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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.

GRIEVE, n., v. Also †greive; †greave (Abd. 1845 P. Still Cottar's Sunday 37), †greeve; †grive (Ork. 1795 P. Fea MS. Diary (7 Nov.)). [gri:v]

I. n. 1. The overseer on a farm, a farm-bailiff. Gen.Sc., rare in Bwk., Rxb. Also in Nhb. dial.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 5:
A good Grieve is better than an ill Worker.
Ayr. 1787 Burns Add. Beelzebub 33–34:
Your factors, grieves, trustees, and bailies, I canna say but they do gaylies.
Inv. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 IV. 135:
A grieve (or overseer) has from £4 to £7, besides his shoes. Women-servants have from 8s. to 20s. besides 3 pair of shoes.
Slk. 1798 R. Douglas Agric. Slk. 241:
[They] commit the cultivation of their fields and their marketings to bailiffs, here called overseers or grieves.
Sc. 1814 Scott Letters (Cent. ed.) III. 460:
My children are . . . “rinning about my grieve assures me like mad nolt.”
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 9:
Paetie Linklid — that wus the grieve.
Sc. 1896 Stevenson Weir of Hermiston i.:
His grieve, that had been his right hand in many a left-hand business.
Arg. 1901 N. Munro Doom Castle (1923) vi.:
Petullo the writer body is the only Drimdarroch there is to the fore, and he has a grieve in the place.
Kcb. 1909 Crockett Rose of the Wilderness v.:
The dwelling house of the old steading, with its windows looking on the open square, had been given up to the “grieve,” or foreman.
Fif. 1939 St Andrews Cit. (28 Oct.):
The death occurred on Wednesday of Mr J- S-, . . . who for many years was grieve with Mr D- at Kirkmay.
Abd. 1953 Abd. Press & Jnl. (20 Oct.):
Young Married Man, meantime carrying on outfarm, wishes Situation as Grieve, Grieve-Tractorman or similar.
Abd. 1991 David Ogston in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 119:
Rowster o sweir chiels,
Christ the grieve.
Abd. 2000 Herald 20 Mar 19:
He got the Young Laird's voice on the answerphone: "Hellew, I'm sorry I'm away at Cruft's. If it's urgent phone the grieve."

Hence grieveship, the office of farm bailiff.Hdg. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 294:
Promoted to the grieveship of the large and fine farm of Leddyslove.

2. A manager or overseer in general. Often in such combs. as Check-grieve, q.v., coal-grieve, field-grieve, moss-grieve, road-grieve, salt-grieve, grieve-master.Ayr. 1701 Dailly Kirk Sess. Records:
26 Oct. Andrew Kair coal grive.
Sc. 1715 Morison Decisions II. 1397:
Erskine drew a bill upon his salt-grieves to deliver 420 bolls of salt.
Abd. 1719 Fintray Court Book (S.C. Misc.) I. 36:
John Sinclair is appointed as moss greeve to oversee the same.
Sc. 1749 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 101:
One of the Earl's grieves was standing on a little mount of earth, near to one of the engines.
Sc. 1763 “Theophilus Insulanus” in R. Kirk Secret Commonwealth (1851) App. 78:
[He] saw a Pillar of Fire ascending out of Joseph Bell's Chimney (Grieve-master of the Lead Mines), moving slowly in the Air.
Abd. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIV. 345:
The county roads are made and kept in repair by the statute-labour. . . . The proprietors employ a proper road grieve, with a party, to work on days-wages.
Sc. 1812 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 156:
At Whins, Mr Thomas Beveridge, aged 73 years, grieve to the Alloa Colliery, which situation he filled for forty-six years.
Bwk. 1837 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1885) 156:
A pond at the base of the hill near the field grieve's house.
Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 33:
Grieve, a weigher; a pitheadman; a hill salesman.

II. v. To superintend, to act as overseer (to) (Abd.27, Ags. 1930, rare), ‡to oversee reapers during harvest.e.Lth. 1713 Country-Man's Rudiments 34:
Let him . . . Project and Contrive, Grieve and Oversee the Execution of his Project.
Sc. 1772 Edb. Ev. Courant (28 Oct.):
As a farmer was grieving his shearers at a little distance from that place [Jedburgh], he observed them kemping with one another, and spoiling his corn.
Sc. 1773 Boswell Tour Hebrides (1936) 328:
Sir Allan . . . stood by grieving us (the Scottish expressive term for overseeing as a taskmaster).
Abd. 1809 J. Skinner Amusements 93:
Or greeving follows at their flails, In barns weel thackit.
Sc. 1810 Lockhart Scott (1837) II. 321:
As for grieving my shearers, as we very emphatically term it in Scotland, I am always too happy to get out of the way.
Fif. 1882 “S. Tytler” Sc. Marriages I. 209:
Balcairnie was 'grieving,' or 'leading,' or 'forking' in the fields and in the stack-yards.

[O.Sc. has greve, greiv(e), grieve, etc., in sense 1. of the n., from c.1470, and in sense 2. from 1531, but not the v.; E.M.E. greve, a steward, O.North. grǣfa = O.E. ȝerēfa (Eng. reeve).]

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"Grieve n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Nov 2023 <>



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