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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.

DYKE, DIKE, n. and v. Also deike (Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 4), †dey(c)k, †dy(c)k, †deik, †deack. For other Sh. forms see Deck, n.3, and for Cai. forms see Dick, n.1 and v. [dəik Sc., but Arg., Wgt. + dek]

I. n.

1. A low wall made of stones, turf, etc., serving as an enclosure. Gen.Sc. (exc. Cai.). Dim. dykie.Sc. 1890 H. Stephens Bk. Farm V. 230:
The low dry-stone wall is a common field-fence in Scotland, and is there named a dyke, to distinguish it from wall, which implies a structure of stone and lime.
Ork. 1797 Session Papers, Balfour v. Kirkwall T.C. (21 Nov.) 17:
A dike or rickle of stones about three feet high.
Ork. 1912 Old-Lore Misc. V. ii. 67:
Georgie Mouat . . . was a sun o' Tam Mouat at deed oot alonks da Harray hill dyke coman fae tha ald toon o Kirkwa.
Ags. 1891 J. M. Barrie Little Minister iii.:
Opposite the opening of the garden wall in the manse . . . were two big stones a yard apart, standing ready for the winter, when the path was often a rush of yellow water, and this the only bridge to the glebe dyke, down which the minister walked to church.
Edb. 1986 Fred Urquhart in Joy Hendry Chapman 46 40:
The tinker's quick dark brown eyes glittered with anger; then he shrugged and sat down again on his hunkers against the dyke.
Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems II. 90:
For, now, inur'd to loupin dykes, They nouther dreadit men nor tykes.
Gsw. 1993 Margaret Sinclair Soor Plooms and Candy Balls 15:
Jumpin' o'er the dykes noo, watch ye don't fa' aff.
Sure fitted ah wisnae, ma pals hid many a laugh.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Jolly Beggars Air v. iii.:
Sae merrily the banes we'll pyke, An' sun oursels about the dyke.
Wgt. 1702 in G. Fraser Lowland Lore (1880) 27:
Any who hes yeard deycks about ye burgh unsufficient, shall be lyable to Four pund Scots, besyde ye paying of ye skaith yt shall be done throw ye insufficiency of ye sd. deyk.

Hence dyky, adj., having many dykes. Rare.Rxb. 1917 Kelso Chron. (5 Oct.) 2/6:
It's about the dykiest place I have struck.

Phrs. and Combs.: (1) dyke-back, the back of a wall; also in Nhb. dial.; (2) dyke-breaker, one of a band of people in Galloway who in 1723 destroyed the dykes set up to enclose land; hist.; cf. Leveller; (3) dyke-en(d), (a) the end of a wall; (b) “a dyke built on the ebb-shore, and running seaward, to cut off access to the arable land through the ebb, and thus prevent animals from trespassing” (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.); (4) dyke hopper, the wheatear, Œnanthe œnanthe (Slg. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 10); cf. Dyker; †(5) dyke king, — queen, a children's game in which one player endeavours to catch the others as they run from side to side; those caught help the catcher; called dyke king or queen according to whether boys or girls are playing (Abd. 1898 A. B. Gomme Trad. Games II. 106–7); (6) dyke-louper, -leaper, (a) an animal that leaps the dyke surrounding its pasture (Sc. 1825 Jam.2; Bnff.2, Abd.2, Fif.10 1940; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (b) fig.: a person of immoral habits (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; 1923 Watson W.-B., obsol.); also in n.Eng. dial.; hence dyke-loupin', ppl.adj. and vbl.n., used lit. and fig. (Ib.); †(7) dike-padock, some sort of fish; (8) dyke-priser, an official at a march-riding ceremony who inspected the state of the walls and fences of the common land (see quot.); (9) dyke sheugh, a ditch or trench alongside a dyke; (10) dyke-side, the ground alongside a dyke; hence dyke-sider, one who skulks about, an underhand or secretive person (Abd. 1935 Abd. Press and Jnl. (7 Feb.)); (11) ill-run dykesides, see Ill-run; (12) to be ower the dyke, to be dead and buried (Abd.27 1950); (13) to drap (dreep) a dyke, see Drap, v., 4., Dreep, v., 4.; (14) to loup dikes (the dykie), fig. (a) to kick over the traces, to misbehave; †(b) to die (Abd. 1825 Jam.2, — the dykie; Abd.27 1950, — the dyke); (15) to run the (doobte) dykesides, to rove about, to fool around (Abd. 1935 Abd. Press and Jnl. (7 Feb.)); (16) winter dykes, a clothes-horse; “wooden frames, which are erected out of doors, for drying clothes” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2; e.Lth., wm. Sc. 1949).(1) m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood xvii.:
The first snows . . . at the dyke-back.
Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems, etc. 114:
Slipt it doun at some dyke-back, To ser' himsel'.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 153:
Such was the dread of the smittall disease, that they wouldna let them into the toons wi' the corps, and mony a ane was dibbled in at the dyke-backs.
Kcb. 1897 S. R. Crockett Lads' Love iii.:
What mean ye by slinking up dyke-backs? — To see what ye can steal, I'se warrant!
Rxb. 1931 Life and Work (May) 187:
They [sheep in a drift] wis alang a dyke back.
(2) Gall. 1724 R. Wodrow Corresp. (1843) III. 126:
The dyke-breakers, they say, are increased to upwards of a thousand, and have been very tumultuous this week, especially Tuesday last.
(3) (a) Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 223:
Ae day Mrs Watt cam up tae oor dyke-en' tae tell me the news.
(6) (a) Bwk. 1794 A. Lowe Agric. Bwk. 72:
Last year some good old grass-lands were let at 3 l. per acre; . . . being taken merely for conveniency of relieving the farmers of an over stock of young cattle, some times dyke-leapers at home.
(b) Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel xxxii.:
And for Steenie having been whiles a dike-louper at a time, is it for you . . . to cast that up to him?
em.Sc. 1999 James Robertson The Day O Judgement 21:
"An ye tail-toddlers and dyke-lowpers,
Aw that befylt the mairrage vow,
An turnt yer nebs frae ma haliness
Tae fornicate an mow; ... "
Rxb. 1825 Jam.2:
I am informed, that the old Session records of the parish of Hobkirk take notice of a female who was commonly known by the soubriquet of Bessy Loup-the-Dykes; and who is said to have been brought before the Session for having been guilty of dyke-loupin'.
Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales, etc. (1837) II. 288:
Nae mair o' your shameless impertinence! ye auld crack-brained, light-headed, dike louper.
(7) Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 220:
All sorts of fish . . . lobsters, partans . . . dike-padocks.
(8) Ags. 1887 J. M. McBain Arbroath 15:
On the High Street, in front of the Town House, were arrayed the civic guard, consisting of two men dressed in scarlet coats and armed with halberds, the band (numbering one piper), and the dykepriser - those four forming the infantry; the cavalry, composed of some thirty or forty land labourers, decked out in their Sunday braws and mounted on their naigs.
(9) Ayr. 1882 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage, etc. 189:
Has the brute made a gift o' ye to the dyke sheugh?
(10) Sc. 1692 A. Pitcairne Assembly (1722) 25:
Make a Dish of Kail of my Powny an ye please, he's lying at the Dike-side.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality vii.:
It will be my lot to be shot down like a mawkin at some dykeside.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 7:
Though there are good pockets of land, the rocks too often stand out of the soil and the whins wait at the dykesides to recapture the fields.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb i.:
A stray hare now and then hirpled up the dykeside.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage, etc. 230:
Cadgers are aye thinking on creels, an' wooers an' beggars on barley mows, an' lown dyke sides.
(14) (a) Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 107:
She'll shape to onie cast your honor likes, O'er wedded fouks are ready to loup dikes.
(16) Per. 1879 P. R. Drummond Bygone Days 228:
Man, it's nae wonder that I was fond o' the ice, for I was born behind the winter dykes, and nursed on Lapland.
Slg. 1818 W. Muir Poems 56:
Your only hope they'll now obscure, Wi' winter-dykes.
Dmb. 1846 W. Cross Disruption xxii.:
I discovered . . . that I had become a clothes-horse, or what in some parts of the country is called a pair of winter dykes.
Arg. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days (1925) xi.:
Bud, with Footles in her lap, behind the winter-dykes on which clothes dried before the kitchen fire, crouched on the fender with a Shakespeare.
Gsw. 1927 J. H. Bone The Loud Speaker 11:
Wullie (sees the clothes-screens in the corner) “The winterdykes, that's the verra thing, they will keep it oot frae the wall.”

2. A hedge (Ayr.1 1910; Lnk. (obsol.), Ayr., Dmf. 1950).Ayr. 1913 J. Service Memorables iv.:
Miles of fences were made . . . thorn dykes were set.
Ayr. 1947:
He was scutchin' a dike.

Comb.: dyke-sheuch, the trench at the foot of a hedge (m.Dmf.3 c.1920).

3. Geol. and Mining: a vein of igneous rock filling up a vertical fissure in the earth's strata either above or below ground (Sc. 1944 (per Edb.6)). Also in n.Eng. dial.Sc. 1723 George Lockhart Letters (1989) 189:
The Dyke which crosses the seams renders the coall within the ground enclosed by my father of little value to you.
Sc. 1844 J. Nicol Geology Scot. 73:
Igneous rocks only occur within the limits of the workable coal and limestone in the shape of dikes.
Sc. 1903 A. Geikie Text-Bk. Geol. I. 287:
When fissures are vertical or highly inclined, the igneous rock, on solidification there, takes the form of dykes or veins.
Slg. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XV. 329:
There are complete breaks in the strata, termed dykes, which cut off the coal entirely in various directions; these dykes are sometimes observed upon the surface of the earth, from which they sink down to an unfathomable depth.
Fif. 1760 Caled. Mercury (19 July):
Several thick dikes, or veins of the richest iron stone, running through a lime quarry.
Lth. 1762 Session Papers, Drummond v. Ferrier (22 Jan.) 33:
Dykes or Falls from the Roof, or other Accidents which are common in Coal Works.
Lnk. 1831 W. Patrick Plants, Preface xvii.:
There are many smaller ranges — generally called dykes or troubles — of the same metals running in various directions through the coal-fields.
Ayr. 1785 Trans. Royal Soc. Edb. I. i. 278:
To the north of Irvine, there are to be seen upon the coast, between that and Scarmorly, more than twenty or thirty such dykes (as they are called) of whinstone.

4. A term in the game of draughts (see quot.).Sc. 1905 A. Anderson Draughts xvi.:
The “Dyke” is formed by the first three moves: — 11–15, 22 17, 15–19. The name has probably arisen from the observed resemblance of many of the positions in this game to a “dyke” (i.e., a fence or stone wall), for at various stages the pieces are frequently formed into straight lines.

5. In dim. form dykie: at skipping, a turn of the rope away from the skipper, i.e. a rising rope, as it were a wall, requiring a higher leap to clear it (Edb. 1960).

II. v.

1. (1) absol. To build or repair a stone or turf wall (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Fif.10 1940; Arg. 1948). Vbl.n. dyking, the making of dykes.Sc. 1772 Edb. Ev. Courant (10 Dec.):
The tenants are bound to pay 6¼ per cent. for the money laid out for dyking, hedging, and ditching.
Lnk. 1919 G. Rae Clyde and Tweed 1:
I've dyket lang on a cauld hill-end.
Kcb. 1949 Scotsman (8 Aug.):
An effort is being made in the Stewartry to revive an almost extinct industry — drystane dyking.
Dmf. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 212:
Diking, per rood of 19 ft. . . . 1.3.

Hence diker, dyker, one who builds dykes, “generally without lime” (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Also fig.Inv. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 X. 370:
A common barrowman, or common dyker, has, without victuals, from 8d to 9d per day.
Abd. 1736 An Abd. Estate (S.C. 1946) 26:
For a spade head to the Dykers . 0. 1. 0
Abd. 1991 David Ogston in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 119:
Bigger wie bare hauns,
Christ the dyker.
w.Dmf. 1921 J. L. Waugh Heroes 11:
The best dry-stane dyker in the shire o' Dumfries.
Slk. 1829 Hogg Shepherd's Cal. II. 206:
I was sae affrontit . . . that not a fit I could rin mair nor I had been a diker.

(2) tr. To surround with a wall. Gen.Sc. Also fig.Sc. 1774 T. Pennant Tour 1772 336:
A British fortress, diked round with stone.
Bnff. 1869 W. Knight Auld Yule 192:
See him owre the bowl preside — Jolly mortals dyk him.
m.Sc. 1996 Christopher Brookmyre Quite Ugly One Morning (1997) 2:
Another six inches and he'd have made it, but he hadn't been able to get a run at it because of the piss, which had flooded the floor on the close side of the doorway, diked off from the tide of gastric refugees by a draught excluder.
Ayr. 1882 A. L. Orr Laigh Flichts 44:
There's hooses built, a' dyked aboot.
Kcb. 1828 W. Nicholson Poems 62:
John's groun' was thinly dyket.

2. Mining: in ppl.adj. dykit, (see quot.). Cf. n., 3.Edb.6 1944:
Old miners describe a road cut off by a fault as dykit.

3. To dig, to pick (Per. 1900 E.D.D.); “applied to that kind of digging in which it is required to make only a small hole; as, ‘to dike a bumbee-byke;' also, to dike out, as, ‘to dike out the een', to pick the eyes out” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; Per. 1900 E.D.D.). Extension of Eng. dike, to make a ditch.

[O.Sc. has dyke, dike, etc., a wall of earth, turf or stone, from a.1325, Mid.Eng. dyk(e), dik(e), the k being due to direct borrowing from or influence of O.N. díki, cogn. of O.E. dīc. The ultimate Indo-European sense however is something moulded (in clay, etc.), hence a wall, to which the Sc. semantic development has reverted. Cf. Gr. τεχος, wall, and Eng. dough. The primary sense in both Eng. and Sc. is that of a ditch, an excavation (i.e. something dug out), but this sense has been lost in Sc. since 16th cent., the secondary sense of a wall (i.e. what is thrown up by digging) becoming very common after 1530. In O.Sc. also as v., to surround or enclose with a wall, from c.1420, to make a wall, 1593, dyker, from 1621.]

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"Dyke n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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