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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

LEISTER, n., v. Also leester, liester, lister. [′listər]

I. n. A spear with three or more barbed prongs, used (now illegally) for striking at and catching salmon, a trident. Gen.Sc. Also in n.Eng. dial. Combs.: leister grain, the prong of a leister; — shank, its shaft.Sc. 1723 W. M'Farlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 326:
There is good salmon fishing in Carron by Zeirs and Weirs and leisters for a great many miles.
Sc. p.1746 Jacobite Minstr. (1828) 291:
He stole auld Satan's brunstane leister Till his waukit loofs were in a blister.
Ayr. 1785 Burns Death and Dr Hornbook vi.:
An awfu' scythe, out-owre ae shouther, … A three-tae'd leister on the ither Lay, large an' lang.
Dmf. 1812 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 688:
The Leister, or three-pronged spear, is used there with great dexterity in hunting salmon, both on horseback and on foot, in the shallows of the frith at low water.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Siege Rxb. (1874) vii.:
He did not strike at it, but only put his leister-grains before it as if to stop its course, when he found the pressure against the leister very strong.
Peb. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 iii. 113:
Bands of poachers, armed with their long-shafted tridents, (called “leisters”).
Peb. 1899 J. Grosart Chronicles 44:
Bailie Grieve, the best leister shank maker in the world.
m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 70:
And in its place a rod he'll seck, … And speir a leister and a cleek.
Rxb. 1933 Kelso Chron. (3 Nov.) 5:
He'd tak' his licht and leister an' gang poachin' in the mirk.

II. v. To spear (fish) with a leister (Slg., Ayr. 1825 Jam.). Gen.Sc. and n.Eng. dial.Sc. 1818 Scott Donald Caird ii.:
Donald Caird can wire a maukin, Kens the wiles o' dun-deer staukin', Leisters kipper.
Slk. a.1835 Hogg M. Montgomery (1874) 587:
Lifting his lance with as much deliberation as if about to leester a salmon.
Rxb. 1868 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. I. 245:
Wull had been down in the water leistering.
Gall. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 467:
He had tae alloo yt there wus only yae wey o' gruppin't, an that wus tae leister't.
Lnk. 1951 G. Rae Howe o' Braefoot 164:
Staun back when the salmon's leistered.

Hence leisterer, one who poaches salmon with a leister.Sc. 1837 Chambers's Jnl. (21 Oct.) 309:
Wat Amos, the best leisterer in the country side.
s.Sc. 1892 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 348:
Torches such as were used by salmon-leisterers in “burning the water.”
Slk. 1926 Border Standard (6 March) 6:
It is the leisterer's cry! A salmon, ho! oho!

[O.Sc. leastour, id., from 1593, E.M.E. lister, O.N. ljóstr, Dan. lyster, a fish-spear.]

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



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