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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PYOT, n., adj. Also pyat, pyet; piat, piet, piot; peyet; peiot (s.Sc. 1898 E. Hamilton Mawkin iii.); peat. [Sc. ′pɑeət, Abd. + ′piət]

I. n. 1. The magpie, Pica pica (Ags. 1784 Gentleman's Mag. II. 505, pyot; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 26, pyet; Bwk. 1889 G. Muirhead Birds Bwk. I. 202; Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson; Rxb. 1942 Zai). Gen.(exc. I.)Sc., obsol., and in n.Eng. dial. Also attrib.  Also fig. a thief. Phr. like a pyot's nest, of hair or the like: untidy, struggling, unkempt (Ayr. 1967).Sc. 1707 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 470:
To david and Ja. ȝets for takeing doun the pyot nest . . . . . . . . 2s. 0d.
Sc. 1712 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) II. 61:
There came a pyet and sat doun upon the standart or collours.
Sc. 1745 Scots Mag. (June) 275:
The scrieching pyets daubed a' our barn.
Ayr. 1789 Burns Ep. to J. Tennant 26:
To cast my een up like a pyet, When by the gun she tumbles o'er.
Sc. 1808 Jam.:
This by the vulgar in our time, as also by our ancestors, has still been accounted an ominous bird. During sickness in a family, it is reckoned a very fatal sign, if the pyat take his seat on the roof of the house.
Sc. 1819 Scott Ivanhoe xxxii.:
Here cometh the worthy prelate, as pert as a pyet.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped xvii.:
There's many a man would think this more of a warning than two pyats.
Ags. 1888 Barrie Auld Licht Idylls ii.:
Still more ominous was the “peat” when it appeared with one or three companions. An old rhyme about this bird runs “One is joy, two is grief, Three's a bridal, four is death.”
Sc. 1900 J. G. Campbell Superstitions Sc. Highl. 227:
The pyet . . . is called “the messenger of the Campbells”.
sm.Sc. 1925 R. W. Mackenna Flood & Fire xxiii.:
“A pyat! That's an ill sign,” she said.
Fif. 1931 Gsw. Herald (8 Aug.):
He . . . gaed on his way snickerin' awa' tae himsel' like a pyet.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 27:
Or ... ye seen a single pyat, a burd o' sicc ill omen
The day's nae day tae mak' ye a mairrit wummin.
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 33:
I'se warrant he'd raither staun there an swither
than tak tent o law, the neep-heidit loon.
"Ye thievan wee pyat, its tane or its tither,
Deil kens yer wame maun be whummlan aroun"
but naa, tho I'm lossan the rag aathegither,
yon dour feckless tyke is biddan abuin.
Sc. 1995 James S. Adam New Verses for an Auld Sang 31:
birds across the treetops ceilidhing,
blackies musical cascades fluting,... bonny-buskit pyots handsome strutting,
cushie-doos in plump curmurring,
was never an Eden mair bonny.
Edb. 2001:
There are nae wee birds in oor garden because o the pyots.

2. Applied to other birds with pied plumage e.g. the dipper or water ouzel, Cinclus cinclus (Sc. 1843 W. Jardine Brit. Birds II. 67), a pigeon with black and white markings (Ags. 1967). Comb. sea-pyat, the oyster-catcher, Haematopus ostralegus (Abd. Gall. 1967), shore-pyet, ? id. (Dmb. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 VIII. 71), water-pyat, the dipper (Sc. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 30). See also Hieland, II. 7. (17).

3. As a nickname in various applications (see quots.).Sc. 1707 Acts Parl. Scot. XI. App. 111:
Your Petitioners Predicessors, were of the Sirname of Graham, and through the unhappy Difference, that in the last Age, did frequently fall out betwixt Clanns; They, by their Neighbours, were forced from their Native Residence, and obliged to Cover themselves under the Sirname of Pyet. . . . the Ignominous Nick-name of Pyet.
Dmf. 1769 W. McDowall Hist. Dumfries (1873) 558:
The former party, by a play on their leader's name [Crosbie], were dubbed “Corbies”, whilst their opponents rejoiced in the name of “Pyets”.
Arg. 1912 N. Munro Ayrshire Idylls 105:
Only the tradesmen and artisans — Pyats as they onetime called them — could remain his friends.

4. A term of scorn or censure for a chattering, irresponsible type of person. Comb. tale-pyat, tell-, a tale-bearer, “tell-tale” (Slg. 1910 Scotsman (12 Sept.); Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 303). See also tell-pie s.v. Tell, v.Dmf. 1774 Dmf. Weekly Mag. (21 June):
A perfect pyat! — clink for clink! — Where has the villain learn'd to think?
Sc. 1814 Mem. T. Chalmers (Hanna 1854) I. 340:
From the great officers of State at St. James's . . . down to the little female piets who were taught to squall what they did not understand.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary iv.:
I am no talepyet; but there are mair een in the world than mine.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir. A. Wylie iii.:
“I told you,” said he, . . . “that the ill deedy pyet would bring you into baith scaith and scorn.”
Per. 1901 I. MacLaren Young Barbarians 127:
He hated a “tell-pyet,” and yet knew that discipline must be maintained.
Kcb. 1911 Crockett Smugglers xxi.:
The tongues of “tale-pyets”, or tellers of tales, were scraped ungently with a piece of broken slate, and thereafter washed.
wm.Sc. 1920 D. Mackenzie Pride o' Raploch 30:
The pyots ca'ed her “Raploch's quean.”
Abd. 1932 J. White Moss Road xvi.:
That gabbin' pyot, Adam, clypit to the Almighty about Eve.

5. A piebald horse (Mry., Abd., m.Lth. 1967), short for pyot horse.Sc. 1756 M. Calderwood Journey (M.C.) 117:
The horses of all different kinds. The Duke of Marlborough had a sett of peyets, very prettily marked.

6. A farm-hand who stands on a corn stack and passes the sheaves from the forker to the builder (ne.Sc. 1967). Cf. Craw. Also as a v., to do this work (Ags. 1967).Ags. 1897 F. Mackenzie Northern Pine i.:
When the stacks began to taper toward the top, the “pyat”, perched on the eaves, caught the sheaves from the fork and tossed them to the builder, for the height was too great to allow of their being forked from the cart.
Bnff.2 1930:
They ees't t' pit up afa junts o' rucks at Rethie, an' ilky bigger not a pyot t' haive the shaives till 'im.

II. adj., from attrib. usages of n. 1. Resembling a magpie in colouring, piebald, multi-coloured, patchy or irregular in colouring, variegated, “freckled” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.). Also in forms pyat(t)ed, pyoted, pyat(t)y (Watson), pyety, id. (Abd. 1967). Phr. the lad in or with the pyoted coat, the hangman.Sc. 1721 P. Walker Six Saints (1901) I. 321:
Going up the ladder, with the rope before them, and the lad with the pyoted coat at their tail.
Sc. 1723 Caled. Mercury (7 Nov.):
A little Pyot White and Brown Shelty.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 136:
They were a rugh lang hair like a pyet horse.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxvii.:
She maun gang down the Bow wi' the lad in the pioted coat at her heels.
Sc. 1824 Farmer's Mag. (Aug.) 289:
If the salt is not completely and equally mixed through the whole mass, the butter becomes darker in colour where the salt rests, and whiter and rancid where it has not reached. This is termed pyety butter, which always sells at an inferior price.
Sc. c.1843 Carlyle Hist. Sk. (1898) 256:
Thirteen score of volunteer guards-royal . . . beautiful in pyet plumage.
Bnff. 1887 Trans. Banffshire Field Club 67:
A man who rode a piebald horse was believed to have the privilege of prescribing for whooping cough. Whatever remedy he recommended was sure to be effectual. One such rider I have heard of who seems to have been a rather ill-conditioned individual, for when assailed with the usual formula — “Man on the piet horse fat's guid for the kinkhost?” he used to snappishly reply “butter an' bear caff.”
Ayr. 1913 J. Service Memorables 55:
Their horses . . . are pyotty or dapple grey.
Bnff. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 81:
A peer pyot mixter, they're far fae pic black.

Hence pyoty, n., a cherry stone, used in the boys' game of Paips, which had been painted with varied colours or markings by the owner (Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 17), reduced from pyaty pape (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Rxb. 1955 Scotsman (1 Feb.) 6:
The “pyety” (with its enhanced currency-value) and the “soomers” (the floating “paips” rubbed flat for racing in flowing water).

2. Like a magpie in its cries; hence of speech: loud, empty, glib, voluble.Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery xiv.:
“Brave words — very brave words — very exceeding pyet words,” answered the miller.
Bnff. 1862 R. Sim Leg. Strathisla 73:
He . . . made a fair speech . . . and sae he gat him freed, wha was sae weel content that, in his ain blunt way, he said, “Verily, brither, ye hae fine pyet words.”
Ayr. 1913 J. Service Memorables 115:
And then quo' she, wi pyet partle.

[O.Sc. pyot, = I. 1., 1450, pyott, as a nickname, 1574, Mid.Eng. piot, dim. form of pie, O.Fr. pie, Lat. pica, magpie.]

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"Pyot n., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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