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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.

FLOAT, n., v. Also flot, †floath.

I. n. 1. Scum, esp. on a boiling pot of broth, jam, etc. (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ayr. 1950). Deriv. flottie, “a flat basin in which milk is put to cream” (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 247). †Phr. and comb.: (1) float-o-feet, the fat boiled from the legs of oxen (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 224); (2) float-whey, flot —, a dish made by boiling whey, often with a little meal and milk, so as to form a soft floating curd (Cld. 1808 Jam., flot-; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Float alone is also in use (Watson).(2) Ayr. 1822 Galt Entail vii.:
The float whey, which, in a large china punch bowl, graced the centre of the table, and supplied the place of jellies, tarts, tartlets, and puddings.
Gsw. 1845 R. Husband Poems 61:
Fat kail and potatoes as naething they reckon, And cram wi' the float-whey and bread till they brust.
Rxb. 1878 J. Thomson Life W. Thomson 31:
Plenty of . . . cheese, whey, float, bleery.
Ags. 1896 J. Stirton Thrums and its Glens 100:
When young he was regaled with float whey and potatoes.

2. Mining: a sill or sheet of intrusive trap rock, lying roughly in the same plane as the surrounding strata (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 29; Ayr.9 1951).Gsw. 1920 Memoirs Geol. Survey Scot. 64:
Two or three thin “floats” or sills of teschenitic dolerite are intruded among the strata.
Ayr. 1932 Econ. Geol. Ayr. Coalfields IV. 9:
In the Carboniferous rocks there are sills or “floats” of basic whinstone, volcanic necks, and dykes.

3. A flat spring cart without sides for light transport (Ork., ne.Sc., Bwk., Rnf., Ayr., Gall., Dmf., Rxb., Uls. 1952), freq. used for carrying a hay rick bodily to the stack (wm.Sc. 1952).wm.Sc. 1935 G. Blake Shipbuilders xi.:
Men oscillating between mendicancy and commerce with boxes of Russian matches on the pavements' edges, men selling briquettes from lined floats.
Abd. 1952 Huntly Express (25 April):
A nomad of the White clan landed in Huntly with a convoy of six floats, each drawn by a pony and loaded with dishes, pots and pans, and the usual tink merchandise.

II. v. In vbl.n.: †1. floathing, a layer; 2. In pl. flottins, = float-whey above (Abd. 1825 Jam.; Abd.2 1943): 3. Attrib. in phr. floating flock, see quot. under Flee. v. 1, n.1, II. 10.1. Sc. 1743 R. Maxwell Select Trans. 185:
I first lay upon the Bars small Wood or Whins, than a Floathing of small Coals, then Stones . . . but in every Floathing . . . I make the Stones bigger and bigger.

Combs. (1) float-drove, herring-fishing by means of float-nets, cf. grund-drave s.v. Grund, n., 4. A. (7); (2) float-raip, the cork-rope in a herring-net (Kcd. 1972 Patterns in Folk-Speech (Wakelin) 20).(1) Bwk. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 III. 116:
Now they also fish for them [herrings] by a Float Drove.

[The word is partly Sc. usage of Eng. float. In the sense of scum, whey curds, it has fused with O.Sc. flott, fat, grease, 1589, flot-quhaye, 1549, from O.N. flot, floating fat. Cf. also O.E. flotsmeru, dripping, and obs. Eng. flote, to skim, flotten, skimmed, pa.p. of fleet, to skim. See Fleet, v., n.1 and note s.v.]

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"Float n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Apr 2024 <>



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