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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SEG, n.1, v.1 Also segg, saig, saeg, seag, sigg and dim. forms seggie, siggie (Sh.). [sɛg, seg; Sh. + sɪg]

I. n. 1. The yellow flag-iris, Iris pseudacorus (s.Sc. 1777 J. Lightfoot Flora Scotica II. 1078; Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Abd. 1891 Trans. Bch. Field Club II. 14; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). Gen.Sc.; also applied to other broad-leaved plants of this sort; the burreed, Sparganium (Abd. 1921 T.S.D.C.); reeds or rushes in gen. (Sc. 1825 Jam.). The dried leaves were frequently used as bast for grooming horses (‡ne.Sc. 1969) or by gardeners (Mry. 1921 T.S.D.C.) and the name was applied to these also. Also in n.Eng. dial. Comb. water-seg, id.Sc. 1732 A. Buchan Descr. St. Kilda 15:
A Clyster of Segges, fresh Butter and Salt.
Abd. 1788 Session Papers, Barr v. Cooper Proof 7:
Two small bundles, one of them packed up in a seg matt.
Ork. 1806 P. Neill Tour 23:
The common yellow flag or seg, of which a very coarse kind of hay is here made.
Rnf. 1807 R. Tannahill Poems (1876) 21:
Green sprigs o fragrant birk I chose, Tae busk the segg sae yellow.
Kcd. 1820 Farmer's Mag. (Feb.) 33:
The near resemblance which the leaves of the plants at first bear to what is provincially termed the Water Seg.
s.Sc. 1839 Wilson's Tales of the Borders V. 292:
Till I some day find her dead body among the seggs of the Lyne.
Fif. 1875 A. Burgess Poute 46:
They [leeks] 're like Mysel' — ass lairg as life — Just like a Sigg.
Fif. 1912 Rymour Club Misc. II. 116:
The lassie cam to a bog o' seggies fornent the eerie Deil's Plantin'.
Sh. 1916 J. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr (Jooly 11):
Da grund is aye weet whaar da siggies is grouwin.
Gall. 1928 Gallovidian Annual 45:
Their spears are o' the rashes green, o' segg their guid braid-swords.
Abd. 1961 People's Jnl. (11 Feb.):
The horses' manes an' tails waur plaitit an' tied wi' bonnie coloured segs.
Abd. 1992 David Toulmin Collected Short Stories 63:
With their horses for the market, their manes rolled and their tails tied up with coloured segs.

In combs. and derivs.: (1) segg-flower, id. (Rxb. 1915 Jedburgh Gazette (3 Sept.) 2). See also (3); (2) seg-root, of oats: a disease caused by eel-worm which makes the roots and lower leaves thick like those of a seg. Cf. II. Hence seg-rooted, affected with this disease; (3) seggy, abounding in segs, sedgy (Sc. 1825 Jam.); made of segs. Hence seggy-boat, a toy-boat made of sedges; seggey-flooer, seggifluer, = (1) (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; I.Sc. 1969).(2) Per., Fif. 1831 Edb. Ev. Courant (11 July) 4:
Potatoe oats in particular are looking ill, being “seg-rooted” and choked with weeds. . . . The same may be said of oats, with some exceptions, where the seg-root appears among early varieties.
(3) Abd. 1801 W. Beattie Parings 40:
The greenswaird how, an' seggy den.
Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems I. 6:
By Egypt's seggy Nile.
Ags. 1874 C. Sievwright Love Lilts 27:
Yonder by the seggy fen.
Sh. 1898 W. F. Clark Northern Gleams 131:
The loch on which he was wont to sail ships and seggy-boats.
Abd. 1903 W. Watson Auld Lang Syne 89:
The upper strata [of peat] was called foggy or “seggy”.
Sh. 1949 New Shetlander No. 19. 27:
The Seggey-flooer, which botanists call Iris Pseudacorus, or Yellow Flag flaunts its exotic blooms, and waves its great green sword-like leaves, which, dried in the August hay, make a succulent and well-liked morsel for the peerie laambs in the winter.

2. A kind of float made of bundles of segs used by children in learning to swim (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 194).Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 165:
He durstna gang into the dookin aboon his doup, for fear o' drownin, and even then wi' seggs.
Slk. 1875 Border Treasury (20 March) 383:
There's nothing for a young man like haein to soom withoot either blethers or seggs.

II. v. Of oat-plants: to be affected by seg-root (see 1. Combs. (2) above). Vbl.n. seg(g)ing (Lth. 1827 Farmer's Jnl. (13 Aug.), in anglicised form sedging; Kcd., Lth. 1969).Kcd. 1820 Farmer's Mag. (Feb.) 32–33:
I have often had it in view to send you an account of a disease which not unfrequently occurs among the oats in this part of the country, called Seging. . . . For some time the plants, or rather stocks, (for they are much grosser than common), assume a vigorous appearance, but soon become pale and dwarfish, and at length decay, without coming into ear leaving the place, for several yards round, an entire blank, or nearly so.
Sc. 1831 Quarterly Jnl. Agric. III. 85:
The driest end (about two acres) of a field of seven acres, which sloped gently to an open ditch, always “segged” the oats which grew upon it, that is to say, the plants were scanty, had leaves like the flag, and the seed-stalk was always choked in the hose. This segging occurred both after lea and fallow.
Sc. 1886 Trans. Highl. Soc. 383:
The disease is known by farmers under the name of “Segging” and “Tulip-root”.
Sc. 1956 W. M. Findlay Oats 150:
A field where segging had been common in the oat crop two years before.

[O.Sc. seg, a sedge, c.1420, A Northern unpalatalised form of O.E. secg, id. Seggy, adj., is found in place-names from c.1300.]

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"Seg n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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