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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.

GHAIST, n. Sc. form and usages of Eng. ghost. See P.L.D. § 32. Also †gaist, †gaste; †guest (Edb. 1821 W. Liddle Poems 199, Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 66), gase. Also dim. ghaistie. [Sc. ge:st, but Bwk. + gɑst]

1. With Eng. meaning (Ags., Fif., Bwk., Rxb. 1954).Sc. 1722 Ramsay Three Bonnets 36:
'Cause Sober they can get nae Rest For Nick, an' Duniwhistle's Ghaist.
Ayr. 1791 Burns Tam o' Shanter 87–8:
Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh, Whare ghaists and houlets nightly cry.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. lv.:
The like o' them's used wi' graves and ghaists, and thae things.
Ags. 1918 V. Jacob More Songs 19:
Ghaists i' the air, Whaups cryin' shrill, An' you nae mair.
em.Sc. 1979 Alan Bold in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 38:
Noo lang ago a ghaistie cam'
Tae tell whaur it was hid,
An' a shepherd laddie made a tryst
Tae dae what he was bid.
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 31:
Ahent my een
I ken o emptier places lost tae licht,
an endless ghaists that aince
were you an me.
Sc. 1991 R. Crombie Saunders in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 27:
Bot och, the ghaist that glowrs in our bed
Is o a bairn wha lang embraced us baith
An nou is rengan in his faither's stead.
Sh. 1991 William J. Tait in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 45:
Trow every yett o five
A ghaist stails hame
At, ne'er alive,
Can pey a daid man's debt.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 40:
A richt fittin bird tae convoy a puckle ghaists frae the Ither Warld!
Sc. 2004 Daily Mail 16 Jul 55:
These days, of course, the presence of ghoulies and ghaisties can be pivotal in turning an otherwise crumbling ruin into a profitable tourist attraction.
Martin Coventry has collated as many Scots ghost stories as he could find in one handy tourist guide

Hence ¶(1) ghaistry, n., all that is connected with ghosts; (2) ghaisty, adj., ghostly, haunted by ghosts; eerie.(1) Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes III. xvi.:
There! that's spicy — for them 'at likes ghaistry.
(2) Rxb. 1881 Border Counties Mag. 180:
Ferr oot ayount the ruif o' the derk spreds the ghaisty waste o' air.
Abd. 1929 M. Angus Singin' Lass 10:
I saw a reid reid lowe, Whaur tinker fouk wull ne'er set fit, Far ben in the ghaisty howe.

2. Sc. usages: †(1) a sickly, thin, or undersized person; used as a term of contempt (Tyr. 1930 per Uls.3).Lnk. 1805 G. M'Indoe Poems 50:
Vile gashan, gapean, gabbin gaist.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 25:
He was an only wean, a suckered gaste, and spoiled from the first.

(2) In combs.: ¶(a) ghaist-craft, a churchyard; (b) ghaist cramp, an injury supposed to be due to a visitation of a ghost or spirit; (c) ghaist-rid, adj., ghost-ridden.(a) Kcb. 1897 G. O. Elder Borgue 30:
Nae boggles noo to be seen about dark nooks and the ghaist-craft.
(b) Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 40:
Ye see . . . sheu wus speerit-b'und, or gotten what some ca' the g'aist cramp.
(c) Rnf. 1807 R. Tannahill Poems 27:
With unsuccessfu' search the ghaist-rid three, Hae socht the boortree bank, an' hemlock lee.
Ags. 1924 M. Angus Tinker's Road 7:
An unco place for a Tinker's Road On sic a ghaist-rid moor!

(3) (a) A piece of shaly coal in its ashy state after burning, a white slaty cinder (Sc. 1808 Jam., 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 31; Kcb.6 c.1916, guest; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., gaist, guest, 1942 Zai; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Fif., Peb., Gall., Dmf. 1954). Hence gaisty, white-burning and shaly (Ib.; Dmb. 1930, gaisy), gaistcoal (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 217), gaisty coal (Zai 67); (b) “a piece of coal-leaf [see Coal, n. 5.] on a grate” (Watson W.-B.).(a) wm.Sc. 1807 J. Headrick Agric. Arran 217:
The dauch always left a large guest; whereas the coal burnt into a fine white ash.
Sc. 1824 S. E. Ferrier Inheritance I. xvii.:
Mr Ramsay sat by the side of the expiring fire, seemingly contemplating the gaists and cinders which lay scattered over the hearth.
e.Lth. 1912 in Scotsman (19 Jan.):
“Gase” — Fine white ashes from a fire. “G'wa', stapp some gase atween yer taes,” said an old pit-woman to a lad who complained that the skin between his toes had got broken through working among water, “and that'll soon heal them.”

[O.Sc. has gast(e), g(h)aist, gest, from 1375. In 2.(3)(b) above gaist may represent Guest, an omen of a stranger's coming.]

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



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