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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

CAILLEACH, CAILLIACH, CAILLACH, Cal(l)ach, Caliagh, n. Also caillich, culloch. [′keljʌx, ′kɑl(j)ʌx]

1. “An old woman” (Cai.8 1934; Crm. 1913 D. Finlayson W.-L., calach; Abd.19, Arg.1 1938). Also in phr. aul' callach, “an old maid” (e.Rs. (Avoch) 1916 (per Mry.2)).Sc. 1828 Scott F. M. Perth xxix.:
Think you the Clan Quhele have no cailliachs as active as old Dorothy?
Sc. 1999 Donald S. Murray in Moira Burgess and Donny O'Rourke New Writing Scotland 17: Friends and Kangaroos 115:
...the Volga boatmen crossing seas
to Mingulay;
some cailleach's coat
covering Kruschev or Cherenkov's wife;...
Hebr 1983 Christine Marion Fraser Children of Rhanna (1989) 27:
'Ach, it's a cailleach I am indeed.' The old nurse smiled sourly and sniffed the air.
ne.Sc. 1772 Alistair and Henrietta Tayler Jacobites of Aberdeenshire and Banffshire in the Forty-Five (1928) 177:
I had almost lost this winter my poor old caillich by a fall she got. ... My poor half-bruised caillach.
Abd. 1990 Stanley Robertson Fish-Hooses (1992) 60:
Even though she wis an auld culloch she could fair graft!
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 24:
Hyterin ooto his bed in the blae dawn, he cowpit hissel ower the auld wife's suitcase an fell rick-ma-tack tae the fleer. As luck wad hae't, the cailleach hid haen the foresicht tae pack a jar of coffee an dried milk.
wm.Sc. 1937 W. Hutcheson Chota Chants 1:
When hoop! with a loup, and her hands at her middle, Came dancing the cailleach o' bonnie Culzean.
Gall. 1930 (per Wgt.3):
Did ever ony caillach hear O' sic'na greedy buddy That wudna spare a wheen thistles For a wee stervin' cuddy.
Uls. 1900 M. O'Neill Songs Glens Antrim (1907) 7:
I met an' ould caillach I knowed right well on the brow o' Carnashee.

2. “A potato of more than a year old” (Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn., caliagh); “an old rotten potato or parent tuber” (Uls. c.1920 J. Logan Ulster in the X-Rays (2nd ed.) vi., caillach).

3. “The last sheaf to be cut at harvest” (Abd.19 1938; Uls.3 1930). Cf. Clyack, n., 1.

4. “The feast of harvest home” (Abd.22 1938; Arm., mid.Tyr. 1930 (per Uls.3); Arg. 1990s). Cf. Clyack, n., 3 (a).

[Gael. cailleach, an old woman, a nun; the last handful of standing corn in a farm; from caille, a veil, cogn. Lat. pallium (MacLennan).]

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"Cailleach n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Nov 2023 <>



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