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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.

MERRY, adj. Also merrye-, merri-; mery (Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 116); mary; murry (Sc. 1903 E.D.D.); mirri- (Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) 59). Sc. forms and usages:

1. Sc. combs.: ¶(1) merry andrada, a lively clownish caper, nonce deriv. of Merry Andrew, a buffoon; (2) merry-begotten, (i) adj., conceived out of wedlock, illegitimate (Ork., ne.Sc., Bwk., Wgt. 1962); (ii) n., an illegitimate child (Ags. 1808 Jam.; Cai. 1903 E.D.D.). Also in Eng. dial.; (3) merrycourant, murricrant, a riotous revel, a kick-up, a violent repulse, a sudden unceremonious dismissal (Ayr. 1919 T.S.D.C.; Uls.3 1930; Ayr., Gall. 1962). Phr. to get or gie the murricrant, to be sent or send packing or scurrying away (Ayr. c.1875). Cf. Courant, Carrant; (4) merry dance, the flickering dancing movements of the aurora borealis, a back-formation from (5); (5) merry dancers, (i) the aurora borealis or northern lights (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per.2 1928; I. and n.Sc., Ags. 1962). Also attrib. (in sing.). See also Dancers; (ii) see quot.; (iii) a nickname for the inhabitants of Stenness in Orkney (Ork. 1962); (6) merry day, a wedding day; (7) merry-gaun, of a tune: with a lively rhythm, gay; (8) merry go hyne, “off you go and a good riddance to you!” (Abd. 1919 T.S.D.C.). See also Hyne, n.; (9) merryheedless, gay and carefree, used quasi-n. in proverbial phr. in quot., the land of devil-may-care; (10) merry hyne, = (8). Also adv., = away, out of sight, disappeared; (11) merry-leaf, the greater plantain, Plantago major. See Merry-leaf, n. comb.; (12) merry-ma-tanzie, merri-, Mary-; -me-, -m(a)y-, -man-; -tanzy, -tansie, -tansy, -tanza, -tansa, -tandy, various forms of a corrupted word or phrase found in the refrain of a children's ring game (Cai. 1903 E.D.D.). Gen.(exc. I.)Sc. For variations of the game and the refrain see quots., R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes (1826) 268–71 and A. B. Gomme Trad. Games (1894) I. 369–76. The last element is prob. a child's adaptation of dance. For -ma- see Ma-; (13) merry-meat, a meal to celebrate the birth of a child (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 340). Cf. Blithemeat; (14) Merry Men of Mey, a tide-race in Pentland Firth opposite Mey in Caithness.(1) Sc. 1826–7 Lockhart Scott lxxiii.:
Sir Adam [Fergusson] . . . dancing what he calls his merry-andrada in great style.
(2) (i) Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 35:
The merry begotten weans . . . is red wood, half wittet hillocket sort o' creatures.
Slk. 1875 Border Treasury (23 Jan.) 305:
A big-boned, half witted lassie from Tweedside was once summoned to appear at the Jedburgh Circuit Court as a witness against her own mother, who, it was alleged, had done away with a merrie-begotten bairn.
Per. 1883 R. Cleland Inchbracken xiv.:
To mak a fule o' her that gate, wi' a merry-begotten wein!
(4) Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 32:
As streamers aft throu' clearest sky In merry-dance flash out and fly.
(5) (i) Ork. 1693 J. Wallace Descr. Ork. (1883) 156:
The North-Light is, . . . by reason of its desultory motion, called Morrice-dancers, Merry dancers, and Streamers.
Sh. 1797 Encycl. Brit. II. 692:
In the Shetland islands, the merry dancers, as they are there called, are the constant attenders of clear evenings, and prove great reliefs amidst the gloom of the long winter nights.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 116:
The merry dancers extending to the zenith and unusually quick in their movements were considered an ill omen, but when they quietly displayed themselves in a graceful arch along the northern horizon the fishermen expected fair weather.
Ork. 1995 Orcadian 21 Dec 9:
But given a clear sky, what glories there are! I have not seen many spectacular Merry Dancer displays of recent winters, but I have lasting memories of those from the past, ...
(ii) Rxb. 1825 Jam.:
Merry-Dancers. The vapours arising from the earth in a warm day, as seen flickering in the atmosphere. “I've seen the merry-dancers”, is a phrase commonly used, when it is meant to intimate that one has remarked a presage of good weather.
(iii) Ork. 1931 J. Leask Peculiar People 48:
Some piquant stories of married life among the “Merry Dancers” may be recalled here.
(6) Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 19:
Ye see how Rob and Jenny's gane, syn they, Hae pitten o'er their heads their merry day. Ye canna see I'm sure a poorer pair.
(7) m.Lth. 1870 J. Lauder Warblings 44:
Then start ye to sing, lad, Some merry gaun spring, lad.
(8) ne.Sc. 1962:
“Weel, weel! Merry go hyne tae ye, an' a fish hyeuk in yer dowp”, a parting salutation after a “conter crack” (altercation).
(9) Abd.1 1929:
Dinna swither whether tae ging tae merryheedless or snipefeedle, mak up yer min' an' gang stracht for't.
(10) Ags. 1901 W. J. Milne Reminisc. 293:
They scoored hame tae their holes, an' were sune merry hyne.
(12) Sc. 1825 Jam.:
Merry-metanzie. A game among children, generally girls, common throughout the lowlands of Scotland. They form a ring, within which one goes round with a handkerchief, with which a stroke is given in succession to every one in the ring; the person who strikes, or the taker, still repeating this rhyme: — Here I gae round the jingie ring, The jingie ring, the jingie ring, Here I gae round the jingie ring, And through my merry-metanzie. Then the handkerchief is thrown at one in the ring, who is obliged to take it up and go through the same process. . . . The following account of the game has also been given me . . .: A sport of female children, in which they form a ring, dancing round in it, while they hold each other by the hands, and singing as they move. In the progress of the play, they by the motion of their hands imitate the whole process of the laundry, in washing, starching, drying, and ironing.
Abd. 1837 Abd. Shaver (Aug.) 371:
Councillor Philip at Merryman-tanzie, with a “curn weaver chaps”.
Gsw. 1854 Gsw. Past and Pres. (1884) II. 191:
“Blind man's buff”, “Tumble the wulcat”, “Round about, round about merrimay-tansy.”
Edb. 1878 J. Smith Peggy Pinkerton 11:
I can yet hear the sweet young voices o' the past lilting the “merry-ma-tanzie”.
Ayr. 1894 A. Laing Poems 11:
When at jing-ga-ring, buttons, the bat or the ba', . . . Or Mary-ma-tanzie.
Mry. 1930:
Here we go round the jig-a-ring, With a hop and a merry-ma-tansie.
Sc. 1933 W. Soutar Seeds in the Wind 14:
Roun' an' aroun' the muckle auld tree; An' it's roun' a' the wurld whan ye gang wi' me Roun' the merry-metanzie.
(13) Rxb. 1806 J. Hogg Poems 82:
The merry-meat was right good cheer.
s.Sc. c.1830 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1916) 86:
At the birth of a child, the gossips after having a good blow-out with merry-meat (meat that is so named on these occasions) orders the husband or father of the new-born child, to present his shootin'-cheese and cut the “whang of luck”, for the young unmarried women in the company.
Per. 1836 G. Penny Traditions 28:
Preparations were next made for the merry meat. A large pot was put on the fire, with plenty of butter, flour, bread, ale, and sugar, from which a strong pudding was made, and served up to the company.
ne.Sc. 1874 W. Gregor Olden Time 85:
When the child was born there was a feast, called the merry meht, part of which was the indispensable cheese, or cryin kebback.
(14) Ork. 1868 D. Gorrie Orkneys 161:
The roosts, or tide-races . . . under such names as the Roost of Sumburgh, the Boars of Duncansby, and the Merry Men of Mey.

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"Merry adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jun 2024 <>



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