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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HEFT, v.3, n.2 Also hef(f), haif(f); haf(f)t (Sc. 1822 Scott Pirate v.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 250).

I. v. 1. tr. or refl. Pa.p. heftit; also heft, haifed. To accustom (sheep or cattle) to a new pasture by constant herding to prevent them from straying (Dmf. 1894 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 149; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Arg., Kcb., Dmf., s.Sc. 1956). Gen in ppl.adj. heftit, accustomed to a new pasture (Id.); vbl.n. hefting, pasturing, maintenance. Also used rarely of other animals and fig. of persons, as of a servant in a new situation.Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 168:
For sindle times they e'er come back, Wha anes are heftit there.
Sc. 18th c. in Hogg Jac. Relics (1821) II. 337:
Take a rip an' wile her hame, . . . Nought like heffing by the wame.
Inv. 1777 I. F. Grant Old Highl. Farm (1924) 146:
Within the said Bounds where the ffox shall be hefted and is Destructive.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man I. iv.:
Gin I had the heffing o' them, I sude tak a staup out o' their bickers.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter ix.:
It may be as well that Alan and you do not meet till he is hefted as it were to his new calling.
Sc. 1826 Carlyle in Early Life (Froude) I. 369:
I do believe I shall get hefted to my new situation.
Sc. 1831 in British Husbandry (1840) III. i. 81:
The intention of this arrangement is, that the keeping lambs may, as far as possible, be at once haifed to that herding where they are to be settled as ewes.
Kcb. 1898 Crockett Standard Bearer i.:
I had been “hefting” (as the business is called in our Galloway land) a double score of lambs which had just been brought from a neighbouring lowland farm to summer upon our scanty upland pastures.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 168:
Jock's heffin' the sheep on the rig. The scodgie has gotten weel heftit in.
Sc. 1947 F. F. Darling Nat. Hist. in Highlands 115:
The ground now cleared of sheep was left quiet for a while to let the few deer increase and thoroughly heft themselves.
Sc. 1953 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 170:
Tak' heftin' . . . ye can drive them ower and mix them wi' the flock on the east, but they'll gang back, every yin o' them, to their auld grazin'.
Ayr. 1998:
Hill sheep, especially after they have lambed for the first time, are 'hefted'. They become attached to a particular area of pasture by association - and are unlikely to wander far.

Hence hefter, a person employed to watch sheep when first transferred to a new pasture.Kcb. 1895 Crockett Moss-Hags xli.:
Ye'll no' dee like the Hefter o' the Star . . . when he cam to heft hoggs.

2. intr. To become accustomed to a new pasture, of animals (Dmf., s.Sc. 1956). Also fig. of persons, to become domiciled, settled or established in a place or occupation (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Kcb., Dmf., s.Sc. 1956), to dwell. Rarely tr. to settle down in (a place, etc.).Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shepherd i. ii.:
Ill Nature heffs in Sauls are weak and poor.
Ayr. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XII. 86:
Such attention . . . as ought to be paid to stranger, or what is called hefting sheep.
Hdg. a.1801 R. Gall Poems (1819) 116:
Nor think that absence can remove My heftit love for Willie fair.
Abd. 1809 J. Skinner Amusements 26:
To Linshart, gin my hame ye speir, Where I hae heft near fifty year.
Dmf. 1822 Letters T. Carlyle to his Brother (Marrs 1968) 124:
Jack is going to hafft with Edinburgh - that is, take with the gang - in a day or two.
Mry. 1849 A. Blackhall Lays 50:
While on earth this hell-lo'ed harpy heft, He was fed by ithers' hunger.
Ags. 1894 A. Reid Heatherland 17:
Saint George's, an' Saint Patrick's, heft Wi' guid Saint Andrew's fame.
Kcb. 1898 Crockett Standard Bearer i.:
Till such new comers grow satisfied and “heft” (or attach) themselves to the soil, they must be watched carefully both night and day.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 168:
How is the new minister gaun ti heft the place?

3. Only in ppl.adj. heftit, well-provided, supplied, in a good situation, well off (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1908 Jak. (1928), 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1956).

II. n. 1. A pasture which sheep have become familiar with and continue to frequent, the attachment of sheep to a particular pasture (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Arg., Gall., Dmf., Rxb. 1956).Rxb. 1796 Annals Agric. XXVII. 185:
The haunt which a sheep thus adopts, in the language of shepherds, is called its haft.
Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck I. 287:
An' do thou give to the puir stray thing a weel-hained heff and a beildy lair.
Sc. 1831 in British Husbandry (1840) III. 78:
The immediate removal of the patient from its former “haiff” or herding to felspar land.
Dmf. 1859–61 Trans. Highl. Soc. 482:
A great saving in low pasture is effected by the sheep keeping their own local divisions or hefs.
Sc. 1934 A. Fraser Herd of the Hills 94:
The bog was on the Pot heft, . . . and it was the best spring grazing in Glendarroch.

Comb.: †heff-gang, a sheep-walk.s.Sc. 1857 H. S. Riddell Psalms lxv. 13:
The heff-gangs are claethet wi' hirsels o' sheepe.

2. The number of sheep that graze on a heft (Ayr.4 1928; Arg., Ayr., Gall., Dmf., s.Sc. 1956).Bwk. 1947 B.B.C. Talk (5 Oct.):
A heft is a sub-division of a hirsel varying from 30–200 sheep. A heft will generally keep to a certain piece of ground, a cleugh or small hill, etc.
Sc. 1948 Scotsman (22 Aug.) 3:
Burning an area big enough to allow a “heft” of sheep on without having it eaten out.

3. A dwelling, place of residence, one's situation or environment (Kcb.4 1900).Abd. 1746 W. Forbes Dominie Deposed lxxxii.:
But when I found my self infeft In a young Jack I did resolve to change the haft For that mistak.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xviii.:
Her bairn . . . was her bairn, and she came to fetch her out of ill haft and waur guiding.

[Appar. of Scand. orig. Cf. Norw., Dan. hævde, O.N. hefða, to acquire prescriptive rights, to get possession by long occupation, Norw. hævd, O.N. hefð, prescriptive right, occupation. O.Sc. has heaft, ppl.adj., fixed, established, 1570, which may be the same word, if not from Heft, n.1, v.1, which may have also influenced the above.]

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"Heft v.3, n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Feb 2024 <>



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