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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1934 (SND Vol. I). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BARLEY, BAURLEY, n.1 and v. Also barleys, barlies (barley Edb., Ayr., Dmf. 2000s), bawrley (Gsw. 1950 H. W. Pryde McFlannel Family Affairs 52). Freq. used with interjectional force.  [′bɑrlĕ + Sc.; em. and wm.Sc. + ′brl]

1. n. A truce, a rest; a pause in any activity, esp. in a children's game (Sh., Ags., Per., wm.Sc. 1975). [Rare in ne.Sc.]Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley xliii.:
And like a proper lad o' his quarters, that will not cry barley in a brulzie.
Sc. 1846 Anon. The Muckomachy (based on W. Drummond Polemo-Middinia) 20:
“A barley!” through the armies baith, From ilka geysend craig resoundit.
Sh.4 1933:
I beg a barley.
Abd. 19c.1875:
Barley. Known at Ballater in my schooldays.
Ags.2 1933; Fif.1 1933:
Barley. Heard in north Forfarshire, and in Fife.
Ags. 1990s:
Barlies: n., truce during game.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 30:
In vain the chiel a baurley socht.
Edb. 1812 W. Glass Caledonian Parnassus 42:
Then Bonaparte, completely cow'd, Shall cry, “Guid safe's, a barley!”
sm.Sc. 1988 W. A. D. and D. Riach A Galloway Glossary :
barley a rest time in a children's game for discussion or bargaining
Arg. 1901 N. Munro Doom Castle xxxiii.:
He gripped me by the craig and fair choked me afore I could cry a barley.
Gsw. 1898 D. Willox Poems and Sketches 87:
I concluded that it was a' a vile conspiracy tae gar folks burst themsel's, an' resolved tae cry” a barley.”
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 284:
The sun is blinking warm and bonnie owre the holms and the plantin's, and so I maun cry “A barley! a barley!” and go and enjoy it while I may.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 49:
Whan ee're staw'd o' writin', duist take a barley.
w.Dmf. 1917 J. L. Waugh Cute McCheyne iv.:
“Now, I would like to give you a little sermon on this — ” “A barley! a barley, Maister Crosbie!”
m.Dmf.3 c.1920:
A barley, a rest in play by children.

Phrs. (1) to brak barlie, to break a truce, to start up a game again, recommence play. Cf. Barley-brack(s), 1. Used fig. in quot.; (2) to cry barley, to ask for a truce (Ags., Per. 1975). (1)Abd. 1767 Garland of Bon-Accord (1886) 24-5:
He said he would brak barlie, If he lay lang him leen . . . He's welcome to brak barlie, He canna lie him leen.
(2)Sc. 1757 T. Smollett The Reprisal ii. x.:
I'se no be the first to cry barley.

2. v. (See quot.)Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 44:
Barley . . . to treat, to have peace for a moment.

[Phs. a corruption of Fr. parlez. See Parley.]

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"Barley n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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