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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.

ILL-LESS, adj. Also illess. Harmless, guileless, innocent, docile (Sc. 1808 Jam., Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Sh., ne.Sc. 1958); having no evil intentions (Sc. 1825 Jam., ill-(l)ess; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., Sh. 1958).Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xxxv.:
The ill-less vanity of being thought far ben with the great is among others of her harmless frailties.
Ags. 1880 Brechin Advertiser (30 March) 3:
The miller is an ill-less creature.
Sc. 1897 L. Keith Bonny Lady v.:
Why should a young ill-less thing like this be made to suffer?

Phr.: ill (ull)-less guidless (gweed-), colourless, lacking in force of character, “having a character not marked by any extreme, neither good nor ill” (Sc. 1818 Sawers; ne.Sc. 1958). See Guid, I. 4. (1).Sc. 1827 C. I. Johnstone Eliz. de Bruce I. iii.:
An ill-less, gude-less, prinkie kind o' prelatic boddie.
Bnff. 1852 A. Harper Solitary Hours 53:
An illess, gweedless, daidlin' creature, Blest wi' nae sense, but much good nature.
Bnff. 1927 E. S. Rae Hansel frae Hame 28:
First on the leet lyaug-lyaugit lang, an' gart us a tae gant, The neist an ulless-guidless breet some bathert wi' a mant.

[O.Sc. illes, harmless, a.1598. Ill, n., 1. + adj. suff. -less.]

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"Ill-less adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Jun 2024 <>



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