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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

DIE, Däi, Dy, Di, n.2 [dai]

1. Commotion in the sea; swell (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), dai, 1914 Angus Gl., dy; Ork. 1884 R. M. Fergusson Rambles 167, dy).Sh. 1898 “Junda” Klingrahool 14:
Hit plays wi da die o da peerie waves, Till dey swittle an lap i da fardest caves.

2. A wave (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Sh.10 1949); a big wave (Ork. 1929 Marw., very rare). Sometimes = Comb. below (Jak.).Sh. 1882 Gentleman's Mag. (March) 363:
Water out of the “third die,” that is, the wavelet that reaches your feet when you come to the “shoor-mil,” namely, the edge of the water, was reckoned of great virtue, and could be used either in working mischief, or preventing it, or in retaliation.

3. Comb.: moderdäi, -dy, mother di, “a shoreward drift, current under the surface of the sea, by which the fishermen (before the compass was in general use) steered their boats to the shore, e.g. in fog” (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), moderdäi; 1914 Angus Gl., moder dy).Sh. 1910 J. Spence in Old-Lore Misc. III. i. 38:
The only compass that some of the very old haf-men had was what they called “Da mother di,” the waves which roll towards the land even when the weather is good.
Sh. 1932 J. M. E. Saxby Trad. Lore 98–99:
When a wastrel came back to Fatherland, it was said he had “steered hame be da moder-dy.” A “dy” is a wave. Every ninth wave is a larger wave than others, and known as the moder-dy.
Sh. 1949 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 133:
The old Shetland fishermen still speak with something like reverence of the forgotten art of steering by the moder dai (mother wave), the name given to an underswell which it is said always travels in the direction of land no matter from what airt the wind may blow, and even in the calmest weather.

[? From O.N. , quagmire, with extension of usage to sea of the idea of motion underfoot. For moderdäi, cf. Norw. dial. grunnmoder, id., and ebb-midder s.v. Ebb, n.]

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"Die n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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