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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

LITH, n.1, v. Also lyth. [lɪθ]

I. n. †1. A limb, member of the body. Obs. in Eng. since 15th c.Kcd. a.1826 J. Burness Ghaist o' Garron Ha' 16:
He was quakin' ilka lith.
Ags. 1864 Arbroath Guide (21 May) 3:
An' the fair maid shak's in ilka lith.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 37:
He meed for the hoose o' Bae as fast as his tremlan liths wad let him.

2. A joint in a limb, finger, toe, etc. (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 319; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Sh., n.Sc., em.Sc.(a) 1961). Freq. in phr. lith and limb. Hence lithless, stiff, inert (Clc. 1850 J. Crawford Doric Lays 58).Abd. 1714 R. Smith Poems (1853) 44:
My little finger, or a lith of it, will conquer silly Smith.
Sc. 1718 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 82:
Ilka Member, Lith and Lim, Was souple like a Doken.
Sc. 1753 Caled. Mercury (7 Aug.):
A Number of Gypsies, Sorners or Tinkers, several of whom feigned themselves Cripples . . . The Cripples now appeared sound in Limb and Lith.
Ayr. 1763 in Lockhart Scott xxi.:
He [Cromwell] gart kings ken that they had a lith in their neck.
Slk. 1818 Hogg Wool-Gatherer (1874) 68:
They might terrify you out o' your wits, or carry ye baith aff, lith and limb.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 40:
The sweat frae lith and limb did pour.
ne.Sc. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads II. 130:
Ye'll tak a lith o' my little fingerbane.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 140:
He's stirless, stiff, … a lump o' lithless lumber.
Abd. 1884 D. Grant Keckleton 43:
She wis dancin' doon the wynd as merrily as gin there hadna been a sair lith in a' her body.
Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928):
I ken every lith o' his rigg: I know his disposition thoroughly.
Abd. 1932 Abd. Univ. Rev. (March) 104:
Chap aff the first lith o' yer foremost finger.

3. One of the natural divisions or segments of an orange, onion, apple or the like (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 319; Sc. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1877 N. & Q. (Ser. 5) VII. 134; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Uls. 1953 Traynor; n;  m.Sc., Slk., Uls. 1961; Ayr., Dmf. 2000s). See also Leaf, Liff, n.Sc. a.1859 in Imperial Dict. (Ogilvie):
By cutting an orange through its centre obliquely to its axis … each lith is of equal size, but the exposed surface of each on the freshly-cut circle will not be so.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums 30:
A gowpenfu' o' raisins, and the lith of an oranger.
Per. 1910 W. Blair Kildermoch 128:
I ha'e a grip o' ye noo, for ye fald into the forecast o' Scripture as neat as twa liths o' an orange.

4. A joint, slice or segment in gen., lit. and fig., a joint of a walking stick, a sheet or quire of a book.Sc. 1724 P. Walker Life Peden Intro. xiii.:
I have heard some Liths and Nicks of the Gospel made plain.
Ayr. 1830 Galt Southennan II. iv.:
Leaning on his staff, which, I daur say, had a sword in its kyte, for it had a silver virl just below the heft lith. Fif. 1837 Trans. Highl. Soc. 334: I … had given particular instructions that every “lith” of it [a fossil tree] should be saved.
Sc. 1890 H. Drummond Life (1899) 376:
A green banana leaf … wound once round the head after being cut into four or five liths.
Arg. 1914 N. Munro New Road xxxiv.:
I looked all through for the stitching, and tried that way to count the pages in every lith.

Adj. lithy, pertaining to joints, in combs. lith(y)-broken, of corn-stalks that have been broken over by wind or rain (Ork. 1929 Marw., Ork. 1961); lithy-girs, horse-tail, Equisetum (Ib.).

5. One of the rings at the base of a cow's horn.m.Lth. 1795 G. Robertson Agric. m.Lth. 155:
The horns (of the Mysore cow in particular) are without annulets, or liths as we call them.

II. v. 1. To disjoint, sever the joints of, dislocate, specif. to wring (a hen's neck) (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 257; Bnff., Abd. 1961), to break (someone's) neck. Also lithen (Per. 1961).Bnff. 1872 W. Philip It 'ill a' come richt 175:
Gin he war mine I sud lith him afore he maister't me.
Abd. 1891 T. Mair Arn and his Wife 23:
But wi' a middlin' airtfu' kynch, Ye litht him like a hen.

2. To bend at an angle, e.g. of a worn spade-blade bent backwards by too much pressure in digging (Abd. 1961).

[O.Sc. lith, joint, a.1400, O.E. liþ, O.N. liðr, limb, joint, Icel. liðr, a joint or knot in straw. For lithy-girs, cf. Norw. dial. lidgras, Icel. liðagras, horsetail.]

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"Lith n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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