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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HI-SPY, n. Also hie-spy, -ie, hy(e)-spy(e), high-spy, -spie; †hoispehoy (Bnff. 1808 Jam.); ho spy (Sc. 1821 Blackwood's Mag. (Aug.) 35); hespy (Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 55); haspie; hessy (Edb. 1957); erron. I spy. Forms of the call “Hi spy!” in the children's game of hide-and-seek.

Hence used to denote the game itself (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Fif. 1909 Colville 127). Gen.Sc. Also common in Eng. dials.Ayr. 1810 A. Boswell Poet. Wks. (1871) 52:
To every secret haunt with speed they [children] flie, Or watch with listening ear the scream, Hie spie.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. lviii.:
O, the curlie-headed varlets! — I must come to play at Blind Harry and Hy Spy with them.
Rxb. 1825 Jam.:
The station which in England is called Home is here the Den, and those who keep it, or are the seekers, are called the Ins. Those who hide themselves, instead of crying Hoop as in England, cry Hy Spy; and they are denominated the Outs.
Abd. 1852 A. Robb Poems 130:
Some to the buttons, bools, or ba', Kee how, or hy spy hy.
Gsw. 1854 Gsw. Past and Present (1884) II. 191:
The games of . . “Smugglers and Gaugers,” “I Spy,” “Tig, tow, touch wood.”
Bnff. 1894 A. B. Gomme Trad. Games I. 211–12:
In Scotland the game is called “Hospy,” and is played by boys only, and it can be played only in a village or hamlet in which there is the means of hiding. A Spy is chosen, and a spot, called Parley, is fixed upon at which the Spy stands till all the other players are hid, and to which he can run when pursued. When the players are hid, the cry, “Hospy,” i.e., “Ho! spy!” is raised by them.
Kcb. 1900 Crockett Anna Mark xiv.:
We three played at “tig” and “hi-spy,” and other games.
Lnk. 1925 W. Queen Guide to We're a' Coortin' 39:
I lookit for nests, an' played at the bools, an' sully-cuddies, an' haspie, wi' yer auldest brither.
Edb. 1952 Edb. Ev. News (9 July):
The old names slip lovingly off the tongue — cuddy-wechts, bootry-gunfiring, hessy (possibly an elision of hide and seek, which kind of game it indeed was).

[Appar. Hi! (also ho! or hey!) + spy, n. or imper. of the v. The call is also sometimes used by the seeker in more modern versions of the games, as if = I spy.]

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"Hi-spy n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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