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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

FAIRY, n. Also faery; faerie, ferry (Sh., Ork.).

Sc. usage, a Guiser at Halloween (Kcb., Dmf. 1975). 

Sc. usages in combs., mostly obs. or obsol.: 1. faeries' (ferries', ferry-) cairds (-kaerds, -kairds), various kinds of fern (Sh.10 1950); 2. faeries' spindles, see quot.; 3. faeries' whorls, moonwort fern, Botrychium lunaria (Sh.11 1951); 4. fairies' bakin day, see quot.; 5. fairy arrow, a flint arrow-head (Abd.9 1941). Cf. Elf, 1; 6. fairy-dart (Mry.1 1925), fairy's dairt (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 44), id.: for 5. and 6. cf. Elf-shot; 7. fairy green, a fairy ring, “a small circle, often observed on old leas or heath, of a deeper green than the surrounding sward, supposed by the vulgar or superstitious to be the spot on which the fairies hold their dances” (Sc. 1825 Jam.); 8. fairy-hammer, a stone axe or hammer head, a celt; 9. fairy-hillocks, “verdant knolls, in many parts of the country, which have received this denomination, from the vulgar idea that these were anciently inhabited by the fairies, or that they used to dance there” (Sc. 1808 Jam.); 10. fairy-knots, see quot.; see Elf, 9.; 11. fairy('s) lint, fairy flax, Linum catharticum (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 45): 12. fairy money, sheep's sorrel, Rumex acetosella (em.Sc.(a) 1952); 13. fairy rade, -raid, the ride of the fairies to their celebrations at Beltane (Sc. 1825 Jam.); 14. fairy-stone, = 5; 15. fairy thim'les, the foxglove, Digitalis purpurea (Ags. 1975). Also in Eng. dial. 1. Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 64:
Ye see yun glude o ferries-kaerds.
Sh. 1947 Shet. Folk Bk. I. 81:
Faeries' cairds. Ferns, e.g. Pteris aquilina, etc. Or “Trowie-cairds”, the “cairds” being implements for carding wool.
Sh. 1949 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 267:
Ferry-kairds, the folk called the ferns; the fern, which is the floral symbol of Shetland, the trows' homeland. In the autumn, at Hallowmass, folk had seen the ferry-kairds being parted, and the peerie folk, or trows, coming forth on their nightly travels.
2. Sh. 1947 Shet. Folk Bk. I. 81:
Faeries' spindles, horsetails, e.g. Equisetum arvense.
4. Abd. 1894 Trans. Buchan Field Cl. III. 149:
A day of alternate rain and sunshine is called: — “The gueede folk's or the fairies' bakin day.” The rain furnishes the rain to make the leaven, and the sun “fires” the bread.
5. Sth. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 X. 15:
Some small stones have been found, which seem to be a species of flint, about an inch long and half an inch broad, of a triangular shape, and barbed on each side. The common people confidently assert that they are fairies' arrows, which they shoot at cattle.
6. ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 184:
Flint arrows and spear-heads went by the name of “faery dairts.”
7. Sc. 1819 Scots Mag. (July) 19:
He wha tills the fairy green, Nae luck again sall hae, . . . He wha gaes by the fairy green, Nae dule nor pine sall see.
8. Sc. 1815 C. I. Johnstone Clan-Albin II. 240 note:
Fairy-hammers are pieces of green porphyry, shaped like the head of a hatchet, and which were probably used as such before the introduction of iron. They are not infrequently found in the isles, and are preserved among other relicks with which the Highlanders medicate, or rather charm the water they drink, as a remedy in particular diseases.
10. Sc. 1883 Folk-Lore Jnl. 55:
The fairies danced round the Hallow-fires, and, whilst they were doing so, they kept casting knots of blue ribbons with their left hands, and throwing them over their left shoulders. These knots could not be unloosed, and were called “fairy-knots.”
11. Per. 1910 W. Blair Kildermoch 112:
That wearifu' thing they ca' fairy's lint, that grows fast in places where it wadna be expectit.
13. Dmf. 1810 R. Cromek Remains 298:
At the first approach of summer is held the Fairy Rade; and their merry minstrelsy with the tinkling of the horses' housings and the hubbub of voices have kept the peasantry of Scottish villages awake, on the first night of summer.
Slk. 1818 Hogg Wool-gatherer (1876) 69:
There have been fairy raids i' the Hope, an' mony ane ill fleyed.
14. Bwk. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 I. 73:
Arrow points of flint, commonly called elf or fairy-stones, are to be seen here.
15.Lnk. 1865 J. Hamilton Poems 51:
Whaur fairy thim'les woo the bees In Tenach's breken dell.

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"Fairy n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jul 2024 <>



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