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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WA, n., v. Also waa, waw. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. wall. See P.L.D. § 78.1. [wɑ:, wǫ:]

I. n. 1. Sc. form of Eng. wall. Sc. 1995 David Purves Hert's Bluid 24:
Afore he made ti dee, Keing James the Fift
rowed roun ti face the waw an dwyned awa,
raither nor thole the skaith that wes ti cum ...
m.Sc. 1997 Liz Niven Past Presents 16:
Breathin oot the names
Written fae flair te ruif
O the deid Jews.
Lines loast when Russians
"Restored" the was.
m.Sc. 1998 Lillias Forbes Turning a Fresh Eye 18:
Syne, ower the causey, tae yer frichtit een
The gantin Palace wa', rowed in deid-licht, ...
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 23:
Are vandals spulzyin phones an waas?
Is Finzean the fount o crime?

Proverbial phrs.: a wa between preserves friendship (Sc. 1870 A. Hislop Proverbs 49); she'll come yet to gather cinders on the ashlar wa', said of a wasteful woman (Fif. 1924 Rymour Club Misc. III. iii. 130). Combs. and derivs.: (1) crap-wa, see Crap, n.1, 5. (2); (2) speel-the-wa, see Speel., v.2, 3.(4); (3) wallack, a game played by throwing a ball against a wall and making it rebound so as to drop within a marked area some feet back from the wall (Inv., Mry. 1947). Cf. (6) (i) and -Ock, suff., II.; (4) wa-ba, a game of hand-ball in which the ball is made to strike a wall (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 353); the ball used in the game (Gall. 1825 Jam.). Cf. (3); (5) waa-back, a paraffin lamp with a flat backplate for hanging against a wall (Sh. 1973); (6) wa-bag, a flat-sided bag with a flap-top hung on a wall for holding odds and ends; (7) wall-coal, see quot. (Lnk. 1845 Stat. .Acc.2 VI. 82; Fif. 1973); (8) wa-drap, (i) rain-water dripping from the eaves of a building (Cai., Fif., Lnl. 1973). Cf. Eavesdrop; (ii) transf. a puny, delicate or insignificant person (Cai. 1921 T.S.D.C., Cai. 1973). Cf. slang Eng. drip, id.; (9) wa-heid, -head, (i) the top of a wall, specif. the empty space where it meets the lower part of the roof of a building, used for the storage of small articles (Rxb. 1825 Jam.; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen.Sc. Cf. Easin, 3., Crap, n.1, 4. (4); (ii) transf., gen. in pl.: the horizon, sky-line (Lth., Lnk., Ayr., Kcb. 1973). Cf. Easin, 5.; (10) wall-hold, the distance a beam, lintel, etc. extends into walling so as to form a secure bond, the overlapping of stones in the courses of a wall; (11) wa-iron, a crowbar (ne.Sc. 1973); (12) wallie, (i) a marbles game in which each player rolls a marble towards a wall, and the owner of the one coming nearest has then the first shot at his opponents' (Fif., Edb. 1973); (ii) an action in one of the games of wall-ball (see (6) and quot.); (13) wall-press, a cupboard built into the wall of a room; (14) wallyflower, nonce form of Eng. wall-flower, phs. influenced by the form gillyflower; (15) wall-stade, the foundation of a wall (Sh. 1973). See Steid, n., 1. (1); (16) wa-taps, = (9) (ii); (17) wa' tea, a tea served to guests sitting round a room instead of at table, a handed-round tea. (18) windy wa's, see Windy.(5) Sh. 1953 New Shetlander No. 35. 5:
A waa-back aa at we wir needin; Ta see da print whin we wir readin.
(6) Sc. 1764 Caled. Mercury (10 Oct.) 495:
Found . . . A pair of Wall-bags.
Lnk. 1862 D. Wingate Poems 119:
The wa'-bag in the neuk Hung near her chair fu' haun'y.
(7) Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 70:
Wall coal, breast coal; the middle division of three in a seam, the other two being termed top coal and ground coal.
(8) (i) Sc. 1905 E.D.D.:
One may not build so near an older house which has a wa'-drap on that side, as not to leave a space for it.
(ii) Cai. 1916 J. Mowat Proverbs 11:
“A perfect waa-drap o' a critur” marks the bottom degree of insignificance.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 226:
'We're all fellow workers,' says this chiel, a waadrap o a student, 'Unite against the forces o capitalism.'
(9) (i) Rxb. 1821 W. Scott Beauties of Border 204:
Your house has nae wa' heads, to lay harrow teeth and bits o' oddments on.
Wgt. 1875 W. McIlwraith Guide Wgt. 128:
The floors of all the upper apartments have fallen in, . . . but the turnpike stair by which access was had to them is still entire to the wall-heads.
s.Sc. 1897 E. Hamilton Outlaws xxi.:
There'll likely be a fank o' tows i' the wa' head.
Dmf. 1955:
Ye'll get it in the wa-head o' the byre.
(ii) Uls. 1898 A. M'Ilroy Auld Meetin'-Hoose Green 67:
It's clearin' like, about the wa' heids.
Ayr. 1951 Stat. Acc.3 645:
Stand on the Castle Hills and look ‘roon the Wa' Heids,' and every hill top in sight is New Cumnock and Ayrshire.
(10) Sc. 1842 J. C. Loudon Cottage Architecture 467:
The inside lintels of the door and window spaces are to have at least 12 inches of bond (or wall-hold) on each end.
Sc. 1855 J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 388:
Stones for window sills should be one foot wider than the opening for which they are intended: they have usually what is technically termed a wall-hold of six inches on each side, but the wall-hold varies with the kind of jamb which the opening may have.
(12) (ii) Edb. 1965 J. T. R. Ritchie Golden City 82:
Wallie. A Double Ballie [game], in which a general pattern of eight actions is laid down: 1. Wallie: “Ye kick the wall.”
(13)m.Sc. 1992 James Meek Last Orders 19:
Once in a while Alison Melnick's husband Shane would make her stand in the wall-press cupboard in the bedroom. Get in there! he'd shout, opening the door with one hand and shoving her in with the other.
Sc. 1998 Scotsman 3 Nov 15:
Those big Georgian cupboards can hold a lot ... they kept packing them in till all there was left was a small wall press.
Sc. 2003 Scotland on Sunday 23 Mar 48:
It's this seamless mix of old and modern that characterises the property. While the first-floor bathroom has limestone flooring and Philippe Starck fittings, the drawing room features ornamental cornicing and a white marble mantelpiece flanked by shelved wall presses.
Sc. 2003 Scotsman 29 May 12:
There is also a double bedroom on this floor, with a fireplace and natural pine floor, plus a light and spacious bathroom backing on to the garden with a free-standing bath, shower and WC, heated towel rail, wall press and airing cupboard with hot water cylinder.
(14) Fif. 1845 T. C. Latto Minister's Kailyard 48:
That wallyflower — yon thyme — thae roots.
(15) Bte. 1702 Rothesay T.C. Rec. (1935) II. 548:
Ane old walstade and yard quhilk perteind to John Glass maltman.
(16) Ayr. 1891 H. Johnston Kilmallie I. v.:
He walked bare-headed to the Castle knowe to get a look at the ‘wa'-taps.' The “Wall-tops” — the distant Arran hills — were perfectly cloudless.
(17) Sc. 1851 S. R. Whitehead Rose Douglas x.:
Can ye tell me if it's to be a wa' tea or a table tea?
Sc. 1896 L. Keith Indian Uncle ix.:
There's nothing I'd like better than a good, old-fashioned, sitting-down tea. Not a “wa' tea”, mind.

2. Phrs.: (1) to claw the waas o', to drain or exhaust completely of resources, to empty; (2) to drap, dreep a wa, see Dreep, v., 4.; (3) to stand to the wa, of a door: to be wide open. See Stand, v., 7. (19).(1) Abd. 1924 J. Laird Laird of Pittendrum 6:
Sae mony losses claws the waas o' the moggin gey weel.

3. In pl.: a roofless building, ruins, esp. in phr. auld was (Dmf. 1973).Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 107:
Has some Bogle-bo Glowrin frae 'mang auld Waws gi'en ye a Fleg?
Ayr. 1828 D. Wood Poems 159:
Or is he wi' some lassie yokin' Within somebody's auld wa's?
Kcb. 1902 Crockett Dark o' the Moon xxix.:
Nocht left but an auld sang, and thae waa's up there.
Gall. 1930 H. Maxwell Place-Names 47, 216:
Bratney Wa's. Remains of a house-site . . . Nannie Walker's Wa's. Wa's, a common term for a deserted house.

4. In pl.: the outer crust or rind (of cheese) (Abd. 1825 Jam., waws of cheese).

II. v. As in Eng. Deriv. waa(e)r, a waller, one who builds walls, a mason; a dry-stone dyker (Lnk. 1973).Ayr. 1882 A. Guthrie Ardrossan 54:
A luckless stranger, or land-lowper, not knowing who was the waar or mason, thus expressed his surprise at the greatness and magnificence of the undertaking.

[O.Sc. waw, wall, c.1485, wal bag, 1674, walheid, 1526, walstade, 1696.]

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"Wa n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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