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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

KELT, n.1, v. Also salmon kelt. Also dim. †kiltie (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 300).

I. n. A salmon or sea-trout on its way back to sea after spawning. These are gen. in poor condition and must be returned to the water if caught. Gen.Sc. Also in n.Eng. dial. Adj. kelty, like a kelt. Phr. mended kelt, see 1860 quot.Ags. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 VIII. 204:
No salmon, except at the end of the fishing season, when a few of what are called foul fish, or kelt, are caught.
s.Sc. 1860 J. Locke Tweed & Don 108:
On Tweed they have what is called a mended kelt, that is, a fish that has spawned early in the lower waters, and has improved afterwards, before returning to the sea.
Sc. 1884 Chambers's Jnl. (29 March) 204:
Nothing but huge, lanky, kelty-looking fish.
Dmf. 1887 Scotsman (19 March):
A flood is needed in the river to clear out the considerable number of kelts still remaining.
Sc. 1904 A. M. Anderson Crim. Law 142:
Smolt and Kelts. — It is illegal to take any smolt or salmon fry, and any unclean or unseasonable salmon.
Mry. 1952 Northern Scot (8 March):
When does a kelt cease to be a kelt? In the case of salmon or sea trout, I'd say when it had returned to the salt water. In trout or other non-migratory fish, I should say that a percentage fitness of 90 and over would raise it out of the kelt category.
Sc. 1995 Daily Record 28 Jan 53:
Every year we get Fish of the Week photos from anglers convinced they have caught a lovely, fresh-run spring salmon, when in fact it is a kelt. To kill a kelt - a salmon which has just spawned - is quite rightly illegal.
Sc. 2003 Scotland on Sunday 6 Apr :
One party had 14 salmon for the week from the Blackhall Beat - and plenty of sport with kelts - which would have been a good catch even 20 years ago.
Sc. 2003 Edinburgh Evening News 18 Jan :
Several others on the same stretch down to the chain bridge either touched or lost fish including one or two salmon kelts.

II. v. To spawn (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 94), to become very lean and emaciated, esp. as a result of spawning (Ib.). Ppl.adj. kelted.Dmf. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 IV. 177:
And the kelted or spawned fish return to the sea before March.
s.Sc. 1847 T. Stoddart Angler's Comp. 290:
I have frequently on Teviot seen kelted fish taken by means of the minnow or parr-tail.

[O.Sc. kelt, n., 1510, North. Mid.Eng. kelt, c.1340. Of obscure orig.]

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"Kelt n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 Feb 2024 <>



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