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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.

GRAFF, n. Also graffe, grauff, graafe; grafe, graif, gref(f), graef(f), greaf, greif; grof (Sh.). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. grave. [Sc. grɑf, but Sh. græf, grɔf, Abd. gref, grɛf]

1. As in Eng. = a place of burial. Gen.Sc., obs. Also in n.Eng. dial.Dmb. 1730 in G. E. Todd Byeways (1900) 183:
All . . . should pay in to the kirk session a shilling for each graff or lair possest or claim'd by them.
Abd. 1759 F. Douglas Rural Love 15:
And Megg, fan I'm laid i' the grafe, To leave you single were not safe.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Epigram ii.:
Ev'n as he is, cauld in his graff.
Ags. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XII. 299:
One [cairn] . . . known by the name of Crian's Gref, said to have been erected upon the grave of a noted robber.
Gall. 1820 Blackwood's Mag. (May) 166:
I'll howk it [a dead ass] a graff wi' my ain two hands rather than it should feast the corbies.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel iii.:
There are dainty green graffs in St Cuthbert's kirk-yard, whare any may sleep as if they were in a down-bed.
Edb. 1851 A. Maclagan Sketches 258:
Wi' pick an' spade His grauff I made.
Ags. 1880 G. W. Donald Poems 45:
The graff below hauds John McNab in Fam'd for his stitchin' an' blind stabbin'.
Hdg. 1903 J. Lumsden Toorle 15:
Your secret's safe wi' me As it is wi' yer Grandam in her graff.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 138:
Oontill they cam' up till the greff whaur Lazarus' corpse did lie.
Sc. 1993 J. Derrick McClure in A. L. Kennedy and Hamish Whyte New Writing Scotland 11: The Ghost of Liberace 62:
o Ane wha cud turn them intil laifs, or rowe a muckle ane awa frae the mou o His graff.

Comb.: graff-stane, a grave-stone.Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 215:
Ane College-regent bangin', stood Heigh on a graff-stane up.
Abd. 1847 W. Thom Rhymes 81:
As we lay in the lythe o' yon bare graif-stane.

2. A ditch, a trench. Also in Eng. dial.Sc. 1701 R. Wodrow Early Letters (S.H.S.) 151:
I still fancied they had channels and graafes cut to receive it.

3. The lowest part of the pit or trench in a peat-lair from which the peats have been dug, the bottom of a peat-bank (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), gref, grof, Sh. 1955; gref Sh. 1990s).Sh. 1898 Shetland News (26 March):
Yirdit hit i' da graeff o' ane o' Robbie Scollay's paet-banks.
Sh. 1918 T. Manson Peat. Comm. 168:
Ye maun keep da pones hale . . . Dey hae ta be laid doon agen i da graef o da bank.
Sh. 1937 J. Nicolson Yarns 54:
The cutting was what is termed “a three-peat bank,” which meant that it was between five and six feet from the “greff” or bottom to the “broo” or top.

Comb.: gref-peat, “the first peat cut from the ledge in a peat-pit” (Sh. 1908 Jak (1928)).

4. A fisherman's tabu-name for the sea-bottom (Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 120, graef, 1908 Jak. (1928)).

[OSc. has graf(fe), graif(fe), greaf, a grave or tomb, from a.1400; O.E. græf, græf- (from grafan, to dig). The interchange between long and short vowels is due to the differences between the simple and inflected forms, graf, grafe. The Sh. form grof is from Norw. dial. grov. O.N. grǫf, a pit.]

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"Graff n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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