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

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First published 1963 (DOST Vol. III).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Lefe, Leif, v.3 Also: lef, leff(e, leife, leiff(e, leyf(f, leef, lief, leaf. P.t. and p.p. lef(f)it, leif(f)it, leyffyt, etc.; p.p. also (once) leyff. [Var. of Leve v.4 with usual f for final v : cf. also Lif.]See also Lefand pres. p., Lefing pres. p.To live. Occas. approximating to, or in ambiguity with, Lefe v.1 10: see, e.g., the Barbour quot. in sense 1, the first quot. in sense 2 a, the second quot. from Bellenden's Livy in sense 2 b (b).

1. intr. To live, enjoy life, be alive.(1) 1375 Barb. iv. 264 (E).
Minerwe ay wes wont serwe Him [sc. the Devil] till scho leffyt at his diuys
c1420 Ratis R. 1560.
Quhay sa leffis eftirwart
15.. Lord Fergus' Gaist 89.
Nane bot the littill Spenȝie fle … Gert the gaist leif agane
1568 Hosack Mary Q. of Scots 539.
Unworthy to leif on the face of the earth
a1570-86 Maitl. F. lx. 41.
Men may leif without ane king
(2) 1439 Sutherland & Cai. Rec. (Viking C.) 225; 1527 Liber Melros 633.
Agane all tha that leffis ore dee may
1452 Douglas Chart. 79.
To be witht him … befor and againe all that lefe or de may
1453 14th Rep. Hist. MSS. App. iii. 9.
That athir part … sal be tyl vtheris ful help … in all actiounys … mouyt … be ony … persounys that leff may or de may

b. To continue in life, survive.(a) 1487 Wemyss Chart. 110.
Gif it happynis me to lefe eftir the deces of my said fader
(a1570-86 Dunb.) Maitl. F. lxiii. 90.
He will not lat me lef allane
(b) a1500 Rauf C. 612.
Bot he be lattin in beliue, him lykis not to leif [: geif, preif, engreif]
c1475 Wall. ii. 322.
Ȝhit Thomas said, Than sall I leiff na mar Giff that be trow
Ib. xi. 298.
Bettir him thocht … awntur tak othir for to leiff or de
a1500 Seven S. 274.
Sayand that nicht at the lest The child suld leif at thair request
1572 Sat. P. xxxvi. 59.
Thow may weill leif quhill thow at lairge repent it
1597–8 Misc. Spald. C. I. 120.
Saying thir words, Gif thow will leiff, leiff, and gif thow will die, die
1615 Lett. & State P. Jas. VI 258.
Santtandrose hes bein werie seik and no man lippinis he sall leif
1505 Antiq. Aberd. & B. II. 404.
[They] sal stand in unite … as quhilum Beatrix … had leiffit and born bairnis
1570 Sat. P. xix. 59.
Gif he had leifit, na man durst ȝow molest

c. To live or continue to live for a certain period.(1) c1475 Wall. i. 318.
Hyr fadyr was dede, a lang tyme leyffyt had thar
a1540 Freiris Berw. 199.
I sall him quyt, and I leif half a ȝeir
a1586 Maitland Ho. Seytoun 41.
This ladie … leiffit to gud age
c 1614 Melrose P. 601.
One of the livtenants company was shoate … and leifit bot a few dayis
(2) 1430 Antiq. Aberd. & B. IV. 391.
I … sall serff witht iii hors qwyll my fader lefs and efter hym witht sex
1457 Peebles B. Rec. I. 118.
Than the said John sald it agan tyl his moder qwyl scho leyfis that scho nother sel na aly that arscap qwyl scho lefys
1462 Ib. 145.
1504 Dunferm. B. Rec. I. 145.
For all the dayis he has to lef in this cuntre
(b) c1420 Wynt. viii. 6708.
Young men … Walde proffere thare serwyce for to gyff Tyll thaire lordis tyll thai mycht leiff
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 1189.
Your lordschip we may noght forga, alse lang as we leif [: cheif v., = befall]
1521 Glasg. Dioc. Reg. I. 80.
Be consent off Jhone Luyff, the said Jhone brukand qwill he leiffis

d. To live in the memory of men, escape oblivion. a1586 Maitland Ho. Seytoun xi.
That thair fame and name may leif and lest lang

2. To pass life in a specified fashion. = Leve v.4 2.a. (a) 14.. Acts I. *91/2.
Quhar of it may be purwayt hir of a man or of a religiouse house gif that scho lyk to lef chast
a1500 Bk. Chess 532.
That vther women may ensampill tak Be hir hienes [a queen] to lefe thaim heir but lak
a1568 Bann. MS. 238 b/40.
Dewoyd langour & lef in lustines
(b) 1375 Barb. iii. 265.
To dey or to leyff cowartly
c1420 Ratis R. 875.
To schap to leif in sympille, Evynlyk, honest [etc.]
c1460 Thewis Wysmen 164.
Sampill for to gyff Tyll vthir folk weill fore to leif
c1475 Wall. x. 473.
Thow leyffis in sic wys Thow wald me mak at Eduuardis will to be
1540 Lynd. Sat. 256 (B).
To leif lyk ane bummill baty
1571 Sat. P. xxvii. 127.
As thow leiffis so luiffit be
1604 Crim. Trials II. 436.
[To] pas to libertie and lerne to leiff as innocent men
(c) 1556 Lauder Off. Kings 460.
Lust Quhilk makis jugis lief iniuste
(d) 1563 Boyd Fam. P. No. 48 (15 Feb.).
He being ane sober gentleman willing to leaf in quietnes
b. (a) c1460 Wisd. Solomon 673.
To se … terains in heill and velth lef lang
a1500 Bernardus 100.
To dred purete and euer to leffe thar in
Ib. 106.
He leffys in sorow and deis in syne
1533 Boece x. xiii. 379 b.
Pichtis … lefit outlawis in Ingland
(b) 1375 Barb. i. 212.
That thai suld … leyff in pyne
a1500 Henr. Fab. 2917.
Better but stryfe to leif allane in le Than [etc.]
1492 Edinb. B. Rec. I. 65.
Bot gif thai be frie burgessis or leif as stallengeris for the yeir
1533 Bell. Livy I. 36/9.
It wer better to ws to de now heir … than to leif wedois
Ib. 125/8.
That the … deforsare of me sall nocht leif unpunist
1568 Skeyne Pest 16.
Mony … had rather depart riche nor leife pure
1593 Edinb. B. Rec. V. 82.
Ony … persouns … that hes nocht sum knawin … industrie to leif unbeand burdenabill to the toun
c1600 Montg. Suppl. v. 16.
Itt selbe sene Fra leuff I sell leif ever fre
(c) 1570 Leslie 15.
That the Kingis lieges might lief but harme or skaith
(d) 1558-66 Knox I. 364.
To suffer everie man to leaf at libertie of conscience
c. (a) 1551 Hamilton Cat. 117.
And ye leif efter the flesch ye sal dee
1572 Buch. Detect. (1727) 124.
I leif in the beleif
a1570-86 Maitland Maitl. F. clxxx. 10.
How thow sall leif to thi royell estait
a1585 Maitl. Q. lxxiv. 7.
Perforce I man be dum, … and onlye leif by luiking on
(b) 1551 Hamilton Cat. 128.
This is the faith quhairwith the rychteous man leiffis

d. To live under, be subject to (a government or authority). 1426 Acts II. 9/1.
That … the Kingis liegis … leif & be gouernyt vndir the Kingis lawis … of this realme alanerly and vndir na particular lawis
1515 Douglas Corr. 70.
Thai wald be glayd to leyf ondyr the gret Turk to haf justyce
1533 Boece i. ii. 35.
That nocht allanerly suld thai leif togiddir vnder ane law bot [etc.]
1568 Anderson Collect. Mary IV. ii. 54.
That we and thai may leiff under hir hienes in our calling as gude subjectis
1587 Aberd. Council Lett. I. ii.
That the haill indwellaris … sall … leif under protectioun of his majesties obedience to the magistratis

3. quasi-tr., in prec. senses. c1460 Wisd. Sol. 734.
That he leif lang lyfe
1531 Bell. Boece II. 101.
He leiffit ane solitar life
a1578 Pitsc. I. 50/1.
The Earle of Douglas … begane to leif ane better lyfe in tyme coming
Ib. II. 74/16.
That the saull of that man sall never sleip bot ewer sall leif ane imortall lyffe

4. intr. To dwell, reside; to cohabit.(1) 1533 Bell. Livy I. 52/15.
Baith thir pepill war brocht undir ane communite to leif in Rome
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 1136.
In quhat countre Did leif Adam?
(2) c1515 Asl. MS. I. 296/29.
Cheis thé a wyf … and … leif with hir vnder the haly band of matermoney
c1520-c1535 Nisbet Romans vi. 8.
Gif we ar deide with Crist we beleue that alsa we sal leef togiddire with him
1551 Hamilton Cat. 176.
Al gud men and wemen sall leife all togidder in hevin perpetually
1591 10th Rep. Hist. MSS. App. i. 76.
That thay may leif togidder in luif, upricht to God

5. To live or subsist on (upon, of, be, by).(a) 1425 Acts II. 11/2.
The schiref sal … ger kep thaim in festynance quhil it be knawin quhare one thai leif
c1500-c1512 Dunb. lxix. 18.
In tyme prowyde And get sum thing quhairon to leif [: mischeif]
1587 Aberd. Trades App. 331.
Gif they mean to leif by their said craft
a1595 Descr. Isles in Skene Celtic Scotl. III. 431.
Foullis … quhairon thay leif for the maist pairt of thair fude
1595 Culross I. 134.
All puir, aged and deabilitat persons … quhilk are not able to leiff bot be almous
1622-6 Bisset I. 26/16.
Princes … suld leif on the iniquities of the peopill be the executioun … of iustice
(b) 1531 Bell. Boece I. xlii.
Of fowlis, sic as leiffis of reif
15.. Lichtoun Dreme 79 (M).
Thair he leiffit of [B. levit on] lempettis in hir wame
a1585 Maitl. Q. lxx. 10.
Seruandis and sic as leiffis on fie
1612 Brechin Test. II. 225 b.
The said umquhill Robert … had na handling … bot leiffit & his said spouis onlie on thair quyiet rent
(c) c 1515 Adam Williamson in Doug. (Sm.) I. xxvi.
I haffe lossyt my gooddis that I shuld haff leyff apon in my age

b. To obtain one's living, maintain oneself. a1500 Henr. Fab. 700.
And I forbeir, how sall I leif, allace, Haifand na vther craft me to defend?
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxii. 76.

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"Lefe v.3". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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