Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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BY, Bye, Bi', Be, B', prep., adv., conj. [bɑɪ (emphatic form), bɪ, bə]

1. prep. The following are instances of special Sc. usages.

(1) In comparison with, or, as distinct from. Gen.Sc. ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays and Leg. of the North (1908) 34:
So ae evenin' by anither. Near the tail o' June, Thirst o' news an thirst o' liquor Donal' gaed to droon.
Ags. 1895 Arbroath Guide (26 Jan.) 3/6:
Weel, gin that be your Tam, he's unco little an' jabbit like by what he was wont to be.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick vi.:
Archie was auld by me, but a hale carle yit.

(2) Concerning. Known to Cai.7, Kcb.1 1938. Mry.2 1935:
I ken naething coorse by hmm.
Ayr. 1796 Burns Louis (Cent. ed.) i.:
Louis, what reck I by thee, Or Geordie on his ocean?

(3) Except, beyond, besides, past (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.17, Fif.1, Kcb.1 1938). Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xx xv.:
I ken naething suld gar a man fight . . . by and out-taken the dread o' being hanged, or killed if he turns back.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet xxiii.:
There are tricks in other trades by selling muslins.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas, etc. 102:
Aft did I won'er how he held his feet. By ony thing that ever I saw yet.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 59:
Booed auld men, an' weemen nae langer bonnie, Fit for a day's darg yet but by their best.
Gsw. 1936 F. Niven Old Soldier i.:
When you are bye thirty as the tree falls so must it lie.

(4) = Than. [quasi-prep.] sw.Sc. 1938 (per Abd.2):
I would rather have him by his brother.

(5) As in Mod.Eng., by combines (a) with other adverbs and preps. to modify the meaning of the original, as doon by, in by, (in) owr(e) by, oot by, up by, yont by, etc.; (b) with verbs such as go by, come by, put by, etc. Peculiar Sc. usages of these will be illustrated under the first element of each of the combs.

2. adv. Used as in St.Eng. to indicate “near, in the neighbourhood of,” and extended also to time to mean “past, finished.” In the sense of “near” it is not now used after a noun without a verb in St.Eng.: in Sc. this is still possible (see first quot.). Known to Cai.7, Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.1, Kcb.9 1938. Sc. 1818 S. E. Ferrier Marriage II. xi.:
As for the kirsnin, that was aye whar it sude be — i' the hooss o' God, an' aw the kith an, kin bye in full dress.
Sc. 1893 R. L. Stevenson Catriona ii.:
Then no later by than yesterday.
Abd.(D) 1917 C. Murray Sough o' War (1918) 14:
Wi' beardless lads scarce by wi' school But eager as the lave to list.

3. conj.

(1) Before, by the time that (Abd.9, Fif.10 1938). Sc. 1724–1727 Ramsay T. T. Misc. (1733) 103:
By you've drunk a dozen bumpers, Bacchus will begin to prove, Spite of Venus and her Mumpers, Drinking better is than love.
Rxb.(D) 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 8:
The awfihest blatter o rain cam on, and A was amaist drookeet be A wan the length o the Sandbed.

(2) Compared with (what); than (Bnff.2, Abd.9, Ags.2, Fif.10, Lnk.3, Kcb.1 1938). m.Lth. 1788 J. Macaulay Poems 119:
Now, Peggy, lassie, tell me what's the cause, You're grown sae cauldrife to me be you was.

4. Phrases: (1) bye and aboon, over and above (Abd.2, Fif.10 1938); (2) by (and) attour, see Atour, 1 (5), 2 (3); (3) by and gane, completely over, finished (Bnff.2, Abd.9, Ags.2, Fif.10 1938); (4) by an' out owre, over and above, in addition to (Abd.2, Fif.10 1938); a corrupt form of by and attour, see Atour; (5) by (the) common, out of the ordinary, unusual (Bnff.2, Abd.9, Ags.1, Fif.10, Kcb.9 1938); (6) by my feggs, a mild oath (Cai.7, Bnff.2, Abd.2, Fif.10 1938); also contracted to by (Ags.17 1938); (7) by one's ordinar, out of one's usual health (Bnff.2, Ags.17 1938; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 208; Slg.3, Kcb.9 1938); (8) by the bit, “a little too much; said of doubtful behaviour” (Kcb.9 1938); (9) by the ord'nar' = (5); known to Bnff.2, Abd.19, Ags.1, Fif.10, Slg.3, Lnk.3, Kcb.9 1938; see also By-ordinar; (10) bi' the rod, on the way (Bnff.2 1938); (11) by-usual = (5); known to Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.17, Fif.10 1938; (12) by wi' (i)t, bye wi', over and done with, finished (referring either to a person or undertaking); Gen.Sc.; (13) b' wye, as it were (Bnff.2, Abd.9, Fif.10 1938); (14) to be (go) by oneself, to be beside oneself, go demented (Bnff.2, Abd.19, Fif.10, Lnl.1, Lnk.3 1938). (1) Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes III. v.:
And the senawtus disna think me bye and aboon half a proper companion for buiks even.
(3) Ags. 1920 A. Gray Songs and Ballads 72:
And when the grindin' was by and gane, The laddie begoud to mak his maen.
(4) Ags. 1833 J. S. Sands Poems 110:
By an' out owre ling, skate, and labsters.
(5) Ayr. 1823 Galt R. Gilhaize III. xiii.:
Though he was then but in his thirteenth year, he was a by-common stripling in capacity and sense.
Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail III. iv.:
There was something by the common o' cousinship atween them.
(6) Ags. 1921 A. S. Neill Carroty Broon xix.:
By, it was fell clever o' me to tell her she had a flat nose.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Sc. Poems (1925) 33:
A bargain be't, and, by my feggs, Gif ye will be my mate, Wi' you I'll screw the cheery pegs.
(9) Ags. 1889 J. M. Barrie W. in Thrums iii.:
Ou, she's naething by the ord'nar'; but ye see she was mairit to a Tilliedrum man no lang syne, an' they're said to hae a michty grand establishment.
(10) Abd.(D) 1767 R. Forbes Jnl. from London (1869) 14:
He was a fine gabby, auld-farren carly, and held us browly out o' langer bi' the rod.
(11) Ags. 1893 “F. Mackenzie” Cruisie Sketches xi.:
“Eh,” John said, no longer disguising his curiosity, “has onything by-usual happened?”
(12) Sc. 1896 R. L. Stevenson Weir of Hermiston i.:
She just gi'ed a sab and was by wi' it.
Sc. 1921 R. Bain James I of Scot. 86:
Then it's a' by wi't.
Lnk. 1922 G. Blake Clyde-Built (Sc. Nat. Plays, No. 3) 58:
I could tell you a lot about what we have done — the fine ships we have fitted out with boats — the pride we had in our work. . . . But it's all bye wi, now.
(13) Abd.(D) 1929 J. Alexander Mains and Hilly 45:
A mannie wis wi' 'im banterin' aboot the horse, an' wintin' to buy 'im, b' wye.
(14) Ayr. 1786 Burns Halloween xvi.:
He gat hemp-seed, I mind it weel, An' he made unco light o't; But monie a day was by himsel, He was sae sairly frighted That vera night.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie III. xxxiv.:
“Mary,” said her aunt, bursting hastily into the room, “it's my opinion your father's gaun by himsel.”

[O.E. bi, big, unstressed form be; O.Sc. by, bi, bye, etc., including, as in Mod.Sc., meanings: out of one's senses, insane (with oneself), in comparison with, in distinction from, beyond, past, except, than (D.O.S.T.).]

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"By prep., adv., conj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 6 Dec 2021 <>



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