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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 since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BOTHY, BOTHIE, BATHIE, Bothay, Boothy, n., v. Also boothie (Abd. 1817 J. Christie Instructions 29). [′bɔθɪ̢̈, ′boθɪ̢̈, ′bɑθɪ̢̈ (see P.L.D. § 54)]

1. n. Also used attrib.

(1) Gen., any primitive dwelling or shelter of any kind. Obsol.Sc. 1819 Scott Leg. Montrose viii.:
Angus painted in the most alarming colours . . . the wretched huts or bathies where he would be condemned to pass the night.

(2) Especially living quarters, permanent or temporary, used to house workmen engaged in the locality; a building near the fishings used by salmon fishers, Gen.Sc.; a shelter on a hillside for shepherds or climbers; an independent building on a farm or part of the farm steading, used to house unmarried male farm servants, Gen.Sc.Sc. 1771 T. Pennant Tour in Scot. 1769 102:
Bothay, a dairy-house, where the Highland shepherds, or graziers, live during summer with their herds and flocks, and during that season make butter and cheese.
Sc. 1777 J. Lightfoot Flora Scotica I. 257:
The dairy-maid will not forget to drive them [cattle] to the shealings . . . with a rod of the Roan-tree, which she carefully lays up over the door of the sheal boothy or summer-house.
Sth. 1996 Eddie Davies in Timothy Neat The Summer Walkers: Travelling People and Pearl-Fishers in the Highlands of Scotland 22:
He travelled round the farms, round the bothies, selling his wire puzzles to the bothie loons or the cornkisters as we would say, and they'd pay him to teach them the secrets, or he'd swap a good puzzle for a sack of tatties, or a sack of neeps to take home.
Ags. 1990s:
Bothy: n. farm servants' quarters.
Ags. 2000 Montrose Review 16 Nov 15:
Years later I gave a talk to the Montrose Society on Vernacular Architecture, based on photographs, ice-larders, fish houses and salmon bothies owned by Joseph Johnston.
m.Sc. 1986 Colin Mackay The Song of the Forest 23:
Next on a roan road Fergus - and as he came to the first bothy of the village, ...
em.Sc. (a) 1896 (2nd ed.) “I. Maclaren” Kate Carnegie 301:
So a' set oot an' ransackit the parish till a' got him, an' gin he wesna sittin' in a bothie takin' brose wi' the plowmen.
Per. 1990 Betsy Whyte Red Rowans and Wild Honey (1991) 125:
Bryce, who cycled round the bothies selling to the ploughmen, sometimes came to our rescue if he had a good day, by giving Mother a few coppers.
Fif. 1901 “G. Setoun” Skipper of Barncraig iv.:
A healthy hunger an' a chopin' o' good, sweet milk! That was bothy philosophy for a belly-fu' o' brose.
Rnf. 1993 History on your Doorstep, The Reminiscences of the Ferguslie Elderly Forum 7:
We had men in the bothy, and my mother was up at 4 o'clock in the morning, making the scones.
Lnk. 1997 Duncan Glen From Upland Man 6:
It's into the lang straucht streetch o the driveway
and roond by the byre, biler-hoose, open sties aside the hen run,
and into the auld fairmyaird wi surroundin stables, bothie,
granary and milkhoose.

(3) A workman's hut. Edb. 1997:
You treat this house like a bothy. Your bedroom looks like a bothy.
Gsw. 1985 Michael Munro The Patter 11:
bothy Originally applied to a labourer's shelter on a building site, this term is still used for the more sophisticated portakabins. I have even heard it used of the workers' cloakrooms in a factory.

2. v. To accommodate in a bothy; also intr. to live in a bothy on a farm (‡ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1975).Abd.(D) 1929 J. Alexander Mains and Hilly 107:
Aw weel, the Knockleith lads wur a' bothiet.
e.Lth. 1895 Life & Work 213:
There were some Hieland lasses at Wanton-wells, wha bothied on the farm.

Hence bothying, bothyism, the farm-bothy system.Sc. 1864 Cornhill Mag. (Nov.) 618:
Looking only at what may be called well-regulated bothyism, it is difficult to conceive how such a system can be defended.
Abd. 1923 J. Lawrence in Bnffsh. Jnl. (13 Feb.) 2:
But another time I will go into details concerning the three methods — “cottaring,” “bothying,” and “kitchying” — of catering for the welfare of the soil's sturdy toilers and their families.

3. Combs.: (1) Bothy-jeely, jocularly for syrup. Kcd. a.1914 Scots Mag. (Nov. 1973) 187:
"Bothy jeely" or anything else he bought from the grocer's horse van.

(2) Bothy-laft, “an attic in a bothy” (Bnff.2, Ags.1 1935).Mearns 1890 J. Kerr Reminisc. of a Wanderer I. 43:
But frae seams in the bothy-laft, grass seeds, an' stour, Amon' our milk aften cam' down like a shower.

(3) Bothie-man (see quot.), bothyman, a farmworker who lives in a bothy. Known to Bnff.2 1935.Sc. 1854 Hugh Miller My Schools and Schoolmasters xi:
Ninety-nine out of every hundred of our bothy-men.
Per. 1825 Jam.2:
Bothie-man. Equivalent to Eng. hind, and borrowed from the circumstance of hinds inhabiting bothies.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 94:
The two bothymen began to understand this quiet young man better than they had ever done before, and a kind of comradeship came into their relationship, quite different from that they had shared with Archie.

(4) Bothy nicht, on a farm, a night of entertainment with the shepherds and farmworkers.Sc. 1992 Sheila Douglas ed. The Sang's the Thing: Voices from Lowland Scotland x:
Other events like foal sales, ploughing-matches and cattle-shows, local galas, village-hall concerts, marquee dances, bothy nichts, herds' suppers, common ridings, berry-picking, tattie-lifting, harvest homes and maidens, Hogmanay and Hallowe'en capers, feet-washing, go-as-you-pleases, picking the mill-steens, fire-watching in wartime: all provided a pageant to enjoy.

(5) Bothy song, a traditional farmworkers' song.Abd. 2000 Herald 5 Jun 20:
He raked out the hickory clubs his father bought second hand in 1920, the Kilmarnock bonnet he sometimes wears while singing the bothy songs, and the plus fours.

(6) Bothie-wife, -woman, “the woman who takes charge of the bothie” (Sc. 1898 E.D.D.; Bnff.2 1935, -woman).Ags.(D) 1885 Brechin Advertiser (15 Sept.) 3/6:
Forbye the bothy wife there wis some twenty laddies an' as mony lassies.

[O.Sc. bothe (s.v. buth), a booth to live in, translating Lat. cella (D.O.S.T.). Prob. from the same origin as Eng. booth, Norse būð, hut, Ger. bude, id.; found also in the Celtic langs. Gmc. root bu-, to dwell, Idg. bhu-, to be. See N.E.D. s.v. booth and bothy. There are difficulties in the history of this now common word, which is, curiously enough, attested in its earlier instances in English writers, Holinshed, Pennant, Lightfoot, and it may have originated in a confusion between Gael. bothan [′bɔhɑn], a hut, and Buith or its Eng. form booth [bøθ, buð], neither of which would give the form bothy by reg. phonological development. The word may indeed be of liter. orig., spreading into popular speech through e.g. the writings of Hugh Miller who uses it frequently.]

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"Bothy n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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