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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

STEY, adj. Also stay, sty, st(e)igh, steich (Ags.); stee (Lnk. 1897 J. Wright Sc. Life 78). [stəi, stɑe, †sti:; Ags. + stəiç] 1. Of a hill, cliff, road, ascent, etc.: steep. rising sharply, difficult to ascend or climb (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, 1808 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Uls. 1953 Traynor, st(a)y, stigh). Gen. (exc. I.) Sc., now obsol. or liter., except in the proverbial phr. to pit or set a stout hert to a stey brae, to face difficulties with resolution. Also in n.Eng. dial. Comb. stey-coal, a coal seam set on a steep tilt, at an angle from 60o–90o from the horizontal (m.Lth. 1971).Sc. 1704 Atholl MSS.:
I hope all shall goe reight yett. A stout heart to a sty Brae.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 26:
On ilka hand the hills were stay an' steep.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Auld Mare xiv.:
The steyest brae, thou wad hae fac't it.
Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 250:
They gang swinging up the stey streets.
Dmf. 1865 J. Brown Horae Subs. (1882) 348:
The exquisitely moulded Stey Gail, or Steep Gable — so steep that it is no easy matter keeping your feet.
Dmf. 1874 R. Reid Moorland Rhymes 238:
The win' sae lown Can scrimply gar the stey peat-reek play swirl.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xv.:
Speldering on the craig face, whaur its hieest and steighest.
Kcb. 1895 Crockett Moss-Hags xxiv.:
At the Menick foot, where that long stey pass begins.
e.Lth. 1905 J. Lumsden Croonings 72:
Esk brattlin' ower stay an' rocky stone.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 20:
It hed been a stey climm up ti Dunionheed.
Ayr. 1928 J. S. Gall Muses 10:
The sock-face stey, withoot a glitter.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 103:
The braes that garred us pech were steich, . . . Wow! but oor hinmaist days are dreich.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 93:
Set a stout heart tae a stey brae, as the locals say, and keep right on to the end of the road where ceud mile failte, a hundred thousand welcomes in the ancient tongue of the Gael, awaits on the lips of the friendly people.

2. Physically upright, standing firm and erect. Arch.Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 49, 207:
E'en let mischanter geck your heels, An' throw your steyest step . . . He wasna the youngest nor steyest o' men, An' ill tholed the blast an' the snawin'.

[O.Sc. stay, steep, 1375, firm, unbending, a.1586, prob. representing O.E. *stǣȝe. Cf. O.E. deriv. form stǣȝel, steep, and stīȝen, to climb, and also O.N. stegi, stigi, a steep ascent.]

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"Stey adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jul 2024 <>



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