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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PLY, n., v. Also †ploy; -pli; †play-. [plɑe]

I. n. 1. A fold, a layer or thickness of any material (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Cai. 1930 E.D.D.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.), a strand or twist of rope, wool, thread, etc. Gen.Sc. Of Sc. orig., now St. Eng. in comb. two-ply, three-, etc., of wool: having two or three strands twisted together. Cf. Moniplies. Also fig.Ags. 1794 W. Anderson Piper of Peebles 18:
There was a cross of oowen thread, Of twa ply twisted, blue an' red.
Per. 1802 S. Kerr Poems 59:
His gravat, that was wont in genty plies To be by Nelly triggit out sae snod.
Rnf. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 39:
Wad thole twa ply o' patience in a paste To bring the mashlum-puddin to the taste.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xvii.:
He's as gleg as MacKeachan's elshin, that ran through six plies of bend-leather.
Sc. 1834 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1864) IV. 143:
An eel that speeled up me till his faulds were wounded round my legs, theeghs, and body, in ever sae mony plies.
Ags. 1840 G. Webster Ingliston viii.:
Some substantial slices of skim-milk cheese, laid between plies of pease-meal bannocks.
Sc. 1841 Cockburn Circuit Journeys (1889) 127:
Clean mutches of snowy whiteness, with borders of many plies.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Dr. Jekyll iv.:
The carpets were of many plies and agreeable in colour.
Kcb. 1899 Crockett Kit Kennedy xxx.:
Speaking from under three ply of blankets.
Rnf. 1930 A. M. Stewart Stickleback Club 153:
Pile on a few more plies of newspaper.

Specif. an additional layer of flesh taken on by a fattening animal (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.).

2. Sc. mining usage: a thin layer of hard rock separated by a parting from another hard layer, a rib (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 51; Rnf. 1920 Econ. Geol. Central Coalfield IV. Gl.), freq. in pl. = ‘rapid alterations of harder and softer strata ” (Fif. 1932 Econ. Geol. Fife Coalfields IV. 157).Lnk. 1793 D. Ure Hist. Rutherglen 286:
Plies: A word used to denote very thin strata of freestone separated from each other by a little clay or mica.
Gsw. 1920 Econ. Geol. Central Coalfield IV. 58:
Hard sandstone plies . . . Coal (splint) . . . Blaes . . . Sandstone plies
Ayr. 1932 Econ. Geol. Ayr. Coalfields IV. 53:
The Craigie is there separated from the Parrot or Sulphury Coal by 9 fms. [fathoms] of sandstone plies.

3. State, condition, fettle (Sc. 1808 Jam.), of body or mind, esp. in phrs. in (good, fine) ply, in bad ply, oot o' ply, in a(n) (un)satisfactory state. Freq. applied to fishing rivers (Per., Fif. 1930). Gen.Sc.Sc. 1747 Session Papers, Magistrates Perth v. Gray (22 Jan.) 1:
The Town and their Tacksmen fished all around the Island, according as the Water was in Ply.
Per. 1799 J. Kerr Curling (1890) 134:
These were got from the Ericht when it was in ply.
Per. 1813 Atholl MSS.:
The river is out of ply for the rod famis for the net if the weather would change.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 22:
Some animals are said to be aten out o' ply when they are extremely lean in flesh, although they have been taking a great deal of food. Thus few gourmands are very fat, they eat themselves out of ply; that is to say, over-do themselves with eating.
Dmf. 1831 R. Shennan Tales 44:
Now the riders mount to try If a' things be in proper ply.
Sc. 1870 A. Hislop Proverbs 136:
He's like the craws, he eats himsel' out o' ply.
ne.Sc. 1893 Dunbar's Works (S.T.S.) III. 295:
A'm in fine ply for a walk.
Rnf. 1930 A. M. Stewart Stickleback Club 27:
When the river was in ply that boy's place in the class was vacant.
Fif. 1936:
The water is in fine fly ply the day; she'll fish weel.
Kcb. 1966:
Ye're like the young craws — ye eat yersel oot o' ply.

II. v. To fold, pleat (material, etc.). Also in Eng. dial. Vbl.n. pl(o)ying, pleating, pleats; ? a type of pleated material. Comb. plying-hammer, a heavy double-faced hammer used esp. in shipyards (Sc. 1899 A. Mathieson and Sons Catalogue 113; wm.Sc. 1966).Fif. 1714 W. C. Dickinson Two Students (1952) 66:
2 ells buckram, half an ell stenting, 3 ells plying.
Sc. 1724–7 Rothes MSS.:
For playing to the plets . . . . . . . . . . 16s. 0d. Plying for the Coate . . . . . . . . . . . . 12s. 0d.
Rs. 1757 Pitcalnie MSS. (23 May):
To bringing the ploying out of Pitcalnie's Tartan night Gown . . . 6d.
Sc. 1825 J. Nicholson Operat. Mechanic 381:
The first act of plying or doubling, which is introduced in the process of spinning.

[O.Sc. ply, v., to fold, bend, c.1375, ply, n., state, condition, c.1470, plie, n., a fold, layer, 1532, Fr. pli, plier, Lat. plicare.]

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



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