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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PRIEST, n. Also preest (Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables frae French 29). Sc. form and usages; transf. an extension for a cobbler's last to enable him to do repairs on fishermen's long-legged boots (Bte., Ayr. 1967). Cf. 2. Dim. priestie, freq. in a contemptuous and derogatory sense (Ayr. 1786 Burns To W. Chalmers' S. iv.). Deriv. ¶preestry, n., a contemptuous term for a company of priests, the Roman Catholic Church.Sc. 1707 Earls Crm. (Fraser 1876) II. 50:
I hate whats advanced by any of them to divid protestants, or mak divisive chink in Brittaine, whither it be self-designing parties, by preestry, or parties.

Combs. and phrs.: †1. cheap priest, an unlicensed minister or lay person officiating at irregular marriage ceremonies. Cf. Half-merk marriage; 2. priest and devil, a shoe-maker's last (Per., Uls. 1966), phs. from the resemblance of its shape to two figures confronting each other. Cf. Deevil; 3. priest-cat, an indoor game, see quots.; ¶4. priest-driddour, excessive awe or superstitious dread of the powers of the clergy (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 386). See also Dread(d)our; 5. priest's pintles, given by Gregor D. Bnff. 134 as the rose-root, Sedum rhodiola, but the comb. occurs freq. in Eng., now only dial., in reference only to the arum (see 6.) or the purple orchid, and Gregor may be in error here. See Pintle; †6. priest's rung, the wild arum or cuckoo-pint, Arum maculatum (Rnf. a.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) P. 68). See also Rung, n.; 7. to be someone's priest, of a person or thing: to cause someone's death, “be the death of” someone, “probably from the idea of a priest being sent for, in the time of Popery, to administer extreme unction” (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.). Obs. in Eng. The Sc. usage is phs. a reminiscence of Shakespeare, 2 Henry VI. iii. i. 272.1. Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 63:
They met at Edinburgh, where Sawny got the cheap priest, who gave them twa three words, and twa three lines, took their penny and a good drink, wish'd them joy and gaed his wa's.
3. Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 385:
An ingleside game; a piece of stick is made red in the fire; one hands it to another, saying, “About wi' that, about wi' that, Keep alive the preest-cat.” Then round is handed the stick, and whomsoever's hand it goes out in, that is in a wad, and must kiss the crook; . . . anciently, when the priest's cat departed this life, wailing began on the country side, as it was thought it became some supernatural being, a witch, perhaps, of hideous form; so to keep it alive was a great matter.
Sc. 1870 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 128:
This is a very simple cottage fireside amusement, likewise of the nature of forfeits. A peat-clod is put into the shell of the crook by one who then shuts his eyes. Some one steals it. The other then goes round the circle, trying to discover the thief, and addressing particular individuals in a rhyme: Ye're fair and leal, Ye canna steal. Ye're black and fat, Ye're the thief o' my priest-cat! If he guesses wrong, he is in a wadd.
7. Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 39:
Anither day like this 'll be my priest.
Mry. 1810 J. Cock Simple Strains 135:
Syne claught the fellow by the breast, An' wi' an awfu' shak, Swore he wad shortly be his priest.

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"Priest n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Apr 2024 <>



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