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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

LEG, n., v. Also laig (Ags. 1954 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 316); †leag (Sc. 1709 Scots Mag. (Feb. 1815) 115 ): leig (Sc. 1696 Atholl MSS.; ‡ne.Sc. 1960); leeg (Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xii.); lig (Edb. 1906 V. Spiganovicz Night Life 25); †league; ‡liag (ne.Sc. 1805 Child Ballads (1956) V. 237), ‡lyag (ne.Sc.). [lɛg, leg; ne.Sc., Fif. + ləig, Sh. lig, Abd. + †ljɑg]

Sc. forms:Ags. 1994 Mary McIntosh in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 147:
Sair back, sair laigs, sair heid. She only had the nerve tae speir me the len o my baid-jaikit. Tae mak hersel respectable.
ne.Sc. 1996 Ronald W. McDonald in Sandy Stronach New Wirds: An Anthology of Winning Poems and Stories from the Doric Writing Competitions of 1994 and 1995 71:
" ... Thain ae day teen tint o es wee sharger o a craitur it wis limpin aroon wi a tucky laig."

I. n. 1. As in Eng. Sc. combs. and phrs.: (1) leg-a-liltie, with one leg over (a seat or support), astride, straddling. Cf. Lilt, v., 5. ( 2); (2) leg-bail, †-bale, (a) flight, retreat, sc. with one's legs as the best surety. Also adv. and in phrs. to gie or tak leg-bail, to run away, decamp, flee from justice or unpleasant consequences, lit. and fig. (Bnff., em.Sc. (a), Lnl., Dmb., Ayr. 1960). Also in Eng. slang from late 18th c.; (b) erroneously: a kick; (3) leg-band, see quot.; a hobble for a sheep (Sh. 1960); (4) leg brod, a flat wooden board shaped like a leg on which knitted stockings were stretched (Sh. 1960); (5) leg burn, a disease of cattle affecting the legs, phs. black-leg. Cf. (8); (6) leg-dollar, a Dutch coin, a variety of Rix Dollar, which had some currency in Scotland at the end of the 17th c., so called from having on the reverse the figure of a man in armour with one leg prominent and the other concealed by a shield. Its value fluctuated between £2 and £3 Scots or 4 to 5 shillings; (7) leg-foot, see quot.; (8) leg-ill, a disease of sheep causing lameness, black-leg (s.Sc. 1807 Trans. Highl. Soc. III. 431). Cf. (5); (9) legim [appar. leg + -um], astride, straddling a horse; (10) legoer'em, -im, -owrom [ower him], (a) adv. having one leg over the other, cross-legged, e.g. like a tailor (Rxb. 1825 Jam.); (b) n. (i) a sitting in this manner. Pl. legs-oer-em; (ii) a bar of iron bent usu. into an oval shape, with a handle and placed across an open fire to support a pot in cooking, a pot-rest (Ags. 1958; Abd. 1990s); (11) leg of a plough, a measure of land, given in quot. as a horsegang but prob. more correctly = a horse's foot, the sixteenth part of a plough-gate. See Horse, I. 2. (16) (a) and (46); (12) leg-on, speed and energy in walking or working (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 105; Ork., ne.Sc., m.Lth., Kcb. 1960); (13) leg on every, in riding = (9); (14) leg oot, a smart pace in walking (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 105; Ork. 1960); (15) on (the) leg, upon —, on the move, gadding about (Uls. 1953 Traynor; Abd., Kcd., Ags., Fif., Lnl. 1960); (16) to draw (a body's) leg, to pull one's leg, to poke fun at, befool (n.Sc., m.Lth., Ayr., Gall. 1960). See also Draw, I. 16.; (17) to gang fit for leg, to go straightaway, as quickly as possible (Uls. 1953 Traynor). See also Fit, n.1, II. 9.; (18) to gie (a stane) legs, in Curling: to accelerate the pace of a stone by sweeping the ice before its course (Ayr., Kcb. 1960). Cf. Fit, n.1, II. 18., and Heel, I. 6. (12); (19) to lift (a) leg, (a) to move, bestir oneself, run, gallop (Ags., m.Lth., Ayr. 1960). See also Lift, v.; (b) to commit fornication (Ork., Abd. 1960): (20) to mak legs, to run fast; (21) to put legs and airms to or til, to add to or embellish (an anecdote) (Uls. 1953 Traynor; Cai., Mry., m.Lth., Lnk., Kcb. 1960); (22) to tak leg(s), to run off, decamp, “clear out”, skedaddle (Ork., Cai., Abd., Ags., Fif., Gall. 1960). Also fig.(1) Dmf. 1920 D. J. Bell-Irving Tally-Ho 9:
I sat leg-a-liltie in a cleft of my father's favourite apple tree.
(2) (a) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 2:
They took leg bail and ran awa'.
s.Sc. 1793 T. Scott Poems 337:
He reaves his wife o' cash an' claes, Then takes leg-bale, an, aff he gaes.
Peb. 1802 Edb. Mag. (June) 452:
Then aff, leg-bail, directly hurried.
Sc. 1814 Edb. Correspondent (10 Nov.):
Some notorious characters who, upon a general search, gave leg-bail for their honesty.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. iii.:
I e'en gae them leg-bail, for there's nae ease in dealing wi' quarrelsome folk.
Ayr. 1830 Galt Southennan I. xxiii.:
“Wasna he on leg bail!” … He chappit at the door wi' his knuckle, and it was opened by Mistress Marjory herself … “Scog me!” quo' he.
n.Sc. 1840 D. Sage Memorabilia (1889) 331:
This was fairly beating a reitreat, giving both his opponent and the discussion what is usually called leg-bail.
Sc. 1889 A. G. Murdoch Readings II. 94:
His memory had taken leg-bail.
Tyr. 1928 M. Mulcaghey Ballymulcaghey 200:
Johnny an' me give them leg bail for it down the lane like greased lightenin'.
(b) Mry. 1828 J. Ruddiman Talcs 71:
[He] gave so rude an accolade to the extended legs of Meg Macglashan … “There's leg-bail to you, Meg.”
(3) Ork. 1920 J. Firth Remimisc. 15:
A piece of wood called a lithie or haavie was built into the wall at the head of each animal, and to this they were tied with a home-made band. The part of the band nearest to the lithie was called the leg-band.
(4) Sh. 1899 Shetland News (2 Sept.):
Thü pood a pair o' fine socks aff o' da leg brod.
(5) Dmf. 1777 Dmf. Weekly Mag. ( 24 June):
He sells the following Drinks for Black-cattle fellons, colds, … red water, legburn, to make them clean after picking calf or otherways, or any kind of disthriving &c.
(6) Sc. 1702 T. Morer Acct. Scotland 22:
But now to save trouble, they divide ,em into two sorts, the Rix-Dollar at 4 s. 10d. and the Leg-Dollar at 4s. 8d.
(7) Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona iii.:
Old daft limmers sit at a leg-foot [of a gallows] and spae their fortunes.
(9) Rxb. 1825 Jam.:
To ride legim, or on legim, to ride. after the masculine mode.
(10) (b) (i) Knr. 1838 in I. Kerr Hist. Curling (1890) 360:
The officer … fences the [curling] court thus: — I defend and I forbid … (1) that there shall be no legs oer'em; (2) no hands a-bosy or across.
(11) Sc. 1757 R. Maxwell Practical Husbandman 368:
A Horse-gang or two of Land, or, as some of them express it, a Leg or two of a Plow.
(13) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 47:
This she would do not “saddle to side,” as women ride, but “leg on every,” as the men do.
(15) Bnff. 1829 J. Dunbar Poems 38:
Old M — 's tongue gets little rest, 'Tis ever upon leg.
Abd. 1847 Gill Binklets 17:
There were not a few upon leg in that quarter in those days.
Bnff. 1880 J. F. S. Gordon Chron. Keith 112:
“Aul' Lucky Lowrie” … was “aye on leg, bizzing aboot like a Dirt-Bee.”
(16) wm.Sc. 1869 A. Macdonald Settlement (1879) 22:
He would think they were drawing his leg.
(17) Abd. 1899 G. Greig Logie o' Buchan xi:
Ye'll jist gang fit-fer-leg the morn's mornin' ower to Clyacksneuk wi' that siller.
(18) Sc. 1887 Royal Caled. Curling Club Ann. 348:
Gie 'm legs, ye're lookin braw.
(19) (a) Ayr. 1790 Burns Tam o' Shanter 79:
Weel mounted on his gray mare Meg, A better never lifted leg.
Bwk. 1897 R. M. Calder Bwk. Bard 274:
There are folks wha can talk o' their friendships fu' gleg, Wha to help ye in trouble will no lift a leg.
(b) Edb. a.1730 A. Pennecuik Poems (1787) 26:
Tell me, Meg, Wi' wham ye lifted last your leg?
Ayr. 1785 Burns Holy Willie's Prayer viii.:
I'll ne'er lift a lawless leg Again upon her.
Edb. 1821 W. Liddle Poems 34:
I ne'er wad steer'd her limmer Nor lift leg on her.
(20) Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems I. 60:
When I [a rat] gat clear o't I made twa pair o' clever legs.
(21) Per. 1883 R. Cleland Inchbracken xxxiv.:
Ye can juist tell the tale about Jess Clapperton … Ye ken hoo to put legs an' arms til't.
(22) Ayr. 1790 J. Fisher Poems 83:
When ance her chastity took leg.
Edb. 1798 D. Crawford Poems 98:
They took leg, an' left the cow.
Peb. 1817 R. Brown Lintoun Green 76:
Courageous Cuddy, glad tae see The Boar tak' leg sae soon.
Ags. 1868 G. Webster Strathbrachan I. ix.:
Ay, troth, he's taken leg now.
Lnk. 1876 J. Nicholson Kilwuddie 70:
Tam took leg an' owre the sea.
Bch. (coast) 1958:
Tak leigs, boys, i.e. run for it, “beat it”.

2. The upright posts in the walls of a house supporting the rafters; in mining: a vertical prop in a coal-pit (Sc. 1883 W. S. Gresley Glossary; Dmb. 1972 Patterns in Folk-Speech (Wakelin) 41).ne.Sc. 1874 W. Gregor Olden Time 14:
The inside of the walls was plastered with clay, and whitewashed with lime. The couples were placed first, and consisted of five or six parts — two upright posts resting on the ground, the two arms of the couple, called hoos, fixed to the top of the upright posts or legs.

II. v. To walk, usu. at a quick pace, to hurry on foot; to run (Sc. 1808 Jam., “a low word”; Abd., Ags., m.Lth., Kcb. 1960), to run away, take to flight; to stride, to wade (Rxb. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl.). Dim. form leggie. Cf. colloq. Eng. to leg it, id. Also with advs.: to leg aff, to set off, depart; — away, to walk clumsily (Bwk. 1825 Jam.); — on, to walk or work energetically and with speed (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff.; Sc. 1880 Jam.). Gen.Sc.; tr. to assist (a rider) into the saddle; — oot, to walk as fast as possible (Gregor; Bnff. 1960).Ags. 1790 D. Morison Poems 20:
To fair his lass a heart he'll shaw, Tho' he shou'd leg to France.
Ayr. 1790 J. Fisher Poems 151:
But, fast as I coud leggie, I ran.
Rxb. 1808 A. Scott Poems 161:
For Eilden Hills, whilk frae a whalp I kend, What I could leg, my course now did I bend.
Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 50:
Wi' head erect, fu' blythe an' big, He an' the bailiff aff did league To Congou's neist.
Slg. 1862 D. Taylor Poems 38:
When Boreas blaws his loud tout-too, They sud be leggin.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 105:
They leggit on at the cuttan a' day.
Cld. 1880 Jam.:
Wait, an' I'll leg you on.
Lnk. 1881 A. Wardrop J. Mathison's Courtship 17:
Aff I gaed as hard as I could leg.
Abd. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 53:
She wis fell sair-made-like amo' the snaw, but wis leggin on.

[O.Sc. leig, of land, = 1. (11), 1529.]

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"Leg n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Apr 2024 <>



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