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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.

LIT, v., n. Also litt.

I. v. ‡1. tr. To dye, colour, give a hue to, tinge (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.); specif. to dye indigo blue (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Sh., Cai. 1961). Also fig. to stain, disgrace. Pa.p. litt(ed), dyed.Sc. 1703 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 334:
To my good daughter for serge waking and litting 2 duc[adoons].
Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Shop Bill 33:
Wi' hose that's either wove or knitted, An' gin he likes, he's get them litted.
Sc. 1778 Weekly Mag. (21 Jan.) 88:
While honest Janet spins her litted woo', To busk the weans in claith o' bonny blue.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 137:
Can ye tell me what way the blackamoors is made; … I'm aye thinking the litster doucks them in amang the broe that they lit the black claith wi'.
Slk. 1813 Hogg Poems (1874) 33:
Women are freed of the littand scorn O, blessed be the day Kilmeny was born.
Per. 1835 J. Monteath Dunblane Trad. (1887) 84:
Coarse home-made plaiding, litted blue by themselves.
Bnff. 1844 T. Anderson Poems 33:
'Twas said that she littit ram's woo in't, an' made quytes to the dames o' it.
Abd. 1876 R. Dinnie Songs 104:
He may be litt as black as you in crime.

2. Fig. to take on a hue, to turn a deep colour.Abd. 1884 D. Grant Keckleton 30:
Mary guessed wha my remark referred till, an' her face littit scarlet.

II. n. 1. A dye, tint, dye-stuff, specif. indigo blue (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Sh., Cai. 1961). Also fig.Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 145:
A pair of grey hoggers well clinked benew, Of nae other lit but the hue of the ew.
Sc. 1827 C. I. Johnstone Eliz. de Bruce I. vi.:
And this i' the bit paper is a pennyworth o' arinetty litt, … to dye the young Laird's breeks 'ankeen.
Sh. 1836 Gentleman's Mag. II. 592:
A bliu kot an weskit oot o' da litt, an a pere o' skrottee breeks.
Rxb. 1876 W. Brockie Confessional 186:
She was dyin some woo, but she spilt the lit.
Ayr. 1892 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 207:
Dyester Care wi' his darkest litt Keeps dipping awa.
Sh. 1900 Chambers's Jnl. (22 Sept.) 718:
The blue is got from lit or indigo — the lit-pot in which the lye is prepared is to be seen in almost every house.
Cai.9 1939:
“As blue as lit” — said of one who looks very cold.

2. Combs.: (1) blind litt, see Blin, adj., 4. (20); (2) blue litt, indigo dye (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.); †(3) corcur-lit, = Corkir, 3., q.v.; (4) lit-fat(t), ¶-falt, a vat for dye-stuff, a dyer's vat (Sc. 1880 Jam.); (5) lit-house, a dye-works (Ib.); (6) lit-kettle, a pot in which cloth is dyed (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1961); (7) lit-pat, -pot, id. (Ib.); †(8) lit-pig, a jar or stoneware vessel in which dye liquor was stored for periodical use; (9) litt-vat, = (6).(2) Sh. 1956 U. Venables Life in Shet. ix.:
“Lit” is the old word for dye and “blue-lit” for indigo. At Noss, if you have cold hands, folk say they are “litted blue”.
(3) Ib.:
Corcur-lit appears in the chemistry laboratory as litmus and comes from one of the hardiest of rock-lichens, Lecanora tartarea. Foula folk used to prepare the dye for export and sell it in dry hard balls which would keep for years.
(6) Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 179:
In the corner in past the fire … on the lit-kettle, sits an old grandmother or a “quarter wife” rocking the cradle.
(7) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 97:
She flung aside her litt pots, and left aff the colouring of matter for the colouring of mind.
ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 54:
Beside the fire stood another pot covered with a slab of stone. It was the Lit-pot, i.e. a pot used for the dyeing of wool.
(8) Abd. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XII. 200:
About forty years ago, a lit pig was a necessary utensil in almost every family — but there is not a house in the parish where such an article is now to be seen in use.
Sc. 1856 W. L. Lindsay Brit. Lichens 90:
In Scotland, not many years ago, particularly in certain districts, almost every farm and cotter-house had its tank or barrel of “graith”, or putrid urine (the form of ammoniacal liquid employed) and its “lit-pig”, wherein the mistress of the household macerated some familiar “crottle” (the Scotch vernacular term for the dye-lichens in general) such as Lecanora tartarea or Parmelia saxatilis, and prepared therefrom a reddish or purplish dye.
Kcd. 1900 W. Gairdner Glengoyne I. viii.:
The handloom weaver, after [the wool] had been dyed in the “litpig”, made it into a dark-blue cloth.
(9) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 98:
Keeping still the litt vats of the Gorbals of Glasgow out of sight.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 366:
Elspet Chisholm, in the shape o' a cat, destroyed the lit-vat o' an Alexander Cumming.

[O.Sc. lyt(t), to dye, a.1400, dye, c.1420, Mid.Eng. lit, O.N. litr, colour, lita, to dye.]

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"Lit v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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