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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SAE, n.1 Also say(e), sye, sey, ¶sea, ¶cea. Dim. saeag (Cai.). [se:]

1. A wooden tub with hoops and two extended staves perforated for handgrips or for a pole or rope to be passed through for transport by two persons, used for carrying water, washing, etc. (Sc. 1755 Johnson Dict.; Ork., n.Sc., Ayr. 1825 Jam.; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl.; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Rs., Ayr. 1930; I.Sc., Cai. 1969).Edb. 1703 W. Maitland Hist. Edb. (1753) 329:
The Counsell appoynts to be made twentie four Sayes, and threttie sex Stings with Knags, whereof sex standing full of Water.
Dmb. 1708 Session Papers, Petition J. Buchanan (19 Feb. 1765) 23:
Three syes of oak bark.
Ork. 1726 P. Ork. A.S. (1928) 31:
One watter sea two wooden skales.
Rs. 1752 W. MacGill Old Rossshire (1909) 140:
Check reel, meikle sae with cover.
Ork. 1824 P. Ork. A.S. (1931–2) 52:
Water cea, 2s.
Sh. 1892 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 247:
Every tub an' sey 'at she could fin'.
Ork. 1911 J. Omond Ork. 80 Years Ago 9:
The sae was a large tub for carrying water in, but instead of having the usual handles for carrying it by, the two longer staves had big round holes through which a strong, long, round stick called the sae tree was passed. In carrying, the stick rested on the shoulders of the carriers, who kept step to prevent the swashing of the water out of the sae. Sometimes a bowl was put swimming on the top to prevent the water swilling about.
em.Sc.(a) 1991 Kate Armstrong in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 114:
Ilka day she howders wi a sey tae the wal
In the yaird ootbye.

2. A milk-pail (Dmf. 1825 Jam.); a shallow tub used in cheese-making, a cheese-vat (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 424, sey).

3. Combs. and deriv.: (1) crud-sae, cheese-vat. See Crud, n., 3. (4); (2) sae-bink, a shelf on which the household water-bucket was kept (Ork. 1969); (3) sae-fu, sey-full, a tub-full (I.Sc., Cai. 1969); (4) sae-tree, the pole by which a sae was carried by two persons (Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Ork. 1955 People's Friend (17 Dec.); Ork., Cai. 1969); (5) water sae, = 1. (Ork. 1969).(2) Ork. 1911 Old-Lore Misc. IV. i. 20:
Another bink was the sae-bink — a round recess in the wall just between the out-by and the but-end. A flag-stone was here built in horizontally which, with its projecting edge rounded, formed a convenient shelf for the sae.
(3) Cai. 1958 Edb. John o' Groat Lit. Soc.:
I cannot imagine a Caithnessian to-day keeping a sey-full of soans for visitors.
(4) Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 17:
As stracht as a rash, an' as stiff as the sae-tree.
Ork. 1907 Old-Lore Misc. I. ii. 62:
Dere waas saetrees, an' flaal-sooples an' han'staffs.
Cai. 1930:
The sae-tree was common in Caithness as late as 1879.
Ork. 1935:
She maun be keepit like an egg apo a sae-tree; of a delicate or touchy person who has to be handled or nursed with the utmost tact or care.

[O.Sc. say, bucket, 1426, O.N. sár, a cask. Cf. Mid.Eng. soe, tub.]

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"Sae n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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