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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

FLEY, v., n. Also flay, flae, flea, fly(e); †flee; flia (Fair I.) [fləi, ‡fle:]

I. v. 1. To put to flight, drive off, by frightening (w., s.Sc. 1887 Jam., flay, flae; ne.Sc., Fif., Kcb. 1946), to dispel. Often with awa. Also in Eng. dial.Abd. c.1750 R. Forbes Jnl. from London (1755) 28:
To set her up amon' a curn air bear to fley awa' the ruicks.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 4:
To get a rantin blaze To fley the frost awa' an' toast my taes.
s.Sc. 1802 Kinmont Willie in Child Ballads No. 186. xxxvi.:
It's lang since sleeping was fleyd frae me.
Slk. c.1819 Hogg Shep. Wedding (1874) 149:
He was eneuch to fley a' the grand folk out o' the room.
Rnf. 1835 D. Webster Rhymes 128:
We lay the luggie at our lips, And flye our cares awa.
Gall. c.1870 in Bards of Gall. (ed. Harper 1889) 225:
Gloomy winter's frost an' snaw, By cheery spring were fleyed awa'.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood v.:
She fleyed Johnnie awa' frae the door when he was for daffin' wi' the serving lasses.

2. To frighten, scare, terrify (Ork., ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., Lth., Gall., Dmf. 1951). Pa.t. fleyed; fleyt; †flait.Sc. 1722 W. Hamilton Wallace 40:
The eldest Adam, might no Man him flee. So stout, tho' Aged but Eighteen was he.
Ayr. 1795 Burns O' that I had ne'er . . . ii.:
Waefu' Want and Hunger fley me.
Bch. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 70:
Sin Maggie flait the haukit quey, An' reeve her o' the tether.
Slk. 1818 Hogg Wool-gatherer (1874) 70:
A' the gomral fantastic bogles an' spirits that fley light-headed fock up and down the country.
Ayr. 1834 Galt Liter. Life II. 126:
No doubt the sight was very fleein.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders v.:
Ye think it clever to fley a wheen silly weemenfolk.
Sc. 1935 W. D. Cocker Further Poems 42:
His righteous glower would fley the French.
em.Sc. 1988 James Robertson in Joy Hendry Chapman 52 69:
Auld carlines
Wuid wi wae gaed jiggin there,
Flung reels wi Hornie, memories
An fleyed the wits frae the feart
An the damned.
m.Sc. 1994 John Burns in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 25:
"Hey, come on, boy. Keep the heid. Dinna fley the beast. ... "

Freq. in ppl.adj. fleyed, fleyt; †fleed; †fleid; †flead; †fl(a)yd; flait, flate (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Fleyed for = “frightened of,” as well as “afraid for” (m.Sc. 1951).Sc. 1736 D. Warrand Culloden Papers (1927) III. 114:
Which noise maybe made some of them unco flayd.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Dr Hornbook ix.:
It spak right howe: “My name is Death, But be na' fley'd.”
m.Lth. 1812 P. Forbes Poems 55:
But if I may judge by your flea'd look, Ye're a notorious sinner.
Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xviii.:
“I said mistrysted,” replied Andrew; “that is as muckle as to say, fley'd wi' a ghaist.”
Dmb. 1817 J. Walker Poems 77:
Nor am I fleyt for witch or ghaist.
Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes xvii.:
Gin ony o' ye be fleyt at the brute, jist gang hame.
Ags. 1891 Barrie Little Minister xxiv.:
“Why do you run frae me?” Babbie asked pathetically. “I'm fleid at you,” he gasped.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 79:
I'm ower auld-farrant to be fleyed for wirrycows.
Kcb. 1898 T. Murray Frae the Heather 143:
She's fleyed for thunner.
Bnff. 1935 Abd. Press and Jnl. (17 Jan.):
Losh, div ye think I'll be fley'd at a bogle?

3. To take fright, be afraid.Sc. 1776 D. Herd Sc. Songs II. 215:
The fint a body was therein, ye need na fley'd for being seen.
Dmf. 1831 R. Shennan Tales 61:
But yet he fleyed to tak a wife, Lest she should weary o' his life.

4. To warm slightly, as beer or other liquor, to take the chill off (Per., Fif. 1825 Jam.). Cf. 1773, 1870 quots, under 1.

II. n. 1. A fright, a scare (n.Sc., Dmf. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc., Fif., Edb., Gall., Dmf. 1951). Phrs.: to get a fley, to decrease in amount or intensity, as cold, snow, a task, etc., to get the worse for wear (Dmf. 1952). See Fleg, v.1, n.1; to tak fley (ne.Sc. 1952), the fley, to take fright.Kcb. 1797 R. Buchanan Poems 11:
Frisky caufs wad tak' the fley.
Abd. 1813 D. Anderson Poems 80:
But bauldly then shook of[f] their flay.
Sc. 1874 W. Allan Hamespun Lilts 365:
Wha rin frae the shout wi an unco fley.
Sh. (Fair Isle) 1915 Old-Lore Misc. VIII.i.60:
I dat days, flías, gret an' triflin', göid far i da mak up o' a Friley, if no ony Shetlander; . . . we sall tak, for example, da story o' a mild flēg.
Dmf. 1927 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 25:
I got an awfu' fley comin' hame in the dark last nicht.
Sc. 1928 J. G. Horne Lan'wart Loon 14:
But sune's he'd fair got ower his fley.

2. A source of fear, a formidable matter; a “fright,” a fearsome- or repellent-looking person (Abd.7, Ayr.4 1928). Also fley-tae-be-seen, id. (Abd.15 1949).Dmf. 1902 J. M. Coltart Verses 65:
That youthfu' bonnet makes ye sic a fley.
Abd. 1928 Abd. Weekly Jnl. (9 Aug.) 6:
The streets are a real fley tae the kwintry fowk.

III. Combs.: †1. fley-the-doos, lit. a scarecrow; a straw figure, a mere nonentity; 2. fley the flen, bog-myrtle, Myrica gale, used for keeping away fleas (Mry., Gall. 1916 T.S.D.C. II.).1. Sc. a.1846 Whistle-Binkie (1890) 289:
Our man is nae man of mere thrums, . . . nane o' your fley-the-doos, but a man o' means and measures.

IV. Derivs.: 1. fleedness. fear. Arch.; †2. fleefu', frightful, terrible, terrifying; 3. fleysome (-sum), fleesome (-sum) flaysome, id. (Sc. 1825 Jam., ne.Sc. 1951, fley-; w.Sc. 1825 Jam., Gall., Dmf., Rxb. 1951, flee-; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., flay-). Hence fleesomelie, adv., frightfully, fleesomeness, n., frightfulness (Cld. 1825 Jam.).1. Sc.(E) 1913 H. P. Cameron Imit. Christ i. xxv.:
A certain ane bein' solist an' deliverly rouchled acqueesh houp an' fleedness.
2. Sc. 1819 Scots Mag. (June) 527:
A fleefu' fien' will rise at your feet, Wi' wauchie cheek and wauland ee.
3. Rnf. 1790 A. Wilson Poems 203:
Nae yarn nor rapes cou'd haud him, Whan he got on his fleesome cowl.
Dmf. 1831 R. Shennan Tales 78:
Every now and then at e'en, Some fleysome things were heard or seen.
Sc. 1835 J. W. Carlyle Letters (ed. Froude) I. 51:
Instead of calling him “a fleysome body” any longer.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 57:
For Rab ill-liked hypocrisy, and saw a fleesum lot o't.
Gall. 1901 Trotter Gall. Gossip 241:
There wus naething fleysome aboot it.

[O.Sc. fley, a.1400, fle, 1438, to scare (away), Mid.Eng. fley, flay, id. Immediate origin somewhat uncertain. O.N. fleygja, to let fly, throw, is possible phonologically, though the semantic development is not directly traceable. But the O.N. form corresponds to -fliegan in O.E. āfliegan, to put to flight.]

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"Fley v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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