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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

FIRTH, n.1 Also firt (Ork.), furth, frith. An arm of the sea, often constituted by the broad estuary of a river (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 120). Orig. Sc. but now St.Eng., esp. with reference to Scotland.

Hence firth-built, see 1865 quot.Edb. 1710 R. Sibbald Fife & Knr. 36:
The two Firths which encompass this Shire [Fife] upon Three Sides.
Sth. 1747 C. Bentinck Dornoch (1926) 303:
A sea fight that happened this day and yesterday in this furth.
1806 Gazetteer Scotland 7:
The Friths of Forth and Clyde.
1841 Hugh Miller The Old Red Sandstone 7:
From a wooded promontary that stretched half-way across the frith there ascended a thin column of smoke.
1841 Hugh Miller The Old Red Sandstone 9:
... [the quarry] to which we removed has been opened in a lofty wall of cliffs that overhangs the northern shore of the Moray Frith.
1857 Hugh MacDonald Days at the Coast: a series of sketches descriptive of the Frith of Clyde - its watering-places, its scenery, and its associations. 11:
We shall (so to speak) circumnavigate with thee the glorious Frith into which our Clyde expands ere it melts into the vasty deep...
Fif. 1865 J. G. Bertram Harvest of Sea 440:
The Buckhaven men delight in their boats, which are mostly “Firth-built” — -i.e. built at Leith, on the Firth of Forth.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 6:
Ye den no tell till they hae taen you ower the Firt'.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped ii.:
Ships moving or lying anchored in the firth.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 20:
You might say that all between the Isla, the Deveron and the firth is plain by rights, but some unkindly force heaved up Aultmore in the middle of it.
Fif. 1985 Christopher Rush A Twelvemonth and a Day 3:
The firth, which had first touched me out of a sedate circle of holy brass, was flinging itself at me now with wild wet flicking fingers that blinded and stung.
em.Sc. 1988 James Robertson in Joy Hendry Chapman 52 70:
There wis three auld men aince, three doitit auld fules that had aiblins mair sense nor ye'd think, an aiblins nane ava, three bodachs as a teuchter micht cry them, that set doun their dowps on a bink that owreluikit the Frith o Forth.

[O.Sc. firth, id., 1375. O.N. firð-, stem of fjǫrðr, a fjord.]

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"Firth n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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