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A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)

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First published 1937 (DOST Vol. I).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Be, Bee, n. Also: beye, bie, bea. [ME. bee, be, OE. béo. ONhb. bío, bía.]

1. A bee.1375 Barb. xi. 368 (ane vax-cayme that beis mais). 14.. Acts I. 385/2 (a swarme of beis). c1420 Wynt. iii. 207 (he fand a byk off beys). 1456 Hay II. 157/26 (wys as a bee or ane emot). c1500-c1512 Dunb. Flyting 217 (the boyis as beis owt thrawis). Id. xv. 8 (he that dronis ay as ane bee). 1513 Doug. xii. Prol. 244 (for bemyng of the beys). 1535 Stewart 44248 (als blyth he wes as ony be in hyfe). 1560 Rolland Seven S. 29/2 (the bie that is richt waik of wing). a1568 Scott i. 105 (as beis takkis honye of the floure). a1605 Montg. Ch. & Slae 62 (the sownding beis).

b. Coupled with the adj. besy or bissy ‘busy’.a1400 Leg. S. xliii. 99 (Cecil as besy be seruit has thé). a1500 Henr. Fab. 2038 (to wirk as besie as ane be). 1513 Doug. xiii. iv. 67 (lyke as emottis and byssy be). c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 1128 (as busie beis dois to thair hyfe). c1552 Id. Mon. 1706 (lyke besy beis vpone the flouris). 1573 Sat. P. xxxix. 78 (gangand lyke ane besy be). 1585 James VI Ess. 73 (bissie as the Bee).

2. fig. A fanciful idea. 1513 Doug. viii. Prol. 120.
Quhat bern be thou in bed, with hed full of beys

3. Attrib. with bike, house, wax. Also Be-skep. 1513 Doug. viii. Prol. 164.
I fand not in all that feild … a be bike
1649 Mun. Univ. Glasg. III. 358.
A bie house in the yard
1653 Stirling B. Rec. II. 319.
1 li. 3 unce bea wax

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"Be n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 5 Feb 2023 <>



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