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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.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

LAICH, adj., adv., n.1, v.1 Also laigh, leagh, ¶laihh-; layich (Cai. 1929 John o' Groat Jnl. (13 Sept.)); ¶leigh (s.Sc. 1847 H. S. Riddell Poems 246); †lay-; ‡lyaach (Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains and Hilly 136); laeuch (Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 20), laeugh (Dmf. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 IV. 364), leauh (s.Sc. 1857 H. S. Riddell Psalms viii. 5), leuch (Ayr. 1895 H. Ochiltree Redburn xx.), leugh (Bwk. 1801 “Bwk. Sandie” Poems 11), laugh (s.Sc. 1780 Archie o Cawfield in Child Ballads No.188 A. vi.); ¶leiugh, lieugh (Ib. xlii., xlix.), lewgh; la(w). Dim. laichy-. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. low. [Sc. le:ç, Abd. + †ljɑ:x, s.Sc. ‡ljuxʍ; ‡lɑ:, l:]

I. adj. 1. As in Eng.: (1) not high, not loud. Gen.Sc. Adv. laichlie (Sc. 1933 W. Soutar Seeds in Wind 28), laichly (Ags. 1896 A. Blair Rantin Robin 150), laighly (Edb. 1875 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie 212), leuchly (Rxb. 1811 A. Scott Poems 144, ‡1923 Watson W.-B.). Derivs. laichly, lowly (s.Sc. 1862 G. Henderson Matthew xi. 29); laighness (Sc. 1825 Jam.), laichness (Lnk. 1947 G. Rae Sandy McCrae 148), leuchness, leugh- (Rxb. 1825 Jam., ‡1923 Watson W.-B.). Comp. laicher (Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 66), leucher (Slk. 1801 Hogg Pastorals 19; ‡Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); superl. laighest (Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 97), leaghest (Ib. 250); laichmaist (Dmf. 1894 R. Reid Poems 77), laighmost (Ayr. 1880 W. Aitken Rhymes 124). Fif. 1992 Simon Taylor Mortimer's Deep 249:
'We're owr laigh i the water,' Donald shouted. 'Ye'll hae tae bail fester.'

(2) Mining, in combs.: laigh doors, the lowest of two or more landings in a shaft (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 40), laigh level, the drift-running level course which is furthest to the dip (Ib. 41), laigh lift, the lowest set in a system of pumps (Ib.).

(3) With ppl.adjs.: (a) laich-coled, ? low-cut; (b) lay-fittit, flat-footed.(a) Dmf. 1810 R. H. Cromek Remains 208:
There I met a handsome childe, High-coled stockings and laigh-coled shoon.
(b) Fif., Lth. 1825 Jam.:
An evil omen if the first fit . . . should happen to be lay-fittit.

2. Of buildings: (1) of one storey only, freq. of rural cottages (Ork., n.Sc., Ags., Fif., Ayr., Gall. 1960).Sc. 1710 Sheriffdom Lnk. and Rnf. (M.C.) 23:
An old castle and some laigh buildings.
Kcb. 1715 Kirkcudbright Test. MS. (1 Oct.):
The merkland of Dalskairth with the laigh housses biggings yeards, etc.
Ayr. 1795 Burns Lass o' Ecclefechan i.:
Bye attour, my Gutcher has A heich house and a laich ane.
m.Lth. 1801 H. Macneill Poet. Wks. I. 60:
Laigh it was; yet sweet, tho' humble!
Per. a.1837 R. Nicoll Poems (1855) 100:
Our laigh cot-house I mind fu' weel.
Slg. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 VIII. 378:
The houses of the country people generally consist of a ground floor, without any upper floor. A laigh house it is called in Scotch.
s.Sc. 1859 J. Watson Bards 195:
The laich herd's hoose Where I suppit nettle kail.
Mry. 1883 F. Sutherland Poems 224:
Tae yon laich hoosie on the brae.

(2) On the ground floor (ne.Sc., Ags., Fif. 1960), at floor level. Comb.: low door, a ground-floor flat. Phr. the laich press, jocularly, the floor (see 1920 quot.). A lyaach fire, one burning on a hearth stone (Abd. 1911 S.D.D.).Dmf. 1738 MS. Letter:
Since my last I sett the laigh seat I first put up for you at 15 sh till Whitsunday.
Abd. 1759 Abd. Journal (4 Dec.):
It consists, in low Flatt, of a good Dining-room, a Kitchen, and two Cellars.
Ags. 1773 Arbirlot Session Rec. MS., Cashbook (2 Feb.):
Given in for seat rent in the East Loft for the year viz. from Mart. 1772 to Mart. 1773 and for the Pews in the low kirk, to Whit. 1773 viz. half year £ 1. 16. 10.
Edb. 1904 St Andrews Cit. (18 June) 1:
To let. Parlour and Bedroom (Low Door), Garden.
Ags. 1920:
Ye'll find it in the laich press, i.e. on the floor (where you dropped it).
Ags. 1953 Dundee Ev. Telegraph (24 March):
Exchange 2 rooms, low door, scullery, own w.c.
Abd. 1990:
She bides in at a low door.
Edb. 1992:
All my elderly consituents want the same thing - a three apartment low door.

(3) Somewhat or altogether below ground-or street-level, sunk, basement (Abd., Fif., Lth. 1960).Sc. 1700 W. Maitland Hist. Edb. (1753) 416:
The Committee appointed to inspect the Laigh Parliament House, in order to accommodate the Faculty of Advocates with a Bibliotheck.
Sc. 1713 R. Wodrow Corresp. (1842) I. 491:
What was talked of in the laigh coffee-house.
Gsw. 1717 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 615:
The dean of gilds court being now kept in the laigh back room in the clerks chamber.
Abd. 1745 Hist. Papers Jacobite Period (S.C.) I. 206:
The following Burghers having met within the laigh Tolbooth.
Sth. 1753 C. D. Bentinck Dornoch (1926) 304:
The partition of the laigh west room be removed westward to make the cellar larger.
Fif. 1873 J. Wood Ceres Races 11:
Wi' Gingebread horses strong an' croose For tandem in the laich strae-hoose.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 3:
... he was brought before them in the vaulted room below the Parliament house in Edinburgh ... To Mitchel, Sharp was no more absent from the laich chamber than those other men were made invisible by covering their eyes.

Specif. in combs.: (a) laigh-house, (b) laigh room, (c) laigh shop, a room or rooms, apartment or shop somewhat below the level of the rest of the house, used as a store, cellar, shop or freq., esp. in Edinburgh, as a restaurant (Abd., Fif., Edb. 1960).(a) Edb. 1734 Caled. Mercury (11 July):
Comprehending an Hall, two Chambers, a Laigh House, a Fore-stair, Cellar, two Shops or Booths.
Sc. 1747 Ib. (13 April):
These two Lodgings immediately above the said Shop, one in the Fore-land, consisting of three Fire rooms, with a Kitchen and Cellar, or Laigh House.
Sc. 1774 Ib. (3 Sept.):
The key lies in Mr Innes's, who keeps a laigh house in the fore court.
Fif. 1882 S. Tytler Sc. Marriages II. iii.:
He was on the point of retracing his steps and having recourse with a sinking heart to “the laighhouse,” the cellar-like region below the street.
(b) Bwk. 1716 Proc. Bwk. Naturalists' Club (1914) 299:
In the laigh roum — another press to which Mrs Home pretends right to also.
Abd. 1769 Abd. Journal (15 May):
There is to be sold by public voluntary Roup, . . . a Tenement . . . consisting of a Kitchen, a Laigh-room and two Closets in the Ground Story.
(c) Sc. 1771 Weekly Mag. (7 Nov.) 191:
A laigh shop in the Gallowgate, Glasgow.
Gsw. 1780 J. Strang Gsw. Clubs (1856) 109:
Most of the shops had under-ground premises, called laigh shops, which were let separately.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary i.:
A “laigh shop,” anglice, a cellar, opening to the High Street by a straight and steep stair, at the bottom of which she sold tape, thread, needles.
Edb. 1882 J. Grant Old & New Edb. III. 126:
These subterranean abysses or vaults, called laigh shops, where the raw oysters and flagons of porter were set out.

3. Not elevated in position, in flat or low ground, in the plain, as opposed to hilly or upland country. Gen.Sc. Adv. leuchly, in a low situation (Rxb. 1811 A. Scott Poems 144).Sc. 1715 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 533:
That pairt nearest to the burn opposite to his land being laigh, morish and spouttie.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary iv.:
They tell me your honour has gien Johnnie Howie acre for acre of the laigh crafts for this heathery knowe!
Per. 1894 I. Maclaren Brier Bush 61:
That's a fine puckle aits ye hae in the laigh park.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 46:
"John, you'll maybe need jist to gie us a bit hand wi' the last of the harvest now for I want the rigs clear in good time. I've agreed wi' the Wallaces to fallow the middle yin and cast grass in the laigh stretch. ... "
Slk. 1991 Harvey Holton in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 134:
The wunds noo are wailan, sodden wi snaw drift,
the licht draps doon early like the hind aff the hill
an wi them wanders, doon tae the laich land,

Special combs.: (1) laich country, the lowland parts of Scotland, outside the Highland area, and nearer the seaboard (Fif., Ayr. 1960). See Hieland, n., 1.; (2) laich-fiel(d), = (4); (3) laichlan(d)(s), a low-lying or flattish tract of country (see quots.). Also attrib.; (4) laich-side, the lower or less hilly part of a district.(1) Sc. 1745 S.C. Misc. (1841) 416:
Men raised in the laich countrie . . . is good for nothing.
Abd. 1841 J. Imlah Poems 255:
For Scotia's sake — for auld lang syne, Frae hielan' hill and laigh countrie.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 217:
An easy crack aboot fat fouk's deein' i' the laich kwintra.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 163:
Archie had a job doun in the low country.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xv.:
'E Hielanmen an' 'e men fae the Laich Cuntra.
(2) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 91:
Likewise these hams sometimes adorn the saddle-bow of a moorland lover, when he starts a horseback to seek a wife, and are considered to aid him much in making his putt-gude with any girl he takes a fancy for, particularly if she be a laich fiel lass.
(3) Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 113:
When Earth turns toom he rummages the Skies. Mounts up beyond them, paints the Fields of Rest, Doups down to visit ilka laigh-land Ghaist.
Abd. 1794 J. Anderson Agric. Abd. 57:
The laigh-lands are a kind of low lying moist meadow ground, sometimes with a mixture of moss. They are invariably plowed three years for oats on one furrow, and are allowed to be in grass for three years, and so on alternately without ever receiving any dung.
Hdg. a.1801 R. Gall Poems (1819) 43:
Here shadows dark, ilk glen, an' how, An' laigh-land, fill.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xiii.:
This Mr Keg . . . had come in from the laighlands, where he had been apparently in the farming line.
Rnf. 1847 Sc. Journal (Sept.) 29:
[In 1745] the farmers of the Laichlands [the low parts of Renfrewshire] drove all their horses and cattle to the Mistilaw, as a place of safety.
(4) Gall. 1895 Crockett Lilac Sunbonnet ix.:
A heep o' bairns that he has i' the laichside o' the loch.

4. As opposed to Heich: lower in situation than another, freq. in pairs of farm-names (w. and sm.Sc. 1960) and e.g. (1) laich-end, the flatter parts of the Rhinns or western peninsula of Wigtownshire, the Heich-end being the Mull of Galloway in the southern tip. Hence laich-ender; (2) Laich Kirk, a church which is not the chief church in a town but is a later foundation and may also freq. be on a lower site; (3) laich road, low-, the lower of two alternative roads leading to the same place; fig. the road below the earth along which the dead were supposed to travel, as opposed to the high road of the living (Sc. 1904 R. Ford Vagabond Songs 146).Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xvii.:
Somegate about the Laigh Calton.
(1) Wgt. 1877 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 17:
The Laihh-enders or Rhinns people were not nearly so tall, and had dark hair, and dark brown eyes.
(2) Ayr. 1786 Burns Ordination i.:
Swith to the Laigh Kirk, ane and a', And there tak up your stations.
Sc. 1875 A. Hislop Sc. Anecdotes 190:
I was hearing ye in the Laigh Kirk the ither day.
Mry. 1880 J. F. S. Gordon Chron. Keith 216:
There were a High Church and a Low Church of Elgin. The Town Council were Patrons of the “Laich Kirk”.
(3) Sc. 1823 R. McChronicle Legends Scot. III. 97:
Deed! — Wae's me! he'll be in a het skin or this time, if he disnae find the laigh road langer than the new road ti Stirling.
Sc. 19th c. Sc. Minstrelsie (Greig) III. 352:
O ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road, And I'll be in Scotland afore ye.
Sc. 1943 D. Young Auntran Blads 21:
Siccar it is, your gallant kindly saul Maun lea thon land and tak the laigh road hame.

5. Low in stature, short, not tall (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Rxb. 1825 Id., leuch, leugh; ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., Rnf., Gall. 1960). Now obs. in Eng. Hence leuchness, leughness, shortness of stature (Rxb. 1825 Jam.).Edb. 1700 Edb. Gazette (1–5 Feb.):
Thomas Gibson, a laigh thick man, rudie fac'd, . . . run away most thievously.
Sc. 1754 Caled. Mercury (11 July):
A laigh Din-coloured Tarrier, old in the Face.
Sc. 1815 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 154:
One of the four was a laigh man, and another was pretty tall.
Bnff. 1898 Banffshire Jnl. (23 Aug.) 6:
She described her as a laich, licht, dark woman.
Lnk. 1919 G. Rae Clyde & Tweed 55:
He aye looked laich stannin' 'mang ither men.

Hence (1) laich-leggit, short-legged (Kcb. 1960); (2) laich-set, squat, stocky (Ayr., Kcb. 1960); (3) laichy-braid, laighie-, short in stature and broad. Freq. as a n., one of this build, a person or animal having short legs and a thick body (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 100; Abd. 1960); also applied to any vessel or container of similar proportions (Ags. 1960).(1) Knr. 1813 J. Bruce The Farmer 10:
A Highland bull, laigh-leggit, square, Improves the breed.
(2) Ayr. 1868 J. K. Hunter Artist's Life 86:
A laigh-set, braid shouthered, willing man.
Gsw. 1884 H. Johnston Martha Spreull 79:
He wis a black-aviced, laigh-set man.
(3) Abd.15 1900:
That's a fine laichy-braid (of a cow). She's a laichy-braid, as redd to rowe as rin (of a short stout woman).
Bnff. 1934 J. M. Caie Kindly North 5:
The tinker birkie, Torquil, was a short, reid-fuskert chiel, The kin' that ye micht ca' a laichy-braid.

6. Of wind: blowing from the south, the low position on the compass (Kcb. 1960).Gall. 1902 E.D.D.:
The wind's low, it'll be rain.

7. Of low or humble rank or condition, lowly. Hence laich-sprung, of humble origin.Sc. 1726 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 109:
He was the king that wore the crown, And thou'rt a man of laigh degree.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 33:
A good fu fat farmer's son, but ae laigher nor a laird.
Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Ballads I. 24:
I'm o'er laigh to be your bride.
Edb. 1821 W. Liddle Poems 134:
Stoop so low To you, or ony laigh-sprung trash.
Dmf. 1899 Country Schoolmaster (Wallace) 95:
Her sparkin' een they never tire, To look on ane o' laich degree.

II. adv. As in Eng. Phrs.: laich doun, — in, in a low voice, under one's breath (n.Sc., Ags., Fif. 1960). See also In, adv., 4.; leagh the brae, low down on the slope, at the foot of the hill (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.); to flee laich, to act with prudence and caution, to be modest and unambitious (Abd., Ags., Fif., Dmf. 1960).Ayr. 1792 Burns When She cam ben i.:
O, when she cam ben, she bobbed fu' law!
Hdg. 1801 R. Gall Poems (1819) 66:
Aye loudly bawling, An' becking law.
Sc. 1809 T. Donaldson Poems 70:
She whispers laigh down till hersel.
Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Proverbs 107:
Ca' canny and flee laigh.
Fif. 1883 W. D. Latto Bodkin Papers 15:
So thocht I laigh into mysel'.
Lnl. 1908 J. White Pen Sketches 19:
My motto's tae flee laight [sic] an' sing a humble measure.
Dmf. 1929 Sc. Readings (Paterson) 12:
He flew laigh to begin wi'.
Ags. 1952 Forfar Dispatch (2 Oct.):
I whispers, laich in, “Ye're jeest jealous.”
Sh. 1991 William J. Tait in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 45:
An, hingin laich owerhaid, da lift
Roefs in my soety haad an daurs
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 14:
An the bird at gid this hull its name,
Yon bird ye nivver see,
Sits doon i the wid by the water-side
An laachs, laich-in, at me.
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 17:
Here Miss Auchinachie lies laich
Aside the chukkied pathie,
Her sangs still hotter in ma moo:

III. n. 1. The low part or side of anything (Abd., Fif., Wgt. 1960); specif. in mining: a low roof in a seam. Phrs. in the low, = in alow (Bnff. 1895 N. Roy Horseman's Word i.). See Alow, adv.1; laigh o the belly or wime, the groin (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 100); on the laich o', on the younger side of, under (a certain age); the heich an the laich o't, the long and the short of it (Wgt. 1900–60).Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 23:
Like a lassie on the laich o' twenty-twa.
Fif. 1957:
If you are howkin in a very low cutting, 2–3 feet high, you are “in alow the laich”.
Lnk. 1998 Duncan Glen Selected New Poems 42:
Not otherwise was Daedalus wakened
not otherwise was Venus born
not otherwise the sun that reveals heich and laich
light and shadow
naked stone and yirdly flesh.

2. A low-lying tract of ground of any size, a plain, a vale, a hollow (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.; ne.Sc., Fif., Dmf. 1960). Freq. in place-names, as Laich o Moray, — Buchan. Deriv. laicherie, id. (Bnff. 1949).Sc. 1726 W. McFarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 232:
There is little moss or mure in the laigh of Murray.
Abd. 1760 A. Grant Dissertation 53:
Laighs (low wet ground ploughed only in dry seasons).
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 49:
A burn ran i' the laigh, ayont there lay As mony feeding o' the tither brae.
Abd. 1777 J. Anderson Essays I. 148:
These consist of low level grounds lying in a bottom surrounded with higher ground, . . . commonly known in the north of Britain by the name of Meadows or Laighs.
Abd. 1809 Trans. Bnff. Field Club (1930) 110:
Such as was sold in the Laich of Buchan.
Bnff. 1812 D. Souter Agric. Bnff. App. 72:
All the low fields that have been taken in, either from mosses or marches, go under the general name of laighs.
Ags. 1819 Montrose Chron. (3 Dec.) 24:
80 acres are Old Infield, and of the first quality of dry rich laighs.
Sc. 1869 J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 493:
The wild oat is a very troublesome weed in corn fields in Scotland; and, what is very remarkable, it is most prevalent in East Lothian, and the laigh of Strathearn.
Fif. 1876 Trans. Highl. Soc. 11:
The “Laich of Dunfermline” has a strong clayey soil.
Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 118:
Be ye ghaist or goblin, witch or Deil, Or oucht on the laich o' the mune.
Mry. 1949 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 241:
Farmers from the rich laich o' Moray and the rising lands to the south.

IV. v., gen. in form law. To lower, in gen.; to abase, humble. Low is now obs. in Eng. in this sense. Deriv. laichen, laighen, id. (w.Sc. 1825 Jam.), “to take down a peg” (Fif. c.1850 R. Peattie MS.). Rare.s.Sc. 1793 T. Scott Poems 338:
To lawe their price they will be sorry, Ae single doit.
Rxb. 1807 J. Ruickbie Wayside Cottager 178:
Dog-officers may low their pensions, Since Venie's dead.
Sc.(E) 1913 H. P. Cameron Imit. Christ iii. xiii. 2:
Learn till laigh yersel, O yird an' clarts, an' till boo yersel aneath the feet o' a'.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick vii.:
Tammas laichent 'is wurd an' begoot tae speak 'at mystairious an' hishty-wishty like.

[O.Sc. law, lauch, adj., adv., n., v., low, in its various senses, from 1375, lach, from a.1400, law being from lāȝe, oblique case, la(u)ch from a short vowel *lah, as in the stem of the compar. laȝȝer-, all from early Mid.Eng. lah, O.N. lagr; leauch occurs in O.Sc. from a.1578 and may be a palatalised variant of lauch; leuch (O.Sc. 1561) in s.Sc. currency follows the phonetic development of Mid.Eng. ō and may have altered on the analogy of such words as Eneuch. Cf. Deuch, n.2]

Laich adj., adv., n.1, v.1

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