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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BY, Bye, Bi', Be, B', prep., adv., conj. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. by. [bɑɪ (emphatic form), bɪ, bə]

Sc. forms:  m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 47:
An aw the weemin in yir companie,
bi yir ain luve are thay made lusum tae:
sae nou I ask thaim o thair courtasie
wha best is able, lat hir honour dae
an dearlie haud yir rule in majestie,
syne bi yir bewtie, that ye shairlie hae.
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 10:
Luv - I ken ye bi yer sang
an saikless as a bairn
I walk the caller gress.
m.Sc. 1997 Liz Niven Past Presents 17:
In twentieth centurie Prague
He died be fire
Tae speir fir freedom
Fae Communist rule,
This young student,
Be his ain thin haun.
Arg. 1998 Angus Martin The Song of the Quern 55:
O, ye may watch at Maidens
an ask for them bi name,
but the maisters o the ringin ert
ir lang lowsed an hame.

1. prep. The following are instances of special Sc. usages.

(1) In comparison with, or, as distinct from. 1884 D. Grant Lays and Leg. of the North (1908) 34:
So ae evenin' by anither. Near the tail o' June, Thirst o' news an thirst o' liquor Donal' gaed to droon.
Abd. 1955 Tocher 21 170:
Ye're aa awfae dour be when I cam here first.
Ags. 1895 Arbroath Guide (26 Jan.) 3/6:
Weel, gin that be your Tam, he's unco little an' jabbit like by what he was wont to be.
Ags. 1990s:
Ee's aald be's me: He's older than I am.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick vi.:
Archie was auld by me, but a hale carle yit.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 154, 224:
Was not my life strange by that now practised? . . . Divna I ken my father by my mother?

(2) Concerning. Known to Cai.7, Kcb.1 1938.Mry.2 1935:
I ken naething coorse by him.
Ayr. 1796 Burns Louis (Cent. ed.) i.:
Louis, what reck I by thee, Or Geordie on his ocean?

(3) Except, beyond, besides, past (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.17, Fif.1, Kcb.1 1938); by the by't, beyond it, beyond the usual, out of the ordinary. Here by't may be a misunderstanding of bit in 4. (8) below.Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xx xv.:
I ken naething suld gar a man fight . . . by and out-taken the dread o' being hanged, or killed if he turns back.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet xxiii.:
There are tricks in other trades by selling muslins.
Abd. p.1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 196:
But something by the by't boot be his hue: Fine colour, red, sea-green an' double blue.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas, etc. 102:
Aft did I won'er how he held his feet. By ony thing that ever I saw yet.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 59:
Booed auld men, an' weemen nae langer bonnie, Fit for a day's darg yet but by their best.
Gsw. 1936 F. Niven Old Soldier i.:
When you are bye thirty as the tree falls so must it lie.

(4) = Than. [quasi-prep.]Ayr. 1991:
That hoose is mair delapidatit bi this hoose.
s.Sc. 1938 (per Abd.2):
I would rather have him by his brother.

(5) As in Mod.Eng., by combines (a) with other adverbs and preps. to modify the meaning of the original, as doon by, in by, (in) owr(e) by, oot by, up by, yont by, etc.; (b) with verbs such as go by, come by, put by, etc. Peculiar Sc. usages of these will be illustrated under the first element of each of the combs.

2. adv.

(1) Used as in St.Eng. to indicate “near, in the neighbourhood of,” and extended also to time to mean “past, finished.” In the sense of “near” it is not now used after a noun without a verb in St.Eng.: in Sc. this is still possible (see first quot.). Known to Cai.7, Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.1, Kcb.9 1938.Sc. 1818 S. E. Ferrier Marriage II. xi.:
As for the kirsnin, that was aye whar it sude be — i' the hooss o' God, an' aw the kith an, kin bye in full dress.
Sc. 1893 R. L. Stevenson Catriona ii.:
Then no later by than yesterday.
Abd.(D) 1917 C. Murray Sough o' War (1918) 14:
Wi' beardless lads scarce by wi' school But eager as the lave to list.
Abd. 1993:
I'll jist wash ma hair noo an get it by wi.
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 42:
Syne I gaed wi the licht
ay its turnan,
doun frae yon smoory hill,
the day's aince-erran aa bi wi,
ae sang liggan
caul i the daurk.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 61:
'Their business wi the coorts is by wi, I think,' said Lauder. 'But I would like tae see the place. It's a curiosity.'
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 8:
"Leave it be till next Beltane's by. Then dependin' how you've done up to then I'll gie it serious thocht. But dinnae ask me again afore then Hugh."
Gsw. 1985 Michael Munro The Patter 14:
by Past or over; 'Well, that's the holidays by for another year.'
Gsw. 1987 Peter Mason C'mon Geeze Yer Patter! 75:
Whit time dae ye ca' this? Yer tea's a' by. Do you realise what time it is? You are late for your evening meal.

(2) Laid aside by illness, off sick. m.Lth. 1842 Children in Mines Report (1) 436:
Father lately got crushed by a big coal falling, and was by for seven weeks.

(3) In calls to sheepdogs to go wide of the sheep, specif. to the left (Abd., Knr., Ayr., Gall. 1975). Sc. 1965 Scotland's Mag. (Sept.) 43:
"By Kep!" was his next order. And instantly the dog halted. . . . "Come by, Shuna!" was his next command. And away went the oldest of the half-beardies, the mother of the other two.
Kcb. 1898 T. Murray Frae the Heather 60:
We'll . . . cry bywide wi' meikle pride, When collie gathers free.

3. conj.

(1) Before, by the time that (Abd.9, Fif.10 1938).Sc. 1724–1727 Ramsay T. T. Misc. (1733) 103:
By you've drunk a dozen bumpers, Bacchus will begin to prove, Spite of Venus and her Mumpers, Drinking better is than love.
Rxb.(D) 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 8:
The awfihest blatter o rain cam on, and A was amaist drookeet be A wan the length o the Sandbed.

(2) Compared with (what); than (Bnff.2, Abd.9, Ags.2, Fif.10, Lnk.3, Kcb.1 1938).m.Lth. 1788 J. Macaulay Poems 119:
Now, Peggy, lassie, tell me what's the cause, You're grown sae cauldrife to me be you was.

4. Phrases: (1) bye and aboon, over and above (Abd.2, Fif.10 1938); (2) by (and) attour, see Atour, 1 (5), 2 (3); (3) by and gane, completely over, finished (Bnff.2, Abd.9, Ags.2, Fif.10 1938); (4) by an' out owre, over and above, in addition to (Abd.2, Fif.10 1938); a corrupt form of by and attour, see Atour; (5) by a time, at times, occasionally. See Time; (6) by (the) common, out of the ordinary, unusual (Bnff.2, Abd.9, Ags.1, Fif.10, Kcb.9 1938); (7) by far, used where Eng. has far only, as by far ower, far too, by far and awa, far and away (Sh., n.Sc., Ags., Per., Ayr. 1975); (8) by my feggs, a mild oath (Cai.7, Bnff.2, Abd.2, Fif.10 1938); also contracted to by (Ags.17 1938; Bnff., Edb. 2000s); (9) by one's ordinar, out of one's usual health (Bnff.2, Ags.17 1938; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 208; Slg.3, Kcb.9 1938); (10) by the bit, “a little too much; said of doubtful behaviour” (Kcb.9 1938); (11) by the ord'nar' = (6); known to Bnff.2, Abd.19, Ags.1, Fif.10, Slg.3, Lnk.3, Kcb.9 1938; also by a' ordinar, adv., quite extraordinarily, exceptionally; see also By-ordinar; (12) bi' the rod, on the way (Bnff.2 1938); (13) by the way, intensifier, usually following a phrase or sentence; (14) by-usual = (6); known to Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.17, Fif.10 1938; (15) by wi' (i)t, bye wi', over and done with, finished (referring either to a person or undertaking); Gen.Sc.; (16) b' wye, as it were (Bnff.2, Abd.9, Fif.10 1938); (17) to be (go) by oneself, to be beside oneself, go demented (Bnff.2, Abd.19, Fif.10, Lnl.1, Lnk.3 1938).(1) Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes III. v.:
And the senawtus disna think me bye and aboon half a proper companion for buiks even.
(3) Ags. 1920 A. Gray Songs and Ballads 72:
And when the grindin' was by and gane, The laddie begoud to mak his maen.
(4) Ags. 1833 J. S. Sands Poems 110:
By an' out owre ling, skate, and labsters.
(5) Ayr. 1833 J. Kennedy Geordie Chalmers 226:
But, sir, I dinna fa' in wi' alterin the law o' the place ava, sir. We may gang a wee gleet by a time, sir.
(6) Ayr. 1823 Galt R. Gilhaize III. xiii.:
Though he was then but in his thirteenth year, he was a by-common stripling in capacity and sense.
Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail III. iv.:
There was something by the common o' cousinship atween them.
(7) Ags. 1826 A. Balfour Highland Mary III. ii.:
She's by far o'er good for this warld.
Fif. 1879 W. D. Latto Song Sermons 43:
Owre prevalent by far and awa'.
Lnk. 1822 W. Watson Poems (1877) 89:
I've clattered here by far owre lang.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters xv.:
Wilson's by far and away the most progressive man we have. For by north, by south, see Benort(h), By-south.
(8) Ags. 1921 A. S. Neill Carroty Broon xix.:
By, it was fell clever o' me to tell her she had a flat nose.
Ags. 1990s:
Another two-lettered word greatly favoured in the Arbroath of my youth was "By", the local equivalent of the "My" used elsewhere as an exclamation and, as far as I know, unique to "Roun O" town.
Its use, however, is almost entirely confined to the fair sex, in such phrases as "By, ye're no faird!" ("Your effrontery astonishes me!") and "Oh, by, we goat a richt flaig!" ("Oh, my, what a fright we got!")
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Sc. Poems (1925) 33:
A bargain be't, and, by my feggs, Gif ye will be my mate, Wi' you I'll screw the cheery pegs.
(11) Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Benachie 46:
Winter's on's by a' ordinar' seen, an' it's like to be gey snell, tee.
Ags. 1889 J. M. Barrie W. in Thrums iii.:
Ou, she's naething by the ord'nar'; but ye see she was mairit to a Tilliedrum man no lang syne, an' they're said to hae a michty grand establishment.
(12) Abd.(D) 1767 R. Forbes Jnl. from London (1869) 14:
He was a fine gabby, auld-farren carly, and held us browly out o' langer bi' the rod.
(13) Edb. 1991:
I did so, by the way!
m.Sc. 1994 Daily Record 12 Dec 11:
"Here, whit is bungee jumpin, by the way?" "Ah huvnae a clue, by the way."
Gsw. 1987 James Kelman Greyhound for Breakfast (1988) 94:
Magic by the way. I've no seen anything like it for ages.
Every hand he was getting, continued Fat Stanley. Naturals all the time. Must've done near a 10-timer!
Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 6:
(He laughs, raises his fist). Ye canne argue wae that, by the way.
(14) Ags. 1893 “F. Mackenzie” Cruisie Sketches xi.:
“Eh,” John said, no longer disguising his curiosity, “has onything by-usual happened?”
(15) Sc. 1896 R. L. Stevenson Weir of Hermiston i.:
She just gi'ed a sab and was by wi' it.
Sc. 1921 R. Bain James I of Scot. 86:
Then it's a' by wi't.
Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 29:
They were gie weel sair'd tae, tho no jist sae clean by wi't as my faither.
Lnk. 1922 G. Blake Clyde-Built (Sc. Nat. Plays, No. 3) 58:
I could tell you a lot about what we have done — the fine ships we have fitted out with boats — the pride we had in our work. . . . But it's all bye wi, now.
(16) Abd.(D) 1929 J. Alexander Mains and Hilly 45:
A mannie wis wi' 'im banterin' aboot the horse, an' wintin' to buy 'im, b' wye.
(17) Ayr. 1786 Burns Halloween xvi.:
He gat hemp-seed, I mind it weel, An' he made unco light o't; But monie a day was by himsel, He was sae sairly frighted That vera night.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie III. xxxiv.:
“Mary,” said her aunt, bursting hastily into the room, “it's my opinion your father's gaun by himsel.”

[O.E. bi, big, unstressed form be; O.Sc. by, bi, bye, etc., including, as in Mod.Sc., meanings: out of one's senses, insane (with oneself), in comparison with, in distinction from, beyond, past, except, than (D.O.S.T.).]

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"By prep., adv., conj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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