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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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About this entry:
First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PLOY, n.1 Also ply (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 488).

1. A venture, enterprise, undertaking; a piece of business, scheme, plan. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1722 W. Hamilton Wallace (1779) 178:
John was a cliver and auld farrand boy, As you shall hear by the ensuing ploy.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 95:
Neiper, I fear this is a kittle ploy.
Ags. 1772 Session Papers, State of Process, Mudie v. Ross (25 Oct.) 9:
He was not pleased with what passed at the meeting, which made him go out of town that night, that he might avoid being present at his brother David's ploy. That upon the Deponent's asking what he meant by his brother's ploy? He told him . . . that he had gone out of town to avoid being present at his brother's ploy of catching her.
Sc. 1825 Aberdeen Censor 156:
Fouk sudna meddle wi' sic ploys.
Sc. 1827 Scott Letters (Cent. ed.) X. 300:
Sir Adam . . . departs for Dumfries Shire to head some ploy or other.
Edb. 1928 A. D. Mackie In Two Tongues 29:
My ain thrawn star has waled ye Tae turn my ploys a' ill.
Bwk. 1947 W. Ferguson Makar's Medley 23:
But what's yer ploy on a nicht like this?

2. A light-hearted plan or enterprise for one's own amusement, an escapade, a piece of fun, a frolic, a trick, a practical joke (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 125; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai). Gen.Sc. Adj. ¶ploysome, sportive, given to fun, frolicsome.Mry. 1749 E. D. Dunbar Social Life (1865) 103:
A letter in this day's paper anent a ploy occasioned by thirty or forty officers jumping on the stage.
Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery Intro.:
Mony a merry ploy I hae had wi' him down at the inn yonder.
Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales (1837) II. 320:
I say, Rob, now for our ploy on the goodwife.
wm.Sc. 1854 Laird of Logan 423:
Some ill-deedy bodies set us aff the road now and then, just for a ploy to themsels.
Ags. 1859 C. S. Graham Mystifications 30:
Do you mind . . . the grand ploys we had at Middleton?
Wgt. 1885 G. Fraser Poems 53:
It heichened their joys Tae work him some ploys.
Sh. 1888 Edmonston & Saxby Home of Naturalist 367:
Alas, alas, that I should hae left my gude faither for a man that grudges even his ain bairn its Christmas ploy.
Abd. 1895 G. Williams Scarbraes 43:
Yer dominie's possess'd to eke ye up to siccan dangerous ploys.
Ork. 1907 Old-Lore Misc. I. ii. 61:
Am hard me faither tellan wheer yarns aboot da ploys dey hed i' the auld times whin he waas a growan chield.
Abd. 1928 Word-Lore III. 147:
That's foo the ploysome loons o' Byth an' ootby gidna by her door on-grumphed.
Arg. 1954 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 374:
I have not been near to a dance but the once in the past twenty years, . . . but that wass nothing but a ploy.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 8:
... yon yin weel-kens whit side his breid is
And hoo to herry money oot o' maister by a hunner ploys
Arg. 1993:
That's jeest a ploy.

3. A social gathering, party, merry-making, jollification (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 125; Rxb. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl.; Sh. 1966). Comb. ploy-scone, -skon, a type of biscuit or pastry provided at a women's tea-party or ploy.Ayr. 1821 Galt Annals ii.:
The commoner sort did not like to let it be known that they were taking to the new luxury [tea], especially the elderly women, who, for that reason, had their ploys in outhouses and byplaces.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xix.:
In public companies and assemblies of people, such as strawberry ploys, council-meetings, dinner-parties and so forth.
s.Sc. 1836 Wilson's Tales of the Borders III. 29:
He's offered the use o' the kirk for marrying them in; an's to gie them a ploy forbye, after it's a' owre.
Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie vi.:
I'll warrant ye there hasna been a ploy in Edinburgh for an age at whilk there were sae mony anxious to get an invitation.
Fif. 1896 D. S. Meldrum Grey Mantle 272:
It was at the Neeplands she discovered it, at one of the farmers' ploys.
Sh. 1914 Old-Lore Misc. VII. ii. 72:
Ploy-skonn was like Scottish shortbread without sugar. Men were never supposed to share in this, which was eaten at a twelve o'clock a.m. tea-party, held in seclusion and consisting of elderly women only.

4. The scattering of coins for children to scramble for after a wedding (Lnk. 1930).

5. Employment, work. Nonce usage based on the etymology (see note).m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick vi.:
Gie them [Irish immigrants] their ploy, if ye wull; but dinna complain if ye're keepit hingin aboot a gey while on the causey at the feein market.

[Appar. an aphetic form of Eng. ‡employ, an occupation, activity.]

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"Ploy n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 Feb 2024 <>



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