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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PIECE, n.1 Also peice, peece, pees, pice. Dim. piecie. Sc. forms and usages:

1. As in Eng., but with ellipsis of o(f) (Sc. 1787 J. Beattie Scoticisms 73; Bnff., Ags., Per., Lth., wm.Sc., Rxb. 1965). Cf. Bit and O, prep. 1. (5).Sc. 1699 J. Clark Memento Mori 11:
Playing with a piece Pear, and throwing it up to intercept or kepp it in his mouth.
Sc. 1706 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 442:
For a peice tree . . . £0. 14. 0.
Sc. 1712 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) II. 138:
He eat his dinner very heartily, and seeing the cheese, he said, “Give me a peice cheese.”
Bte. 1746 Rothesay T. C. Rec. (1935) II. 788:
The Petition of John Moor wright craving a few of a peice ground lying to the eastward of his house.
Sc. 1753 “Theophilus Insulanus” Second Sight (1819) 3:
A piece linen from under his chin tied to the crown of his head.
Sc. 1909 N.E.D.:
Give me a small piece paper.
wm.Sc. 1932 A. H. Charteris When the Scot Smiles 248:
There's no her bate in Glesca at a drope soup, or a piece fish!

Sc. combs. and phrs.: (1) a piec(i)e, a little, somewhat, rather, slightly (Sh., Cai., Abd., Lth. 1965); (2) baa-piece, see Baa; (3) door-piece, see Door, n.1, 4. (9); (4) owre the piece, = (8); (5) piece about, turn about, alternately; (6) piece and piece, piece by piece, little by little, gradually; (7) the piece, each, each one, apiece (Sc. 1787 J. Beattie Scoticisms 89; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 259). Gen.Sc.; (8) through the piece, from first to last, as a whole, taken all over.(1) Ags. 1912 V. Jacob Interloper 240:
It's a piecie cauld, d'ye no think?
(4) m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 64:
I think, owre the piece, he's jist a gie queer hairum-scairum sort o' loon.
(5) Slk. 1835 Hogg Tales (1874) 541:
I'll make my brother Adam carry it piece about with you.
(6) Sc. 1721 R. Wodrow Corresp. (1843) II. 50:
Piece and piece as your leisure allows, pray send me what hath been remarkable as to religion and learning this last year.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 78:
Sae piece an' piece they lift them as they dow, An' see't all ocean down into the how.
(7) Bte. 1721 Session Bk. Rothesay (1931) 361:
James Stewart as justice of peace fined them in ten pounds Scots the piece.
Cai. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIX. 48:
A fine of a cow the piece.
Ags. 1822 A. Balfour Farmers' Three Daughters IV. 141:
I suppose this is your maid wi' you, an' I'm sorry we canna gi'e you beds the piece.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxx.:
Ilka twa hoors or sae, I dealt oot a cawker to the piece o' them.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) ii.:
Weel, you're baith in the richt o'd . . . for you've bocht a sofa tae the piece o' ye.
Edb. 1900 E. H. Strain Elmslie's Drag-Net 18:
Ane o' thae dealers offered me six pund the piece for them.
Abd. 1913 C. Murray Hamewith 57:
Lang-leggit Time, but he was fleet When we'd a lass the piece.
Bch. 1941 C. Gavin Black Milestone vii.::
We hadna naething, just oor twa hands the-piece.
(8) s.Sc. 1793 T. Scott Poems 341:
Just thro' the piece tak Yeadie's race, An' point out ane wi' a clean face.
m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 63:
I dare say no a ill chiel, through the piece.

2. Used absol., with the omission of any complementary phr., in specif. senses: (1) a piece of bread and butter, jam, or the like, a snack, usu. of bread, scone or oatcake, a sandwich (Sc. 1881 A. Mackie Scotticisms 45). Gen.Sc. Also in Eng. dial. See also Jeelie, n., 2. (7).Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 35:
Rest you, bony hen, An' tak a piece; your bed's be made the ben.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 149:
A wheen babling bubly bairns, crying piece minny, parich minny.
Dmf. 1830 W. Bennet Traits Sc. Life II. 159:
During the day, he [stone-dyker] subsists on his piece.
Fif. 1862 St. Andrews Gazette (12 Sept.):
A gi'en piece is soon eaten up.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 44:
He got a great fardil o' cheese an' bread till's aifterneen piece.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders xxiii.:
My bit piece in a wee bag that she caa'ed her schule bag.
wm.Sc. 1928 J. Corrie Last Day 19:
There's something wrang wi' a man that canna tak' his piece.
s.Sc. 1937 Border Mag. (Sept.) 141:
All carried lunches were “pieces” then. I hope you have not begun to call them lunches.
Gsw. 1938 Edward Gaitens in Moira Burgess and Hamish Whyte Streets of Stone (1985) 9:
His mother said: 'Yer pieces and tea and sugar are ready, there!' At the corner of the table lay two lunches wrapped in newspaper, a huge one for the man, a smaller one for the boy, and on top of each a penny Colman's Mustard tin filled with dry tea and sugar.
Sc. 1955 J. Beith The Corbies iv. i.:
There were no “jam pieces” to be enjoyed between meals, so acceptable to the aching voids of the adolescent.
Gsw. 1973 Molly Weir A Toe on the Ladder (1975) 182:
I normally preferred brown bread, but after years of grey dough found myself yearning for the luxury of a piece on jeely with soft white bread as its base.
Fif. 1982 Hamish Brown in Hamish Brown Poems of the Scottish Hills 155:
But whaur's the sense in that ava? -
I'll hae ma piece at hame, mun.
Gsw. 1985 James Kelman A Chancer 27:
He took the remaining cheese piece out of the greaseproof wrapping paper and ate it slowly.
Fif. 1985 Christopher Rush A Twelvemonth and a Day 88:
There we lay for the rest of the day that had become a secret shared between ourselves, playing cards, eating our jam pieces ...
Gsw. 1987 James Kelman Greyhound for Breakfast (1988) 119:
The next thing the young lassie who works in the snackbar appeared. Her name was Brenda ... He says to her, A piece on sausage hen, and a cup of coffee.
Gsw. 1987 James Kelman Greyhound for Breakfast (1988) 120:
He nodded; he sniffed, then he took a bite of his piece.
Edb. 1989 Gordon Legge The Shoe 23:
As the soup heated Archie made himself two raspberry jam pieces and poured himself a glass of milk.
wm.Sc. 1989 William McIlvanney Walking Wounded 80:
'Some extra sausage here, son. Would ye like a piece on sausage?'
Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 47:
Can ah get a piece, ma? Ah'm starvin.
Sc. 1991 T. S. Law in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 34:
an fund the paer wyfe-bodie thare
as rosie-faced as ruid o hair,
makkin her man's piece at the fyre.
Gsw. 1991 John Burrowes Mother Glasgow 149:
... when, on the rainy days that workmen would be sent home from the building sites, little boys, the poorest ones of the area, would gather just outside the pub at the steps to the railway station in the hope that the men hadn't eaten their packed lunches. They would beg, 'Any pieces ... any pieces, mister?' If they were successful they wouldn't go hungry that night.
Abd. 1992 David Toulmin Collected Short Stories 215:
A piece in his pooch saved him buying his dinner.
Arg. 1992:
Piece on dook.
Gsw. 1993 Margaret Sinclair Soor Plooms and Candy Balls 43:
Mammy, Mammy can ye throw me doon another piece 'n' jam.
Up goes the windae, the head comes out, Wean, whit dae ye think ah am, ...
Rnf. 1993 History on your Doorstep, The Reminiscences of the Ferguslie Elderly Forum 33:
There were good times; you used to make a pot of tea and some pieces on jam and take them down and gie them that. They came away from Airdrie way.
Edb. 1994:
I like a piece on cheese for my lunch.
Sth. 1996 Eddie Davies in Timothy Neat The Summer Walkers: Travelling People and Pearl-Fishers in the Highlands of Scotland 29:
... but that school was full of big bullies - we called them brunkies, mewks - big things who ate big breakfasts in the morning while we had just half a can of milk and a piece.
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 58:
A scart o jeely on a piece?
A pittance ti retire wi?
A scart o jeely's aa they'll gie's,
if thats aa we aspire ti.

Combs.: (i) baby's piece, see quot. and (ii) (em.Sc.(a), w.Lth. 1965); (ii) bairn's piece, see Bairn's piece n. and cf. (i); (iii) bride's piece, a tea or light meal provided at a wedding by the bride's parents (‡Cai. 1965); (iv) cutting-off-piece, see Cutting-off-piece n. phr.; (v) piece bag, a bag for a snack or packed lunch, specif. a haversack used by workmen; (vi) piece-box, -boax, the box in which a workman or schoolchild carries his midday snack or piece (Cai., wm.Sc., Gall., Uls. 1965). Cf. (viii) below. Also attrib; (vii) piece-denner, -dinner, a mid-day snack of sandwiches or the like (ne., em. and s.Sc. 1965); (viii) piece-poke, -pyokie, the paper bag in which a snack is carried (ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Kcb. 1965). Cf. (vi) above; (ix) piece-time, a break for a meal or snack during working or school hours (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 50). Gen.Sc.; (x) skule-piece, a child's mid-morning or lunchtime snack at school. Gen.Sc. Cf. (vii); (xi) tea-piece, a mid-afternoon snack (Abd., Fif. 1965); (xii) twal'-piece, a light meal or snack taken at noon (Ork. 1965).(i) Fif. 1952 Sc. Daily Mail (5 Feb.):
Two youngish women approached him. One, wheeling a pram, stopped and said to him: “We have just come from the baby's christening. You are the first man we have met and we would like to give you Baby's Piece.” With a substantial slice of christening cake he was handed a portion of cheese and a half-crown. I am told it's an old Newhaven custom.
(iii) Sh. 1869 J. T. Reid Art Rambles 62:
Tea, or the “bride's piece” is generally over about six o'clock.
(v)em.Sc. 1986 Ian Rankin The Flood 14:
He had the coal-dust still on him and his piece-bag slung over his shoulder.
(vi) wm.Sc. 1928 J. Corrie Last Day 19:
“Aweel,” said Jock, dumping his piece-box on the “pavement”, “if that's it I've got it.”
Sc. 1957 Bulletin (19 Oct.):
I was looking at plastic sandwich boxes, and my mind went back to the tin piece box that men used to carry to work.
Sc. 1991 T. S. Law in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 33:
A better piece this gied the men
nor onie auld, cauld, cairriet yin
athin a flask an piece-box tin
a man wuid pootsh whuin gaun his ben
m.Sc. 1994 Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay Forever Yours, Marie-Lou 22:
In oor bedroom! Are you stupit or whut! We're no Eskimos! Thurs nae room in oor bedroom! Where could we squeeze a cot intae that shoeboax, eh? It's nae bigger than ma piece-boax!
(vii) Abd. 1963 Huntly Express (5 April) 1:
I well remember children from our own rural parish with their “piece denners”.
(viii) Bnff. 1916 Banffshire Jnl. (25 April) 3:
Not an infrequent opening of the “piece pyokie”, and a “houp” from the bottle.
(ix) Bnff. 1882 W. M. Philip K. MacIntosh's Scholars vii.:
“Piece time” comes at the middle of the day, when the whole company . . . sitting down along the side of the stooks, eat oatmeal cakes and cheese and drink brisk beer.
Ags. 1920 D. H. Edwards Muirside 219:
The solemn-looking old clock had apparently ever been an object of interest to the bairns — specially so, no doubt, at “leavie” and “piece” times.
Fif. 1954 Bulletin (18 May) 10:
In a resolution to the [miners'] union's annual conference at Rothesay next month they demand a return to a minimum of 30 minutes for “piece-time.”
Highl. 1960s:
I'll have that bridie at piece time.
Ags. 1997 Courier (24 Oct) 12:
"... After each afternoon piece time it was the custom to fill the now emptier piece bags with a few boilings of choice potatoes, without the farmer's knowledge of course! ..."
Edb. 2003:
Ah wish it wis piecetime.
Lnk. 2003:
What are you haein tae eat at piecetime?
(x) Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. 100:
A lump of this “sowany daigh” rolled in oatmeal to make it dry enough to carry in the pocket, was quite a usual “skule piece”.
(xi) Ags. 1884 Brechin Advertiser (22 April):
The “tea piece” in the afternoon.
(xii) Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. 100:
Sometimes a bowl of raw sowens with a handful of oatmeal added, was taken as a “twal'-piece”.

(2) a sheepmark made by cutting a small nick out of a sheep's ear near the base (Ork. 1760 in R. Pococke Tours (S.H.S.) 140, note; Sh. 1965).

(3) an indefinite space or distance, short for piece of gate, ground, etc. (I., n.Sc., Per. 1965). Also in Eng. dial.Wgt. 1707 Session Bk. Glasserton MS. (6 April):
John Stewart . . . acknowledged that he went after sermons upon a Sabbath day to the sea shore a little piece from his dwelling house.
Kcd. 1724 J. A. Henderson Banchory-Devenick (1890) 256:
After he had rode a piece of ground, [he] was forced to alight.
Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. ii. ii.:
Rousted with Eild, a wee Piece Gate seems lang.
n.Sc. c.1730 E. Burt Letters (1815) I. 145:
He told us we must go west a piece . . . and then incline to the north.
Sc. a.1740 Sweet William's Ghost in Child Ballads No. 77. A. xi.:
Now she has kilted her robes of green A piece below her knee.
Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 90:
Seeing aunty, back a piece he lap.
Edb. 1827 Justiciary Reports (1829) 153:
He was lying on his back, and his head was a piece off the ground.
Sh. 1836 Gentleman's Mag. II. 591:
Du wid a geen a güde pees o gett afoar du fan twa better flyters.
Slk. 1875 Border Treasury (3 April) 410:
“Ha'e ye come far the day, na?” “Frae Selkirk,” returned the other. “That's a gude piece,” said Wattie.
Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 68:
Folk war sayin' we wad need tae sit a piece fae the wa' whan we war aetin' her.
Sh. 1961 New Shetlander No. 57. 7:
Whin ye're a piece awa fae laand Wi da blue joob below your keel.

(4) a place, spot, location, locality (I.Sc. 1965). Phrs. the bad piece, Hell, the nether regions, the guid piece, Heaven. Also adv. = Eng. -where in nae-piece, ony-.Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 3:
A' the folk at foucht against Charlie wur seur tae gang tae the bad piece whin day dee'd . . . Charlie had lost the day at a piece they ca' Culloden.
Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. viii. 319:
Hid's weel kent 'at Gaelic's the lingo dat's taaked i' da bad piece.
Ork. 1910 Ib. III. i. 30:
Dey waar on dere wey tae tak his puir bit o' bairn an' lave a trowie rickity deean ting at dey hed wi' dem i 'er piece.
Ork. 1949 “Lex” But-end Ballans 13:
A race o' folk Wha's like is nee peece else.
Ork. 1956 C. M. Costie Benjie's Bodle 141:
The lassie wis awa', clean awa', no sight or sign o' her ony peece.

(5) a portion or space of time. Obs. or dial. in Eng.Kcd. 1819 J. Burness Plays, etc. 19:
Isna my master wakened yet? I think it is a terrible piece o' the day.
Sh. 1965:
Wait a piece.
Abd. 1965:
“Ten mair days to wait!” “Aye, and a piece.”

(6) a derogatory term for a person, “individual”, “type”, “creature”. Also piece of goods, piece of work, id., of which this is prob. a shortened form. Also in Eng. dial.Sc. 1713 Hist. MSS. Comm. Report (Portland MSS.) X. 298:
I believe your Lordship will have nothing to do with him he being a whidling, dangerous, piece of work and not to be trusted.
Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 117:
There's few wad think her sic a saucy piece!
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel xxxv.:
She must be an ill-fashioned piece, if you're so much afraid of her.
Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 46:
Ye littleworth piece o'a littleworth kin'.
Ayr. 1891 H. Johnstone Kilmallie I. ix.:
The double pieces that they are!

[O.Sc. peace bread, 1580, pece and pece 1533.]

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"Piece n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 17 Apr 2024 <>



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