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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.

WEY, n.1 Also wy(e), ¶wauy (Mry. 1865 W. H. Tester Poems 134); †weigh (Sh. 1836 Gentleman's Mag. II. 592), †wie; and, esp. in usages under 2. (2), wa(a) (Abd. 1868 Ellis E.E.P. V. 777). Pl. forms (prob. orig. adv. gen.) wise, wis (Sh.), 's (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.), wa(a)s, wause (Ayr. 1817 D. McKillop Poems 13). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. way. See note and Wa, adv. [Ork. m. and s.Sc. wəi; Sh., n.Sc. wɑe]

1. As in Eng., way, path. Comb. way-kenning, a knowledge of the way.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 143:
He that's ill of his Lodging, is well of his way-kenning. Spoken when I ask my Neighbour a Loan, and he tells me that he cannot, but such an one can.

Phr. a' the wye, in marbles: see quot.Abd. 1905 E.D.D.:
A' the wye, fair, facin', naething — to prevent an opponent from throwing his marble short. Nae a' the wye — to claim the advantage of throwing the marble a short distance.

2. (1) Journey, route. Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 54:
Whiles we'd stop on the wye owre
and look up at the acres o starns
in the bricht silent alaneness o that 'oor
and say nocht, each o's side by side,
brithert by labour, the benediction o peace

In phrs. (i) on one's way to, about to, on the verge of; (ii) on the way o mends, on the road to recovery. See Mends.(i) Abd. 1953 Bulletin (10 Dec.):
My 10-year-old son, Angus, was on his way to crying.
(ii) Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Howes an Knowes 9:
Wui breezes threh the Border hills ti pit yin that's off eis bat suin on the way o mends again.

(2) with verbs of motion, as come, gae, gang, haste, rin, slip, stap, sit, later extended to others (see quots.), after possess. prons., gen. in the form wa (orig. adv. accus.) or waas (orig. adv. gen., later construed as a pl.), and now only liter. or dial. in Eng. as to go one's way, etc. The usage is little more than pleonastic, continuing the sense of the verb, sometimes connoting ‘away', and in the imper. suggesting a deferential request rather than a command (Sh., Ork., Rs., ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Dmb. 1974).Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 82, 150:
That ye wad thole a warm I mak na doubt, An' something mair, I's warrant. Ca' your wa'. . . . Hout ay, poor man, come ben your wa'.
Edb. 1772 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 89:
Stap your wa's east the haugh, an' tell the laird.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 222:
He'll ables gang his wa' and no fash nae mair.
m.Lth. 1786 G. Robertson Har'st Rig (1801) 30:
There they straughtway do begin To wurk their wa's.
Dmf. 1808 J. Mayne Siller Gun 100:
Hame, as the gloamin nearer draws, Convener Tamson slips his wa's.
Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xxxii.:
To let Rob come his wa's up the glen, and nae mair about it.
Slk. 1820 Hogg Winter Ev. Tales II. 235:
Gae your ways to Kirkmichael, an' tak the hale town at your tail, gin ye like.
Ayr. 1826 Galt Lairds xxxviii.:
Haiste yere ways but the house to the scullery.
Ayr. 1833 J. Kennedy G. Chalmers 238:
Juist coor doon yer was, an' do what your master bids you.
Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 19:
Ye can bide yer wa's there, wi' yer impedence.
Sc. 1870 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 83:
It turned and ran its wa's out.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 29:
Co' thee wa' in boy, says the geudwife.
Abd. 1890 Mod. Sc. Poets (Edwards) XIII. 94:
An' sae I'se set my waas hame.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) 44:
I'll haud my wa's oot o' this gey quick, thinks I.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 239:
Rise dee wis up as shön as du can, an' mak' me some brakfast.
Kcb. 1904 Crockett Strong Mac xxvi.:
Sandy orders us to throw them in the corner and sit oor ways doon.
Rxb. 1920 Kelso Chronicle (17 Dec.) 6:
“Irr ye in, Tibbie?” “Oo, ay, come yere weys ben.”
Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 155:
Come de wis in, an' I'll shaw dee me aalmanak.
Sh. 1994 Laureen Johnson in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 166:
I set me doon, an sae did shö. Shö wis smilin, her face lichtit up. Shö wis come a lang wye.

3. Direction, relative position, freq. in adv. phrs. and in combs. with pronominal words, sometimes in the form -weys, -wise, = Eng. “in the direction of, -where.”Sc. 1834 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) IV. 26:
Frae the kintra down about Annadale-wise.
Abd. 1991 George Bruce in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 22:
He struck oot sooth. The lift gaed the wrang wey,
turned aff tae a side-road, syne intae a sma glen.

Hence (1) a(a) wey, a' wye, awweys, (i) everywhere. Gen.Sc. Phr. a wey and ony wey, in all directions, all over the place; (ii) wherever; (2) ae wye, one way. Phrs. ae way an a' ways, in every way; aye the ae way, always the same, equable in temper (Ork., Per. 1974); to say ae wye, to agree, concur (Ork., ne.Sc., Per. 1974); (3) naewey, nowhere (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). Gen.Sc.; (4) oniewey, anywhere (Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 257; Sh., ne.Sc., Ayr. 1974). Ony ither wey, anywhere else (ne.Sc. 1974). See also Onie, I., 2. (9); (5) somewey, somewhere (Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Sh., ne.Sc. 1974). See also Some, I. 1. (11) (ii). Some ither wey, somewhere else (ne.Sc. 1974); (6) the wey o, in the direction of (I., n.Sc., em.Sc. 1974). Also the wey one is, in one's direction.(1) (i) Abd. 1867 A. Allardyce Goodwife 12:
Syne rin an' leuk for the gueedman A'wye aboot the toon.
Abd. 1914 A. McS. The Bishop 1:
The folk war rinnin' fae a' wye an' athort wi' ropes.
Abd. 1944 C. Gavin Mountain of Light ii. iv.:
Ye wad ha' thocht the craiters wad ha' been fleein' a' wey and ony wey.
Abd. 1990 Stanley Robertson Fish-Hooses (1992) 16:
It wis horrible and the bleed wis aawyes. It wis like a butcher's shop.
Abd. 1993:
E bag o sweeties burst an ey jist flew aawye
Edb. 2004:
A wiz tryin tae open a plastic poke o nuts - when Ah succeeded they went awweys.
(ii) Abd. 1993:
Aawye ye gang ye can get robbit nooadays.
(2) Sc. 1818 Hogg Wool-Gatherer (1874) 78:
She's the best creature, ae way an' a' ways, that ever was about a poor body's house.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 235:
He's no an ill kin' o' body, ye get him aye juist the ae way.
Ags. 1888 Brechin Advertiser (30 Oct.):
John an' me disna aye say ae wye.
Abd. 1930 Abd. Univ. Mag. (March) 104:
Fin A wiz weel eneuch, we didna aye say ae wy.
(3) Ags. 1894 A. Reid Songs 61:
You're nae wye when he kicks the ba'!
Abd. 1922 Wkly. Free Press (4 Feb.) 2:
Aw never gid naewye wi't.
Abd. 1951 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 119:
Ye were naewye near the poseetion ye goat fae the Fishery Cruiser.
(4) Ags. 1897 F. MacKenzie Northern Pine xx.:
He wad christen it neyther at hame nor ony ither wey.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 50:
If britherheed is ony wye.
Mry. 1927 E. B. Levack Lossiemouth 26:
Lat me see ony w'y in Deut'ronomy far John the Baptist was tummelt heels ower head intil a troch o' watter.
(5) Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) 70:
Ane o' thae craturs that pits everything some ither wey.
(6) Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb vi.:
Foo's the crap lyeukin doon the wye o' Turra?
Abd. 1891 T. Mair Arn And His Wife 64:
Though she churned an' tried to skirp The cream the w'y o' John.
Edb. 1900 E. H. Strain Elmslie's Drag-Net 215:
That fact should have prevented Jamie ‘looking the way she was'.
Sh. 1926 Shetland Times (9 Oct.):
We andooed up da wye o' da hoose.
Cai. 1928:
If A mak' 'at length A'll ca' in 'e wey o' Willie.
Abd.27 1963:
He wadna even look the wey o ye, forby speak til ye.

4. Manner, sort, degree, condition. Hence freq. (1) in adv. phrs. and combs.: (i) in away, gen. with qualifying adj. to indicate being in a state of great distress or anxiety (I., n.Sc., em.Sc.(a), Ayr. 1974). Also in Eng. dial.; (ii) that wey, in that manner, so (ne.Sc., Per. 1974); in that respect; that same way, as before, without change (for the better), so-so; (iii) the wey (that), used conj., because of the way, from the way. Gen.Sc.; (iv) way of doing, method; (v) what (fat n.Sc.) wey, how, in what manner. Gen.Sc. See also Fat, pron., 13., What, pron., VI. 14. What way are you? = how do you do? (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.).wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 3:
You're ... kinna half-sensible, yet I'd want -
If I were my son's wife - or him (which I'm no)
To ban you from this hearth, tell you to go.
How? Thae weys o' goin-oan, which you'd cry "mense".
Are mair leein' worldliness than honest commonsense.
m.Sc. 1994 Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay Forever Yours, Marie-Lou 11:
Disnae maitter supposin ye whisper, they fund a wey tae hear whit yir saying! Thurs nothin they don't hear! Nothin they don't know!
m.Sc. 1997 Liz Niven Past Presents 13:
Wi'oot leavin yer ain lan
Ye can still be an exile
Wha watches the lies o
The lan an the leid
Aw taen fae within.
A sleekit kinna wey
O kiddin ye wi
Veneers o democracy.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 22:
'Let me pit it anither wey. Dae you no ken me fae somewhere?'
Jackie burst out laughing.
Sc. 2000 Herald (14 Aug) 32:
Perhaps if Andy Howitt can convince Tartan Army members that his dance would be an enjoyable experience for them he might have a sell-out on his hands, with kilted, flag-adorned, beer-swilling audience members burping their way through a performance with suitable comments like: "Here Boab, did ye see the wy the boy birled roon' there and sold us aw a dummy? Whit a loup that wiz, eh?"
(i) Sc. 1869 A. MacDonald Love, Law & Theology xvi.:
They say she's in a dreedfu' wey.
Gall. 1901 Gallovidian II. 123:
Oor mistress was in a way. She said it was a lot o' lees.
Sh. 1954 New Shetlander No. 40. 10:
Jannie wis in a aafil wye aboot Robbie.
(ii) Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) 20:
He's a queer cratur that way.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossop 50:
D,ye think A'm gaun 'a let ye awa that wey?
Arg. 1936 L. McInnes S. Kintyre 23:
How did you sleep last night. Well, jist that same wey. How is your mother to-day? Well she's jist that same wey.
(iii) Per. 1896 I. Maclaren Auld Lang Syne 301:
A' was fair ashamed the wy she spoke aboot ye.
(iv) wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 19:
"Och Hugh, I wonder when these new enclosure-ways are goin' to come that the Jacks are ay sayin' its the way of doing up Edinburgh way and by Lanark?"
Edb. 2005:
Every wumman has her ain wey o daein in her ain kitchen.
(v) Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb x.:
Ye ken brawly fat wye my uncle wan in to be a lawvyer aboot Aiberdeen.
Sh. 1898 J. Burgess Tang 57:
Hoo is du, boy, an what wy is your folk?
Arg. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days xiii.:
“What way is she?” said he.
Inv. 1911 Buchan Observer (10 April 1962) 7:
I went oot tae the door at wance tae see what wey wis the tide.
Abd. 1926 Trans. Bch. Field Club XIII. 116:
Jist lat Mr Adams see fat wye ye grippit that scoonrel.
Bnff. 1973 Dufftown News (12 May) 2:
I tell them fit wey tae dae things better than the wey they're daein' them.

(2) mood, humour.Edb. 1856 J. Ballantine Poems 108:
He is aye in the way for a crack.

(3) used as a quasi-suff. Gen. in the form weys, later confounded as in Eng. with the distinct -wise: in the manner specified by the first element. Hence a' weys, in every way or respect. Gen.Sc.; douf ways, in a dejected state; hyngan-wa's, id. See Hing, v., 5.; lowpan' wa's, at a gallop; nae weys, in no way, by no manner of means.Bwk. c.1800 Rymour Club Misc. II. 132:
His wife was somewhat cross and frettit, Gude faith! her bairns were naewyes pettit.
Edb. 1826 M. & M. Corbett Odd Volume 155:
Ye've gotten a bit burdie on the table, I see, — but it's a wee douf ways, I think.
Abd. 1836 J. Grant Tales 66:
Mains was nae ways sweer.
Rxb. 1872 Jethart Worthies 59:
He was cracky and hamely, and was nae ways proud ava.
s.Sc. 1873 D.S.C.S. 226:
The cheild cam lowpan' wa's doon the luone. Hey was lookan' keynd o' hyngan'-wa's quhan aa maet 'ym.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) 60:
Says he, akinda aff-hand weys.
m.Lth. 1906 J. Medwyn Crumleyknowe ix.:
He wad hae been a different man a' weys.
Sh. 1958 New Shetlander No. 46. 13:
He sat for a braa while, an dan feelin kinda droosy wye he göd oot.

5. One's circumstances, way of life, occupation, business. Obsol. in Eng.Fif. 1895 G. Setoun Sunshine and Haar 252:
Ye would like the teelyer way, would ye?
Ags. 1926 J. M. Smith Peggy's Mither 44:
My mither lived i' the mid-flat alow them, an' a gey puir wey they had.
Abd. 1929 P. Grey Ravelled Yarn 19:
Send yer phota an' tell fat kin' o' a wey ye ha'e an' fat character ye ha'e amon' fowk.

Most freq. in phr. wey o' daein, -duin, (1) id., a means of livelihood, a shop, workplace, or the like, a situation (Ork., ne., m., s.Sc. 1974); (2) also in form wey-daein, a great to-do, ‘carry-on', fuss, bustle, uproar, disturbance, rumpus, merry-making, celebration (Ags. 1974); (3) the hail wey o daein, the whole concern or ‘caboodle', “box of tricks”.(1) Ayr. 1819 Kilmarnock Mirror 298:
I thought on a way o' doin' — whiles on ae thing, whiles on anither.
Sc. 1832 Chambers's Jnl. (Nov.) 321:
Old, small, permanent thatched ale-houses, kept by decent widow-women, whose husbands perished many years ago by the shooting of quarries, or other accidents, and who were then set up “in a way of doing” by subscription.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb x.:
[To] tak' Benjie for a 'prentice at ance an pit'im o' the road to mak' a wye o' deein' for 'imsel'.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) 86:
Meg's in a big wey o' doin' noo in Edinboro.
Gall. a.1897 R. Ringan's Plewman Cracks 8:
Oor wey o' duin' was never better than scrimp.
Per. 1910 W. Blair Kildermoch 111:
I kent a man that made money sellin' tea, wha turned farmer, but keepit his way-o'-doin' forby.
Ags. 1920:
He has a wey o daein doon in King Street.
(2) Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) 95:
Ye never saw sic a wey o' doin'.
Ags. 1948 J. C. Rodger Mary Ann 31:
There wiz some wey-daein' there — shuitin' or riotin'.
Fif. 1954 Fife Herald (15 Sept.) 2:
We've been gettin' the Bonnygate resurfaced this week, sae it's been a thrang wey-o'-daein' gettin' up an' doon.
Ags. 1965:
Sic a weydaein the wifie made fan the ba hit her winda. I dinna want ony weydaein about the visit. When John was christened, we had a big wey o daein.
(3) Kcd. 1925:
Ye'll hae the hail wey o daein about wir lugs.

6. Reason, cause, as in phrs. (1) the way, because (Slg., Ayr. 1974); (2) the wey at, the reason why (I., n.Sc. Per. 1974); (3) what wey, why (Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 249; Arg. 1936 L. McInnes Dial. S. Kintyre 24). Gen.Sc. See also Fat, pron., 13, What, pron., VI. 14.(1) Per. 1881 D. Macara Crieff 156.:
[The grave-digger] could hardly get snuff, the way sae few folk were deein'.
Lnk. 1881 A. Wardrop J. Mathison's Courtship 15:
The way o' a' this bustle, he's gane aff the nicht again by seven o' clock.
Uls. 1912 Northern Whig (14 June):
He let on he was deef the way he needn't answer, when they asked him for his subscription.
Arg. 1947 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 191:
The old well that nobody went to now, the way there was a fine new County Council water supply at that side of the village.
(2) Sh. 1972 Tocher No. 8. 249:
The wye at we got Bruce.
(3) Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 14:
But it dings a' what way ye guess sae queer.
Edb. 1828 M. & M. Corbett Tales & Leg. III. 163:
What way are ye no down, Miss Madeline?
Bwk. 1863 Border. Mag. (July) 56:
“What wie will ye tak' my barrel?” said the witch. “Is it high-way robbers ye are?”
Lth. 1893 A. S. Swan Homespun i.:
But, Dod, tell's what way ye hinna mairret?
Arg. 1917 A. W. Blue Quay Head Tryst 217:
What wey wad ye fash yer bonny wee heid aboot an ogly fire?
wm.Sc. 1928 J. Corrie Last Day 19:
What wey did ye no' say ye had nae piece wi' ye?
Bnff. 1973 Dufftown News (12 May) 2:
I speired fit wey she thocht she kent better nor me.

7. Habit, custom, in phr. to be in (†a) the wey o', to have a habit of (I., n.Sc., Ags., Per., wm.Sc. 1974).Sc. c.1704 Buccleuch MSS. (Hist. MSS. Comm.) I. 353:
The House of Lords are in a way of having hours very uncertain.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) 68:
He's aye i' the wey o' improvin' ither fowk's wark.
Abd. 1920:
I'm in the wey o takin a pipe efter my brakfist.
Kcd. 1957 Mearns Leader (22 March):
Jimmy Hacket, fa is in the wye o' prowlin' aboot the waterside.

8. An adage, saying, dictum. Phr. by his (etc.) wey o't, according to him (etc.), by his account (I., ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Ayr. 1974).Sc. 1889 Stevenson M. of Ballantrae ii.:
He was a great hand by his way of it.
Abd. 1902 Wkly. Free Press (26 July):
Marco Bullion's day wis dry onywye, an' gin th' aul' wye o't be richt, we sud hae a sax weeks o' gweed widder.
Abd. 1970:
He's rinnin the hail show, by her wey o't.

[O.Sc. wa, a.1400, wey, 1513, way.]

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"Wey n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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