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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.

BRITHER, Breethir, Bridder, Breeder, Bruther, n. and v. Also brodyr (Inv. 1731 Trans. Inv. Scient. Soc. I. 232), brurra, brar. Gen.Sc. forms of St.Eng. brother, which form is illustrated here only in senses peculiar to Sc. [′brɪðər Sc.; ′bridər, ′brɪdər, ′briðər ne.Sc.; ′brɪdər Sh.]

I. n.

1. Brother, as in St.Eng. Also attrib.Sc. 1997 Scotland on Sunday (9 Feb) 20:
What worries the Labour leadership is that trades union 'brars' and toon cooncillors might crowd them out.
Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.:
Yea, my bridder, dat it truly is.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 32:
For brithers, I hae nane o' them.
Abd. 1981 Jack Webster A Grain of Truth (1988) 67:
And as the noise and stench of battle began to fade I knew that their thoughts would be with fadder and bridder in the parks of Buchan,...
 Bch. 1932 P. Giles in Abd. Univ. Review (March) 106:
She wiz Hielan' an' cam' doon ta this quintry first ta keep house tull 'er breeder.
Dundee 1989 W. N. Herbert in Joy Hendry Chapman 55-6 92:
thi kiddies clappt, an Eh kent
ma brither-eedjut, Osterberg, in thee.
m.Sc. 1991 Tom Scott in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 38:
Einstein, Whitehead, Russell and mony anither
Kent but little mair nor his bushman brither
Edb. 1995 Irvine Welsh Marabou Stork Nightmares (1996) 98:
Commie pool, then up at ma big brar's, Pete said.
- Chum ays doon tae the chippy well, I ventured.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 7:
He whispers in his ear and cries him brither,
Loves him mair than wife, dochter or mither.
Gsw. 1967 Stephen Mulrine in Moira Burgess and Hamish Whyte Streets of Stone (1985) 132:
'Missis Shaw says Ah've goat a wee brurra.'
Gsw. 1977 Alan Spence in Moira Burgess and Hamish Whyte Streets of Stone (1985) 144:
'... See Peter ... ye huvnae met Peter ... Peter's ma son ... Kathleen's big brurra ... ah'll show ye a fotie ...'

†Phr.: to be an auldest brother, to scold, lecture.Mry.(D) 1810 J. Cock Simple Strains 133:
I see a storm in Watty's brow Will light on him ere lang: I trow he'll be his auldest brother.

2. An equal; one of a pair.Mry. 1865 W. H. L. Tester Poems 79:
Ae sleeve hangs til't — I've tint its brither.
Hdg. 1885 “S. Mucklebackit” Rural Rhymes, etc. 39:
Owre the wide yearth there's no his brither!

3. Pl. forms: brether, breder, breether, breither. [′bre:ðər, ′bredər, ′bri:ðər]Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.:
Twa breder, two brothers.
Ags. 1823 A. Balfour Foundling of Glenthorn II. iii.:
I've now some moyen amo, my breether, the freeholders in the county.
Fif. 1873 in J. A. H. Murray D.S.C.S. 160; Fif.10 1936:
Brether . . . is in every-day use . . . as the plural of brother. In the town it has in some degree given place to brithers; but in the country it still holds its own.
Edb. 1736 Edb. Council Reg. in Burgh Records (1909) 204:
That the widows and daughters of burgesses and burges and gild brether be admitted to trade without paying any entry money, untill they are married.
wm.Sc. [1835–1837] Laird of Logan (1868) App. 488:
Or hae ye heard o' her breither twa, Wha facht at the warlock tree?

4. Combs.: (1) brither-bairn, cousin; (2) brither-dochter, “a niece” (Cai. 1905 E.D.D. Suppl.); (3) brither-sin, -son, bridder-son, nephew.(1) Cai.7 1936:
He's ma brither-bairn [i.e. uncle's son], bit a'll no heyl [spare] 'im.
(3)Sh. 1898 J. Burgess Tang 15:
Dis is a bridder-son o Willa's, sir.
 Cai. 1907 D. B. Nicolson in County of Cai. 66:
A Stroma man, a witness in a trial for breach of the peace, gave the following classical evidence: . . . “'ey wir a' in ae carrywattle on my brither-sin's shillin' hillag.”
em.Sc.(a) 1991 Kate Armstrong in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 114:
Says her brither-son, in the mercat toun,
Wi a smilin, three-years' bride,
Affen we've axed her, wid she no come doon
Tae us tae bide.

II. v.

1. “To match, to find an equal to” (Lnk. 1825 Jam.2); to deal on an equality (with), stand comparison (with).Bnff.2 1936:
The grieve biggit a dandy ruck in the mornin', an' the foreman breethir't it in the efterneen.
Fif. 1853 J. Pringle Poems 155:
The cleverest carl i' a' the warl' May brither wi' John Anderson.

2. “To initiate one into a society or corporation, sometimes by a very ludicrous or filthy process” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2, brither). The form brother is gen. used here, as more befitting the ceremonious nature of the practice. Vbl.n. brothering; also used attrib.  Also fig.Sth. c.1850 C. D. Bentinck Dornoch Cath. and Par. (1926) 277:
When an apprentice was admitted a full member [of a Guild], he was said to be “brothered.”
Ags. 1739 in A. J. Warden Burgh Laws of Dundee (1872) 609:
Considering that the practice of brothering or head washing is contrary to the Municipal Laws of the burgh.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 54:
Whiles we'd stop on the wye owre
and look up at the acres o starns
in the bricht silent alaneness o that 'oor
and say nocht, each o's side by side,
brithert by labour, the benediction o peace
Bwk. (Eyemouth) 1860 in P. F. Anson Fishing Boats, etc. (1930) 55:
The boys often had to be caught by force before they would submit to their initiation, or “brothering.” But once it was done, they were looked upon as grown men and treated as such by their shipmates.
Lnk. 1936 (per Arg.1):
Shipwrights in Clyde shipyards had a brothering ceremony for apprentices, who had to pay an initiation fee, sometimes as much as £2. A Bible was used at the ceremony, probably to administer an oath, and the meaning of certain cryptic trade markings was explained. The ceremony, which was of a secret nature, is no longer practised.
Ayr. 1912 G. Cunningham Verse, Maistly in the Doric 139:
We met yestreen wi' Mattha Gray In “Morton's o' the Bull,” To brither him and twa-three mae, And hae a drink o' yill.

3. To accustom; to inure.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 17; Bnff.2 1936:
“Ye've been a gueede file at the sea; ye'll be weel brothert wee't by this time.” The idea of rough usage is at times implied in the word.
Bch. 1929 (per Abd.1):
I'm weel bruther't wi the caul' cwintra, niver coddle't masel'.

4. To accompany, to go along with.Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems 63:
Thick nevel't scones, beer-meal, or pease, To brither doun a shave o' cheese.

 [O.Sc. brother, bruther, broder, bruyther, pl. brether, breither, breether. The combs. brether barn, cousin, brother dochter, niece, brether sone, brother —, nephew, and the verb brother, to admit formally to a trade, etc. (earliest quot. 1682), are also found in O.Sc. (D.O.S.T.). The forms with medial [i] go back to O.E. dat. brēðer, earlier brœ̄ðer. In the modern combs., brither is a remnant of the O.E. gen., which had the same form as the nom.]

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"Brither n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Apr 2024 <>



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