (see quot.); 7. three-penny, also colloq. form thrippeny, thrup-, pl. thrippence (Lnk. 1902 A. Wardrop Hamely Sk. 134; Abd. 1912 G. Greig Mains's Wooin 10; Dmf. 1914 J. L. Waugh Cracks wi' R. Doo 111; Edb. 1926 A. Muir Blue Bonnet i. ii.), used adj., costing threepence; †as a n., one of the elementary school reading-books, midway in difficulty hetween the penny and the sixpenny (see Penny, 4. (2)). Comb. threepenny vomit, a slang expression for a serving of fish and chips in a restaurant (Gsw. 1934 E. Partridge Dict. Slang 879); 8. three-quarter-man, a young miner before he has reached the full working capacity of an adult; 9. threesie, a move in the game of chuckstones in which, after the first throw-up and catch, the player attempts to pick up three of the remaining stones at one time while the rest are in the air (em., wm.Sc. 1972); the name of the third square or box in the game of Peevers or hop-scotch, also attrib. and in the form threeie (m.Sc. 1972); 10. threesom(e), -sum, treesom(e), -sim, a group or company of three, a trio (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 497). Gen.Sc. Also freq. attrib. = made up of three, constituting three in number, participated in by three, of any activity, specif. of a reel in dancing (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis). Gen.Sc. See -Some, suff.; 11. tree-staand, piled in three layers; 12. three sweeps, a children's game (see quot.); 13. three threads and a thrum, see Thrum. For other combs., esp. with ppl.adj., as three-girr'd, -lugged, -neukit, -yirl'd, see under the second element.1. Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie viii.:
Rakin their pocks to raise anither Three-bawbee glass.
Abd. 1904 W. A. G. Farquhar Fyvie Lintie 149:
I care na for your cauld harangues Or three-bawbee epistles.
2. Sh. 1898 Shetland News (11 June):
William is wantin' da tows laid tre'cord.
3. Hdg. 1903 J. Lumsden Toorle 122:
Lord hae-a-care-o's-a'! a three-fauld waddin'!
4. Dmf. 1832 Carlyle in Froude Early Life (1882) II. 305:
She imputes her cure to no medicine so much as to an invaluable threefold which grows in the bogs here.
5. Kcd. 1890 J. Kerr Reminisc. I. 101:
A three-four sma' farms to unite As a'e hig ane.
Bnff. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (24 July) 2:
Treetlin' awa' three-four mile t' the kirk.
Kcd. 1933 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 254:
In a three-four years he'd finished with feeing.
Sc. 1950 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 173:
Ye'll need three-four fathoms o' half-inch line and a marker.
6. Fif. 1954:
Children stand in a ring round starter, who bounces a ball three times and the last time lets it roll away. Repeated until it chances to roll between someone's legs. This person becomes endowed with four lives (everyone else has three). Everyone now tries to hit everyone else with the ball below the knee. If hit, you lose a life. If you catch the ball, thrower loses a life. When you've lost all your lives you're out.
7. Sc. 1887 A. S. Swan Gates of Eden iv.:
He was reading in the “threepenny” before Jamie had mastered the alphabet.
8. Fif. 1842 Children in Mines Report (2) 509:
A boy under 13 years of age ranks as “quarter man,” at 13 he is reckoned as “half man,” at 15 rises to a “three-quarter man,” and at 17 takes his place as a full man. These regulations were formed by the colliers themselves.
9. Edb. 1965 J. T. R. Ritchie Golden City 103:
You put the tin into ‘oneie' and you kick it into ‘twoie', then into ‘threeie', ‘fourie'. . . . New arrangements of boxes have been developed such as “Crossie Beds,” “Eightie Beds,” “Threeie Beds.”
10. Ayr. 1792 Burns The Deil's Awa iii.:
There's threesome reels, there's foursome reels.
Sc. 1816 Scott Black Dwarf viii.:
The rest disperse by twasome and threesome through the waste.
Rxb. 1828 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. (1922) 37:
Nae little ‘daffin' and ‘gabbin', as the sang says, gaed on among the threesome.
Crm. 1832 H. Miller Scenes and Leg. (1874) 472:
His threesome bairns a grief to see.
Sc. 1849 M. Oliphant M. Maitland xiii.:
I wad rather see the weans, Willie Lightfoot and David Selvage, and that wee hempie, Jess Dinwuddie, dance a threesome reel.
Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sketches 94:
Dey guid inta dir boat agen da treesome o' dem.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xxix.:
We sat down to meat, we threesome.
Sc. 1912 N.E.D.:
She does her back-hair in a threesome plait.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 16:
The Eeldon threisome pointeet the airt A'd comed.
Bwk. 1933 Border Mag. (Dec.) 182:
The threesome raced oot owre the bent.
Sc. 1954 H. A. Thurston Scotland's Dances 37:
The threesome reel is similar to the foursome; in the course of each, two of the dancers change places, so that the three dancers take it in turns to be in the centre.
11. Sh. 1899 Shetland News (9 Dec.):
Irvine begood ta pit a' da bread — tree-staand, i' da sea-box.
12. Sth. 1897 E. W. B. Nicholson Golspie 169:
First of all there is a number of girls that stands in a row. There are other three girls in front of them. There is another girl at the back of the row of girls. The three girls sing: Here's three sweeps, three by three, And on by the door they bend their knee.

II. n. A yarn consisting of three-ply thread. For the quot. see Hunder, n., 2. Used in pl. in quot. as coll. sing.Fif. 1831 Fife Herald (31 March):
Weaving a 1200 threes, which is equal to an 1800 linen.

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



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