Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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MACKAY, prop. n. In phr. the real Mackay, the genuine article, the true original, the real home product (Edb. 1870); a brand of whisky so-called (see note). Lnk. 1880 Clydesdale Readings 166:
A thumblefu' o' the “rale Mackay” to mak' a' richt.
Sc. 1883 Stevenson Letters to Baxter (1956) 123:
There's myself — he's the real Mackay, whatever.
Ags. 1896 A. Blair Rantin Robin 23:
Come yer wa's for the “real Mackay” when I get on my Jirr boa.
m.Lth. 1922 “Restalrig” Sheep's Heid 71:
Weemenkind hae sadly deteriorated, Moolie! In oor days . . . they had a certain grace which stamped them as the rale Mackay!
Sc. 1926 H. M'Diarmid Drunk Man (1953) 1:
Forbye, the stuffie's no' the real Mackay.
Sc. 1957 Scotsman (25 Nov.) 8:
The use of substitutes for the “real Mackay” had grown as it has in the South.

[The orig. of the phr. is obscure, various theories being discussed at length in E. Partridge From Sanskrit to Brazil (1952) pp. 44 sqq., and in the Scotsman (9 Feb. 1952). The phr. was adopted as an advertising slogan by Messrs. G. Mackay and Co., whisky distillers of Edinburgh, in 1870 and must have been already current by that date. It is possible that real [Sc. rel] is a corruption of Reay [re:] in Sutherland, from which Lord Reay, the chief of the clan, takes his title. The Reay Mackays claim to be the historic leading branch of the family, as opposed to the Aberach Mackays, a cadet branch, and others of the name, and they have been distinguished for their consistent loyalty to Presbyterianism and the House of Hanover, so that the transition from Reay to real in popular usage might seem quite natural. Cf. A. Ross Fortunate Shepherd MS. (p.1768) 126: Your name's Mackay and come of the gueed Lord Rae.]

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"Mackay prop. n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 26 Sep 2021 <>



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