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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.

REEK, n.1, v. Also rei(c)k, riek (Fif. 1710 R. Sibbald Hist. Fife (1803) 34); rick (ne.Sc.); rikk; and Eng. dial. form reech- (see note). In Eng. the word belongs to n. dial. and is now gen. used only in fig. senses. [rik; ne.Sc. rɪk]

I. n. 1. Smoke (Sc. 1808 Jam.), vapour. Gen.Sc., now only liter. or n. dial. in Eng. (1) Lit. Also fig. the smoke of conflict, bombastic talk, “hot air”.Fif. 1711 Burgh Rec. Dunfermline (26 April):
Curing vent in the school fra reek.
Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. v. ii. Prol.:
The rising sun shines motty throw the reek.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Brigs of Ayr 32:
The death o' devils, smoor'd wi' brimstone reek.
Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 31:
The men who think, but seenil speak, An' raise nae rhetrocian's [sic] reek.
Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate xi.:
The reek that's rising out of yon lums.
n.Sc. 1854 H. Miller Schools 89:
Volumes of gunpowder reek issued from every crack and cranny.
Bnff. 1881 W. Philip K. MacIntosh's Scholars vi.:
That was the last reek o' the revival on Deeside.
Kcb. 1899 Crockett Kit Kennedy xxxvii.:
The tang of the cottage peat reek hangs like the peculiar incense of home.
Ork. 1929 Marw.:
The wind's surely geen round, for the reek's keepan flanan oot noo.
Abd. 1961 P. Buchan Mount Pleasant 18:
The rick fae their black Bogie Roll.
ne.Sc. 1979 Alastair Mackie in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 64:
The jet's brig o ice-blue reek in the blue.
m.Sc. 1982 Douglas Fraser in Hamish Brown Poems of the Scottish Hills 8:
At mean pursuits, while reek pollutes
The grey, unhailsome lift.
But whiles I see afore my ee
A vision of the glens.
Sc. 1991 Forbes Macgregor in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 17:
Oot-through the stable lantron's reek
He sees the unhained Hieland glen
He brookt or he was glaikt by men.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 52:
Syne, there wis a blinnin fire-flaucht. I thocht the sun hid faaen ooto the lift! Fin I luikit ower tae the toun, a great column o rikk raisse up, swyin frae side tae side.
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 16:
Guid neebor Will, - his case at last
has Brickwork boss's blootert
an proves that reek,
thir fug an smeek,
can pizen aa wir rhubert.

(2) Combs.: (i) borrowed reek, smoke from one chimney caught by the wind and blown down an adjoining chimney into the room below (ne.Sc. 1968); (ii) reek-bouk, a belch of smoke. See Bowk; ‡(iii) reek-hol, the hole in the roof of an Ork. peasant cottage through which the smoke escaped; (iv) reik-money, see quot. The explanation is however doubtful. The money may have been chargeable on each reek-house (see 3 (3).) in the parish. (v) reek-ridden, smoky, smoke-ridden; (vi) reek-shot, applied to the eyes when they suddenly begin to inflame and become watery, without apparent cause, as if smoke had got into them (Slk. 1825 Jam.); (vii) reek-stained, smoke-stained. Gen.Sc.(ii) Abd. 1927 E. S. Rae Hansel fae Hame 52:
I'm tellt it's geyan lang syne noo Its grimy reek-bouks ceased tae spue.
(iii) Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 38:
The reek-hol', the licht-hol', an' de cat-hol' o' the hoose.
(iv) Ags. 1719 A. B. Dalgetty Liff (1940) 16:
The session considered the case of the schoolmaster. He had been in the habit of collecting his reik-money by going from door to door. Reik-money was a contribution towards the providing of a fire in the school and it might take the form of a peat brought by a scholar in the morning.
(v) Dmf. 1894 R. Reid Poems 44:
Far in the reek-ridden city Betimes ye may grieve.
(vii) Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 53:
The locker of the green chest contained certain well-kept, reek-stained coins.

(3) Phrs.: (i) (a sour) reek (in the house), fig. of an uncomfortable situation or atmosphere in the home, domestic discord, esp. as caused by a nagging wife (Sc. 1808 Jam.); (ii) the reek o' one's spittle, a jocular expression = the merest triviality in one's possession (Per. 1968); (iii) to blow one's reek, to smoke (one's pipe); (iv) to gae through the reek, see quot.; (v) to gang at a great reek, to go at a great pace, at top speed (Abd.7 1925, Abd. 1968); (vi) to gie (one) through the reek, to scold, berate (a person). See (vii); (vii) to get one's kail through the reek, to get a thorough dressing-down, “to catch it hot” (I. and n.Sc., Per. 1968). See Kail, n., 6. (6); (viii) to let reek, to fire a shot; (ix) to raise a reek, to make a great fuss or to-do, to cause a stir or commotion (Sh., em.Sc., Lnk. 1968); (x) to raise the reek, to fire a shot from a gun. Cf. (viii).(i) Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 186:
“It is a soure reek, where the good wife dings the good man”. A man . . . coming out of his house with tears on his cheeks, was ask'd the occasion; he said that there was a soure reek in the house; but upon farther inquiry, it was found that his wife had beaten him.
Abd.1 1929:
I see Jake doitin' aboot the corn-yard, I doubt there's reek in the hoose; peer breet, he can hardly haud aff o' himsel fan the wife braks oot.
(ii) wm.Sc. 1868 Laird of Logan 544:
For no ane'll part wi' the reek o' his spittle.
(iii) Kcb. 1896 A. J. Armstrong Kirkiebrae x.:
Come awa into the kitchen, boy, an' blaw your reek here.
(iv) Fif. 1825 Jam.:
To gar claise gae through the reik. To pass the clothes of a new-born child through the smoke of a fire; a superstitious rite, which has been used in Fife in the memory of some yet alive, meant to ward off from the infant the fatal influence of witchcraft.
(vi) m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 260:
I . . . open'd first on her and then on him, and gaed them baith through the reek.
Abd. 1993:
She brunt the kail and he took her throwe the reek.
(vii)Edb. 1734 W. Mitchel Wonderful Sermon to Students 7:
Many times I get my Meat thro' the Reek, or else in a riven Cog.
(viii) Slk. 1893 J. Dalgleish W. Wathershanks 44:
What did 'e let reek at ava?
(ix) Ags. 1776 C. Keith Farmer's Ha' 14:
After he's rais'd a needless reek, Syne he begins to grow mair meek.
Sc. 1823 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 313:
Ye may as weel gi'e a dunt upo' that door wi' your steekit nieve, an' syne raise a reek whether it was your hand or the door that made the din.
(x) Ags. 1833 J. Sands Poems 52:
Ye'll maybe raise the reek ance.

2. With indef. art.: a column or cloud of smoke (I.Sc., Cai. 1968).Edb. 1788 J. Macaulay Poems 188:
Whare 'er we mak a reek, There aye some fire.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 8:
The tither day, on de hicht o' the day, they saw a reek on the Kirk Brae o' Wassetter.

3. By synecdoche: a house with a fire burning on the hearth, an inhabited house (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; I.Sc. 1968).Slg. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XV. 358:
The number of householders or reeks, previous to the 1783, I cannot mark positively; . . . in the present year, there are 609 householders, or people who keep reeks.
Sh. 1822 S. Hibbert Descr. Shet. 321:
To feed these birds [hawks] a hen was demanded from every house; or (as it is called) from every “reek”.
Rs. 1877 Trans. Highl. Soc. 147:
No fewer than “thirteen reeks on the farm”, mostly the “reeks” of crofters' houses.
Cai. 1884 Crofters' Comm. Evidence III. 2405:
He hoped to see the day when there would not be a reek on the sheriff's estate but his manager's and shepherds'.
Sh. 1967:
Dir no a reek i Traewick noo — der aa left.

Hence (1) reek fowl, a hen paid as part of the rental in kind for every house with a hearth (Bnff., Abd. 1825 Jam.); (2) reek-hen, id. (Sh., Bnff., Abd. 1825 Jam.); (3) reek-house, = 3. (Sh. 1968); (4) reek-meall, a tax levied on every house with a hearth, hearth-money. See Mail, n.1 All chiefly hist.(2) Bwk. 1721 Hist. MSS. Comm. Report V. 650:
One wood or reek hen out of each dwelling-house that kindled fire and had reek within the barony of Coldingham.
Sc. 1741 Caled. Mercury (1 Sept.):
There is payable yearly 90 Capons, 184 Poultry, about 30 Reik-hens, Long Carriages, and sundry other Services not rentalled.
Mry. 1761 Sc. N. & Q. (1896) X. 31:
A reek hen and a dozen of eggs for each reeking house.
Abd. c.1830 A. F. Murison Memoirs (1935) 212:
She had 8/- of what was called firesiller to pay the Laird for Moss, also a Hen which was called a Reek Hen.
Abd. 1898 J. Milne Poems 26:
A but-an-ben wi' good kail-yard Was rentit just at ae “reek-hen”.
(4) Slg. 1709 Burgh Rec. Slg. (1889) 120:
The said William quytis the reek meall to the officeris.

4. Mist, esp. a morning mist rising out of the ground (Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., Abd. 1968). Also in Eng. dial.; spray, spume, of waves (Sh. 1968). Cf. Rouk.Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 61:
Mornin' mist or reek.
Sh. 1900 Shetland News (7 July):
See da reek staandin' oot o' da grund, uncle, is dat fir ill wadder?

5. The act of smoking a pipe or cigarette, a whiff, puff (Cld. 1880 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Also in n.Eng. dial.Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 94:
We sat doon . . . to tak a reek of the pipe.
Ags. 1897 A. Reid Bards Ags. 484:
Rax ye doon your cutty pipe an' tak' your e'enin' reek.
Abd. 1928 P. Grey Making of a King 15:
I won'er if that doppleganger o' a namesake o' mine, auld Henry the Eicht, cud tak' a reek.
Uls. 1953 Traynor:
Taking a reek out of his pipe.

6. Deriv. reekie, -y, rei(c)ky, reechy (Dmf. 1889 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 152), (1) adj. (i) smoky, smoke-filled, blackened or begrimed by smoke. Superl. reekiest. Gen.Sc. Combs.: (a) Auld Reekie, Old-, a nickname for Edinburgh (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, s.v. Reik). See Auld, adj., 9. (20); (b) reekie-meg, = (c) (Mry.1 1925); (c) reekie-mire, -myre, -more, n., a hollow tube packed with oily smouldering material, used by mischievous boys to blow smoke into a house; hence, as a v., to do this (Mry. 1911 Trans. Bnff. Field Club 109); (d) reekie-Peter, a familiar name for a Cruisie lamp, q.v. (cf. Peter, n., 2.); an iron stand for holding a fir candle, a peer-man (Bnff. 1927). The latter meaning is somewhat doubtful; = reekie-mire above; (e) Tammie Reekie, see Tammie, n., 5. (14); (ii) misty, damp. Also in n.Eng. dial. (2) n., (i) a shortened form of Auld Reekie, (1) (i) (a); (ii) a reekie-mire, see (c) above; (iii) a smoky house, prob. specif. a black house, a house with a hole in the roof through which the smoke escapes; (iv) a Cruisie lamp (Ork. 1968). Cf. (i) (d).(1) (i) Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 15:
A reeky house and a girning Wife, will make a Man a fasheous Life.
Abd. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 7:
Aft we've seen them fain, Dink owre the bent to the reekie den.
Sc. 1823 Scott St. Ronan's W. xv.:
The auld reekie dungeons pulled down.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 175:
In the reekiest neuk o' hell.
Dmf. 1844 Carlyle in Atlantic Monthly (1898) 678:
As to color, it should be deep for our reeky atmosphere here.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 71:
Whaur we micht leeve a mile and mair clear o' the reeky toon.
Sh. 1897 Shetland News (4 Dec.):
Sittin' in a reeky suttie hole o' a hoos.
(a) Peb. 1715 A. Pennecuik Works (1815) 369:
And yet, my friend, the counsel you give me, Is that my dwelling in Old Reekie be.
Sc. 1825 R. Chambers Trad. Edb. II. 256:
“Auld Reekie.” This highly appropriate popular sobriquet cannot be traced beyond the reign of Charles the Second.
(c) Mry. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 31:
There's ayont the yett A busy reekie myre gaun.
Bnff. 1963 Dufftown News (2 Nov.) 3:
A lobby perhaps which you filled with stinking reek from your reekie-more — that piece of kail rump hollowed out and packed with oily waste, and ignited, and the reek blown into the wifie's usually newly papered lobby.
(d) Bnff. 1869 W. Knight Auld Yule 44:
Nor yon vile engine, reeky Peter, faith, Is ilka creature proof against his skaith.
Bnff. 1880 J. F. S. Gordon Chrons. Keith ix.:
The “Maister's” Arm-Chair, with “Reeky-Peter” for reading “The Aberdeen Journal”.
ne.Sc. 1883 Trans. Bnff. Field Club 110:
To attend to the wick and oil of “Reekie Peter”.
Bnff. 1892 Trans. Bnff. Field Club 62:
In the light of other days, what a jump from the fir candle and Reekie Peter to the paraffin lamp, gas, and the electric light.
(ii) Sc. 1808 Scott Marmion v. Intro.:
[To] gaze abroad on reeky fen, And make of mists invading men.
(2) (i) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 109:
Then, Reikie, welcome! Thou canst charm Unfleggit by the year's Alarm.
(ii) Lnk. 1920 G. A. H. Douglas Further Adventures Rab Hewison 108:
Then put oor reekies to keyhole A' filled wi' rags and lichtet tow.
Mry. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 30:
Tae hae a reekie and a lamp.
(iii) Rs. 1884 Crofters' Comm. Evidence III. 1918:
Most of the homes, or houses here, are of a very homely description — old reekies, consisting of two or three apartments, the third occupied by the cow and the hens, entering by the same door with the human inmates.

II. v. 1. intr., of a chimney: (a) to emit smoke, esp. as a sign that a dwelling is inhabited. Gen.Sc. Phrs. a reeking lum, an inhabited house. Cf. 4. Also in Eng. dial.; lang may your lum reek, an expression of good wishes for one's prosperity. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1820 Scott Abbot xxxiv.:
The chimney of the kitchen had reeked that whole day.
Lnk. 1881 A. Wardrop Poems 33:
Div ye no see the lum reekin?
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo 25:
There wasna' a leevin sowl aboot the fit o' the toon; nor a lum reekin, or a door agee.
Sc. 1928 J. G. Horne Lan'wart Loon 12:
Nae a reekin' hoose in sicht.
Bnff. 1964 Banffshire Jnl. (11 Feb.) 3:
Fifty years ago there were “three reekin' lums” and eleven people lived there.

(b) to fail to emit smoke properly, sending it back into the room. Gen.Sc. Also in Eng. dial. Phr. a reeking lum, a chimney which does this; fig., a source of great annoyance which drives one from the house, specif. of a nagging wife (Sh., ne.Sc., Per., Fif. 1968). Cf. I. 1. (3) (i).Sh. 1897 Shetland News (14 Aug.):
Hit's better whaur he reeks dan whaur he snaws [better be at a smoky fireside than out in the cold].
Gall. 1928 Gallovidian Annual 87:
Gin he has a reekin' lum at hame he's better aff in the public-hoose.
Per. 1960:
To suffer frae a reekin lum = to have a nagging or domineering wife.

2. tr. or absol. To smoke (a pipe, etc.) (Slg. 1968).Abd. 1923 R. L. Cassie Heid or Hert vii.:
The Maister reekit awa', harkenin' tae a, the oots an' ins o' Jeannie's story.
Uls. 1929 M. Mulcaghey Rhymes 84:
Through clouds of smoke you'll see me reek My ould clay duddeen pipe.
Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 39:
What sorro ir you twa gyaan ta reek fur eenoo whin da tay is trakked?
Sc. 1991 Duncan McLean in Hamish Whyte and Janice Galloway New Writing Scotland 9: Scream If You Want to Go Faster 111:
He was ricking on his pipe, she was holding her hands out to the heat.

3. Of a house: to have smoke coming out of the chimney as a sign of habitation. Ppl.adj. reeking, inhabited (1.Sc. 1968). A transf. usage of 1. (a). Phr. reek-him (or -it)-lane, reekumlene, a solitary, isolated habitation. Common as the name of an isolated farm (Abd. 1952 W. M. Alexander Ptace-Names (S.C.) 360).Mry. 1761 Sc. N. & Q. (1896) X. 31:
A reeking house at present possessed by Andrew Mitchell.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings II. 228:
An ye keep a reeking house an' a rocking cradle three eleven years as I hae done.
Edb. 1795 H. MacNeill Scotland's Skaith xvii.:
Lown 'mang trees and braes it reekit.
Ayr. 1823 Galt R. Gilhaize III. iv.:
They travelled all day, not venturing to approach any reeking house.
Bnff. 1860 Banffshire Jnl. (3 Jan.):
Only one solitary family remained during the last year of the famine, and their abode was termed “Reek-him-lane”.
Abd. 1872 J. Michie Deeside Tales 57:
There was achteen reekan' houses i' the Daugh.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders xix.:
Not one reeking house or any place where kindly folk dwelt.

4. To expose to smoke, to blacken or make grimy with smoke or soot: (1) in gen. Ppl.adj. reekit, -id (I.Sc.), begrimed, sooty, smoke-covered (I. and n.Sc., Per., Kcb. 1968).Ayr. 1786 Burns To the Deil xvii.:
Wi' reekit duds, an' reestit gizz.
m.Lth. 1811 H. MacNeill Bygane Times 4:
In Luckenbooths, whar aftime reekit, We met at e'en whan shops were steekit.
Abd. 1837 J. Leslie Willie & Meggie 46:
A caul' dry sermon aff o' an aul' reekit paper.
Edb. 1866 J. Smith Merry Bridal 68:
High owre the reekit lums, an' watery tiles.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 120:
As black an' reekit as a maut kil'.
Dmf. 1873 A. C. Gibson Folk Speech Cmb. 118:
A reekit mutch an' chaft-locks tawtie.
Ags. 1897 A. Reid Bards Ags. 497:
A muckle paw, black grim, an' reekit.
Lnk. 1919 G. Rae Clyde and Tweed 75:
A reekit can, wi' a weel-bashed rim, Sat coggled amang the lowes.

(2) specif. of food: to dry in smoke, to give a smoky flavour to, to taint with smoke. Gen.Sc. Ppl.adj. reekit, smoke-cured, smoke-tainted, acrid. Phr. a reekit drink, see 1890 quot.Gsw. 1843 Sc. Songs (Whitelaw) 270:
Ne'er say a herring is dry until it be reestit and reekit.
Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Miller xx.:
Confined in a jail, till he's reested an' reekit like a rizzard haddy.
Rnf. c.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) K.37:
The angular neuk or corner of a farl of bread, which is sometimes reikit a wee on the girdle in turning the farl.
Fif. 1882 S. Tytler Scotch Marriages II. vi.:
In their “saut”, “reekit”, or “spelded” conditions.
Abd. 1890 Gregor MSS.:
One mode of turning the Wyde or Weed was by a “reekit drink”, i.e. a draught of milk mixed with water heated by a piece of burning paper or cloth so as to give it the flavour of the smoke.
Ork. 1904 Dennison Orcadian Sk. 14:
A' the reekid geese, white puddin's, reekid beef, an' butter.
Arg. 1914 N. Munro New Road x.:
She gave them both a dram of spirits, rank and reeked beyond description.
ne.Sc. 1953 Mearns Leader (25 Sept.):
We were haein' gran' tinkies' tay, an' weel reekit at that.
Dmf. 1960:
I thoucht I had reekit the watter in the kettle.

5. To make a signal by smoke (Cai. 1904 E.D.D.).

6. To emit vapour or steam, as of a hot liquid, a damp fermenting hay- or corn-stack, etc. (Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Kcb. 1968). Also reekin, fig. drunk. Deriv. reeker, one who blows smoke through a keyhole. See I. 6. (i) (c). Used fig. in phrs. reekin hot, of a bowl or quoit: delivered at great speed or with great force (Per., Fif. 1968); to gar somebody's rumple reek, to thrash severely (Sc. 1825 Jam.). See Rumple; to get (gie somebody) it het and reekin, to (be) scold(ed) or beat(en) severely, “to catch it (give it to someone) hot” (Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1968). See Het, adj., 2.(7); to haud, keep the cuddie, etc. reekin, to keep up the pace, to press on with some task implicit in the noun (Kcb., Slk. 1968).Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. Ded. vii.:
E'en while the tea's fill'd reeking round.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 67:
Braw dishes reeking, and just at her hand.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Twa Dogs 131:
The nappy reeks wi' mantling ream.
Dmf. 1823 J. Kennedy Poems 18:
Where a dinner het and reeking, Crowns the daintith covered board.
s.Sc. 1838 Wilson's Tales of the Borders V. 67:
Guysers, reekers, gossips, and tosspots, laid down their songs, their horns, their scandal, and their stoups.
Fif. 1852 G. P. Boyd Misc. Poems 23:
Promiscuous sounds noo ring the air . . . “The kiles”, “pitch up”, an' “reekin' hot”.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xiii., xxxiii.:
An' frae peep o' day I keepit the needle reekin'. . . Jeames held the whup reekin', an' so we drove on like Jehu.
s.Sc. 1897 E. Hamilton Outlaws xii.:
You and me . . . 'll need to haud the cuddie reekin' brawly this nicht.
Ayr. 1912 G. Cunningham Verse 61:
In some auld reekit dry hey stack.
Abd. 1917 C. Murray Sough o' War 46:
Rent day an' reekin' rucks set up your birss.
Abd. 1928 J. Baxter A' Ae 'Oo' 25:
Tae pree the reekin' toddy!
Ayr. 1999:
He's reekin.
Edb. 2003:
Dinnae come hame reekin an expectin yer tea.

7. Fig. To show anger or fury, to fume, pour out one's spleen (Rnf. a.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) R. 15). Hence fair reekin, furiously angry (Ayr. 1968).Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms lxxx. 4:
How lang, Lord God o' hosts, will ye reek at the pray'r o' yer folk?

[O.Sc. reik, smoke, 1375, to emit smoke, 1513, to taint with smoke, c.1500, a house with a fire, 1556, reik fowl, 1592, reik-henn, 1542, reik-house, 1542, reik, tumult, commotion, 1529, reikie, blackened with smoke, 1513, O.E. rēc, smoke, O.N. reykr, smoke, steam. The palatalised form reech is from southern Eng. and now rare or obs.]

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"Reek n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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