Show Search Results Show Browse

Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology

Abbreviations Cite this entry

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

BLUE, n., adj. Used as in St.Eng. Variant dial. forms are blew, blyue, blyoo, bew, byoo, blyew, blyow. [blu: Sc.; blju: I.Sc., Abd., mn.Sc., ne.Sc.; bju: L.Bnff., Bch., w.Sc.; bljau: Abd.]

I. Examples of dial. forms, n. and adj.Ork.(D) 1911 J. Spence in Old-Lore Misc., Ork., Sh., etc. IV. iv. 185:
Thu wadna fund a bonnier toon under da blew lift o' heevan!
Bnff.2 1935; Abd.5 1930:
Byoo for blue we usually associated with fisher talk, but byoo stot is commonly used amongst farmers.
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 31:
I canna credit that his blid is bew
whase faithers kent nae chairgers, helm or glaive
but brewt guid yill wi baurley-maut an barm.
Gsw.(D) 1902 J. J. Bell Wee Macgreegor (1903) viii.; s.Lnk., Bute 1914 T.S.D.C. I.:
But rid an' bew an' yella an' ither colours canna be tooken in a likeness.

II. Special usages of n.

1. (See quot.)e.Rs.1 1929:
Blue, a person from the West coast or Isles; not complimentary.

2. (See quot.)Abd. 1920 Anon. Gleanings Deeside Par. II. 9:
I ken the blue (danger, evil) o' that.

3. “A vulgar name for whisky, and other spirits” (w.Sc. 1887 Jam.6).Sc. 1785 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 504:
While they regale o'er The blue.
Rnf. 1790 A. Wilson Poems (1844) 178:
Misfortunes, on ilk others backs, Come roarin' whiles aroun' me; For comfort to the blue I rax, Or aiblins they might drown me.

4. In phr. “‘I've seen as licht a blue,' I've seen as much” (Bnff.2 1935; Abd.13 1910).Abd.4 1931:
I've seen as licht a blyew dy't i' the churn (some half-diseredited gossip looming ahead).

III. Special combs. and phrases: 1. blue beetle, a nickname for a policeman. See Beetle; 2. blue-cap (see quot.); 3. blue cloot (Ags.1 1935) = 5; 4. blue-mogganer, “a native of Peterhead; at first applied to the fishing population only” (Abd. 1888 Sc. N. & Q. (Ser. 1) II. 44; Bnff.2 1935); 5. blyue pokki, a small bag containing blue powder dipped in the water when white clothes are being washed; 6. blue-spald, a disease of cattle. Cf. Black-spaul(d); 7. blue threid, -thread, -treed, “a flavour of indecency” (Sh.7 1935, blue treed).1. Mry. 1887 W. H. L. Tester Poems 109:
Assur'd the "blue beetle" was aff o' his beat.
2. Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Sc. Mining Terms 11:
Blue-cap, the characteristic blue aureola over the flame of a safety lamp where fire-damp is present in the air.
4. Bch. 1933 Abd. Press and Jnl. (14 Nov.):
Peterhead . . . fishermen wore blue “moggans” over their stockings for warmth at the seal fishing, and were known as the “Blue Mogganers.”
[See Moggan.]5. Sh.7 1935:
Lass, could du gie me a lenn o' dy blyue pokki? I ha'e white claes i da wash, an my blyue pokki is empty.
6. Sc. 1814 C. I. Johnstone Saxon and Gael I. 152:
If the cattle will die of the blue-spald, what can I help that?
7. Bch. 1928 (per Abd.15):
His stories his aye a blue threid in them.

Hence phr. thread of blue, threidie o' blue, “used to denote anything in writing or conversation that is smutty” (Bnff.2 1935; Ayr. 1935 (per Slg.3); Gall. 1825 Jam.2).Bch. 1928 (per Abd.15); Ags.2 1935:
Hoch ay, but fat's aboot a bit threidie o' blue!
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 446:
Thread o' Blue. Any little smutty touch in song-singing, chatting, or piece of writing.

IV. Combs. in plant names:

1. Blue-blauers, -blavers, (1) the harebell, Campanula rotundifolia, or the cornflower, Centaurea cyanus (Mry. 1839 G. Gordon Flora of Mry. 10; Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; 1923 Watson W.-B., obs.); ‡(2) “the cornflower or blue-bottle” (n., w.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). See also Blaver, n., 1 and 2.

2. Blue bonnets, -bannets, (1) “the corn bluebottle, Centaurea cyanus” (Sc. 1777 J. Lightfoot Flora Scotica I. 499; Sc. 1808 Jam.; Mry. 1839 G. Gordon Flora of Mry. 25; Mry.1 1925; Abd., Slg. 1886 Britten and Holland Eng. Plant-Names 54); (2) “knapweed, Centaurea scabiosa” (Mry.1 1925; Arg.1 1931; w.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (3) “the flower of Scabiosa succisa, Linn.” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2); also “blue-bannets” (Lnk. 1825 Jam.2); (4) “Jasione montana” (Dmf. 1886 Britten and Holland Eng. Plant-Names 54); (5) “mountain centaury” (n.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), Centaurea montana.

3. Blue-bow, blew-bowed, “said of flax when it blossoms” (Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.).

4. Blew dadie, -deddie, the devil's bit scabious, Scabiosa succisa (Rnf. c.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) B. 291). See Daddy.

5. Blue-grass, Blue-gerse, “the name given to the various sedge-grasses, or Carices” (w.Sc. 1825 Jam.2).Rnf. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 VII. 518:
We have but very little of the blue or star-grass (carex panicea).
Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Gen. View Agric. Ayr. 304–305:
Carices, sedge-grasses, abound in all parts of the county of Ayr. . . . This tribe of plants are, by the Ayrshire farmers, called blue, sour, one-pointed grasses.

6. Blue seggin, “the blue flower-de-luce” (Ayr. 1825 Jam.2; Ayr. 1886 Britten and Holland Eng. Plant-Names 55). Iris fœtidissima.

7. Blue stars, “Veronica Chamædrys” (Slg. 1886 Britten and Holland Eng. Plant-Names 55), the germander speedwell.

V. Combs. in bird names. Popular usage is erratic in regard to these names.

1. Blue-bonnet, -bannet, blue titmouse, Parus cœruleus (Sc. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 33; Mry.1 1925; Arg.1 1931; Clydes. 1825 Jam.2, blue-bannet; Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.); 2. blue-cap, id. (Sc. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 33); 3. blue dickie, -deikie, the hedge sparrow, Accentor modularis (Rnf. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 29; e.Dmf.2 1917, blue deikie); 4. blue gled, the hen harrier, Circus cyaneus (Sc. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 132); 5. blue hawk, (1) the peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus (m.Sc. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 138); (2) the sparrow-hawk, Accipiter nisus (Slg., e.Lth. Ib. 136); (3) the hen harrier, Circus cyaneus (e.Lth. Ib. 132); 6. blue janet, the hedge-sparrow. Accentor modularis (Ags. 1975), freq. in dim. form bluesie; 7. blue jay, the jay, Garrulus glandarius (Lnl. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 75); 8. blue kite, the hen harrier, Circus cyaneus (Sc. Ib. 132); 9. blue maa, the common gull, Larus canus (Sh. Ib. 207); 10. blue merlin, the sparrow-hawk, Accipiter nisus (Per. Ib. 136); 11. blue ox-eye, the blue titmouse, Parus cœruleus (Ags. Ib. 33); 12. blue sleeves, the hen harrier, Circus cyaneus (Sc. Ib. 132; Abd. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XV. 475). Also erron. applied occas. to the peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus (em.Sc. 1906 J. A. Harvie-Brown Fauna of Tay 179); 13. blue sparrow, hedge sparrow, Accentor modularis (Ib. 29); 14. blue Tom, idem (Ib.); 15. blue yaup, blue titmouse (Ib. 33).

[O.Sc. blew(e), bleu, c.1438 (D.O.S.T.). Appears also as bleu in Cursor M. (c.1300); from O.Fr. bleu which is of Germanic origin; cf. Ger. blau, O.N. blā-r, and Mod.Sc. blae.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Blue n., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



Hide Advanced Search

Browse SND: