Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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KEEP, v., n. Also †keip. Sc. forms and usages. See also Kep, v.

I. v. A. Forms: pa.t., pa.p. and ppl.adj. keepit, -et (Ayr. 1786 Burns Twa Dogs 8). Gen.Sc.; keeped (Sc. 1726 Edb. Ev. Courant (9–13 June), 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 69), keept, keipt (Sc. 1706 Earls Crm. (Fraser 1876) II. 2, 496, 1786 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 69), kep (Lnk. 1890 H. Muir Reminisc. 10; Kcb. 1911 G. M. Gordon Auld Clay Biggin 3); pa.p. strong form keepen (Rnf. 1807 R. Tannahill Poems (1900) 26). [′kipɪt, kip(t), I.Sc., Cai. ′kipɪd]

B. Sc. usages. Keep has not so commonly replaced hold, Haud, q.v., as in mod.Eng.

1. tr. (1) To tend, take care of. Gen.Sc. Now only dial. in Eng. Phrs. to keep the hoose, see 1818 quot.; to keep (the) toun, of a farm-worker: to look after a farm while the others are away, as on Sundays or holidays (ne.Sc. 1959). See Toun. Ags. 1818 Edb. Mag. (Sept.) 234:
The cloth is made by a weaver in the neighbourhood and generally bleached at home, with the exception of a piece of fine linen, which is required to be of purer white, for keeping the house, by which is implied to serve as winding-sheets.
Mry. 1864 St Andrews Gazette (28 May):
Servants were permitted to enter into arrangements amongst themselves for taking turn about in “keeping the town” on Sundays.
Abd. 1867 A. Allardyce Goodwife ii.:
Jinse maun gyang oot to keep the kye.
Abd. 1875 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 71:
Saunders Malcolmson had chosen to stay at home from church and “keep the toon.”
Abd. 1898 Weekly Free Press (12 March):
“Peer, useless thing, hoo could she keep a man?” “The keeping of a man,” from a fisherwoman's point of view, consists in giving very substantial help in the daily work connected with the industry, such as the landing and curing of the fish, carrying them to the nearest town . . . and even wading into the sea in search of mussel bait.
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 13:
We say keep a bairn where in English the expression is nurse (or “mind”) a child.
ne.Sc. 1946 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 186:
An argument . . . between the two remaining horsemen as to which of them “will keep toon” (i.e., feed and groom the horses) on New Year's Day.

2. intr. To fare as regards health. Gen.Sc. Also in n.Eng. dial. Cf. Haud, I. A. 1. Abd. a.1880 W. Robbie Yonderton xx.:
After remarking on the weather and inquiring at old Mains “hoo he wiz keepin'.”
Lnk. 1897 J. Wright Scenes of Sc. Life 34:
Next morning I went up “to see hoo she was keepin'.”

3. In phrs. expressing surprise or dismay: keep me, (u)s (a'), ellipt. for May God keep me (us) (all) (n.Sc., em.Sc.(a), Lnk., Kcb., Slk. 1959). Also phr. keep's a' livin' (Ags.17 1941). ne.Sc. 1836 J. Grant Tales 31:
Keep's laddie! whaur has thou been?
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxviii.:
Keeps, 'oman, it wud be a byous thing to brak' aff fae the hoose o' Gweed.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xx.:
Keep me! wha's this of it?
Per. 1895 I. Maclaren Auld Lang Syne 47:
But keep's a', he's been sae crouse this week that he's fair gae'n ower me.
Abd. 1936 D. Bruce Cried on Sunday 6:
Keep me! Can that be her chappin' at the door eevnoo?

4. To maintain, sustain, keep going, of talk, noise, etc., where Eng. uses keep up (ne.Sc. 1959). Cf. haud a time, wark, crack, etc., s.v. Haud, v., C. Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 120:
The ongang it they keepit wee ane anither wiz jist ugfou.

5. Phrs. and Comb.: (1) keepie-up, a boys' game played by keeping a ball in the air using the feet, knees, or head, or by bouncing it against a wall with the head only (Ags., wm.Sc. 1959); (2) keepin aff, used quasi-prep. = except, not counting (Ags., Lth. 1959). Cf. to haud aff, — awa frae s.v. Haud, I. B. 1.; (3) to keep a din or noise, to make a noise. See 4. above; (4) to keep affo' anesel, to act on the defensive in fighting, to repel attack; to stand up for oneself in the face of difficulty or opposition (n.Sc., Ags., Fif., Kcb. 1959); (5) to keep a stack, to trim a hay- or corn-stack while it is being built (Arg.1 1930; Kcb., Dmf. 1959). Hence keeper, one who does this (Id.); †(6) to keep cut, to swing scythes in unison in the harvest field. Cf. (18); (7) to keep in aboot, to restrain, to keep in order, to discipline strictly (Sh., n.Sc., em.Sc.(a), Lth., Kcb., Slk. 1959). Cf. Haud, I. A. 10. (2), and Aboot, 3. (4); (8) to keep in guid wi, to keep in with, to keep on good terms with (Cai., Ags., Ayr., Wgt., Kcb. 1959). Cf. Haud, I. B. 9.; (9) to keep inlan, see Inland; (10) to keep in (adv.) one's han(d), (a) to restrain oneself, to refrain from striking, gen. used imper. (Sc. 1887 Jam., Add.; Bnff., Fif., Lth. 1959); (b) to refrain from being generous, to be stingy (Sc. 1887 Jam., Add.; ne.Sc., Lth. 1959); †(11) to keep land in, — out. See In and Out; (12) to keep mind (o). See Mind; (13) to keep one's pooch, to provide with pocket money (ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., Ayr., sm.Sc. 1959); (14) to keep steeks or stitch (wi), to keep pace, to keep up (with) (Ags., Kcb. 1959); (15) to keep tee (or til) (wi), id., to keep abreast (of) (ne.Sc., Ags. 1959); (16) to keep the church, to attend church regularly. See also Kirk, n.1, II. 6.; (17) to keep up, (a) to stay awake (I.Sc., n.Sc., Ags., Lth., Lnk., Wgt., Uls. 1959); (b) to block, to occupy to the exclusion of others; (18) to keep up one's rig, to keep up the same rate of cutting corn as the others in the harvest field (Lth., Wgt. 1959). Cf. (6); (19) to keep white ice, in curling: to throw one's stone up the middle of the rink and not to one side (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 290; Kcb. 1959); (20) to keep wide, in shepherding: to keep some distance from the flock so as not to disturb the sheep (Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders vii.; Sh., n.Sc., Lnk., sm.Sc., Slk. 1959). See Wide. (1) Gsw. 1958 Sunday Post (23 Feb.):
Ach! he's just jealous because I aye beat him at keepie-up!
(2) Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 26:
A couthy motherly body, aye keepin' aff the siller itsel', and when ye were seekin naething frae her.
(4) Abd. 1882 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 114:
A brief tussle, during which witness endeavoured “to keep aff o' 'imsel'”.
Bnff.2 1941:
The loon wiz a bittie simple an' cud hardly keep aff o' himsel'.
(6) Abd. 1906 Rymour Club Misc. I. 28:
To see's keepin' cut on the hairst rig, We ficher nane here wi' the heuk.
(7) Abd. 1895 G. Williams Scarbraes 47:
I'll see an' keep him better in aboot. I'm owre easy, I'm thinkin'.
(8) Sh. 1948 New Shetlander No. 8. 10:
She was a body that it was better to “keep in guid wi'”.
(10) (a) Fif.10 1942:
Keep in your hand, gudewife; the bairn meant nae ill.
(b) Abd.9 1942:
His fader helpit Jamie wi' siller again an' again, but he hid tae keep in his han' an' Jamie broke.
(13) Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 193:
An' aw dinna winner sae muckle at loons gyaun awa' an' lea'in' their fader fin he wunna gie them as muckle's keep their pooch.
(14) Sc. 1828 Scott Journal (1890) II. 210:
O' Mr Mitchell, Mr Mitchell, Your promises and time keep stitch ill.
Kcb.10 1942:
Ye couldna keep steeks wi' that Alec; them that gets ahin 'im are ridin' gey near the tail.
(15) Abd. 1930 Abd. Univ. Review (March) 103:
Fyles ye hakit on at a terrible rate an' peer Jimmie hid aneuch adee t' keep tee wi't.
Abd. 1952 Buchan Observer (26 Feb.):
Ye can neither fordle nor even keep tee the feedle work when frost and snaw take over the government of the whole countryside.
(16) Sc. 1775 J. Howie Biog. Scot. 288:
Mr Guthrie asked, If he would come back the next sabbath day, and he would give him the same? Which he did, and from that time afterwards, never failed to keep the church.
(17) (a) Sh. 1898 Shetland News (10 Dec.):
Alto I tried ta keep up a' 'at I could, sae as ta hear, da dram owercam' me, an' I fell ower.
Abd.9 1942:
I wyted till ten o'clock but couldna keep up langer an' fell seen asleep.
(b) Abd. 1891 J. Leatham Ancient Hind 5:
Keepin' up the fireside 'at the bairns canna win near't.
(18) Ayr. 1879 J. White Jottings 49:
Come awa Kirsty, Keep up yer rig.

II. n. †1. Stores, provisions, on a ship; left-overs from a previous meal. Comb. †keep-house, a store-room. w.Sc. 1773 Boswell Tour (10 Sept.):
Adjoining to the house was another little circular room called a keep-house . . . It was a kind of store-room for the few things that they had.
Ags. 1833 J. S. Sands Poet. Effusions 79:
We'd just our supper got o' keeps, As we cam' to the Norwich deeps.

2. Pl.: a game of marbles in which the winnings are kept (Ags., Per., Lnk., Ayr., Dmf. 1959). Also dim. keepie, id. (Kcb. 1941–59). Cf. Winnie.

3. Comb.: keep-up, upkeep, cost of maintenance (Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Lnk., Slk. 1959). Abd. 1928 Abd. Weekly Jnl. (20 Sept.) 6:
It maun bee a gey keep up a motor larry.

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"Keep v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jan 2022 <>



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