Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

BLUE, n. and adj. Used as in St.Eng. Variant dial. forms are blew, blyue, bew, byoo, blyew, blu. [blu: Sc.; blju: I.Sc., Abd.; bju: L.Bnff., Bch., w.Sc.]

I. Examples of dial. forms, n. and adj. Ork.(D) 1911 J. Spence in Old-Lore Misc., Ork., Sh., etc. IV. iv. 185:
Thu wadna fund a bonnier toon under da blew lift o' heevan!
Bnff.2 1935; Abd.5 1930:
Byoo for blue we usually associated with fisher talk, but byoo stot is commonly used amongst farmers.
Gsw.(D) 1902 J. J. Bell Wee Macgreegor (1903) viii.; s.Lnk., Bute 1914 T.S.D.C. I.:
But rid an' bew an' yella an' ither colours canna be tooken in a likeness.

II. Special usages of n.

1. (See quot.) e.Rs.1 1929:
Blue, a person from the West coast or Isles; not complimentary.

2. (See quot.) Abd. 1920 Anon. Gleanings Deeside Par. II. 9:
I ken the blue (danger, evil) o' that.

3. “A vulgar name for whisky, and other spirits” (w.Sc. 1887 Jam.6). Rnf. 1790 A. Wilson Poems (1844) 178:
Misfortunes, on ilk others backs, Come roarin' whiles aroun' me; For comfort to the blue I rax, Or aiblins they might drown me.

4. In phr. “‘I've seen as licht a blue,' I've seen as much” (Bnff.2 1935; Abd.13 1910). Abd.4 1931:
I've seen as licht a blyew dy't i' the churn (some half-diseredited gossip looming ahead).

III. Special combs. and phrases: 1. blue-cap (see quot.); 2. blue cloot (Ags.1 1935) = 4; 3. blue-mogganer, “a native of Peterhead; at first applied to the fishing population only” (Bnff.2 1935); 4. blyue pokki, a small bag containing blue powder dipped in the water when white clothes are being washed; 5. blue-spald, a disease of cattle. Cf. Black-spaul(d); 6. blue threid, -thread, -treed, “a flavour of indecency” (Sh.7 1935, blue treed). 1. Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Sc. Mining Terms 11:
Blue-cap, the characteristic blue aureola over the flame of a safety lamp where fire-damp is present in the air.
3. Bch. 1933 Abd. Press and Jnl. (14 Nov.):
Peterhead . . . fishermen wore blue “moggans” over their stockings for warmth at the seal fishing, and were known as the “Blue Mogganers.”
[See Moggan.] 4. Sh.7 1935:
Lass, could du gie me a lenn o' dy blyue pokki? I ha'e white claes i da wash, an my blyue pokki is empty.
5. Sc. 1814 C. I. Johnstone Saxon and Gael I. 152:
If the cattle will die of the blue-spald, what can I help that?
6. Bch. 1928 (per Abd.15):
His stories his aye a blue threid in them.

Hence phr. thread of blue, threidie o' blue, “used to denote anything in writing or conversation that is smutty” (Bnff.2 1935; Ayr. 1935 (per Slg.3); Gall. 1825 Jam.2). Bch. 1928 (per Abd.15); Ags.2 1935:
Hoch ay, but fat's aboot a bit threidie o' blue!
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 446:
Thread o' Blue. Any little smutty touch in song-singing, chatting, or piece of writing.

IV. Combs. in plant names:

1. Blue-blauers, -blavers, (1) the harebell, Campanula rotundifolia, or the cornfower, Centaurea cyanus (Mry. 1839 G. Gordon Flora of Mry. 10; Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; 1923 Watson W.-B., obs.); ‡(2) “the cornflower or blue-bottle” (n., w.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). See also Blaver, n., 1 and 2.

2. Blue bonnets, -bannets, (1) “the corn bluebottle, Centaurea cyanus” (Sc. 1777 J. Lightfoot Flora Scotica I. 499; Sc. 1808 Jam.; Mry. 1839 G. Gordon Flora of Mry. 25; Mry.1 1925; Abd., Slg. 1886 Britten and Holland Eng. Plant-Names 54); (2) “knapweed, Centaurea scabiosa” (Mry.1 1925; Arg.1 1931; w.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (3) “the flower of Scabiosa succisa, Linn.” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2); also “blue-bannets” (Lnk. 1825 Jam.2); (4) “Jasione montana” (Dmf. 1886 Britten and Holland Eng. Plant-Names 54); (5) “mountain centaury” (n.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), Centaurea montana.

3. Blue-bow, blew-bowed, “said of flax when it blossoms” (Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.).

4. Blue-grass, Blue-gerse, “the name given to the various sedge-grasses, or Carices” (w.Sc. 1825 Jam.2). Rnf. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 VII. 518:
We have but very little of the blue or star-grass (carex panicea).
Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Gen. View Agric. Ayr. 304–305:
Carices, sedge-grasses, abound in all parts of the county of Ayr. . . . This tribe of plants are, by the Ayrshire farmers, called blue, sour, one-pointed grasses.

5. Blue seggin, “the blue flower-de-luce” (Ayr. 1825 Jam.2; Ayr. 1886 Britten and Holland Eng. Plant-Names 55). Iris fœtidissima.

6. Blue stars, “Veronica Chamædrys” (Slg. 1886 Britten and Holland Eng. Plant-Names 55), the germander speedwell.

V. Combs. in bird names. Popular usage is erratic in regard to these names.

1. Blue-bonnet, -bannet, blue titmouse, Parus cœruleus (Sc. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 33; Mry.1 1925; Arg.1 1931; Clydes. 1825 Jam.2, blue-bannet; Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.); 2. blue-cap, id. (Sc. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 33); 3. blue dickie, -deikie, the hedge sparrow, Accentor modularis (Rnf. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 29; e.Dmf.2 1917, blue deikie); 4. blue gled, the hen harrier, Circus cyaneus (Sc. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 132); 5. blue hawk, (1) the peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus (m.Sc. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 138); (2) the sparrow-hawk, Accipiter nisus (Slg., e.Lth. Ib. 136); (3) the hen harrier, Circus cyaneus (e.Lth. Ib. 132); 6. blue janet, “blue jay seems to be the same bird as the one we boys in Montrose district called a blue janet or blue janetie” (Ags.1 1934); 7. blue jay, the jay, Garrulus glandarius (Lnl. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 75); 8. blue kite, the hen harrier, Circus cyaneus (Sc. Ib. 132); 9. blue maa, the common gull, Larus canus (Sh. Ib. 207); 10. blue merlin, the sparrow-hawk, Accipiter nisus (Per. Ib. 136); 11. blue ox-eye, the blue titmouse, Parus cœruleus (Ags. Ib. 33); 12. blue sleeves, the hen harrier, Circus cyaneus (Sc. Ib. 132); 13. blue sparrow, hedge sparrow, Accentor modularis (Ib. 29); 14. blue Tom, idem (Ib.); 15. blue yaup, blue titmouse (Ib. 33).

[O.Sc. blew(e), bleu, c.1438 (D.O.S.T.). Appears also as bleu in Cursor M. (c.1300); from O.Fr. bleu which is of Germanic origin; cf. Ger. blau, O.N. blā-r, and Mod.Sc. blae.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Blue n., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 8 Jul 2020 <>



Try an Advanced Search

Browse SND: