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

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First published 1951 (DOST Vol. II).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Delve, Delf(e, v. Also: delff, dalfe. P.t. dalf, dawe, dolve; delfyt, delf(f)it, delvit, -ved. P.p. dolvyne, dolwyn, delwyn, dolve; dollyne, dollin; delfit, -vit, -vet. [ME. delve(n, OE. delfan (p.t. dealf, p.p. dolfen.]

1. intr. To perform the act of digging. a1400 Leg. S. vi. 581.
I hafe dolvyne in the erde
Ib. xxi. 840.
Thane delfyt thai one … & mad a wele [= well]
a1500 Henr. Fab. 2901.
To thé war better … For all thy dayis to delf
a1500 Seven S. 1745.
With spaide … and mattok wicht Thai delvit quhill thai the barrall gat
1513 Doug. i. vii. 45.
Thai, delvand, fand the takynar of Cartage
1535 Stewart 43818.
Ane ald man … Delfand full fast with ane spaid in his hand
1560 Rolland Seven S. 3765.
Pas and delf gif ȝe can, Quhair that ȝe thocht the water first vpsprang
1567 G. Ball. 80.
Than pray … That ȝe may … delfe with deip in to ȝour land

2. tr. To turn up (the soil, etc.) with the spade. 14.. Acts. I. 67/2.
Thai sal wyth thar handis and thar feit delf the erde
1424 Ib. II. 8/1.
It is ordanyt that ilk man … delff ilk werk day seven fut on lenth and seven on breyd
a1500 Bernardus 392.
Lat tham … tel and saw, and dyk and delff the erde, Or vse sum craft
a1500 Seven S. 2189.
Thai … delfit the flure And fand the bulleris
1535 Stewart 24493.
That euerie man … sould … faillis delf in greit quantitie
1588 Prot. Bk. A. Lawson 171 b.
To … delve the grund withe ane flawchter spaid
?1549 Monro W. Isles 24.
Albeit thay use na pleuchis, bot delvis thair corn-land with spaiddis
1622-6 Bisset I. 314/17.
Mawand his medowes, and delfand his eard of the … landis
1662 Soc. Ant. XXII. 229.
When ye delvit your kail yard that Bessie Neil got two spaidful

b. To make (ditches, etc.) by digging. 1513 Doug. i. vii. 15.
Sum about delvys the fowsy deip
Ib. xi. xvii. 104.
And delvys trynschis all the wallys abowt
1533 Boece xi. iiij. 411.
In schald of the river delfing ane profound hole

c. To open or get up, to cast down, by digging. a1400 Leg. S. xxxvi. 737.
A man … Dalf vpe his graf be nichtirtale
1549 Compl. 154/2.
He gart delue vp al the banis of the detht pepil
1553–4 Ayr Common Good Acc. (MS.).
To four pinewris for delfing doun the brayis of the hillis
1596 Dalr. I. 7/36.
In sum places … is deluet vpe na small quantitie of leid
Ib. 207/11.
This king delfeng vpe his fatheris reliques … causet thame [etc.]
1685 Corshill Baron Ct. 169.
For delving doune ane old dyck an incroaching upon his martches

3. To bury, inter. a1400 Leg. S. vii. 664.
Thai bocht A place quhare-in thai delfe tham mocht
Ib. xv. 212.
[Thai] it away bare priwaly And dalf it quhare it lange can ly
c1420 Wynt. i. 1517.
Than Satwrne dawe [W. dalf, C. dolue, E. A. delffit] hym in yerde
Ib. iii. 1008.
In erd all quyk, scho dolwyn wes
Ib. vii. 7214.
At Edinburgh [he] deit and dolvyn [C. delwyn, E. dollin] was
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 410.
Deid is now that dyvour and dollin in erd
1513 Doug. x. x. 36.
Thy … mother sall thé not haue to erd, as custum is, nor delf in grave
1533 Boece xi. iv. 411.
It was imperceptible that ony thing recentlie thare was delfit

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"Delve v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Nov 2022 <>



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