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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.

SYKE, n., v. Also sike, syck, seike. [səik]

I. n. 1. A small stream, rill or water-course, esp. one that meanders through a hollow or across flat or boggy ground and is freq. dry in summer (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Dmf. 1894 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 156: Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Bwk., Lnk., s.Sc., 1972); marshy ground traversed by such; an open field-drain or ditch (Mry. 1925). Also attrib. Adj. sykie, sycky, sikie, of ground: full of sluggish rivulets, soft, boggy, though dry in summer (Cld. 1825 Jam.). Also in n.Eng. dial.Rxb. 1718 Stitchill Ct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 180:
Ground carying grass tho' never so coarse such as that called Syke ground.
Mry. 1763 Session Papers, Dunbar v. Dunbar, State of Process 34:
A Got or small Ditch which served to drain the sycky Ground there.
Dmf. 1776 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. (1951) 145:
The march of that herding is to come from the Rispie syke to the point at Blood syke Bottom to the stone syke-head.
Ayr. 1800 Merry Muses (1959) 118:
But a sykie risk, below the hill, The plough she took a stane, jo.
Peb. 1802 G. Findlater Agric. Peb. 16:
The designation of the smallest rill of water is a syke, or a well-strand, if from a spring-well.
Sc. 1802 The Wife of Usher's Well in Child Ballads No. 19. A. vi.:
It neither grew in syke nor ditch, Nor yet in ony sheugh.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xiv.:
A great gathering o' their folk at the Miry Sikes.
wm.Sc. 1835 Laird of Logan 257:
The sheughs and the sykes.
em.Sc. 1913 J. Black Gloamin' Glints 13:
The grassy water-sykes would fill The muirlan' burnies fou.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 5:
Whan naigs an troopers war cowpeet inti ilka seike.

2. A marshy hollow, esp. one through which a stream flows, a cleft in the ground (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Dmf., Rxb. 1972). Also in n.Eng. dial.Sc. 1702 R. Wodrow Early Letters (S.H.S.) 197:
Hills and mountains, moss or mure, bank or syke.
Abd. 1809 J. Skinner Amusements 41:
The swankies lap thro' mire and syke.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xxiii.:
I took up the sike a wee bit.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 119:
When ice has gruppit burn an' syke.
Dmf. 1952 Scotsman (21 June):
A “syke” or cleft in a hillside where antimony once was mined.
m.Sc. 1996 John Murray Aspen 6:
Syne Ah met wi Dodd Fox,
but he slippit me a sleikit luik
an smooled intil a syke,

3. A street-gutter (Dmf. 1894 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 156).

II. v. Of water: to run in a sluggish stream, to flow in or form a rill or ditch. Also in n.Eng. dial.Mry. 1763 Session Papers, Dunbar v. Dunbar, State of Process 45:
Some Water that sycked from the Mill-lead.

[O.Sc. in Latinised form sicum, a.1214, syk, 1375, = 1., North. Mid.Eng. syke, id., corresp. to Southern Eng. sitch, now dial., O.E. sīc, O.N. sík, a watercourse. Cf. Dyke and ditch.]

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"Syke n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 7 Oct 2022 <>



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