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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WAE, n., adj. Also wey, we (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928) s.v. ve), ¶wea, wai (Sc. c.1818 Edom o' Gordon in Child Ballads (1956) V. 248), †wa. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. woe. [we:]

I. n. 1. As in Eng., now chiefly liter.Abd. 1759 F. Douglas Rural Love 12:
Wae befel the teeth within.
Edb. 1772 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 83:
I kent that it forespak approachin wae.
Ayr. 1784 Burns Twa Herds xii.:
McGill has wrought us meikle wae.
Abd. 1847 Gill Binklets 69:
They that winna well do, maun wae thole.
Knr. 1886 H. Haliburton Horace 82:
An' whisper in the midst o' waes That they too have an ending.
Ayr. c.1892 R. Lawson Ball. Carrick 16:
Come weel, come wae, I care na by.
Gsw. 1916 J. Fergus The Doctor 8:
He was blythe in their blytheness and wae wi' their wae.

Freq. in combs. and derivs. as waebegane, -gone (Sc. 1836 Wilson's Tales of the Borders III. 29; Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo 131; Sh., Cai. 1973, waebegeen), wae forlorn (Edb. 1798 H. MacNeill Sc. Muse (1806) II. 158), waef(o)u, -fa (Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 18, -fou; Ayr. 1789 Burns I gaed a waefu' Gate i.; Sc. 1806 Scott Letters (Cent. Ed.) I. 333; Slk. 1813 Hogg Poems (1874) 34; Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xv.; Kcb. 1912 A. Anderson Later Poems 32; Abd. 1920 T. McWilliam Light & Shadow 84, -fa; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Sh., n., m., s.Sc. 1973); waifu (Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Benachie 97), waefulike (Edb. 1891 Mod. Sc. Poets (Edwards) XIV. 148), waefu'some (Mry. 1839 Lintie o' Moray (1887) 86), waesome, waesum, woeful, sorrowful, sad, melancholy, causing sorrow (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Sh., n., m., s.Sc. Uls. 1973), also in Eng. dial.; shabby in dress (Rxb. 1973). See -Some, suff., 1. (1). Also used adv. Superl. waesomest, adv. waesomely, n. waesomeness; wae-stricken (Ags 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. 16), wo-wan, pale with grief, wae-washen, tear-stained (m.Sc. 1827 A. Rodger Peter Cornclips 176), wae-wearied (Kcd. 1822 G. Menzies Poems (1854) 172), wae-weirded, fated to endure sorrow. See Weird, v.; wae-worn (Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 195; Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. 69; Sh., Cai. 1973).Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xliv.:
She kend her lot would be a waesome ane.
Slk. 1823 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1876) i.:
They said it was the waesomest thing ever was seen.
Gsw. 1863 H. Macdonald Poems 51:
But the loud, loud lauch, is a far sadder soun' That is wrung frae a wae-weirded saul.
Peb. 1865 R. Sanderson Poems 30:
Baith wo-wan an' weary.
Ags. 1889 D. W. Archer Leaves from Logiedale 69:
He looked waesomely round the room.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Lilac Sunbonnet xxix:
Down in the sedges by the lake a blackcap sang sweetly, waesomely.
em.Sc. 1909 J. Black Melodies 68:
The farmers' lot was waesome hard.
s.Sc. 1947 L. Derwent Clashmaclavers 63:
A' thae fowk passin' each ither by without a frien'ly word. It's fair waesome.
Ags. 1950 Scots Mag. (October) 47:
Yon was a waesome time, the very mindin' o' it near gars me greet.
Sc. 1970 Sc. Poetry 5. 84:
In aa this waesomeness and want.
m.Sc. 1987 Tom Scott in Joy Hendry Chapman 47-8 5:
Lookin doun on some waste-littert street
Whaur raggit weans wi waesome bare feet
Play like mongrels in the clairty gutters,
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 18:
An syne ma waesome wechty fraacht
Growes licht, yer sangie warms ma veins
Like some aal ballad's liltin strains
Or like a love-brew's heidy draacht.
Sc. 1995 David Purves Hert's Bluid 23:
... the airnin sklef o ilka lirk that kens itsell,
the fell progress that buids ti mell the human race
intil a waesum brie o sachlessness foraye.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 55:
An that is foo I maun set doon this tale: as a tellin tae ye aa, fit can happen fin men alloo the waesome wuidness o war.

2. Used in combs. and phrs. in exclam. of grief or denunciation, now chiefly arch. or dial. in Eng.: (1) wae (be) to, a curse upon, may sorrow befall!; (2) wae dearucks, oh dear, alas!; (3) wae fa, = (1); (4) wae gae by, = (1); (5) wae on, id.; (6) wae's me (the day), woe is me, alas!, dear, dear! (Per., Ayr. 1915–23 Wilson). Gen. (exc. I.) Sc., also in Eng. dial. Also in reduced form ¶waes; (7) wae's my craws, id. See Craws; (8) wae's my fell, id. See Fell, n.5; (9) wae's (my) heart, weys-e-hert (Cai. 1921 T.S.D.C.; Cai., Ags. 1973), id. Also in Eng. dial.; ‡(10) waesuck(s), -socks, -zucks (Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 50), -saeks, id., the second element prob. representing sakes (see Sake, n.) (Cld. 1808 Jam.; ‡Per. 1973). Also waesucks betide, waesucks me, id., and in nonce usage as a n. waezocks, lamentations; †(11) wae's wow, id. See Wow; (12) wae traik upon, = (1). See Traik, v.1, 3. (3); (13) wae worth (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, s.v. Weird), -wirt (Ork.), and corrupted forms -want, -wint (Sc. 1825 Jam. s.v. wint), ¶-wags (ye), -wudge ( < word ye), id. (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928) s.v. Ve), also in n.Eng. dial. See Worth, v.(1) Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 159:
Wae to that Hand, that dares by Day or Night Defile the Stream where sporting Fries delight.
Sc. 1737 Bonnie Earl of Murray in Child Ballads No. 181 A. ii.:
Now wae be to thee, Huntly! And wherefore did you sae?
Ayr. 1794 Burns Lovely Lass Inverness iv.:
Now wae to thee, thou cruel lord, A bluidy man I trow thou be.
Slk. 1813 Hogg Queen's Wake 83:
Now wae be to the puir auld man That ever he saw the day!
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb vii.:
Wae, wae, to the men that forder sic unsanctifiet wark.
(2) m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 257:
“Wae dearucks! O waesucks!” mumbled Mrs Corphoodie.
(3) Lnk. 1890 H. Muir Reminisc. 24:
Wae fa' the fallow, whate'er his position.
(4) Ayr. 1788 Burns Duncan Gray i.:
Weary fa' you, Duncan Gray! Wae gae by you, Duncan Gray!
(5) Ayr. 1788 Burns Duncan Gray ii.:
Wae on the bad girdin o't.
em.Sc. 1881 A. Wardrop Poems 121:
Wae on thae shares, that's caused my sares.
(6) Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 14:
Lindy, Lindy, waes me are ye dead?
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 117:
O, wae's me! the Thistle springs In Domicile o' ancient Kings.
Ayr. 1785 Burns Death and Dr Hornbook xxiii.:
Waes me for Johnie Ged's Hole now.
Gsw. 1815 W. Glen Poems (1874) 121:
Aye the owercome o' his sang Was, “Wae's me for Prince Charlie!”
Edb. 1866 J. Smith Merry Bridal 46:
Yet waes-me on the thocht, Jamie! I canna think thee deid!
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 23:
But, waes! I fear oor bonnie bairn will no' be wi' us lang.
Ayr. 1879 J. White Jottings 275:
Oh, waes me the day! my heart fill'd sae fou when I thocht o' the rent.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xi.:
Wae's me for my Greek and Hebrew.
Kcb. 1904 Crockett Strong Mac xxvi.:
Waes me — it's a' gane! It's a' by and dune wi'!
Sc. 1925 H. McDiarmid Sangschaw 49:
Wae's me that thocht I kent the warl', Wae's me that made a God.
Sc. 1947 D. Young Braird o' Thristles 15:
When sall I see again reek sclim the air, Wae's me! frae thon wee toun whaur I wad rest.
em.Sc. 1988 James Robertson in Joy Hendry Chapman 52 72:
Syne the first auld man, he shoutit, 'Wae's me for a clumsy cuif!' And he fell back deid on the bink.
(7) Per. 1802 S. Kerr Poems 18:
An' no to've left ye, waes my craws! Wi' bare, unroof'd, unfinish'd wa's.
Ags. 1819 A. Balfour Campbell I. xviii.:
But wae's my craws! our gudeman gat's head fu' o' nonsense.
(8) Mry. 1806 J. Cock Simple Strains 115:
Ah! wae's my fell! My manhood, now, gaed clean awa.
(9) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 177:
'Mang man, wae's-heart! we aften find The brawest drest want peace of mind.
Ayr. 1783 Burns Death of Mailie 9–10:
He saw her days were near-hand ended, But, wae's my heart! he could na mend it!
Dmf. 1817 W. Caesar Poems 146:
But waes my heart I'll e'en be poor.
Ags. 1826 A. Balfour Highland Mary I. iii.:
Waes my heart! I fear I sinned, for I grat for my dead Angus.
Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 166:
Oh! Rover, Rover, wae's my heart!
(10) Edb. 1772 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 80:
Waesuck for him wha has na fek o't!
Ayr. 1786 Burns Holy Fair xxv.:
Waesucks! for him that gets nae lass, Or lasses that hae naething.
Rnf. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 124:
And a' ye barn-door bauns an flocks, Gae squeek an squeel wi' loud waezocks.
Edb. 1824 Royal Sc. Minstrelsy 185:
Come Netherplace, and leave your bride, Or, ha'e ye nane? — wae-sucks betide.
Gsw. 1868 J. Young Poems 160:
Wae-sucks me, for my big Jock!
Edb. 1872 J. Smith Jenny Blair 78:
Waes-ucks the day when a true heart's naething without a braw coat.
Rxb. 1881 R. Fairley Poems 80:
Oh! waesocks me how life's divided.
Abd. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 67:
Tibbie made a gweed wife tae Tam, bit waesucks! the wooin' o' her.
(11) Edb. 1786 Edb. Ev. Courant (12 Dec.):
But, ah! waes wow! It bleaz'd up like a comet keen.
(12) Bwk. 1823 A. Hewit Poems 105:
Wae traik upon this courtin' trade.
(13) Sc. 1718 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 79:
Wae-worth ye'r drunken Saul.
Abd. 1733 W. Forbes Dominie Depos'd (1765) 30:
Wae worth that weary sup of drink He lik'd so well.
Ayr. 1785 Burns Sc. Drink xv.:
Wae worth that brandy, burnin trash!
Abd. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 69:
Wae wags ye, chiel, whare hae ye been?
Sc. c.1818 Dugall Quin in Child Ballads No. 294 A. x.:
Wea matt worth yer well-fared face, Alas that ever I saa ye!
Dmf. 1824 W. McVitie Tales Ingle-Cheek II. 113:
O wae worth thee, Rab Graham, thou's played me a bonnie pliskie.
Rnf. c.1850 Crawfurd MSS.:
Wawudge! my bonnie ten gimmers War smuir't amang the snaw.
Ags. 1868 G. Webster Strathbrachan I. xiv.:
Wae want thae fiddles.
Lth. 1905 J. Lumsden Croonings 323:
Wae worth their name that wrought such shame.
Ork. 1931 J. Leask Peculiar People 174:
Wae wirt da ting, gin hid's no here i' me pootch.

II. adj., arising from impers. expressions wae is me, me is wae > wae am I, I am wae. Of persons: sad, sorrowful, grieved, melancholy (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Per., Ayr. 1915–23 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). Also of the heart, feelings, look, words; of the sky; dismal, dreary (Wgt. 1956). Gen.Sc., also in n.Eng. dial. Compar. wae(e)r (Ayr. 1818 Kilmarnock Mirror 33; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 232), superl. wae(t)st (Ayr. 1795 Burns Election Ball. No. 3 i.; Kcb. 1815 J. Gerrond Poems 103). Adv. waely. Deriv. waeness, sadness, sorrow (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Combs. heart-wae, heart-sore, waehearted(ly).Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 211:
I am wae for your skathe.
Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 159:
With his Complaint my Saul grew wae.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 191:
Now ilka glaikit scholar lown May dander wae wi' duddy gown.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Twa Dogs 94:
Mony a time my heart's been wae.
Sc. 1816 Scott Black Dwarf vii.:
I'm wae ye suld hae cause to say sae.
Sc. 1823 Lockhart Reg. Dalton I. 188:
Ye've gotten a wae look wi' you.
Abd. 1836 J. Grant Tales 208:
She's something wan and wae-like.
e.Lth. 1882 P. M'Neill Battles 21:
Waely he sung o' a lass he lo'ed.
Sc. 1890 Margaret Oliphant Kirsteen (1984) 116:
I'm wae to disturb ye, but I must take the cairt back to the town, and my ain house is two miles down the loch.
Kcb. 1896 Crockett Grey Man xxvii.:
Waeheartedly enough we left the little white housie behind us.
Kcb. 1902 Crockett Dark o' Moon liii.:
I am heart-wae for you.
Arg. 1912 N. Munro Ayrshire Idylls (1935) 299:
I thought the same wae humour came to Galt.
Abd. 1923 R. L. Cassie Heid or Hert iv.:
Thinkin' een wi' a kin' o' a hidden waeness i' them.
Ags. 1934 H. B. Cruickshank Noran Water 2:
Tho' his tongue was licht wi' joke an' tale, His een were wae.
Sh. 1947 Sh. Folk Bk. I. 70:
I was wey, fil ae day 'at postie cam Wi' twa lines fae Tirval ta me.
Bnff. 1956 Banffshire Jnl. (25 Sept.):
I hae a kine o' a wae feelin' tae see sae mony o' the auld-kent lines bein' closed doon.
Slk. 1964 Southern Reporter (26 March) 9:
She was wae to go, and so were her bairns.
em.Sc. 1985 Hamish Henderson in Joy Hendry Chapman 42 5:
and were homesick and wae
for the streams of Europe.
wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 150:
Early of an evening he heard them sing lullabies to their bairns and then, when the babies were soundly asleep, there came fiddle reels and shrill mountain piping, weaving lilts and waltzes ... sometimes plaintive dirges and laments when they were wae.

[O.Sc. wa, 1375, wae, a.1585, woe, wa(y), sorrowful, 1375, wa is me, a.1400, wa worth, 1375, waful, a.1400.]

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"Wae n., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 Jun 2024 <>



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