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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BLAE, adj., n., v. Also †blea-[ble:]

1. adj. Bluish in colour, of a dark colour between blue and grey, livid. Gen.Sc.

(1) (a) Applied to objects in 1979 Alastair Mackie in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 65:
Mebbe the morn or next day ....
Mebbe it will lift a wee
the hotchin wraiths, the blae skyscape o my heid.
Abd. 1827 J. Imlah May Flowers 57:
On Tulla's tap and Banchory's brae, The wild hill-berries, black and blae.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 24:
Hyterin ooto his bed in the blae dawn, he cowpit hissel ower the auld wife's suitcase an fell rick-ma-tack tae the fleer.

(b) Used sometimes to describe a sinister or dreary aspect.Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 27:
Sic thochts mak cuiffies o us aa,
an naitrel virr gangs blae
wi thochts wad gar ye grue.
Rxb. 1917 Kelso Chron. (30 Nov.) 2/6:
The weather was bleary and the water blae.

(2) Applied to the discoloration of the skin from the effects of a blow, or of cold, faintness, age.Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems 36:
Vild Hangy's Taz ye'r Riggings saft Makes black and blae.
ne.Sc. 1719 Alistair and Henrietta Tayler Jacobites of Aberdeenshire and Banffshire in the Rising of 1715 (1934) 111:
Her shoulders and arms and other parts of her body have continued blae for severall days.
m.Sc. 1939 James Barke The Land of the Leal (1987) 40:
When Jacob Scanlon's attention was first drawn to him he was wiping the tears from his eyes with the back of his cold-blae hand.
m.Sc. 1979 George Campbell Hay in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 86:
I am mair auld nor auld;
ma neb is blae; the wund is snell.
Arg.1 1932:
Ye'r blae wi' the cowld, lassie: come in tae the fire an' warm yersel.
Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems, etc. 14:
Up to some hilloc tap or brae, He bends his way, baith cauld and blae.
Dmf. 1808 J. Mayne Silter Gun 88:
Sad wights! wi' ribs baith black and blae Were harlit hame.

Hence blaeness, n., lividness. Gen.Sc.Mry.2, Bnff.2 1934:
The blaeness o' his lips, hands, etc.

(3) fig. Applied to a person to denote the effects of any emotion such as fear, anxiety, sorrow.Edb. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 102:
While ance lov'd vice will e'en be wae, An' a' its votaries look blae.

(4) Used to describe the weather, etc.Sc. 1819 J. Rennie St Patrick I. xiv.:
Odsake, my fingers is dinlin aff at the nails wi' that blae win'.
Sc. 1886 R. L. Stevenson Underwoods 170:
There's rowth o' wrang, I'm free to say: The simmer brunt, the winter blae.

2. n.

(1) Contraction for Blaeberry, q.v. The pl. seems to have been regarded as a sing. in Ags. and a dim. formed, viz. blaesie, with a second pl. blaesies.Abd. 1906 J. Christie in Bnffsh. Jnl. (22 May) 10:
There grew the blaes I thocht sae fine.
Ags. 1894 A. Reid Sangs o' the Heatherland 119; Ags.1 1934:
What gin I sing O' birdies on the lichtsome wing Wha ken the howes whaur “blaesies” hing.

(2) An expanse of greyish, misty blue.w.Sc. 1929 R. Crawford In Quiet Fields 36:
Gie me the hill at dwynin' day; Ae hertsome star in hertless blae.

(3) The colour blue, or blue-grey, leaden blue.Ayr. [1836] J. Ramsay Woodnotes (1848) 26:
Whether it was the ridin' brought the bluid Into her face, or no, I canna say; Bit every smitch o't was a kin' o' red, Or rather somethin' comin' near a blae.

(4) Marks left by measles, etc.; also marks of bruises, wounds, etc.Rnf. 1809 J. Millar Renfrewshire Witches (1877) 150:
The children were . . . found dead in the morning, with a little blood on their noses and the blaes at the roots of their ears, which were obvious symptoms of strangling.

Combs.: (1) †blea-beds, layers of shale in a mine, Blaes, q.v; (2) blae-bows, Linum usitatissimum, “blue flax bells; the flowers of flax” (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 74); (3) blaefaced, “livid with fear” (Bnff.2 1934); (4) †blae-giving, vbl.n., giving bruises or contusions; (5) blae-wet, coloured with bluish juice; (6) blae-wing, “an angling term used to denote an artificial fly tied with a ‘blae,' or bluish-grey, wing. Gen.Sc.” (Fif.1 1934). Also in reduced form blae(1) m.Lth. 1767 Session Papers, Earl of Abercorn v. Hope Depositions 3:
The water from the level may penetrate thro' the vises of the dike, notwithstanding all the thickness of the blea-beds.
(3) Sc.(E) 1926 H. M'Diarmid Penny Wheep 21:
Blaefaced afore the throne o' God He'll get his fairin' yet.
(4) Bnff. 1715 W. Cramond Annals Cullen (1888) 77:
John Scott fined at a Constable Court £50 Sc. for wounding and blae giving to Walter Walker, burgess.
(5) Sc. 1930 J. G. Horne in Glasgow Herald (14 Oct.):
A shilpit laddie frae the toon, his mooth blae-wet Wi' brammles aff the green hedge-raw.
(6) Sc. 1856 W. Chambers Peebles 101:
A 'blae' fly, whose wings are of the 'buntling,' the starling, the fieldfare, or even of the chaffinch feathers, and the body of water-rat fur.

3. v. To make blue, hence to benumb. Also in irreg. form blaese.Bnff. 1898 E.D.D.; Bnff.2 1934:
Ye'll blae a' yer han's gehn ye pit them in amo' the frosty water.
Ags. 1894 A. Reid Sangs 120:
Syne blaesed their moos till hunger's waes Fair garred them rin!

[O.Sc. bla, blae, blea, etc., adj., dark blue, livid, black, and n., a livid mark on the skin made by a blow. O.Sc. has also meanings of the n. (1) and (2) (D.O.S.T.); n.Mid.Eng. bla, blaa; O.N. blār, livid, blue; cogn. Sw. blå, Dan. blaa, blue; Ger. blau, whence Fr. bleu, Eng. blue.]

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"Blae adj., n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 6 Jun 2023 <>



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