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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

DREICH, adj. Also dreigh, dreech, -gh, driech, -gh, †driche, drich, †drigh, †dree (esp. Gall.), and ¶dreif (Lnk. 1866 D. Wingate Annie Weir 190). Also Compar. dreicher, Superl. dreichest. The basic meaning is long-drawn-out, protracted, hence tedious, wearisome. [driç]

1. In gen. contexts: protracted, dreary, hard to bear.Sc. 1893 R. L. Stevenson Catriona x.:
I think you will say yourself it is a dreich business.
Edb. 1866 J. Smith Poems 40:
Sic dreich wark. . . . For lang I tholed an' fendit.
Bwk. 1880 T. Watts in Minstr. of the Merse (ed. Crockett 1893) 195:
Ay! dreich an' dowie's been oor lot, An' fraught wi' muckle pain.
Ayr. 1823 Galt R. Gilhaize II. 266:
And he'll no fin his day's dark ae hue the dreigher for wanting his breakfast on account of sic a cause.
s.Sc. 1933 Border Mag. (June) 82:
It's a dreich job howkin' tatties wi' the caul' win' in yer duds.
Slk. 1813 Hogg Queen's Wake 68:
Driche and sair yer pain.

2. Of time, journeys, etc.: long, wearisome, tedious, monotonous. Also used adv.Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems, Gl.:
When on Journey, if the Way prove longer than we expected, we say, 'Tis a dreigh Road.
Sc. 1886 R. L. Stevenson Kidnapped xxiii.:
My life is a bit driegh. . . . I see little company.
Sc. 1917 D. G. Mitchell Clachan Kirk 113:
Whaur's the man or woman that hasna whyled awa a dreich hour wi' some dream o' this kind?
Bnff. 1913 Bnffsh. Jnl. (4 Nov.):
Forrit, Maggie, hame's afore us, Dreich the road, an' unco lang.
Edb. 1814 E. P. Nelson Poet. Wks. 44:
Ilk successive day, wi' anguish, Row'd by heavilie an' dree.
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Tales 145:
Whan harvest days turn'd dreigh an' warm 'Twas then they first fell gracious.
Kcb. 1890 A. J. Armstrong Musings 49:
To me a' things seem dree and lang, The hours drag on sae wearily.

Hence (1) dreichly, adv., slowly, tediously; (2) dreighness, n., tediousness.(1) Abd. 1984 Robbie Kydd in Alexander Scott and James Aitchison New Writing Scotland 2 14:
I see no pattern, none at all, only disenchanted/disconnected happenings dreichly/drably happening, and not too many of them either.
Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. 44:
I've toiled, while dreichly dragged the years.
Lnk. 1929 W. Queen in Brechin Advertiser (30 July):
They toddle hame, but dreichly — Their days are nearly spent.
(2) Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 85:
From the dreighness of his morning exerceese.

3. Of sermons, speeches, etc.: (1) long-winded, interminable; (2) hence: dull, dry, uninteresting. Gen.Sc.(1) Sc. 1891 N. Dickson Kirk Beadle 136:
Be as driech as ye can, Doctor, for we hae a' the glasses to pack afore we lift.
Abd. 1893 G. Macdonald Songs 128:
At the kirk, whan the minister's dreich an dry.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 37:
There's lang and dreech contesting; For now they're near the point in view; Now ten miles frae the question.
Lnk. a.1832 W. Watt Poems (1860) 240:
The wives curl o'er, wi' converse dreigh, Their ain fireside affairs, Jocose, this morn.
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Tales 75:
Sally's tongue's baith dreich an' fell.
(2) Sc. 1825 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 58:
I have seen some grim carls there, it maun be confessed, dreigh at the thocht, and dour at the delivery.
Sc. 1904 J. Gillespie Humours Sc. Life 63:
A minister on one occasion preached an unusually long and dreich sermon.
m.Sc. 1924 “O. Douglas” Pink Sugar xvii.:
This Sunday there was a strange preacher, very long and dreich, and at the end Bill said . . . “Oh, what a long preach! I thought he was going on till Monday.”
Fif. 1896 “G. Setoun” R. Urquhart xviii.:
Weel, sir, some folk considers it interestin', but it's dreich, dreich readin' to me.

4. Gen. of persons: (1) Slow, tardy, backward, long-delayed.Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxix.:
Maybe we will win there the night yet, God sain us, though our minny here's rather dreigh in the upgang.
Sc. 1862 A. Hislop Proverbs 4:
A dreigh drink is better than a dry sermon.
Bnff. 1869 W. Knight Auld Yule 17:
'Twas Mysie's turn to gi'e a verse, But she aye, like hersel', perverse, Was dreigh and slow to sing.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 33:
Na aunty says he, she was not sae skeigh, Nor wi' her answer very blate or dreigh.
Edb. 1866 J. Smith Poems 33:
Dull an' dreich to learn.
wm.Sc. 1934 T. Smellie Tea Pairty 26:
Queer that Jamie Lang hisnae turned up; he's unco dreich.
Arg. 1992:
The Scots are aw mooth but when it comes tae takin action they're gey dreich.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Auld Mare viii.:
When thou an' I were young an' skiegh, An' Stable-meals at Fairs were driegh.
Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables frae French 11:
But, though rejoicin', dreich his fitsteps grew, An' syne, wi' heat, his hap aside he threw!
ne.Derry 1901 Ulsterisms in North. Whig:
The Commissioners hae got it the noo, an' they're guy driech. They go by Irish lang measure in lan', time, an' aw!

Phrs.: (a) dreich-o(f)-comin(g), tardy; laboured, lacking inspiration; (b) dreich a-(o') drawin(g), — in drawing, — i' the draw, — to draw, slow to move, slow in deciding, often used of courtship (Sc. 1825 Jam.2; Abd.2, Abd.9 1940); “slow to give” (Dmf. 1925 W. A. Scott in Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 24); also adj. dree(ch)-drawin', prolonged, tedious; †(c) on dreich, at a distance, in phr. to follow — (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, Add.), see also Adreich; (d) to cut the dreech [sc. sheaf], to cut the last sheaf at harvest (Uls. 1901 J. W. Byers in North. Whig, Lecture 1); cf. to cut the kirn s.v. Kirn, n.2(a) Kcb. a.1902 J. Heughan in Gallov. (1913) XV. 108:
The time creeps on, that dreich o' comin' Age, That reign bespak by mony a lang-deid Sage.
Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales, etc. (1837) III. 178:
Ane made o' the moment, clean aff-loof, none of your long studied, dreigh-of-coming compositions.
(b) Abd. c.1750 R. Forbes Jnl. from London (1755) 31:
The lads wis nae vera driech a-drawin, bat lap in amo' the dubs in a hand-clap.
Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. 45:
Wow me, Jamie lad, but ye're dreigh i' the draw.
w.Sc. 1821 Edb. Mag. (April) 352:
Whar's the leefu-hairted Caledonian wha wad be driech in drawing to gar . . . our mither-tounge shyne.
Dmb. 1846 W. Cross Disruption xv.:
She's courtin' him briskly, but he's unco dreigh to draw.
Lnk. 1902 A. Wardrop Hamely Sk. 28:
No in dreech-drawin' stage efter stage or cell efter cell o' wee insignificant specs o' animal life.
Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail xci.:
But the compliment is like the chariot-wheels o' Pharaoh, sae dreigh o' drawing, that I canna afford to be blate wi' you ony langer.
w.Dmf. 1923 J. L. Waugh Thornhill 236:
For twenty years a “dree-drawin'” yet steadfast courtship had gone on.

(2) Slow to pay debts (Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems, Gl.; Ags., Per. 1950). Also in n.Eng. dial.Lth. 1885 “J. Strathesk” Blinkbonny 154:
He was a bad payer (“unco dreich” in Scotch phrase).
wm.Sc. 1835–37 Laird of Logan I. 214:
Driech as he calls it, means a slow payer, . . . unco driech is very slow, and “driecher and driecher” means, as we say in the South, worser and worser.
Arg. 1917 N. Munro Jimmy Swan 33:
By-and-by I found Macleerie a little dreich in settlin' his bills.
Wgt. 1877 G. Fraser Sketches 335:
Debtors who were dreich in making him payment of what they were due to him.

5. (1) Of persons: dull, gloomy, doleful.Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xxxv.:
They are now ganging as driegh and sober as oursells.
Sc. 1889 R. L. Stevenson M. Ballantrae ii.:
Aweel, Wully was an unco praying kind o' man; a dreigh body.
Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall The Bonsai Grower 17:
Heid o the hoose wis Auld Dod Mowatt, the patriarch o the clan - a thin, dour, lang, dreich chiel, weel inno the echties.
Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 94:
I'm rale dreigh sometimes fan I think on a' the backs an' fores I've haen.
m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 38:
The dreichest saul could see he had sunlicht in his ee, And there's no his marrow left in the toun.
wm.Sc. 1954 Robin Jenkins The Thistle and the Grail (1994) 166:
We are a dreich, miserable, back-biting, self-tormenting, haunted, self-pitying crew, he thought.
Ayr. 1928 J. Carruthers Man Beset i. ii. 53:
Religion was repellent — harsh, dreich, and hell-scorched.

(2) Of the weather, scenery, etc.: dreary, cheerless, bleak. Gen.Sc. Also in n.Eng. dial.Sc. 2000 Herald (16 Aug) 10:
We sense, you see, that the new season's striking harlequin prints, up-tempo plaids, and vibrant Argyle-diamond patterns collectively represent a sure-fire remedy for those dreich-weather blues which so sorely afflict the womenfolk of Scotland.
Bnff. 1856 J. Collie Poems 120:
Ae night when I came, wet and weary, Throu Habbie's howe baith drigh and dreary.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 26:
At the Bridge of Marnoch the sensible road to Turriff goes by Foggieloan and the bare slopes with their dreich prospect of the Gamrie hills.
Ags. 1924 A. Gray Any Man's Life 44:
In the cauld dreich days when it's nicht on the back o' four.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 42:
He's skailt on the bar's formica bleck
a puckle gowden draps o whisky.
Whaur's the strength that fund
gowden hairst in dreichest grund?
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 101:
wi glore that's won thro blinks and aeons
frae dreicher blintrin moments -
m.Sc. 1986 Colin Mackay The Song of the Forest 89:
" ... with six pairs of golden horns keeking out of it that they cleaned and sharpened against the iron trunks of Nowhere Wood, which, as I telt you before, is the darkest and furthest and dreichest and drubliest part of Anywhere Forest."
m.Sc. 1989 Scotsman (23 Jan) 10:
Tom Johnston...called for trees along the old A8 (dreicher by far than today's motorway) without achieving conspicuous success.
em.Sc. 1992 Ian Rankin Strip Jack (1993) 97:
Burglary with violent assault: just the thing for a dreich Thursday morning.
em.Sc. 1996 Hamish Henderson in Timothy Neat The Summer Walkers: Travelling People and Pearl-Fishers in the Highlands of Scotland 67:
The weather was dreich and it turned out that Tommy was prey to agoraphobia.
Fif. 1841 C. Gray Lays and Lyrics 83:
The cauld frost had locked up ilk riv'let and fountain, As I took the dreich road that leads north to Dundee.
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 57:
Hie wins, gey snell, dreich rain anaa
an saun fae Africa can blaw.
wm.Sc. 1988 Robin Jenkins Just Duffy 12:
On this cold wet morning in March the street was at its dreichest.
Ayr. 1788 Burns Duncan Davison i.:
The moor was dreigh, and Meg was skeigh, Her favour Duncan could na win.
Kcb. 1881 T. Newbigging Poems 56:
He's owre the hills that I love best, Yon lonely hills so dark and dree.
Rxb. 1916 Kelso Chron. (31 March) 4/1:
Doon ablow it's dreich and gloomy as we wade among the slush.

6. Of tasks, etc.: requiring close attention, difficult, baffling (Sh., Ork. 1900 E.D.D.; Abd.9 1940). Also in Not. and Lin. dial.Mry. 1804 R. Couper Poems I. 87:
Nae mair o' dreich and grievous tasks, Or langsome days we hear.
Mearns 1934 “L. G. Gibbon” in Sc. Scene 178:
And you saw that it was a cross of stone, overlaid with curlecues, strange, dreich signs.
Fif. 1806 A. Douglas Poems 36:
. . . sic a task I dread, Sae dreigh and kittle.

7. (1) Persistent, long-continued (Uls. 1901 J. W. Byers in North. Whig Lecture III). In Eng. dial., gen. used of rain. Also used adv.Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 422:
Ye're like the dreigh drinker o' Sisterpath Mill, Ye'll no flit as lang's a stoup ye can fill.
Ags. 1918 J. Inglis The Laird 9:
Just as the steeple tnock lat lowse Five chaps lang dreich an' dirlin'.
w.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
“The East . . . is a very dreegh airt”; i.e. when rain falls out from the east, it generally continues long.
Lnk. a.1832 W. Watt Poems (1860) 196:
We had, as usual, a dainty dreigh sederunt owre a jug o' toddy.
Gall. 1796 J. Lauderdale Poems 72:
Lang an' dree we kept our seat, Without the changing o' our liquor.

¶(2) Having powers of endurance, staying.Kcb. 1897 T. Murray Frae the Heather 99:
He was fleet and dreich in his prime. But noo these dreich powers are declining.

8. Difficult to reach, inaccessible.Sc. 1794 J. Ritson (ed.) Sc. Song II. 35:
Loup down, loup down, my master dear, What though the window's dreigh and hie?
Mry. 1906–11 Rymour Club Misc. I. 186:
Yer hieland hills are heigh and dreigh, And they are ill to climb.
Dmf. 1874 R. Reid Moorland Rhymes 65:
The bonnie hills o' Wanlock, I've spielt them ane an' a', Baith laich and heich and stey and dreich.

9. “Of very much larger area or extent than appears at first sight (always applied to a piece of land)” (Uls.2 1929).

10. Rarely used as v. = “to be plodding, constant at work, steady as the water running” (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 184).

11. Rarely used as n. = dreariness, gloom.Sc.(E) 1928 A. D. Mackie Poems 43–44:
And even the ugsome driech o' this Auld clarty Yirth is wi' your kiss Transmogrified.
m.Sc. 1994 Maud Sulter in Daniel O'Rourke Dream State 131:
See a blanket of September sorrows unremitting drich and drizzle permeates our light outerwear.

[O.Sc. has dreich, dr(e)igh, tedious, slow, extensive, from c.1450 (also dreichlie, steadily, c.1475); Mid.Eng. drē(i)ȝ, O.E. *drēoȝ, cogn. with O.N. drjúgr, lasting, substantial. Cf. Dree, v.1, n.1, of similar origin.]

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"Dreich adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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