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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.

FLEG, v.1, n.1 Also flegg, fleeg (Cai.); †fleig, flaig; flig (Per. 1897 C. R. Dunning Folk-Lore 7). [Sc. flɛg, Cai. fli:g, Per. flɪg, Fif. + fləig]

I. v. 1. tr. To frighten, scare (I. and n.Sc., em.Sc.(a), Rxb. 1951; Ork., Abd., Ags., Ayr. 2000s); to put to flight. Ppl.adj fleggit; fleegid (Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 151; Cai.3 1931). Also vbl.n. Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems 233:
No like a Deel, in Shape of Beast, With gaping Chafts to fleg us a'.
Inv. 1732 in J. Noble Misc. Inv. (1902) 153:
They fleg me with the tenor of a charge to Edinburgh.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 79:
Never have it understood You fleg mankind frae being good.
Per. 1816 J. Duff Poems 66:
Some think his ghaist still haunts Glendevon, To fleig the wives wha gae to Methven.
Slk. 1844 W. Crozier Cottage Muse (1847) 48:
Wi' dribs o' milk and bags o' meal, To fleg aff hunger, ruthless chiel.
Abd. 1879 G. Macdonald Sir Gibbie vi.:
I'll wrastle frae my grave an' fleg ye oot o' the sma' wuts ye hae, my man.
Ags. 1889 Barrie W. in Thrums xv.:
“That was strong language,” said Hendry, “but he would be wantin' to fleg her?'”
Ork. 1915 Old-Lore Misc. VIII. i. 44:
Whin da Pirate Gow's men breuk intae da hoose ae night an' flegged da wives sairly.
Fif. 1939 St Andrews Cit. (28 Jan.):
They canna' fleg the couthie folk that bide frae John-o-Groats Down to the Mull o' Galloway.
ne.Sc. 1981 Ken Morrice For All I Know 21:
flegging the willie-wagtail wha dip-dips his inky quill, ...
Abd. 1981 Christina Forbes Middleton The Dance in the Village 78:
Noo Jeck, ma man, the practical kin',
Wis pittin' on 'is beets,
Sayin' he'd gie the b...ers dirdum
For fleggin' a' the beasts!
m.Sc. 1991 Tom Scott in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 39:
Past trees o coral, sunken hulks, he gaed,
And fishes' maws grew rounder at the sicht.
Hermit-crabs fair couried doun frae them,
Dauphins skelpit awa like fleggit queyns, ...
Gsw. 1995 Herald 5 May 19:
Fit a fankle I wis in when yon foggie bummer flew up my fillebeg. I was fair fleggit and forfochen forbye. What a tangle I was in when that wild bee flew up my kilt. I was truly frightened and exhausted as well.
em.Sc. 1999 James Robertson The Day O Judgement 27:
" ... Wae's me! is this the daith that yince
Ye fleggit Adam wi, puir craitur? ... "
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 46:
'Naethin,' Mitchel said. 'It is silent. I never saw him in life, but when I was a bairn he had Scotland chitterin on its knees, and folk fleggin ye wi tales o his army. But when I look noo I'm no feart. And he disna say ocht.'
Dundee 2000 Matthew Fitt But n Ben A-Go-Go 61:
He stood an keeked doon at the waitress. She wis flegged but unhurt - a bonnie favela quine.
Sc. 2002 Press and Journal 21 Mar 16:
The valley o' death winna fleg me to thread it,
Though awfu the darkness, ...

Hence flegger, one who, or that which frightens or deters.Rxb. 1851 Miss Douglas Auld Brig o' Slittrick's Last Address 18:
Even in the Tranties, wi' their beggars, The spoilers had found fearfu' fleggers. They'd cowed the bauldest o' the toon That lifted hand to pit me doon!

2. Of illness, stormy weather, etc.: to dispel, to cause to disappear (‡Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; ne.Sc., Ags. 1951).Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 56:
To fleg frae a' your craigs the roup, Wi' reeking het and crieshy soup.
Fif. 1811 C. Gray Poems 39:
Guid cheer will fleg the frost awa'.
Rxb. 1815 J. Ruickbie Poems 237:
Stuff my wame wi' guid kail brose, To fleg the caul'.
Per. 1891 R. Ford Thistledown 178:
When man first fand the want o' claes, The wind an' cauld to fleg.
Abd. 1920 C. Murray Country Places 16:
Haud on the peats an' fleg the cauld.

3. To beat, surpass. outdo.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
That flegs a'!

4. intr. To take fright, to be scared (ne.Sc. 1951).Sc. 1750 A. Pennecuik Poems 66:
Now tell the Truth and dinna fleg, Was't wi' a Beau?
Abd. 1812 W. Lillie in W. Walker Bards of Bon-Accord 600:
Am I sic a bairn 's tae fleg at a ba'?
Inv. 1865 J. Horne Poems 123:
To men's harsh words let not an ear, For them ne'er fleg.

II. n. 1. A fright, a scare (Gen. exc. w. and sm. Sc.; Ork., Bnff., Abd., Ags., Ayr., Dmf. 2000s); ‡fear, terror. Hence flegsome, terrifying, awful. Cf. fleysome. s.v . Fley.Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 107:
Has some Bogle-bo Glowrin frae 'mang auld Waws gi'en ye a Fleg.
Sc. 1776 D. Herd Sc. Songs II. 152:
But I gat ne'er sae sair a fleg, Since I cam' frae my daddy.
Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xviii.:
I got a fleg, and was ready to jump out o' my skin.
Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales (1837) II. 322:
I have got such a yerk and such a fleg, I'll seek no more.
Abd. 1872 J. G. Michie Deeside Tales x.:
It wisna fleg; but I thocht I wisna muckle better than a murderer to snake upon a man that way.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 67:
Man, I never tell't it tae anither soul; — bit I got a awfu fleg.
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 12:
She brak' the tether in a fleg An' clam upon a heugh.
Arg. 1901 N. Munro Doom Castle vi.:
We gied the English a fleg at the “Forty-five,” didnae we?
Sc. 1926 “H. McDiarmid” Drunk Man 63:
But there are flegsome deeps Whaur the soul o' Scotland sleeps.
Ags. 1950 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 47:
I suppose yon ill-gettit Sassenach sodger Monk gied you the biggest fleg o' a' your days.
m.Sc. 1979 Ian Bowman in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 40:
They coost me doon at the Maister's feet:
ma chaffs were burnin an reid wi shame.
When I liftit ma heid his e'en to meet
a flegsome fear was in ma wame.
m.Sc. 1992 James Meek Last Orders 20:
A man screamed outside the front door. What a fleg! She was backing away with her hand on her chest.
Sc. 1997 Scotland on Sunday 26 Oct T6:
In Huntly, the "gieing a fleg to thon lowland sides" has become as customary a sight as that of their erstwhile player-manager, arms outstretched, hotly debating another sending off.
Dundee 2000 Matthew Fitt But n Ben A-Go-Go 48:
His legs wis shooglie, his hert duntin faster than wis healthy. The Dane had gien him a real fleg.
Dundee 2000 Matthew Fitt But n Ben A-Go-Go 189:
Braw weel he had forekent this moment but no how he wid feel. His fleeriest, maist flegsome dreams hadna gien him even a glisk o whit wey his hert wid whudder as nou it did.

2. Phrs.: (1) to get, gie, a fleg (one's flegs), to be scared, scare away; fig. of a large amount of anything, esp. of food or drink, snow, a pile of work: to diminish appreciably (Ork., ne.Sc., Ags. 1952; Abd., Ayr. 2000s). Cf. v., 2.; ‡(2) to gie (somebody) the flegs, to frighten (someone) off; †(3) to play (somebody) a fleg, to give (someone) a scare; (4) to tak fleg, to take fright (Ags. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc. 1952).(1) Lnl. 1890 A. M. Bisset Spring Blossoms 80:
I'se warrant they hae got their flegs Sin Bob's awa'.
Abd. 1928 N. Shepherd Quarry Wood vii.:
“The snaw's gotten a fleg,” said Geordie jubilantly.
Abd. 1990 Stanley Robertson Fish-Hooses (1992) 34:
Tessa got sic a fleg wi the auld man's ghost that haunted the place that she never ever worked late there again, even with ither workers roon aboot her.
Dundee 1996 Matthew Fitt Pure Radge 10:
the bairn didnae half gie his granfaither a fleg
(2) Abd. 1893 G. Macdonald Sc. Songs 95:
Sing ye young sorrow to beguile Or to gie auld fear the flegs?
(3) Edb. 1856 J. Ballantine Poems 114:
My certy! quo' she, but I'll play him a fleg.
(4) Sc. 1820 A. Sutherland St Kathleen III. 191:
I ken weel eneugh what lassies like, an' winna tak fleg although ye sid dort for a hale ook.
Ags. 1875 J. Watson Verse Samples 51:
The habble-jocks took fleg an' ran.

[O.Sc. fle(i)g, to scare, from 1600. Presumably a variant of Fley, q.v. The orig. of the -g is obscure, phs. a development on analogy with lie: lig; fly: n.Eng. dial. flig; draw: drag; flaw: flag. It is of relatively late appearance and not likely to derive from an O.N. *fleyggja as N.E.D. implies. For a sim. development of a final guttural stop, cf. Elbuck, Warlock, Winnock, and in Eng. dial. Wright Eng. Dial. Grammar § 348.1.]

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"Fleg v.1, n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Feb 2024 <>



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