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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

STRAIT, adj., n., v. Also stret(t), streight, straight. Sc. usages, now obs. or dial. in Eng. [stret; ne.Sc. + strɛt]

I. adj. 1. (1) Narrow, not providing adequate room for passage, close together. Now only dial. in Eng.Sc. 1783 A. Wight Present State Husbandry IV. 602:
They [turnips] were indeed too strait between the rows.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xiv.:
The cleugh we were in was strait.
Fif. 1869 D. Fleming Clashin' Wives 10:
He keeps a black bottle, gey strait at the throttle.

(2) fig. of a problem or argument: close, not easy to decide, nicely-balanced, presenting a dilemma.Sc. 1708 Fountainhall Decisions II. (1759) 468:
The Lords found the case very strait, the favour of minors on the one part, and of creditors on the other.

2. Tight, close-fitting, of bindings, garments, etc., constricted (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 184; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Lth., Lnk., Rxb. 1971). Also in Eng. dial. Also adv. Comb. strait-boots, the boots, an instrument of torture in which the leg was confined between slats of wood which were gradually tightened by wedges driven between them and the leg. Hist.Sc. 1703 M. Martin Descr. W. Isles 209:
The Head dress was a fine Kerchief of Linen strait about the Head.
Sc. 1737 Mrs McLintock Receipts 44:
Roll it in a clean cloth, and tye it up strait with broad Tape.
Sc. 1751 Session Papers, Coopers of Perth v. Davidson (28 Jan.) 20:
Upon the Coopers driving the Hoops straiter, the Fats were tight.
Sc. 1785 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 372:
Thumbikins, strait-boots, and juggs, the instruments which were used formerly in this country for the punishment of certain offences against the church or state.
Mry. 1806 J. Cock Simple Strains 85:
Gin they chance to be o'er strait, I'll stretch them (slippers) yet.
Sc. 1826 Willie o Winsbury in Child Ballads (1886) II. 401:
Her stays were sae strait she could na loot.
Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 16:
They grip their gear sae stret, They live and die in their ain debt.
Ayr. 1861 Carrick Anthol. (Finlayson 1925) 211:
He gart puir folk — nae pleasant matter — To draw their belts a bore the straiter.

3. Tense, taut, stretched to the utmost, rigid; full to bursting (Sh., ne.Sc., Lnk. 1971). Deriv. straitness, tautness, repletion. Phr. strett theats, lit. traces at full tension, hence of work: steady, without a break, with no slackening.Abd. c.1900 A. MacGregor MS.:
I drank an' drank until I wis rale strait.
Abd. 1913 G. Greig Mains Again 41:
They suppit fy till the twa o' them jist skirled for straitness.
Sh. 1952 J. Hunter Taen wi da Trow 35:
Till I began at lent ta feel My pür aal houghs come strett.
Abd. 1961 Huntly Express (8 Dec.):
The farm servants' day was what was known as “ten 'oors — strett theats”.

4. Steep, rising upwards sharply (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 184; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1971). Phr. strait bield, see 1802 quot. Also fig. of a bargain: “steep,” downright.Sc. 1712 Trial of Scot & Mackpherson (1737) 9:
In such a strait and steep place.
Sc. 1721 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. XLI. 187:
The pass at Entriken. This is a strait descent for 400 or 500 yards.
Sc. 1746 Lyon in Mourning (S.H.S.) II. 220:
He try'd to speel up Heavens strate brae.
Slg. 1769 Session Papers, Drummond v. Erskine (30 June) 51:
There is a little Pull at a strait Place at the Wester Roughburn.
Rs. 1770 Pitcalnie MSS. (16 July):
In this world the only way to put a stout heart to a strait brae.
Peb. 1802 C. Findlater Agric. Peb. 194:
The natural shelters are the leeward sides of hills of steep declivity (or strait bields).
ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 189:
The seller, on receiving payment, returned a “luck penny” to the buyer, a sixpence, a shilling, or a larger sum, if it was thought a “stret bargain.”
Bnff. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 83:
Speelin the pad That is strett an' narra.
Abd.27 1950:
He had a strait brae to gang up til's house and it was gey sair on him.

5. Straitened (for resources), short, hard-pressed (Abd. 1971). Obs. exc. dial. in Eng.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 184:
He's gey stret o' siller.

II. n. 1. A narrow part in a street or thoroughfare.Edb. 1781 Caled. Mercury (20 Jan.):
A fore stair within the strait of the Netherbow.

2. In pl.: narrowly defined limits, the strict letter of the law.Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie xxx.:
If you haud me to the straights o' the bargain, I'll just be as severe upon you.

3. An engagement for steady employment, an uninterrupted spell of work, a stretch, with some implication of unremitting labour, “hard graft” (Abd. 1971). Cf. I. 3. Phr.Abd. 1951 Buchan Observer (15 May):
Ye're seerlins nae thinkin' o' takin' on a sax month strett wi' his knabs there.

III. v. ¶1. To make narrow, to draw together from the sides.Sc. 1907 D. Macalister Echoes (1923) 123:
By jaggit scaur, or strettit glen.

2. To tighten, make taut, put tension on. Vbl.n. stretan, tightening (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 184; Bnff., Abd. 1971). Phrs. to strait a rope, to be hanged; to strait the pin, see 1887 quot. and Pin, n.1, 2. (1).Abd. 1774 C. Keith Farmer's Ha' xv.:
Lasses, occupy your wheel, And strait the pin.
Sc. 1805 Fair Mary in Child Ballads (1898) V. 228:
Fan he came to grass grouen, He strated his bou an rane.
Abd. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads I. 116, 249:
He quickly lap upo' the horse, And strait the stirrups siccarlie . . . This weighty Scot sall strait a rope, And hanged he shall be.
Sc. 1887 Jam.:
To strait the pin, to tighten the temper-pin of a spinning-wheel, keep it at the right pitch, which implies close attention to the spinning.

3. To tighten (the stomach), take a hearty meal or “tightener” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 184). Vbl.n. straitan, a hearty meal (Id.).

4. In ppl.adj. straiting, pressing hard on one, imposing hardship, corresp. to Eng. passssive form straitened, which replaced straiting, id., in the 18th c.Gall. 1727 Session Bk. Penninghame (1933) II. 66:
Robert Paple in this parish was in straiting circumstance.
Slg. 1740 Trans. Slg. Nat. Hist. Soc. (1927) 49:
The needcesty of the trade in this streating time.

[O.Sc. strait, narrow, 1375, steep, 1420, tightly drawn, 1569, to bind tightly, c.1500, Mid.Eng. streit, O. Fr. estreit, narrow. The variant spellings show confusion with the (in Eng.) homophonous straight.]

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"Strait adj., n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jun 2024 <>



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