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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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About this entry:
First published 1952 (SND Vol. III).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

DELF, Delph, n. and v.

I. n.

1. A place dug out.

(1) An excavation in turf (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis), or in a peat-bank (Cai.7 1940; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 37; Fif., w.Sc. 1887 Jam.6).Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 37:
The twa o' thim keest a great big delf o' truffs.

(2) A quarry (Fif., w.Sc. 1887 Jam.6). Also in n.Eng. dial.

(3) “Applied to a gully in a sea-cliff” (Gall. 1931 H. Maxwell Place Names 207).

(4) In pl.: “marks of animals' feet in soft land” (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 171).

2. What is removed by digging.

†(1) A sod (Bnff., Lnk. 1825 Jam.2); hence, a matted mass of vegetation (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 37).Bnff. 1812 D. Souter Agric. Bnff. App. 42:
If a delph be cast up in a field that hath lien for the space of five or six years, wild oats will spring up of their own accord.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 37:
That lan's jist a delf o' weeds.

(2) “Fresh earth used to make up the waste of arable land or mixed with dung for manure; also used for bedding in a byre” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.).

II. v.

1. “To cut mould, clay, etc., in large masses” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 37). Often followed by doon or up.Ib.:
Delf doon the bank in o' the hole.

2. To make deep imprints on the earth, to churn (the soil).Abd. after 1768 A. Ross Fortunate Shepherd in MS. Wks. III. 163:
The reavors horse sae delfed had the ground That they the rode they yeed right vively found.

[O.Sc. has delf, a place dug out; a hole or pit; a grave, from c.1318, and the v. = to dig, to open or get up, to cast down, by digging, from a.1400; Mid.Eng. delf, a ditch, quarry, late O.E. dælf, appar. aphetic form of gedelf, a digging, trench, from delfan, to dig or burrow.]

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"Delf n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jul 2024 <>



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