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

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First published 2001 (DOST Vol. X).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Swer(e, Sweir(e, Sweer, adj. (adv.). Also: suer(e, sueir(e, swier, sweare, suear(e, suair. [ME sware (Orm), swere (a1225), suere (Cursor M.), OE swǽr(e, swár, ON svárr.] Also in the later Sc. and north. Eng. dials.

A. adj. 1. Lazy, slothful; disinclined to be active or to make an effort. Also, metonymically, of parts of the body. Also proverb. and transf.predic. a1400 Leg. S. iii 1139.
Bot, fore I am alde and swere, I will say no mare of hym here
?1438 Alex. ii 9111.
Quhen he hes sene Porrus and Ferrand, That nouther was sueir nor recryand
c1420 Ratis R. 1637.
This eild that passis fyfty ȝer Is stabile, couatus and swere
1456 Hay II 157/20.
Sum is hable lycht and expert … and ane othir lythir and hevy, suere as a bere
1490 Irland Mir. III 139/38.
Quhen thai ar fillit of mete or drink than thai ar suer … and gevin to sleip and volupte
a1500 Prestis of Peblis 559.
My tung is sweir, my bodie hes na strenth
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (STS) lxxx 19.
God … send the many Fraunce crownes Hie liberall heart, and handis nocht sweir, In hansell of this guid new ȝeir
1533 Gau 66/30.
Our bodis sal be na mair hewy or sweir bot swuft
Pleugh-song in 1662 Forbes Cantus (1666).
1561 M. Napier Mem. J. Napier 77.
I wreit to you oft tymes of befoir and gat na answer as yit; thairfoir be nocht sweir in tymes cuming, bot adverteis of all thyngis ye thynk necessair
a1570-86 Maitland in Maitl. F. 27/88.
God … tak away thir ydill lownis … And sornaris that ar sweir
a1585 Maitl. Q. 94/1.
Quhen men wes sueir & durst not steir Bot lurkit lidderlie
c1630 Haddington Corr. 170.
I thank yow for your particular advertisments and entreat yow to continew that course, albeit I am so sueare that I can not do the lyk
1637 Rutherford Lett. (1894) 218.
Deferred hopes need not make me dead-sweir (as we used to say)
proverb. a1598 Ferg. Prov. MS No. 15.
Ane oleit mother makis a sueir dochter
a1598 Ferg. Prov. MS No. 1483.
Work for noght maks folk dead sueir
1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 1165.
Mak a licht luf of your awin sweir erss
a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 1753.
Ye are stark sueir like Thome Roises meir
transf. 1681 Colvil Whig's Suppl. (1681) ii 8.
Turpentine [etc.] … His medicine for passage sweer
attrib. c1460 Wisd. Sol. (STS) 220.
The full suere man … sayand that bettir is ane handfull with rest and pes na baith the handis full with trauell and dyses
c1490 Porteous Noblenes 180/8 (Asl.).
Ane man may wele iuge that nobilnes tynis hire in ane swere and dolf hert
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Flyt. 130.
Sueir swappit swanky
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (STS) xxvi 70.
Mony sweir bumbard belly huddroun, … Him serwit ay with sounȝie
a1570-86 Dunb. in Maitl. F. 190/85.
Luif makis sweir folkis full of bissines
c1540 Glencairn in Knox I 73.
Sueir swongeouris that will not wirk
a1585 Polwart Flyt. 730 (H).
Sweir sow, doild kow, ay fow, foull fall thy banes
c1590 J. Stewart 39/321.
1609 Skene Reg. Maj. ii 14.
The swere and slowfull man will not plowe, nor labour, be reason of winter: therefore he sall begge in sommer

b. Loath, reluctant, unwilling; dilatory in doing, or disinclined to or to do (something). Also in ellipt. const. swere owt.(1) a1400 Leg. S. vi 535.
And be na way that thai ware swere Goddis vord euir to here
a1500 K. Hart 724.
Scho wryit about, to kys scho wes full sweir
1513 Doug. xi Prol. 4.
Gif thou mycht Mars and Hercules deify Quharfor beyn nobillys to follow prowes swer?
1533 Boece 122b.
Ostorius … ordoring his folkis to exhort was nocht swere
1533 Gau 20/3.
Sweirnes is aganis the thrid command and alsua aganis al the laiff for quhy we ar sweir to keip ony of thaime as ve suld dw
1535 Stewart 17994.
In Pechtland als that tyme tha war nocht sweir The faith of Christ amang the pepill to plant
1575 Fam. Rose 267.
I fynd greit fault that ye ar swa sweir to taik your pairt thairof
a1630 Sel. Biog. I 355.
Be not sweir to come quhar the Lord conweyis you
1638 Rutherford Lett. (1894) 557.
It is ill my common to be sweer [1671 swier] to go an errand for Christ
?a1648 Polemo-Mid. 60.
Workhorsosque ordine swieros Drivarere omnes
Urquhart Rabelais i xxxviii.
One of their company, called Sweer-to-go
16… Wode's Psalter (ed.) 239.
Dame you ar suear to lett us cry
(2) 1533 Boece 560.
Robert … contrare thame directit Thomas Randell nocht swere tharto with vc hors in cumpany
a1538 Abell 109a.
He aspirand to the kinrik he spurrit tua at wes nocht sweir to that erand
1535 Stewart 28600.
Thairto the laif wes nothing sweir nor lither
1540 Lynd. Sat. 299.
I was nocht sweir to Venus observance
1596 Dalr. II 180/17.
The quene feiring that gif sche war fund sueir or slaw toward her housband now in distres, sche mycht be suspected of a false hart [etc.]
(3) 1559–60 St. A. Kirk S. 13.
We haif ower lang abstractit ourselfis, and beyne sweir in adjuning us to Christes congregatioun
1586 Waus Corr. 371.
Ye ar verie sueir in wretin of newis, quhilk I will desyir yow to mend
1602 Misc. Spald. C. II 291.
I sall preserve them till I present them in judgement quhairin giff your lordschip or the parteis beis sueir, I intend [etc.]
1617 Sutherland Bk. II 134.
Be nocht sueir in vryting to me as ye find occatioune
(4) a1500 Prestis of Peblis 294 (Asl.).
And for ane iak a raggit cloke has tane Ane swerd swere out & rowsty for the rayne

2. Labouring under a sense of oppression; dull, depressed. a1400 Leg. S. vi 480.
That lichtis the hart & makis it clere, That ignorance be-fore mad swere
1456 Hay II 119/31.
And he that has a wayke calde stomak, he is of hevy chere and hevy hertit and sad and suere
a1582 Sir Colling 117.
Last quhan I had him in my armis I thocht him sveir as svair [: air, lair, mair] And now he lyis wpone [blank in MS] Lyke for to leif na mair

b. transf. Gloomy, oppressive. 1581-1623 James VI Poems I 136/451.
The sweirest night, her horrours did Redouble in euery case

B. adv. = Swerely adv. 1650 Carstairs Lett. 73.
I heard … that the Lord had safelie brought you to bed of a daughter, … but O, how sueir drawen is my heart with all these cords of a man and bands of love!

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"Swer adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 May 2024 <>



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