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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

FLEE, v.1, n.1 Also flie (Sc. 1887 Stevenson Underwoods 157). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. fly.

I. v. A. Sc. forms. Pres.t.: flee (Gen.Sc.), flei (s.Sc. [flɛi:]). Pa.t.: st. forms, flew (Gen.Sc.) [flu: Sc., s.Sc. + flju:], †flaw (on analogy with see: saw); wk. form, flee't (Sc. 1875 A. Hislop Sc. Anecdotes 295). Pa.p.: flown [ne.Sc., Ayr., s.Sc. flʌu(ə)n], floun, floon [em.Sc. flu:(ə)n], flewn [s.Sc. flju:n]. In Sh. the conjugation is flee, fled, fled, by confusion with flee, to take to flight.Sc. 1701 J. Brand Descr. Ork. (1883) 32:
Whoever shall kill an Eagle, shall have a Hen out of every House of the Parish, where he is killed; yet notwithstanding of this encouragement, I hear but of few killed, they fleeing high, and dispatching their prey so quickly.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To W. Simpson xiii.:
Or blinding drifts wild-furious flee, Dark'ning the day!
Sc. 1803 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 639:
He gowf'd his barrel like a ba ', Till ilka staff in flinders flaw.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality vi.:
To take wing and flee aff like yoursell whenever they were asked to serve a turn about the town.
Rnf. 1870 J. Nicholson Idylls o' Hame 22:
When birds hae floun hame to their nests in the wuds.
Abd. 1877 G. Macdonald M. of Lossie (1892) lviii.:
The deil's ain horse 'at lay at the door an' watched, whan he flaw oot an' tuik the wa' wi' 'im.
m.Lth. 1922 “Restalrig” Sheep's Heid 43:
The nicht's fairly floon.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; m.Lth.1, Bwk.3 1952:
The nest's flewn = the young ones have taken wing.
em.Sc.(b) 1991 Athole Cameron in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 53:
We get claes oan whirlies
fleein busy lizzies.

B. Sc. usages: 1. To be violently excited, gen. by rage or drink, esp. in ppl.adj. fleein, in an ungovernable rage, hilariously drunk (Abd.27 1952); freq. with up, to flare up with anger, to take quick offence (Ib.).Sh. 1898 Shet. News (7 May):
I saw 'at dey wis baith in a fleein pashen.
Abd.27 1952:
The mannie was fair fleein wi the impudence he'd gotten. He flees up at little nooadays. He was fleein lang afore midnicht on Hogmanay.

2. Phrs. and combs.: (1) flee about. a gadabout, an unstable person of fickle principles (Sh., Ork., Bnff., Abd., Ags. 1951); (2) flee-awa, a giddy, frivolous person; (3) fleein(g) adder, — ether, the dragon-fly. See Ether, n.2 and (9) (b) below; (4) fleein beagle, a species of flying beetle (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (5) fleein bent, purple melic, Molinia cærulea (Sth. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XV. 70; s.Sc. 1886 B. and H. App. 536; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); also called fly-bent; †(6) fleeing buss, a dry whin bush that blazes away quickly and flercely when kindled; (7) fleein crap, the last crop grown by a farmer before removing, from which he tries to get the utmost return; any similar final transaction (Abd. 16 1950); ¶(8) fleein cuppie, a fly-cup, s.v. Fly; (9) fleein dra(i)gon, (a) a paper-kite (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Abd.9, Ags.19, m.Lth.1 1945; Bnff., Ayr. 2000s). See Draigon; (b) the dragon-fly (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Cf. (3); (10) flying flock, see quot.; (11) fleein merchant, †marchant, an itinerant salesman, a pedlar, hawker (Abd. 1825 Jam.; Abd.9 1942). Cf. Eng. flying stationer, a ballad- or chapbook-monger; ¶(12) fleein-mouse, a bat; (13) fleein-oot, see (21); (14) flying stock, = (10); (15) fleeing tailor, an itinerant tailor, a whip-the-cat; †(16) flying washerwoman, a woman who goes from house to house to do washing. See quot. to (15); (17) fleein yett, a loose gate that swings violently with every gust of wind. Cf. 1901 quot. s.v. Daft, 2.; †(18) flee-on, a sudden attack. Schoolboy slang; (19) flee-up (-i'-the-air), a frivolous or pretentious person, esp. one whose promise is more impressive than his performance (ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., Dmf. 1951); a snob (Slk. 1951). Also used adj. = ephemeral, unsubstantial; (20) to flee intae, to assail with rebuke, to berate (ne.Sc., m.Lth., Rxb. 1951); (21) to flee out, of a rash: to appear on the skin. Pa.p. flewn oot (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bwk. 1952); vbl.n. fleein-oot, a skin eruption, rash (Fif. 1899 Proc. Philos. Soc. Gsw. XXXI. 40; Fif. 1951); (22) to flee the (blue) doo, the gairds, see Doo, n., 3. (11), Gaird.(1) Dmf. 1875 “P.Ponder” Kirkcumdoon 90:
An adherent, I tak it, means ane that sticks by his ain kirk, an' not a flee about.
(2) m.Sc. 1932 “O. Douglas” Priorsford iv.:
Rale wise-like young women, and pleasant-spoken: no' flee-awa (though one o' them hed earrings an' powder on her nose!).
(5) Highl. 1803 Trans. Highl. Soc. II. 178:
Of all the mountain plants in Scotland, the Aira cærulea seems the best adapted for this purpose, known among the Highland shepherds by the name of the Fly, or Flying bent.
s.Sc. 1830 Quarterly Jnl. Agric. II. 699:
Great flats and ridges of white and flying bent.
Bwk. 1889 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club 473:
The peaty soil was occupied by Molinia cærulea called here, “Fly Bent.” At Milkhope it was called “Fleeing Bent.”
(6) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 205:
A rapid burning fire is said to go like a fleeing buss, or a whin buss on fire.
(7) Abd. 1764 Abd. Journal (10 Sept.):
A Stack of old Hay and a fleeing Crop of about four Acres Ground.
(8) Bnff. 1924 Scots Mag. (June) 187:
Saxteen brakfasts, forbyes fleein' cuppies, an' antrin drams in atween times!
(9) (a) Sc. 1821 Blackwood's Mag. (Aug.) 35:
Flying dragons — very common in Edinburgh in harvest.
(b) Kcd. 1813 G. Robertson Agric. Kcd. 397:
The Draco volans, or flying dragon.
(10) Sc. 1889 H. Stephens Bk. of Farm I. 183:
On Lowland farms, in certain districts, no flock of ewes is kept for breeding, and sheep to be fattened on turnips are bought in, and are thus known as floating or flying flocks.
Sc. 1953 Radio Times (24 April) 9:
One of the ways in which farmers can help to combat the meat shortage is by running flying flocks of ewes.
(11) Abd. 1918 C. Murray Sough o' War 26:
I would a had to sell't my verge, . . . But for the fleein merchant's cairt.
(12) Sc. 1933 W. Soutar Seeds in the Wind 28:
Noo that the mirk hings round the hoose Come oot an' see the fleein'-mouse.
(14) Sc. 1814 J. Sinclair Gen. Report Agric. Scot. III. 140:
The ewes are afterwards fattened on the same pasture, with the addition of the aftermath of the hay field, and if necessary a few turnips. This is what is called a flying stock.
Sc. 1832 Quarterly Jnl. Agric. III. 1005:
Sheep are said to constitute a flying stock when they are bought and sold the same year, and not kept for the purposes of breeding.
(15) Sc. 1828 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 99:
The tailor carried her aff frae them a' — the flyin tailor o' Ettrick.
e.Lth. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 243:
My father was a flying tailor, and my mother was a flying washerwoman.
Per. 1933 N. B. Morrison Gowk Storm iii. i.:
The fleeing-tailor, arriving on his yearly round.
(17) Gall. 1896 A. J. Armstrong Cobbler 53:
As daft as a fleein' yett.
(18) Edb. 1898 J. Baillie Walter Crighton 112:
“The tawnying sumph o' a teller, he deserves a proper muggin',” said one. “What do you say to make a flee-on?”
(19) Ags. 1875 Brechin Advertiser (20 April):
Excep' ackin' as a Director o' this, that, and the tither flee-up companies, he is makin' nae mark that I can see.
m.Sc. 1898 J. Buchan John Burnet i. ix.:
Come on, ye flee-up-i'-the-air, and I'll see if I can pit thae fushionless airms o' yours oot o' joint.
Abd. 1928 N. Shepherd Quarry Wood x.:
The beautiful Mrs K., mostly frocks and fal-la-la-la — what Marty's mother would call . . . a flee-up.
(20) Bnff.4 1926:
She flew intae him like a baitit bear.

II. n. 1. A flying movement, a rush. Specif. a bout in a cock-fight. Ags. 1890 A. N. Simpson Muirside Memories 31, 33:
If the Smith cam here to hae a flee, I laid the book afore him to see fair hornie. . . . At the next flee mine sent the Dyker's [cock] below that chair.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) xix.:
He made a flee at the door.
Ags. 1952 Forfar Dispatch (4 Oct.):
Thinkin o' the flee I'd haen rinnin fee Zoar tee toon.

2. A sudden burst of passion, an explosion of temper.Ayr. 1883 W. Aitken Lays 58:
Jen, his wife, had got up in a deil o' a flee.

3. A boys' outdoor game, poss. some kind of race. Dmf. 1915 D. J. Beattie Oor Gate-En' 7:
The Scholars' Fiel', tae, was the scene o' a' oor "cock fights", "wrus'lin", "boxin", "flie", . . . an' other sic games.

4. The fly of a spinning wheel (cf. Flicht, n.1, 2.). Comb. flee-iron, the spindle on which the flies revolve. Sh. 1969 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 122:
The "pirm" and "whorls" are connected to the "flee iron," which is part of the "flights" or teeth on which the wool is threaded when being spun.

[O.Sc. fle, to fly, a.1400, the reg. development of O.E.flē(o)ȝan, id., pa.t. flaw, a.1400, fleu, a.1605, pa.p. flowyn, a.1400, floun, 1596.]

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"Flee v.1, n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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