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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.

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 12 Jun 2024 <>



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