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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

S, n.1, letter of alphabet. S, the nineteenth letter of the alphabet, called as in Eng. ess (Sc. 1761 Magopico (1810) 1; Peb. 1793 R. Brown Comic Poems (1817) 129; Bnff. 1836 Ellis E.E.P. V. 777; Sh. 1958 New Shetlander No. 46. 24), with in gen. the same phonetic values as in Eng.: (1) as the breathed fore-blade fricative [s], gen. written s, -ss- medially, or -ss, -se finally, or when in contact with an unvoiced consonant; (2) as the voiced equivalent [z] when orig. s is final after a vowel or voiced consonant or medially between voiced sounds but in Sc. final [s] is retained when it becomes medial before an inflection, as in houses [′husɪz], gallowses [′gɑləsɪz], and in Wise [wəis], esp. when used in peculiarly Sc. senses; dose is pronounced [do:z] in Sc. on the analogy of other Fr. borrowings close, rose, etc.; (3) as the dental fricatives [ʃ], [ȝ], used as in Eng., but original [s] was retained in †Succar, sugar, and [z] in Fr. words like Leisure, Measure, Pleasure, treasure, though in most cases this pronunciation has become obsol. or obs.

1. Etymologically, s represents: (1) O.E., O.N. s, L.Ger., Fr. s(s); orthographically also occas. Fr. assibilated c, as in Reset; (2) O.E. final -sc, in Wiss, wish, in national adjs. Inglis (now surviving only as a surname), Dens- in Densaxe, Erse, Scots; O.N. final -sk, in Ass, Aise, Buss, n.1, Mense, Pace; (3) O.E. sc- in Sall, Sud, from reduced stress in their position as auxiliary verbs; (4) in Sh. also occas. from O.N. h-, Norw. k- initially before n, as in Sneevelack, Snig, v.3, Snirk, v.1, Snivri;

2. s final has been dropped in Corp, Joco;

3. The collocation sl- freq. develops free variants in scl-, skl-, esp. in ne. and sm. Sc., as in Sclender, sklenner; Scly; Sklent; sklidder, Slidder; sclype, sklype, Slype. See P.L.D. § 69 and K, letter, 8. These variants are formations on the analogy of words in scl-, where the c is etymological as in Sclate, Sclave, n., v.1, Slice; sim. sw > squ- occas. as in Squeep, Squerm.

4. For s > sh, see 6.;

5. s is freq. added prothetically with intensive force to words beginning esp. with c, k, p, t, and occas. l, m, as Sclairt, Sclammer, n.1, Sclasp, Sclim, Scronach, Scrump, v.2, Sker, Skeechan, Smooch, Snoddie, Spatch, Spink, Spoach, Stramp, Sleb, Slounge, Smuggy, Smurl, Smush;

6. s appears also in the digraph sh, also written sch, which survived as a spelling into the early 18th c. and is occas. still used arch., representing the unvoiced afterblade fricative [ʃ], rarely the voiced equivalent [ȝ] in Fushion, Pushion, and by Sh. writers occas. written sj after Norw. The history and usage of sh is as in Eng. with some special Sc. developments: (1) Initially: (i) developing out of [s] followed by a palatal glide, freq. in words of Fr. origin (cf. Eng. sugar, sure): shaav (Saw, sow), shane (Scene), shewer, sewer (Sc. 1832 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) III. 218), Sheence, science, shintillate (Sc. 1828 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 53), Shew, sew, Shinner, cinder, schir, shir, Sir, Shissors, shublime (Sc. 1827 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 349), shupreme, Shoot, suit, Shuet, suet, shuin, Sune, shuit, Suit, Soot; sceptic, sceptre, were pronounced with [ʃ-] in the 18th c. (Sc. c.1775 Glenbervie MS. 221), prob. after Late or Italianate Latin. For this sound see P.L.D. § 67 and cf. O.Sc. schir, schervice, Schalm(e, schaw, sow; (ii) representing ch[tʃ-], still reg. in Sh., Cai., Rs. (see P.L.D. §§ 165, 158, 154), obsol. in Bwk. (see R. Kerr Agric. Bwk. (1809) 502, Stat. Acc.2 II. 59, 323, and P.L.D. § 92) and e.Rxb. (Watson W.-B. Intro. § 20), but orig. of wider extent and in O.Sc., and also used liter. to represent Highland speech, e.g. Schraft, n.2, Shance, Shap, v., Shapin, shapter (Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Firesided Tales 4), shaiptur (Dmf. 1834 Carlyle Letters (Norton) II. 232), shase (Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xxix.), sheddar (Sc. 1704 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 354), scheer (Sh. 1930 Manson's Almanac 196), sheese (Cai. 1909 D. Houston Silkie Man 9), shenge (Sh. 1931 Shetland Times (14 March) 7), shick, cheek (Cai. 1969), Shicken, scheild, schi(e)ld, shiel, shielder (Sh. forms of Chield, Childer), Shilbleen, Shill, adj.2, shime (Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 18), schimley for Chimley (Sh. 1906 T. P. Ollason Spindrift 86), schoice (Sh. 1919 T. Manson Peat Comm. 7), sho(c)k (Sh. forms of Chowk, n., v.1, choke), show, Chow, v. (Sh. 1886 B. R. Anderson Broken Lights 81), shuck (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.), shursh, church (Dmf. 1772 Weekly Mag. (27 Aug.) 270), shuse a shair (Gsw. 1796 Poet. Orig. and Sel. II xxi. 5); (iii) as a conventional representation of g, j [dȝ], e.g. sheorsh, Shapple, shentleman (Sc. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) I. 263, 1818 Scott Rob Roy xxxi., 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped xvi.), shudgement (D. Graham Ib. 264); rarely of Fr. j, e.g. Sham; (iv) developed out of [hj] in Sheuboo, Shetland, Shool, and in the slurred pronunciation [ʃʌk] freq. heard in m.Sc. for Heuk. For Sh. exx. of this see Shaela, Sholgirse, Sholma; (v) in the combination shr-, an epenthetic vowel e tends to develop in careless or uneducated speech as in sheroo, shrew (Rnf. 1870 J. Nicholson Idylls 38; s.Sc. 1873 Murray D.S.C.S. 125). Cf. Rushyroo; sherubbery (Sc. 1825 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 25; Rxb. 1942 Zai 141);

(2) Medially: for [s], esp. in words of Romance origin before a front vowel, as Ashet, Dishilago, Elshinder, Alexander (see Suppl.), Gushet, Leeshence, Mushle, Neshessity, Sosh (for Society), Veshel; and in some others, freq. as dialect or free variants, as Elshin, galshach, Gulsoch, reeshle, Reesle; Booscht, foosht, Foost, Wheesht. See P.L.D. § 67. The writer of the letter in phonetic spelling from Dmf. printed in the Weekly Mag. of 27 Aug. 1772 pp. 269–71 has also such forms as dishcompounded, mishplashed, pishable (peaceable), rishentment. The speech of James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, is represented as having this peculiarity in Wilson's Noctes Amb.;

(3) Finally: (i) for [s], esp. after ee, i, l, m, n, r, u, as in cornish, cornice, Creesh, Drush, n.1, Fleesh, Glimsh, grilsh, Grilse, hairsh, Hairse, Harash, minsh, Minch, Niesh, notish, Notice, nurrish, Nourice, n., offish, Office, Pish, releash, Sloosh, Sprush. See P.L.D. § 67. Cf. also mash, masse (Per. 1804 Letters J. Ramsay (S.H.S.) 130); (ii) for [tʃ] in Sersh, after Fr. pronunciation; (iii) for [dȝ] in Damish, farkish, Farkage, Manish, Rammish.

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"S n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Jul 2024 <>



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