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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.

KAE, n., v.1 Also kay, cae, keae; cay (Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 3); ka(w), kyaw, kea(w), cyaw (Gall.). Dim. kaeie (Fif. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 251). [Sc. ke:, Mry., sm.Sc. kjɑ:]

I. n. 1. The jackdaw, Corvus monedula (Ork. 1805 G. Barry Hist. Ork. 311; Mry. 1844 Zoologist 41; s.Sc. 1873 D.S.C.S. 151, keae; Kcb.4 1900, kyaw; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Dmf. 1950, kyaw; ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Fif., Gall., Rxb. 1959). Rarely applied to the jay, Garrulus glandarius (Rxb. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 75).Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 345:
Wo worth ill Company, quoth the Kae of Camnethen.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 5:
Of bum-bee bykes, pet pyats, doos, and keaws.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 460:
A fiddler, a fifer, and three castlekaws, Ay gie the music to a wadding o' craws.
Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 97:
The feather'd nations O' howlets, kaes, and huddy-craws.
Rxb. 1871 H. S. Riddell Poet. Wks. I. 212:
[To] ding them doun by dyke and drain, To feed the corbies and the kaes.
Ayr. 1912 G. Cunningham Verses 67:
Oor cyaw had been sitting a' day on their lum.
Abd. 1923 R. L. Cassie Heid or Hert xvii.:
The craws an' caes war haudin' an awfu' claik.
Mry. 1952 Scots Mag. (April) 47:
We recalled the fields at Newton Toll dotted with jackdaws — locally called by the onomatopoeic “kyaws”.

Phrs. and Combs.: (1) a kae in the kirk-riggin', a noisy, fractious child (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. s.v. kirk); (2) as cripple's a kae, very lame, applied to a person, horse or dog (Ags.17 1941); (3) ka(y)-wat(t)ie [i.e. Walter], as a pet-name for the bird (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis; n.Sc. 1808 Jam.); (4) kae-witted, hare-brained, half-witted (Ags. 1959).(4) Ags. 1793 Tam Thrum Look before ye Loup 12:
Ye poor kae-witted fool!
Ags. 1822 A. Balfour Farmers' Three Daughters II. 221:
Nae wonder tho' that kae-witted uncle debarred me frae ony o' his siller, whan he believed that I wadna gang to see him die!
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 118:
He was but a kae-witted cratur at the best, an' aye took his opeenions frae the last speaker.

2. The cry or call of the jackdaw (Dmf. 1899 Country Schoolmaster (Wallace) 350; Per. 1959).ne.Sc. 1850 Zoologist VIII. 2913:
The well-known kae of the jackdaw.

3. Used of persons: (1) contemptuously, in various senses, a chatterbox, a thief or cheat, an unlucky or ill-omened person. Also as a term of affection: “a neat little person” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 92); (2) as a local nickname for the inhabitants of Rosemarkie in Ross-shire.(1) Edb. 1798 D. Crawford Poems 52:
Fairies steal the bairns away . . . An' did some ill-far'd cankard kae Pit i' their stead.
Ags. 1826 A. Balfour Highland Mary I. i.:
An' the baillie begin wi' his pawky cracks, an' that kae wi' his clatter, we'll no soon get an end o't.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 105:
Gude keep ye aye frae warlocks, witches, . . . Thievish rogues, and w—h b—s An' swin'lin' kae.
(2) Crm. 1858 H. Miller Rambles 296:
We delighted to bestow on them (as their hereditary sobriquet, given, of course in allusion to their feathered neighbours) the designation of the “Rosemarkie Kaes”.

II. v. To call, of a jackdaw, to caw (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 92; Per. 1959).Per. 1896 D. Kippen Crieff 136:
He started the kaes and kept them kaeing.

[O.Sc. ca(a), a jackdaw, c.1450, kay, c.1500, Mid.Eng. ka, 1340, co, c.1325. The forms point to an O.N. *, Norw. kaa, though some are irreg. and may be simply onomat., as kyaw. For ne.Sc. kyaw, cf. however P.L.D. § 141.1.]

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"Kae n., v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Jul 2022 <>



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