Show Search Results Show Browse

Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology

Abbreviations Cite this entry

About this entry:
First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SAIR, adj., n., adv. Also sare, saer, †sar. Gen.Sc. forms and usages of Eng. sore, now chiefly arch. or dial. in Eng. See P.L.D. § 32. Adv. sairly, -lie (Ayr. 1788 Burns Up in the Morning i.; Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel xiv.; Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales (1874) 280; Dmf. 1883 R. W. Thom Poems 21; Abd. 1920 G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 13); sairlies (Abd. 1956 People's Jnl. (28 April)); n. sairness (Sc. 1825 Jam., 1830 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 393). [se(ə)r]

I. adj. 1. (1) Causing physical pain or distress; grievous, oppressive, of an ailment (Sc. 1808 Jam.).Sc. 1819 J. Rennie St Patrick III. iv.:
I'm no that dune gleg i' the hearin', sin I teuk a sair caul', Beltane was a twa year.
Sc. 1823 Fair Janet in Child Ballads No. 64 A.xvii.:
There's a sair pain in my head, father, There's a sair pain in my side.
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 46:
Those who nursed him Through his sair and weary ill.
Fif. 1929 A. Taylor Bitter Bread 125:
The Major's gotten a sair hoast.
Gsw. 1987 Peter Mason C'mon Geeze Yer Patter! 20:
Ye've got a real sore wan there. That really is a painful injury.
m.Sc. 1994 Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay Forever Yours, Marie-Lou 18:
Leave go me! That's sair!
Edb. 1994 Gordon Legge I Love Me (Who Do You Love?) 7:
Robbie brought play to a halt in the cup final. 'An axe through the skull,' he said, 'That's a fucking sare yin.'

(2) sim. of a task, an activity or the like.m.Lth. 1786 G. Robertson Har'st Rig (1801) cxxx.:
Then to hae sair wark beside.
m.Lth. 1870 J. Lauder Warblings 86:
My wark is sair, and scant the fair, On whilk frail nature has to shift.
Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 223:
An' late an' ear' his darg be sair.
s.Sc. 1898 E. Hamilton Mawkin xiii.:
It's awfu' sair on a body to be torn atwae.
Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables frae French 15:
Nae pleasure, but sair wark frae day to day.
Sc. 1924 R. W. Campbell Spud Tamson xiii.:
It's sair on the back . . . the hands, tae.
Abd. 1928 N. Shepherd Quarry Wood ii.:
It's a sair brae this.
Slg. 1929 Scotch Readings (Paterson) 9:
Gin she finds that bein' a mannikin is ower sair on her.

2. Causing mental distress or grief.Sc. 1825 Jam.:
“It's a sair matter”, It is a great pity.
Edb. 1866 J. Smith Poems 72:
Sair's the sicht that blin's my e'e.
w.Lth. 1882 Mod. Sc. Poets (Edwards) IV. 200:
For weel I kent 'twad be, mother, A sair, sair stoon to you.
Per. 1899 C. M. Stuart Sabbath Nights 19:
The sairest rug o' it a' was to set him on his ain beast.
Abd. 1923 Swatches o' Hamespun 64:
It was sair seein 'im dwinin awa afore wir vera een.
  Sc. 1991 John McDonald in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 90:
Spain's sair syle cam drookit i their licht;
an the sair syle gruppit their smeddum
tae'ts hert - hainin a pickle; garrin thaim byde
(like Cornford, bund in Cordova's mort-claith)
tae mak growthie this sair syle fir the future.
Dundee 1996 Matthew Fitt Pure Radge 8:
His hert
his jaa
gaes ticht
his rauchle haun
maks a nieve in its glove
whit wey it is sair
whit wey it is toom
whit wey it is in the lane caald nicht
he kens

3. Involving hardship, difficulty, danger, etc., dire (Sc. 1808 Jam., a sair matter, a trying business, a hard affair).Abd. 1786 J. Skinner Amusements (1809) 25:
A' we can do wi' study sair To climb Parnassus?
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter xi.:
Sair wark he had to get the siller.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Merry Men ii.:
There was nae wind, and a sair run o' sea.
Fif. 1895 G. Setoun Sunshine and Haar 57:
He has ha'en a sair year o't.
m.Sc. 1922 J. Buchan Huntingtower viii.:
This'll be a sair time for ships at sea.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 150:
'Ah, James, James,' it said, 'whit sair place is this tae find ye in.'
Sc. 2004 Herald (3 Apr) 14:
It's a sair day when the Scots government haes tae be telt by the Cooncil o Europe's Comatee o Experts tae uphaud and promote the Scots language.
ne.Sc. 2004 Press and Journal (3 May) 12:
Noo that's it throwe the ee o a lad wi a lowe in the hairt for's ain country, bit it jist disna aa happen throwe nature an we maun applaud the fairmers, crafters, foresters an the like for haudin on tae the wye o life o their faithers an granfaithers. Ay, sair wark's nae easy.
ne.Sc. 2004 Press and Journal (6 Sep) 12:
"Barnyards was a muckle sair toon tae work on. Man and beast were chauved on her lang clay rigs. He was a tearin brute, Rab Imray, that was the grieve, a big chiel that could have been a bobby."

4. Of misfortune, etc.: grievous, hard to bear, oppressive.Ayr. 1786 Burns Twa Dogs 79–80:
When they meet wi' sair disasters, Like loss o' health, or want o' masters.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel iii.:
A sair life I had wi' Lawrie Linklater.
Sc. 1823 Lockhart Reg. Dalton I. 241:
What a sair turn for the puir lassie!
Abd. 1909 J. Tennant Jeannie Jaffray i.:
That's a sair calamity on oor toon.
Sc. 1923 R. MacRailt Hoolachan 32:
And she'll be fu' o' mainners — they a' are. And that's a sair fash.

5. Of a battle, strife, struggle: hard, severe, strenuous. Adv. sairlie. Common in phr. it's a sair fecht, used sententiously of life in gen. Gen.Sc. Also ironically in phr. sair's your fecht, you have little to complain of (Fif. 1969).Ayr. 1789 Burns Battle of Sherramuir i.:
I saw the battle, sair and teugh.
Per. c.1800 Lady Nairne Songs (1905) 198:
There cam' a wee boatie owre the sea, Wi' the winds an' waves it strove sairlie.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxvi.:
Since the time the Great Earl fell in the sair battle o' the Harlaw.
Edb. 1887 Modern Sc. Poets (Edwards) X. 306:
Sair's the fecht, an' hard the scrapin'.
Lnk. 1926 W. Queen We're A' Coortin 28:
It's the sair faucht I hae, in my ain hoose.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 25:
and tae gie til the warl syne
that rissom o aefauld experience
nae ither hais, or can hae. And it's a sair fecht.
Sc. 1991 Scotsman (13 Dec) 12:
It's a sair fecht in the equality business. Take the case of the poor, misunderstood editor of Newsround the quarterly magazine for employees of Lothian Region.
Arg. 1992:
It's a sair fecht.
m.Lth. 1993:
Sair fecht for a half-loaf.
wm.Sc. 2000 Liz Lochhead Medea 42:
the sair fecht of it
tearing his auld flesh from his aged bones
till at last he snuffed it
ne.Sc. 2004 Herald (20 Oct) 3:
It's a sair fecht fan yer nichts are disappearin'and yer lochs are in danger o' becomin' locks.

6. Of weather, the elements: inclement, stormy, severe. Also fig. Adv. sairly.Lth. 1813 G. Bruce Poems 60:
O sairer the storm that rag'd in my breast.
Per. 1883 R. Cleland Inchbracken ii.:
It's a sore night for the puir beast.
Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 37:
An air winter maks a sair winter.
Ags. 1927 V. Jacob Northern Lights 20:
The winter winds blaw lang and sairly.

7. Of anything unpleasant, untoward or immoderate in gen.: serious, considerable, sad, thoroughgoing. Often used as a simple intensive. Adv. sairlie, -y, very much, thoroughly.Sc. 1776 D. Herd Sc. Songs II. 152:
But I gat ne'er sae sair a fleg, Since I cam' frae my daddy.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To a Louse i.:
Your impudence protects you sairlie.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xliii.:
Not to act altogether on your ain judgment, for therethrough comes sair mistakes.
Ags. 1834 A. Smart Rhymes 119:
His like again I sairly doubt We'll never see.
Lth. 1859 M. Oliphant Adam Graeme xix.:
Charlie Graeme did sair ill to this house.
Fif. 1869 St Andrews Gazette (25 Dec.):
Defender “had betters and waurs; but Saturday was aye a sair night wi' him.”
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Merry Men ii.:
But, man, they were sair wonders that God showed to the Christ-Anna.
Edb. 1900 E. H. Strain Elmslie's Drag-Net 15:
It was a sair come doon to me.
Abd. 1917 D. G. Mitchell Clachan Kirk 14:
They are in sair earnest.
Lnk. 1923 G. Rae 'Mang Lowland Hills 55:
The lan's in a sair disorder.
Arg.2 1931:
Ye mak gran oatcakes for ordnary but thir are ower sorely fired for my taste. m.Sc. 1979 William J. Tait in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 37:
O Sydney man,
Ye're a sair miss! I mind ae nicht -
A nicht! This same oongoadly oor
Whan my een caught my watch, but black
An frost-gript oot, tho bein within
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 4:
Aboot the sairvant, I neither care nor ken
But Tartuffe his maister is a Man Among Men
His truth's sairness and shairness is mair than you can thole,
Yet his yin thocht is your immortal soul.
Edb. 2003:
She'll be a sair miss if she gauns tae America.

8. Of the head: aching, painful, throbbing. Phr. a sair heid, a headache. See 14. (7) below.Ayr. 1786 Burns 2nd Ep. J. Lapraik iii.:
My head is grown right dizzie, An' something sair.
Per. 1835 R. Nicoll Poems 32:
O! mither, mither, my head was sair.
Wgt. 1877 G. Fraser Sketches 322:
A wus fou yestreen, an' mi head's unco' sair.
Abd. 1884 D. Grant Lays 2:
We thocht — we kent na' fat to think, Oor heids wi' thocht were sair.
Rxb. 1921 Kelso Chronicle (25 Nov.) 2:
Their heid's no sair the day that built in thae stanes.

9. Of the heart, etc., fig.: aching, grief-stricken, sorrowful. See also 14. (8).Abd. 1739 Caled. Mag. (1788) 502:
It wad ha made your heart fu' sair, Gin ye had only seen him.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Halloween viii.:
An' Jean had e'en a sair heart To see't that night.
Slk. 1813 Hogg Poems (1874) 34:
Then bonnie Kilmeny's heart grew sair.
Sc. 1824 Scott St Ronan's W. ii.:
My heart is sare to see't.
Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sketches 30:
Shu'll be in a sair wy aboot it.
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo 14:
When my wee bairnie hert was sair aboot something.
Ags. 1920 A. Gray Songs 21:
My hert is sair and like to brak.

10. Of persons, with (up)on, †for: harsh in discipline, treatment or judgment, stern, severely censorious (towards); niggardly, driving hard bargains.Abd. p.1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 180:
Nae other bairns are here about but he, 'Cept Rory, and he's ay aur sair for me.
Sc. 1808 Jam.:
A sair master, a sair merchant, etc.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xi.:
And some that made the maist by him — they're the sairest on him e'en now.
Abd. 1865 G. MacDonald Alec Forbes vi.:
The faimily's rather sair upo' her.
w.Lth. 1892 R. Steuart Legends 41:
I dinna think outral folk need be sair on the lad.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Stickit Minister 29:
Some o' the auld yins o' the presbytery micht be ower sair on the young man.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters xxvii.:
Maybe the Lord Jesus Christ'll no' be owre sair on me.
Abd. 1956 G. S. Morris Bothy Ballads I. 17:
Tho' I wis bit a plooman chiel, I thocht he wis some sair.

11. Destructive, harmful, injurious, given to hard wear or usage, with on; (sair Sh., Bnff., Abd., Ags., Edb., Gsw., Ayr., Dmf., Rxb.; sore Arg. 2000s).Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 165:
The deer an the greyhens an the grouse is sair on them.
Arg.2 1931:
She's a throoither lassie an' wild an sair on her claes. Ye nuvver saa onybody that wuz as sair on the butter as her.
wm.Sc. 1988 Scotsman (1 Oct) iv:
Of the sparrowhawk, some of them still say: "Well, they're sair on the phaisants." Whose phaisants?

12. Sorry, paltry, puny, pitiful.Dmf. 1825 Jam.:
A sair neebour, one of a diminutive appearance.
Ayr. 1891 H. Johnston Kilmallie I. 36:
[He] gave but a sair personal illustration, in his life and character, of the doctrine regarding the perseverance o' the saints.
Abd. 1964:
He made a sair soss o' the job.

13. Of something pleasant: great, tremendous. Rare.Wgt. 1877 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 200:
It was a sair relief to mony a faintin heart.

14. Combs. and phrs.: (1) sair banes, in phrs. a sarkfu or skinfu o sair (†-wrought) banes, see Sark, Skin; (2) sair een, in phrs. guid for sair een, a sicht for —, of a welcome or diverting sight (wm.Sc. 1880 Jam.). Gen.Sc. and colloq. Eng.; (3) sair face, (i)  a pathetic expression assumed to elicit sympathy (Sh., Abd., Ags., Per. 1969); (ii) a face which has suffered injury. (4) sair fit, a time of need or difficulty, an emergency, “a rainy day” (Sc. 1880 Jam.; Uls. 1904 E.D.D.); (5) sair han(d), (i) a botch, a mess, a piece of unskilful workmanship (Wgt., Uls. 1904 E.D.D.; Uls. 1931 Northern Whig (5 Dec.); Ayr. 1969); (ii) a large thick slice of bread or roll and butter or jam, sc. as if the hand holding it were bandaged (m.Sc. 1969); something to eat in the hand, e.g. a sandwich, an ice-cream cone (Bnff., Ags., Edb., Ayr., Dmf., Rxb. 2000s). (6) sair heel, (i) = (4) (Sc. 1880 Jam.); (ii) “a sore spot”, a matter about which one is sensitive or touchy; (7) sair heid, (i) a headache (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 36). Gen.Sc. Cf. 8.; (ii) gen. in dim. — heidie, a plain sponge cake sold with a paper band wrapped round the lower part of it (ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Fif. 1969; Bnff., Ags., Dmf. 2000s); Also used of Madeira cake. (8) sair hert, a sad or sorrowful state of mind; a cause for grief, a great disappointment. Gen.Sc. Cf. 9. Adj. sair-herted, sad at heart; (9) sair leg, = (4) (Ags., Per. 1969); (10) sair-lump, a boil, imposthume; †(11) sair-six, the six-crop rotation system of farming, “two of grass, two of cereals, one of turnips, and one cereal” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 147); (12) sair-teeth, toothache (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 265; Sh., n. and em.Sc.(a) 1969); (13) sair wame, -wyme, colic, stomach-ache (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 265; n. and em.Sc.(a) 1969); (14) sair wye, adv., in a sore manner, seriously (Sh. 1969); (15) to hae (oneself) sair, to straiten or stint oneself, to be hard pressed.(1) Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 125:
A sark fu' o' right sair-wrought banes.
(2) Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxix.:
This is a sight for sair een!
Sc. 1845 Edb. Tales (Johnston) I. 175:
Bless me, Mr Herries, is this you? — Ye're a sight for sair e'en.
Abd. 1926 M. Argo Makkin' o' John 26:
The sicht o' you is guid for sair een.
(3) (i) Abd. 1964:
He has on his sair face the day — he is in a self-pitying mood, very sorry for himself, trying to get sympathy.
(ii)Sc. 2004 Scotsman (27 Feb) 11:
Lord James went on to refer to the three rs - "reading, writing and mathematics" - and asked us to note: "There is an attack against a teacher every seven minutes." Jings, he must have a sore face.
Sc. 2004 Evening Times (4 Sep) 20:
Most observers felt Rangers had played better than at any time in any of the five matches they lost last season to Celtic - but they still ended up going home with a sore face.
Sc. 2004 Herald (21 Oct) 37:
Donetsk, therefore, was merely the latest in a series of trips to foreign fields that has ended with Celtic returning empty-handed and, in the Glasgow vernacular, with a sair face.
Sc. 2004 Daily Record (22 Oct) 60:
My ex treated me very badly. He had countless affairs. He even made a pass at my sister and more than once gave me a sore face.
(4) Sc. 1720 J. Kelly Proverbs 226:
Keep something for the sore foot. Preserve something for Age, Distress, and Necessity.
Sc. 1729 W. MacIntosh Inclosing 60:
A poor Return, when Rent, Servants Wages and House keeping is taken off. What can be laid up for the Sore-foot?
Hdg. 1790 J. Mylne Poems 39:
But tent this: — Feather now your nest, Hain for a sair foot.
Dmf. 1821 H. Duncan S. Country Weaver 16:
You maun just leave your wee pose where it is, for a sair foot, as the saying is.
Ayr. 1836 Galt in Tait's Mag. (June) 393:
I had mair than seven pounds to the fore for a sair foot.
s.Sc. 1898 E. Hamilton Mawkin xviii.:
We shall yet keep something for a sair foot.
(5) (i) Uls. 1904 E.D.D.:
He fell in the mud, an' made a sore han' o' himsel'. He tried to paint the boat, and made a sore hand of it.
(ii) Gsw. 1958 C. Hanley Dancing in the Streets 39:
A woman . . . lauched at me and said: “My, that's a terrible sore haun you've got!” I couldn't understand why a play-piece should be called a sore hand, but it always is.
w.Lth. 1960:
I wiz eatin ma piece and Ian comes ower and say, 'Ye gota sair hand, hen?'
Edb. 1983:
That's a sair-hand ye've goat there.
Edb. 1992:
When I was a wee boy my mammy called that a 'sair hand'. [said to a child eating a large sandwich]
(6) (ii) Slk. 1820 Hogg Bridal of Polmood xii.:
It would be presuming too much and touching the king upon the sore heel.
Ags. 1823 A. Balfour Foundling I. v.:
These gibes, according to our national proverb, pressed hard upon the young laird's sair heel.
(7) (i) Fif. 1704 P.S.A.S. LVI. 54:
She found her complaining of a sore head.
Mry. 1716 E. D. Dunbar Social Life (1865) 67:
He drinks lyke a d — l, and I have had many sore heads with him.
Abd. 1791 Aberdeen Mag. 756:
He retained the use of all his senses to the last, and never had, during his whole life, a sore head or sick heart.
Rnf. 1843 Children in Trades Report (2) I 35:
There are not very many complaints; but whiles a sorehead or sickness just.
Sc. 1896 Stevenson W. of Hermiston vi.:
I'll say ye had a sair heed, if ye like.
Arg. 1914 N. Munro New Road ii.:
The only trouble I have, . . . is a right sore head.
Ags. 1930 A. Kennedy Orra Boughs xxiv.:
They've managed to sublimate his sair-heids.
Sc. 1996 Scotland on Sunday (28 Jan) 16:
Sair heids and drookit sporrans will be the order of the day at Scottish Television's fun factory today in the aftermath of a mass ceilidh last night in the Henry Wood Hall.
Sc. 2002 Daily Mail (1 Nov) 92:
Some say Souness is just a cuddly Teddy-bear since triple bypass surgery on his belligerently bristling 'tache, others say he is still a bear with a right sair heid.
Sc. 2003 Scotland on Sunday (12 Jan) 42:
...the old prophesy of 'sair heids the morn' hardly deters any of us from getting hog whimpering drunk on Hogmanay and suffering from the ill effects for days afterwards.
ne.Sc. 2004 Press and Journal (10 May) 12:
It wis the dother o Mrs Rae an memories cam floodin back o a dear, dear lady, bidin at Cluny Home Fairm in the war years, an ma teacher, indeed, fin I wis bit a peely-wally five-eer-aul, a richt knee cover't ower wi warts an a lad that nott tae be aff skweel eence the fortnicht wi blindin sair heids follow't bi the spewin.
(ii) Abd. 1932 J. White Moss Road 32:
A cake wrapped in paper and called by Betsy a “sair heidie”.
Ags. 1967 Dundee Courier (29 May):
My paris bun, scotch bun or “sair heid”.
Gsw. 1972 Molly Weir Best Foot Forward (1974) 73:
A round thick sponge cake, with pieces of sugar on top and a strip of paper round the outside, which we called 'a sair heidie', because the paper reminded us of the hankies our mothers tied round their foreheads when they had a headache.
Sc. 1984 Scots Magazine Dec :
Other favourites were 'sair-heidies' (round iced Madeira cakes)...
Abd. 1990 Stanley Robertson Fish-Hooses (1992) 127:
She aye managed tae have fine paris-buns or sair-heidies intae her cake box, and wid give him a nice tea or dinner. They were an ideal relationship as granny and grandson.
Abd. 1991 Aberdeen Evening Express (2 Apr):
Aye, but we spent it on twa sair headies an' a flies' cemetery...
Ags. 1995 Courier (18 Mar):
Paving stones, puggie buns, sair heids, snuff-boxes, and nickies/nickeys.
(8) Sc. 1727 P. Walker Remark. Passages 20:
I parted o' er easily with thee, which has been many a sore Heart to me.
Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery xxvi.:
Mony a sair heart have the Piercies given to Scots wife and bairns.
Sc. 1834 M. Scott Tom Cringle's Log vi.:
It will be a sore heart to poor Sarah; she has no mother now, nor father.
Ags. 1860 A. Whamond James Tacket xxxv.:
I ken somebody no far awa' that'll hae a sair heart.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff, 43:
He niver sehns awa ony ane wee a sair hairt.
Dmf. 1898 J. Paton Castlebraes 47:
Her mither is unco sair-herted.
Edb. 1900 E. H. Strain Elmslie's Drag-Net 14:
Mony a sair heart I got by it.
Rxb. 1921 Kelso Chronicle (18 Feb.) 2:
There's ae sair hairt in that train at ony rate.
Abd. 1928 P. Grey Making of a King 46:
I dinna wint Tibby tae get a sair he'rt.
Gsw. 1950 H. W. Pryde McFlannel Family Affairs 77:
You won't ever — do anything that would give her a sore heart, will you, Matt?
(9) Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 22:
Lay Sunkots up for a sair Leg.
Sc. 1827 R. Chambers Picture Scot. II. 10:
Provision being made in days of prosperity for “sair legs,” old age, or bad times.
(10) Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 146:
For curin' me o' my sair-lump, That lang has been my pest.
(11) Mry. 1965 Stat. Acc.3 187:
During the Second World War, and indeed on many farms at the present time, the rotation known as the “sair-six”, was followed — two cereal crops, a root crop, a cereal and two grasses.
(12) Mry. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 19:
Fu wis Jamie's sair teeth the day?
(14) Sh. 1959 New Shetlander No. 51. 9:
Nancy . . . got da broonkaidies gey sair wye eftir a sokkin.
(15) Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xxxviii.:
He had himsell sair borrowing siller to stand the law.

II. n. 1. As in Eng., a sore, lit. and fig. Gen.Sc. Also a wound, a bruise (Sc. 1808 Jam.); sorrow, grief. Obs. in Eng. exc. dial.Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 18:
Better auld debts than auld sairs.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 15:
Back with the halesome girss in haste she hy'd, An' tentyly unto the sair apply'd.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 112:
The brag and glory o' his sairs.
Rnf. 1877 J. Neilson Poems 57:
They're sleepin' Their sairs hale on grandfaither's knee.
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 10:
She's aye castin up auld sairs.
Sc. 1931 I. Burnett The Ravens iv.:
Auld sins breed new sairs, they say.

2. A weak part in a piece of metal, a crack.Sh. 1899 Shetland News (11 Mar., 13 May):
Na sorrow a dim o' soda doo's pittin' in. Da sair o' dis ane is as white as can be. . . . I gripped up da faeder an' luiked at da saer o' da iron.

III. adv., with meanings corresp. to those in I. above: 1. sorely, seriously, grievously, so as to cause pain, distress or grief (Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen.Sc. Sore as an adv. is arch. or dial. in Eng.Abd. 1739 Caled. Mag. (1788) 505:
Some grein'd for ae hawf hour's mair fun, 'Cause fresh and nae sair fail'd.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 208:
Phoebus, sair cow'd wi' simmer's hight.
Hdg. a.1801 R. Gall Poems (1819) 6:
Wha can see Auld Halyrude wi' tearless e'e? Its polished towers neglected sair.
Sc. 1825 Hind Etin in Child Ballads No. 41 A. li.:
She was sae sair sunk down wi shame.
Rxb. 1826 A. Scott Poems 98:
He tried to rin, but oh! his legs Forgat their office sair.
Slk. 1829 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) x.:
My Leddy, I am unco grieved to see you in sic a plight. Ye hae surely been dooms sair left to yoursell.
Sc. 1862 A. Hislop Proverbs 138:
He's sairest dung that's paid wi' his ain wand.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xlvii.:
He'll be a sair-miss't man.
s.Sc. 1873 J. A. H. Murray D.S.C.S. 168:
Sayr is used when a degree of pity or regret is expressed, as “the waa was sayr broken doon”.
Bwk. 1880 T. Watts Woodland Echoes 112:
I'm wae tae see ye look sae lean, . . . Hech! man, but ye've fa'en sair o' late.
Sc. 1910 L. M. Watt In Poets'Corner 136:
I'm stricken tae death fu' sair.
Kcb. 1912 A. Anderson Later Poems 5:
An sair, sair, he was hauden doon, Wi' mony a weary wecht.
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 19:
Matthih's sair altert; hei's no leike the same man.
m.Sc. 1979 Ian Bowman in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 40:
O mony hae pri'ed a kiss o ma mou
an ane that pri'ed me has cost me sair,
for he was the ane I was fain to lo'e;
but I sall see him nevermair.

2. In a distressed or lamentable manner, freq. of weeping. Gen.Sc.wm.Sc. 1865 R. Buchanan Inverburn (1882) 104:
She was greeting sair.
Bnff. 1867 Banffshire Jnl. (8 Jan.) 2:
My wife grat sair an' it whiten'd her hair When forc'd frae the craft we had laboured sae lang.
Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 113:
Shü . . . grat lang an' sair.
Ags. 1891 Barrie Little Minister xxiv.:
I'm no greeting so sair but what I grat sairer when my mither died.
Edb. 1906 Rymour Club Misc. 58:
What is it that hings heich, and cries sair, Has a heid, And nae hair? (A bell).
Dmf. 1920 J. L. Waugh Heroes 131:
The God o' justice an' righteousness will yet set a' things richt, and wipe every sair-begrutten e'e.
wm.Sc. 2000 Liz Lochhead Medea 4:
canna sleep greets till she can greet nae mair
stares at the cauld grunn greets again greets sair

3. With great exertion, at the cost of much toil or trouble, hard, laboriously (ne.Sc. 1969). Combs. sair-won, hardly-earned; sair wroucht, hard-worked (Id.).Ayr. 1786 Burns Cotter's Sat. Night iv.:
To deposite her sair-won penny-fee.
Edb. 1795 H. MacNeill Scotland's Scaith xii.:
Will wrought sair; but aye wi' pleasure.
Dmf. 1870 R. Cromek Remains 48:
We've fouchten teuch, an' warstled sair.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxviii.:
Lang it was ere he died — he strove. and strove sair, and could neither die nor live.
Ayr. 1821 Galt Annals i.:
She had to work sore for their bit and drap.
Abd. 1868 G. MacDonald R. Falconer i. xv.:
Thae greedy gleds o' professors to pay, that live upo' the verra blude and banes o' sair-vroucht students!
Gsw. 1879 A. G. Murdoch Rhymes 99:
An' mony a sair-fochten battle Wi' pokers an' spurkles we had.
Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 58:
Better hain weel than work sair.
Ags. 1920 A. Gray Songs from Heine 26:
I ettled sair to rise up And meet my love ance mae.
Abd. 1926 L. Coutts Lyrics 6:
My mither badgert lang an sair.
Abd. 1964:
He vrocht sair aa his days.

4. Painfully, cruelly, harshly, so as to cause suffering (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc.s.Sc. 1784 Jock o' the Side in Child Ballads No. 187 xix.:
Full fifteen stane o Spanish iron They hae laid a' right sair on me.
Ayr. 1784 Burns Twa Herds xvi.:
That fell cur ca'd “common-sense”, That bites sae sair.
m.Lth. 1870 J. Lauder Warblings 26:
But when she had reach'd the Holly, Troth I prick'd her fingers sair.

5. With vehemence or intensity, with all one's strength, feelings, etc.Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 177:
In vain thro' woods you sair may ban Th' envious treachery of man.
Edb. 1812 W. Glass Caled. Parnassus 8:
The rain rains sair, gae let him in.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 244:
The sheep grow mawket on the hill, And sair themsells they claw.
Bwk. c.1860 Minstrelsy (Crockett 1893) 271:
He prayed her sair to forgi'e him there.
Dmf. 1875 P. Ponder Kirkcumdoon 22:
Wytin' ye sair for drivin' sae muckle vitril an' coal an' lime i' weet wether.
ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 19:
Haud him sicker, haud him sair.
n.Sc. 1916 M. MacLean Songs Roving Celt 38:
As sair she lookit ayont the faem.

6. In respect of need: urgently, direly. Comb. sair-not, badly-needed (ne.Sc. 1969). See Note, v., 2.Mry. 1865 W. Tester Poems 106:
I wat she is a sair-not wife.
Rnf. 1876 D. Gilmour Pen' Folk 35:
Speak a word o' comfort to that poor, broken-hearted, bairnless mother, for she needs it sair.

7. As an intensive simply, with verbs: (1) very much, greatly, to a very considerable degree (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Usu. in neg. expressions when the verb qualified implies liking or pleasure. Extended in 1899 quot. to mean very well, attractive, pleasant. Superl. sairest, most of all.Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 19:
Tho' the young fouks liked ither sair.
Dmf. 1808 J. Mayne Siller Gun 42:
Tho' whozzling sair and cruppen down.
Abd. 1809 J. Skinner Amusements 103:
A frien' like you delights me sair.
Sc. 1827 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 289:
A bit fat, dumpy cretur, wi' unco short legs, and stickin out geyan sair.
m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 288:
To keep oot o' sicht as sair's we could.
Ags. 1859 C. S. Graham Mystifications 31:
Some o' them didna like it sair.
Sc. 1878 D. Vedder Poems 59:
Tho' cauld, wi' his asthma, is sair to be dreaded.
Slk. 1892 W. M. Adamson Betty Blether 49:
Altho' I didna get an invitation, I haena ta'end that sair tae hert.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders xxii.:
Ye need that lass sair aboot the auld Isle o' Rathan.
Abd. 1899 W. D. Geddes J. Geddes 49:
All the defence or explanation he was able to make regarding the victim [of a witch-trial] was — “Saul, ony way, she didna lyeuk sair”. Thence came the saying, “Jist like Wastha's witch, she didna lyeuk sair”.
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo i.:
I'm dootin' sair I'm on the brink o' Jordan.
Ags. 1920 A. Gray Songs from Heine 19:
The thing that fashed me sairest.

(2) with adjs. and advs.: very, extremely (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; ne.Sc. 1969).Ayr. 1790 Burns Tam o' Shanter 111:
But Maggie stood right sair astonished.
Sc. 1816 Scott B. Dwarf i.:
Your father wad hae been sair vexed to hae seen the auld peel-house wa's pu'd down.
Ags. 1821 D. Shaw Songs 16:
Poor thing, she was lookin sair down.
Ayr. 1824 A. Crawford Tales Grandmother 182:
He was sair out in his reckoning.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xv.:
Up cam a chield, sair forfaughten, an a' out of breath.
Abd. 1868 G. MacDonald R. Falconer II. iii.:
I'm sair pleased wi' your playin.
Fif. 1896 G. Setoun R. Urquhart ii.:
I'm no sair pleased at seein' ye out.
Mry. 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. 123:
I cudna see oot intae the square fae the shop winda for aboot fower month, the snaw was that sair bankit up.
Rxb. 1913 Kelso Chronicle (14 Feb.) 4:
“Young man,” quo' she, “Your offer's fair, An' sair am I behauden.”
Abd. 1922 Weekly Free Press (28 Jan.) 3:
Aw'm nae that sair fittet aboot that.
Rxb. 1954 Hawick News (18 June) 7:
Sair dressed — well dressed.
Fif. 1964 R. Bonnar Stewartie 2. i.:
Jack Dickson did not seem very sore pleased that both Stewartie and Alfie were in the other Union.

8. Special combs. and phrs.: (1) sair aff, badly off, in straitened circumstances, very hard up (Sc. 1825 Jam.; ‡Abd., w. and sm.Sc. 1969); (2) sair awa wi't, far gone, worn out by sickness, hard usage or the like, of persons and things (ne.Sc., em.Sc.(a) 1969); (3) sair by wi't, id. (Abd. 1969); (4) sair-come-hame-like, deflated, taken down a peg, brought low in spirit or fortune (Fif. 1969); (5) sair done, (i) of meat: well done, over-cooked (ne.Sc. 1969); (ii) worn out with age or frailty; (6) sair gaun, adverse, hard, unlucky, full of difficulties and misfortunes; (7) sair made, hard pressed, exhausted, sorely distressed, strained to the utmost (ne.Sc. 1969). See also Mak, 19.; (8) sair set, id. (Abd. 1969); burdened with care, tense. Also in n.Eng. dial.; (9) sair socht, very exhausted, enfeebled with illness, age, etc. (Sc. 1825 Jam.); (10) sair ta'en, = (7); (11) sair through (wi't), = (2); (12) sair wrocht, also sair vrocht. Hard worked. (2) Abd. 1889 Bon-Accord (23 Feb.) 9:
The dolman wis sair awa wi't.
 Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains and Hilly 4:
Aw doot he's gey sair awa' wi' 't. Aw've thocht 'im leukin' ull this fyle back.
Bnff. 1993:
He's gey sair awa wi't.
(3) Abd. 1895 G. Williams Scarbraes 48:
I'm sair by wi' 't, wad ye lat's hear a bit wordie o' prayer?
(4) Fif.3 1930:
She was a braw lass but she got a bad man and noo she's sair-come-hame-like.
(5) (i) Sc. 1825 Jam.:
Meat much roasted, is said to be sore or sair done.
(ii) e.Lth. 1908 J. Lumsden Th'Loudons 234:
To veesit sair-dune Unele Will.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 24:
I can tell hoo sair-duin-by Scotland is,
yet he's richt: he's got whit he needs
and it's a gey sicht mair nor monie anither.
Whaun bairns stairve whitna point in this?
(6) Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 1:
Sheu wus a sair ga'n year amang the gentry.
(7) Sc. 1881 A. Mackie Scotticisms 60:
He was very sore-made carrying the sack up the hill.
Ags. 1896 A. Blair Rantin Robin 19:
Nae ither body's half sae sair made, whether wi' pain or sic like.
Abd. 1964 Huntly Express (10 Jan.) 2:
I ance thocht I wis gyan tae dee mysel' ower the heids o' a quine gyan aff wi' anither lad. Lord, fat sair made I wis.
Edb. 1995:
I wis sair made when I heard aboot her death.
Bnff. 2004:
She was affa sair made about brakkin the bowlie.
(8) Abd. 1923 R. L. Cassie Heid or Hert iv.:
A dwaum o' pain disturbs her sair-set face fae time tae time.
(9) s.Sc. 1898 E. Hamilton Mawkin xx.:
The sheep's awfu' sair-sought as it is, and couldna well travel the length of Brankholm.
(10) Cai. 1872 M. Maclennan Peasant Life 42:
Y're sair ta'en, lad! Whaur is't ye feel bad?
(11) Edb. 1887 R. F. Hardy T. Telfer's Shadow 87:
I'm sair through an' unco wakely, or I'd hae come mysel'.
em.Sc. 1912 W. Cuthbertson Dykeside Folk 6:
He's sair through wi't.
(12)Abd. 1993:
At loons is gey sair vrocht, an em sae young.
m.Lth. 1994:
People are nivver sair wrocht nowadays.
ne.Sc. 2004 Press and Journal (4 Oct) 12:
The men were sair vrocht an mangin for the cup that cheers.

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Sair adj., n., adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



Hide Advanced Search

Browse SND: