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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

LEE, v., n.1 Also lei (s.Sc.). Sc. forms of Eng. lie, (to tell) a falsehood. [Sc. li:, s.Sc. + ləi]

I. v. 1. As in Eng. Pa.t., pa.p. leed, †leid, leet. Vbl.n. leein, ppl.adj. leein, leean, comb. leeing-like; agent n. leear, leer, lie(a)r, liar, dim. leearie (confused in rhyme with Leerie).Sc. 1747 Lyon in Mourning (S.H.S.) I. 189:
He had seen him frequently at Deel speed the leers with the Prince.
Sc. 1765 Child Maurice in Child Ballads (1956) II. 273:
Ye leid, ye leid, ye filthy nurse, Sae loud's I heire ye lee.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 85:
The heart, they'll say, will never lee, that's leal.
Peb. 1793 R. Brown Carlop Green (1817) 118:
Leean' Dobie, Dickie's son, Wi' shoothers up and doon.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xi.:
Aweel, gudewife, then the less I lee.
Slk. 1827 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) vi.:
Gude forgie me for a great leear, if I hae dreamed about ony body else.
Edb. 1839 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xxiv.:
And so queer and leeing-like, that I, for one, would not believe them without solemn affidavy.
ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 23:
One convicted of lying was received among his fellows with the words of welcome: — “Leearie, leearie, licht the lamps, Lang legs and crookit shanks; Hang the leearie o'er a tree, That 'ill gar the leearie never lee.”
Fif. 1895 G. Setoun Sunshine & Haar 240:
He could lee like a dog lickin' a plate.
Kcb. 1899 Crockett Kit Kennedy xi.:
To call your enemy a “lee-er,” the ordinary pronunciation of commerce, is less than nothing. But the assertion that he is a “liar” must be backed with your knuckles on his nose.
Ork. 1907 Old-Lore Misc. I. ii. 62:
The men waarna jeust ower seur o' Velzian as he waas said tae be a filty leean taed.
Ags. 1915 V. Jacob Songs Ags. 51:
But saw ye naething, leein' Wind, afore ye cam' to Fife?
Fif.1 1945 in proverb:
Lundie mill and Largo, the Kirkton and the Keirs, Pittenweem and Anster are aa big Leears.
Sh. 1960:
If he düsno come til a wrang end, I'se lee da less.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 3:
Thae weys o' goin-oan, which you'd cry "mense".
Are mair leein' worldliness than honest commonsense.
Abd. 1985 Robbie Kydd in Alexander Scott New Writing Scotland 3 70:
'An you're a leear wi ten ten-spoats.'
wm.Sc. 1986 Robert McLellan in Joy Hendry Chapman 43-4 25:
She's been leein! She took the bowl!
wm.Sc. 1994 Sheila Douglas in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 54:
The boy made a derisive noise. "Leyin bugger!" he shouted, aiming a kick at one of Al's expensive leather cases as he ran off.
Ayr. 1999:
He's as big a leear as Tam Pepper.

2. With on: to tell a falsehood about, to slander (Sh., ne.Sc., Lth., wm.Sc., Gall. 1960). Now obs. in Eng.Wgt. 1708 Kirkinner Session Rec. MSS. (12 Feb.):
Hugh Milroy was judged exculpat by the Presbyterie by Janet Gordon her judicial acknowledging she lied on him.
Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of Lairds xviii.:
She was leed on if she wasna thranger wi' a Captain Gorget that was recruiting in the toun.
Bwk. 1863 A. Steel Poems 203:
Auld Scotia you're leed on; and loud the alarms — We're a' by the lugs, and will soon be in arms.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin ii.:
She was sair leed on if she couldna tak' a dram.
Bnff. 1882 W. M. Philip K. MacIntosh's Scholars ii.:
You mind how they leed on the laddie afore, blamin' him for brackin' the leg o' Buchtie's sholt.
Mry.1 1925:
Fowk leeve lang efter they're leed on.

3. In a reduced sense, not implying the intention to deceive: to say something in error, to state by mistake (Sh., Cai., Abd., Ags., Per., Lth., Ayr., Gall., Uls. 1960).Sc. 1858 Sc. Haggis 41:
“No,” was the reply; but recollecting himsel he instantly added, “Faith, I'm leein'.”
Cai. 1902 E.D.D.:
A peasant in narration often prefaces a correction of his tale by saying “Na, I'm leean noo.”

II. n. 1. A falsehood, a lie (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Gen.Sc.Edb. 1798 D. Crawford Poems 55:
I'm no' come here to tell a lee.
Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xviii.:
That's as muckle as to say, speer nae questions, and I'll tell ye nae lees.
Slk. 1823 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) i.:
Weel I ken you're telling me nae lee.
wm.Sc. 1835 Laird of Logan 36:
Lee about is fair play — it's your turn to speak first now.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped xxix.:
It's a lee, it's a black lee … He leed in his throat that tauld ye that.
Ags. 1918 J. Inglis The Laird 19:
Ma faither says yon's a lee, ony wey.
sm.Sc. 1979 Alan Temperley Tales of Galloway (1986) 232:
The minister could not resist the temptation and returned to the doorway, only to be greeted by the ghost's michievous and delighted cry: "Ha ha! I hae gotten the minister to tell a lee!"
m.Sc. 1979 Donald Campbell in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 66:
Unwad the day she kent ye
ye'd dae weill to gie her scouth
that aa the bairns ahint ye
maunna tak your lees for truth.
Fif. 1994 Nellie Watson in Joan Watson Memories and Reflections: An East Neuk Anthology 13:
They baith wid tell ye what was richt,
And ne'er tae tell a lee,
They walked the 'straight and narrow way'.
And never gaed agee.
Ayr. 1999:
He wiz tellin lees on me.

Derivs. and Combs.: (1) lee-buik, a work of fiction, a novel; (2) leefu, false, lying, mendacious, fictional. Also leefu-like, liefu-, id.; (3) lee-like, id. (Rxb. 1954 Hawick News (18 June) 7, lei-like; sm. and s.Sc. 1960). Also lee-lookin, id.; (4) leesome, -sum, lei-, lie-, speaking in a lying or hyperbolical manner (‡Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); untrue, incredible (sm. and s.Sc. 1960); outrageous, shocking (Kcb. 1960). Also leesome-like, like a fiction, unplausible, incredible (Watson; Ayr., sm.Sc. 1960).(1) Kcb. 1911 Crockett Rose of Wilderness xxiii.:
The folk that drooned ither folk in this Murder Hole were named Faa — for the maist pairt, that is, or sae I hae heard. A man wrote a lee-buik aboot it.
(2) Dmf. 1836 A. Cunningham Lord Roldan I. ix.:
Scenes out of that liefu'like book, the Gentle Shepherd.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 165:
Awa, then, wi' yer leefu' says.
(3) Sc. 1830 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) III. 70:
Mony a lee-lookin tale's true, howsomever, and that amang the number.
Sc. 1831 Ib. 304:
Throwin up on the stage! It's a lee-like story.
Slk. 1892 W. M. Adamson Betty Blether 29:
It's gey lee like, but it's nane the less true.
Ayr. 1895 H. Ochiltree Redburn viii.:
That's a terrible lee-like story; but I canna misdoot it when ye've telt me yerself.
(4) Rxb. 1825 Jam.:
If it's nae lee, it's een unco leesum like.
Dmf. 1836 A. Cunningham Lord Roldan II. i.:
Making the very truth liesome-like.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 262:
If their stories o' ghaists an' siclike werena a' lees thegither, I can only say they were unco leesome like.
m.Sc. 1898 J. Buchan John Burnet iv. iii.:
When you tae are faun i' the hinner end o' life, ye'll no think it worth your while to mak up leesome stories.
Lnk. 1910 C. Fraser Glengonnar 101:
The story's leesome-like, and I scarcely look for ye to believe it.
Edb. 1916 T. W. Paterson Wise-Sayin's xiv. 5:
To sae nocht that he kens to be lee-some.
Dmf. 1958:
That hirsel was a tremendous good bit for feedin sheep — it was leesome-like what they ate.

2. A misstatement not deliberately made, an erroneous remark, gen. used by the speaker in correcting himself (Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Lth., Ayr., Gall., Slk., Uls. 1960). Cf. v., 3.Abd. 1920:
Three o' them — no, I'm tellin you a lee — fower o' them.

3. See quot. (Abd.30 1960).ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 26:
A black speck sticking to a tooth indicated that the one, on whose tooth it was, had been telling lies. Such black specks were called “lies.”

[O.Sc. le, a.1400, Mid.Eng. leȝen, leȝe (to) lie, O.E. lēoȝan, to lie. For the phonology cf. Dee, v., Dree, Flee.]

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"Lee v., n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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