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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.

HECH, int., n., v. Also hegh, haigh, haich, heh, heech, hich, heigh, hiegh. [hɛç, hiç, hɪç]

I. int. An exclamation, akin to a sigh, gen. expressive of sorrow, fatigue, pain, surprise or contempt (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 135, heigh; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 259; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.). Often in conjunction with me, sirs, etc. Gen.Sc.Abd. c.1692 A. Pitcairn Assembly (1722) 6:
Sir, hegh I have been seeking you in all the Taverns in Town — hegh —.
Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 119:
Ha, heh! thought I, I canna say But I may cock my Nose the Day.
Sc. a.1776 D. Herd Sc. Songs II. 216:
But to the bridal I [jilted girl] sall gang . . . I care nae tho' they a' should cry, Hech, see, sirs, yonder comes the dirdam.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality v.:
“Much obliged to you, Alison, and many kind thanks.” “Hegh, sirs, sae fair-fashioned as we are!”
s.Sc. 1847 H. S. Riddell Poems 310:
Heigh me! is thus the gamfrel gane? What will they yet come to O.
m.Lth. 1858 Dark Night 71:
Hech keep me, min, and I wad be keen o' bonny things.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxix.:
Haigh she daurna for the very life o' 'r utter a single thrawn syllable.
Bnff. 1881 W. M. Philip K. MacIntosh's Scholars xv.:
Hech! this is a lithe howe!
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona ix.:
Hech, I would rather you wouldnae.
m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 31:
She primmed up her mou' and said saft as a doo, “Hech, sirs, what a burden is man!”
em.Sc. 1999 James Robertson The Day O Judgement 9:
Syne will each stoundit sairie sowel
Tae its ain gash corp mak mane an say:
"Hech me! Whit for hae ye revived
Tae bring on baith o us sic wae? .. "

II. n. The act of exclaiming in this manner; “the act of panting” (Sc. 1808 Jam.); an exclamation. Freq. in phr. neither hech nor how, not a syllable (Ayr. 1956).Rnf. 1790 A. Wilson Poems 238:
An' soon's our hechs, an' heys are by, An' baith our rungs laid down.
Gsw. 1879 A. G. Murdoch Rhymes 41:
Death steppit ben, wi' a “hech” and a “hoo,” An' quo' he, “Auld Ailie, I hae cam' for ye noo.”
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) xiii.:
Syne he stoppit an' wi' a lang hech o' a sigh, he says, “Bawbee, this is genna be a coosie.”
Ayr. 1912 G. Cunningham Verse 224:
With never a hum, nor a hech, nor a howe.

III. v. To exclaim hech, make such a sound; to pant or breathe hard or uneasily (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Slk. 1956), to hum and haw, to talk in a prosy or lugubrious manner. Freq. conjoined with how (see How, int.) to express weariness (Kcb.10 1956).Abd. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 8:
Nae ferlie, though it pierc't my saul, I pegh't, I hegh't, syne cry'd, Waul! waul!
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 26:
I laid on, and sae did he, till some o' us a' hech'd again.
Sc. 1827 Mary Hamilton in Child Ballads (1889) III. 392:
What need ye hech and how, ladies? What need ye how for me?
Ags. 1921 V. Jacob Bonnie Joann 2:
Aside ye, I hech an' I haver, I'm het an' I'm cauld.
Lnk. 1922 T. S. Cairncross Scot at Hame 17:
It gi'es me aye a perfect scunner To hear folk hechin' Aboot commandments and their thun'ner.

Hence reduplicative comb. to hech-kech, to make much ado about nothing (Dmf. 1894 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 150).

IV. Combs.: 1. hech aye, indeed (ne.Sc., Per., Knr., m.Lth., Uls. 1956); 2. hech hey, hiegh hie, heigho' used esp. to express weariness, or regret (Per. 1956); 3. hech how(e), -ho,(1) = 2. (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 259; Kcb. 1919 T.S.D.C. III.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Slk. 1956); (2) used attrib. = hum-drum, monotonous, following a very conventional or long-established pattern; (3) used as a n., (a) the exclamation hech-howe; (b) a fixed routine, a fixed habit, esp. in phr. (the) auld hech how(e), the old routine, “the same old story ”, a return to a former state (of health or circumstances) (Lth., Cld. 1825 Jam.; Fif. 1912 D. Rorie Mining Folk 414; Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 12; Fif., Knr., m.Lth., Slk. 1956); also a person of staid habits, an old fogey; 4. hech-how-hum, = 2., “it is always accompanied with a yawn” (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 259; ne.Sc., Per., Knr., m.Lth. 1956); 5. hech wow, = 2. (Gall. 1827 Curriehill; Slk. 1956), gen. expressive of distress or regret. Cf. eh-whow s.v. Eh.1. Bnff. 1918 J. Mitchell Bydand 19:
Hech aye, McCraw, there's heeps o' killin' in a cyaurd.
2. Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 27:
Yet monie a sigh an' hegh hey did she gee, An' looked ay as gin she meant to flee.
Per. c.1800 Lady Nairne Kitty Reid's House (1905) i.:
Hech! hey! the mirth that was there.
Sc. 1802 Scots Mag. (July) 593:
She . . . said to herself, wi' a heavy hiegh hie, Oh, a'body's like to be married but me.
3. (1) Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 156:
Heigh how is heavy some, An old Wife is dowisome.
Rxb. 1811 A. Scott Poems 119:
O Richie Gall! Cauld 'mang the dead, . . . Thou's left us a' without remead, To sigh hech howe.
Ayr. 1826 Galt Lairds xxxviii.:
Hech-how, for sixty year — ay, sixty year, and mair siller, I have hung up my hat on that dividual same pin.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) vi.:
But tuts-tuts — hech-how! my day has long since passed; and this is stuff to drop from the lips of an auld fool.
s.Sc. 1892 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 169:
Hech, how me! but my love is long in coming to her grave in the cold ground!
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders i.:
Another stretched himself till I heard his joints crack, and said “Hech How!” as though he were sleepy.
(2) Dmb. 1846 W. Cross Disruption xxxix.:
For the time to come he maun preach his dry, fusionless, hech-how sermons.
Edb. 1866 J. Smith Poems 151:
A bonnie hech-how majority.
(3) (a) Edb. 1798 D. Crawford Poems 47:
I sat doon bi the ingle low, An' gap't, an' gae a lang heigh-how.
(b) Abd. 1778 Weekly Mag. (18 Feb.) 184:
May rowth o' blessings on him row, The lad wha sings the auld heigh-how.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter xi.:
He touched the horse's neck with his riding-wand, and it fell into its auld heigh-ho of a stumbling trot.
Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 14:
Yet thinkna, Miss, that I'm an auld hech howe; That's ane let's a' things hing jist as they grow.
Ayr. 1879 R. Adamson Lays 97:
But neist day brings back the auld hech-howe again — Cauld, blatterin' blasts of hail, snaw, sleet or rain.
Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 125:
I thocht he was in the auld hech-how, aye pechin through Chronicles.
Per. 1896 D. Kippen Crieff 127:
Tammie Rab was a silly bodie and had his ain heich howe.
s.Sc. 1938 Border Mag. (Jan.) 13:
“Oh, nothing bye-ordinar', Belle,” Johnnie would say. “Just the same auld hech-how.”
4. Per. 1835 J. Monteath Dunblane Trad. 61:
Hey-how . . . fool that I was to refuse Auld Gagram. . . . Hech-how-hum.
5. Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 42:
Dear me! heh! wow! — and say ye sae, — Return'd the Brock, — I'm unko wae.
Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 49:
Hech-wow! but it's a thrawart fate that workin' bodies dree.
s.Sc. 1897 E. Hamilton Outlaws xxi.:
Hech wow! Gin they didna strip us nakit.

[Orig. imit. Cf. Aich, Ech, Eh, Eng. heh, heigh.]

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"Hech interj., n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Sep 2022 <>



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