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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

STRAE, n., v. Also stray (ne.Sc. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads I. 158). [stre:]

I. n. 1. Straw (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Also attrib. as in strae-laft, -stack, -wisp, etc. Adj. strae(i)n, made of straw (Sc. 1808 Jam.).Sc. 1700 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 274:
Jamie jaimsone who threshes the horss and kyes strae.
Bnff. 1706 Annals Banff (S.C.) I. 177:
Mascarading and profane gulling with antique faces, entering men's houses with strae cloaths.
Gsw. 1717 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 632:
For strae and servants wages.
Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 48:
Lang straes are nae motes.
Abd. c.1750 Garland of Bon-Accord (1886) 27:
They row their legs wi' straen rapes.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 223:
Toot aff your horn, Nor care yae strae about the morn.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. lv.:
To rin the beast ower wi' a dry wisp o' strae.
Sc. 1823 Lockhart Reg. Dalton III. 318:
I am ower auld a cat for sic strays as this.
Rxb. 1868 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. 7:
The spindle, which was frequently of wood, was always thought to run most freely in a “strae wisp,” which very possibly it really did, as the silicious surface of the straw would cause little friction.
Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 40:
One high-backed straen chair.
Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Sketches 80, 117:
His gate to the strae-laft fu' sullenly took . . . I' some oothoose or shed, Or mair kindly strae-stack.
Edb. 1897 P. H. Hunter J. Armiger v.:
Their hair the colour o' barley-strae.
Lnl. 1910 J. White Eppie Gray 6:
A bee-skep at the garden tap, Weel buskit roon wi' a strae strap.
Ags. 1921 V. Jacob Bonnie Joann 2:
Owre a'thing the shadows gang trailin', Owre stubble an' strae.
Ork. 1929 Peace's Ork. Almanac 138:
I' da fit o' me bed, an under da strae.
Sh. 1964 Nordern Lichts 9:
Athin yon shimley nyook an aald man sat An wand da straen simmits in a baa.
Bnff. 1967 Banffshire Advert. (22 June) 8:
I wid like tae weir ma strae hat at Peter Fair.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 43:
Miss Innes keeps a rubbit caad Fuskers in a run in the neuk - richt bosker o a beast wi lugs as big as bananas. Efter I gaed Fuskers clean strae an a sup carrots an lettuce I tuik him up in ma bosie an we toured the classie.

Combs. (see also Straw): (1) strae-and-dash, the mortar, consisting of a mixture of straw and wet clay, used in old rural buildings (Bnff. 1967); (2) strae-berry, a strawberry (m.Lth. 1800 H. MacNeill Scotland's Scaith 44; Per. 1899 C. M. Stuart Sabbath Nights 49); transf. an ear of corn (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 180); (3) strae-bread, the breadth of a straw (Sh. 1971). See Breed, n.1; (4) strae-buits, straw ropes bound round the legs and feet in place of boots (Ork. 1971); ¶(5) strae-dead, quite dead. A nonce adaptation from (6). See Deid; (6) strae-death, -deith, a natural death in one's bed, as opposed to a violent death in battle or the like, freq. in phr. a fair strae death (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Sh., Slg., Wgt., Dmf. 1971). See also Fair, adj., III. Phrs. and Combs.; (7) strae-draw, a mark of ownership on a sheep's ear, viz. a thin slice cut off one side of the ear along its full length (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1971). Ppl.adj. strae-drawn, having such a mark (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.); (8) strae-en(d), the end of a barn where the straw is built up as it comes from a threshing-mill (Ork., n.Sc., Lth. 1971); (9) strae-heidit, with hair like straw, yellow- or flaxen-haired; (10) strae-heuk, a rope-twister, a thrawcruik (s.v. Thraw) (Sh., Bnff., Abd., Fif., Lth., Bte. 1971); (11) strae-house, a straw-shed or -barn (Ork., Abd., Kcb. 1971); (12) strae-kill, a kiln for drying corn before grinding, in which the grain was laid on straw spread over beams on top of the fire. See Kill, n.1, 1.; (13) strae-man, a mechanical elevator for moving straw after threshing (Slg., Fif. 1971); †(14) strae-merr, a loose board set along the edge of a hox-bed to keep in the bed-clothes and mattress, orig. to prevent the straw used as bedding from falling out (Ork. 1971, obs.). For the second element see Mar, v.1, 1. (1); (15) strae-mouse, the shrew, Sorex araneus (Mry., Abd., Fif. 1971); (16) strae-raip, -rape, a rope made of twisted straw (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). Gen.Sc. See Raip, n., 1.; (17) strae-sitten, sitting tight, as if rooted to the spot, unwilling to budge, metaph. from a broody hen sitting close on her eggs; (18) strae-sonk, a straw cushion used as a saddle (Dmf. 1894 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 155). See Sunk, n.; (19) strae-soo, a rectangular stack of straw. Gen. (exc. I.) Sc. See Soo, n.1, 3. (1); (20) strae-thackit, -theekit, -taekid (Ork.), straw-thatched (Ork., ne.Sc., Ags. 1971); (21) strae wald, variant of straw-wald s.v. Straw, n., 2. (9), dyer's rocket, Reseda luteola.(3) ne.Sc. 1832 P. Buchan Secret Songs 46:
She look'd sae neat intil her clothes, She cou'dna step a strae bread.
(4) Ork. 1832 D. Vedder Orcadian Sk. 16:
His legs were completely enveloped in twisted straw, generally known by the name of “strae boots.”
Ork. 1968 M. A. Scott Island Saga 80:
On cold winter days men used to make “strae-beuts” with simmans; these were leggings made by winding a piece of simman under the instep and over the boot, and working the simman round and round and up and up until the legging reached as far as the knee.
(5) Sc. 1820 R. Mudie Glenfergus II. xviii.:
Gin ye dinna haste ye, doakter, I'm in a dridder it may be strae dead afore ye come on till't.
(6) Abd. c.1760 J. Skinner Amusements (1809) 65:
The loss o' her we cou'd hae born, Had fair strae-death ta'en her awa'.
Abd. 1868 G. MacDonald R. Falconer xxiii.:
She's gane, an' no by a fair strae-deith either.
Kcb. 1902 Crockett Dark o' the Moon xvii.:
The clean strae death of the house-dweller is not for Silver Sand.
(8) Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxv.:
The strae en' ahin the thrashin' mull.
Abd. 1961 Abd. Press and Jnl. (5 Aug.):
We went at it again until the shafe-laft was empty, and the strae-en' biggit up almost to the couples.
(9) s.Sc. 1897 E. Hamilton Outlaws xi.:
When yon strae-headit cuttie comes jickering up to Whithaugh Tower.
(11) Gall. 1881 J. K. Scott Gleanings 89:
Jock sune in his strae-hoose was dozin'.
(16) Abd. 1877 W. Alexander Rural Life 11:
The “thack”, ordinarly fastened on with “strae rapes.”
Abd. 1905 W. Watson Auld Lang Syne 4:
Its timmer lum was wippit with strae-raip.
(17) Ork. 1931 J. Leask Peculiar People 111:
Ar' du strae sitten, at du're no ower bae noo?
(18) Dmf. 1822 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 441:
She hasna gotten sae meikle as a pair o' decent strae-sonks to her back.
(19) Bnff. 1939 J. M. Caie Hills and Sea 36:
Lythe ahin a strae-soo sleepin'.
(20) Abd. 1827 J. Imlah May Flowers 20:
My bield wi' its strae-theekit riggin.
Abd. 1861 Banffshire Jnl. (15 Oct.):
The Cottage a strae-thackit ane.
(21) Sc. 1701 Rec. Sc. Cloth Manufactory (S.H.S.) 228:
To wryt to his father to send noe fullers earth and to hasten the strae uald.

Phrs., freq. proverbial: (1) aff your eggs and on the strae, completely mistaken, off the mark; (2) in the strae, in childbed. Cf. Eng. †in the straw, id.; (3) like straw hangin oot or from a midden, used to describe unkempt, untidy, dirty hair (Ags., Edb., Gsw., Ayr. 2000s); ¶(4) on the strae, on the bed (of sickness), ill; (5) straes in a tanker, a ludicrous term for thin spindly legs (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (6) to bind or tie wi a strae, used in expressions of people so helpless with laughter as to be unable to make any resistance (see quots.) (Sc. 1808 Jam.); (7) to draw a strae across one's beard, — afore one's een, — nose, to tease, provoke, to try to beguile or make sport of, gen. in metaph. use from playing with a cat in this manner (see quots. and Draw, v., 16.) (Sh. 1971). The saying dates from the 15th c. (cf. Henryson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 148); (8) to draw a strae between, to draw a fine distinction or make a slight difference between; (9) to draw straes, to draw lots with straws (Ork., Cai., Abd. 1971); to draw conclusions, to infer, “to tumble to”; (10) to rain auld wives an' strae brechams, to rain “cats and dogs”, in torrents. Cf. Puir, adj., 1. (4) (i) (g); (11) to set straes i da ase, as a means of divination at Halloween (see quot.); (12) to thrash his Sunday strae, of a clergyman: to prepare his Sunday sermon (Bnff. 1925); (13) trimmlin strae, straw from which the grain has been imperfectly threshed (Bnf. 1971). See Bauk, v.2, and Tremmle.(1) Dmf. 1899 Country Schoolmaster (Wallace) 24:
Ye're aff your eggs and on the strae (applied to one who reasons incorrectly).
(2) Abd. 1817 Garland of Bon-Accord (1886) 8:
Fan Baillies' wives war i' the strae, Or muckle-wamed.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 236:
When his Bonny Betty was in the strae.
Abd. 1920 D. Rorie Auld Doctor 1:
Some tinkler wife is in the strae.
(3) Gsw. 1962 Bill McGhee Cut and Run 55:
Her hair was luxuriant in a sort of gipsy way. You know, Straw hanging from a midden.
Gsw. 1964 George Friel The Boy who Wanted Peace (1985) 18:
...he had the same colour of eyes and the same colour of hair though his mother said his hair was "like straw hinging oot a midden".
Gsw. 1985 Michael Munro The Patter 83:
hair like straw hangin oot a midden Applied to dirty or unkempt hair: 'Ye're no gaun oot like that? Yer hair's like straw hangin oot a midden.'
(4) Abd. 1868 W. Shelley Wayside Flowers 103:
When sickness on the strae has laid us.
(6) Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales (1837) II. 152:
I fell just down i' the bit wi' lauchin — ye might hae bund me wi' a strae.
(7) Sc. 1808 Jam.:
“I'm our auld a cat to draw a strae before.” Signifying that one has too much experience to be easily deceived.
Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. 157:
He's no tae draw strays across the beerd o'.
(8) Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems I. 68:
Tho' some piddlin fauts demean us, There's scrimp a strae to draw between us.
(9) Ork. 1931 J. Leask Peculiar People 130:
Da man-o'-war dreu straes whit waas ap an' lenched a boat an' efter dem.
(10) Peb. 1932 O. Douglas Priorsford xxix.:
It was a wet morning, not ordinarily wet, but an even downpour. Mrs. McCosh told the children that it was raining “auld wives an' strae brechums.”
(11) Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 142:
We're just gaen ta set straes i da ase. . . . She took a straw from the floor and nipped it in two pieces about an inch and a half, one being plain, the other having a knot on it. “Dis is Sandy Flaws,” she whispered in Johnnie o' Greentaft's ear, as she stuck the piece with the knot on it in the hot embers; “an dis is Leezie Lowrie,” she whispered again, as she stuck the plain straw beside it. The effect of the heat on the lower ends of the straw was to give them a wavering motion, first parting and then coming close together again, and at last resting against each other.

2. Fig.: a thin person (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Lnk. 1971).

3. In pl.: the caddis-worm, from its case being freq. covered with bits of straw (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).

II. v. To give or supply with straw, as fodder or bedding to animals. Gen.Sc.Abd. 1956 G. S. Morris Bothy Ball. I. 29:
The dother had tae strae and neep.

[O.Sc. stra, straw, 1375, stray breid, straw-breadth, 1500, fair strea deid, 1604, stray hous, 1584, stray wald, 1580, O.N. strá, id. The O.E. form strēaw gives Straw, q.v. For strae-deid cf. O.N. strádauða, dying a natural death.]

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"Strae n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 9 Dec 2022 <>



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