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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.

UPHALIE-, n. Only in combs. 1. Uphali(e)day, -hallieday, -helliday, the feast of the Epiphany on 6 Jan., marking the end of the Christmas holidays, twelve days from Christmas. Hist.; 2. Uphellie nicht, the evening of the Epiphany, Twelfth-night; 3. Uphellya, uphel(l)ya(a), up(p)hellia(a), Up Helly Aa, a festival held in Lerwick on the last Tuesday of January as a survival of the Celtic fire festivals and the medieval Feast of Fools of the Yule season and now celebrated with modern accretions, such as the burning of a model Viking ship, tableaux, masquerading of Guisers, etc. (see C. E. Mitchell Up-helly-aa (1948) (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), uphellia, Sh. 1973). The last syllable of the word is taken to represent A', all. Also attrib. [′ʌphɛle (′ɑ)]1. Sh. 1774 G. Low Tour (1879) 82:
Their Festivals are Christmas, Newyearsday, Uphaliday (the last day of Yule).
Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. vii. 246:
Football was played on Yule Day, New-Year's Day, and Uphelli Day, the fourth day after old New Year's Day.
Sc. 1960 F. M. McNeill Silver Bough III. 125:
To the country folk, Auld Handsel Monday was, in fact, Uphalieday, and with this last burst of jollity the Daft Days ended.
2. Mry. c.1850 Pluscarden MS.:
A woman could cease to be a witch by saying the Lord's prayer every day from Halloween to Up-hellie-night.
Mry. 1881 S. R. Macphail Relig. Ho. Pluscardyn 155:
The thirteenth night o' Eel was called uphellie nicht.
3. Sc. 1884 Good Words 747:
Uphelya, — the twenty-fourth day after Yule, and that on which the Holy or holidays are supposed to be “up”.
Sh. 1901 Shetland News (5 Jan.):
The principal Festival of the season to Lerwegians, namely ‘Up-helly A,' which brings to a close the orgies and festivities which have more or less been the rule for a month, is now celebrated with all the ‘glorious pomp and circumstance' of Norse galleys, torch-light processions, and guizing galore.
Sh. 1934 W. Moffatt Shetland 129:
Up-Helly-Aa night was the twenty-fourth night of the Helli or Holy Days, and that period of feasting, drinking, singing and rejoicing concluded with a great flare-up on Up-Helly-Aa night.
Sh. 1948 Daily Mail (16 Jan.):
Lerwick is demanding the revival of its 1,000-year-old Norse ceremony, Up-Helly-Aa, banned during the war because of the shortages of timber for the Norse galley, paraffin for the torches and coupons for costumes.
Sh. 1967 New Shetlander No. 80. 19:
Three rousing choruses of the “Up-Helly-A' Song.”
Sh. 1990 Sunday Times (28 Jan):
The Lerwick Up Helly Aa is an institution, highly organised and now very much under the control of the Lerwick establishment.
em.Sc. 1997 Ian Rankin Black & Blue (1999) 416:
Forres looked at Rebus in the rearview. 'Don't go thinking we're all idiots up here, with just enough sense to set light to the boat come Up-Helly-Aa.'
'Up-Helly what?'
Jack turned towards him. 'You know, John, where they burn a longboat.'
'Last Tuesday in January,' Forres said.
Sh. 2000 Herald (26 Jan) 5:
The festival, known by the Norse name of Up Helly Aa, is descended from the ancient festival of Yule, which the Vikings held to celebrate the rebirth of the sun, and is held annually on the last Tuesday of January.

[O.Sc. uphalyday, 1478, uphaly evin, 1507, from up, over, finished, + Halie, Haliday. The Sh. Uphellya has been somewhat altered to conform to Helly.]

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"Uphalie- n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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