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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.

SHEUCH, n., v. Also sheugh, shooch, sh(o)uch, sh(o)ugh; s(e)uch, seugh, sewch, sough. [n., em.Sc. (b) ʃux; em.Sc. (a), wm.Sc. ʃ(j)ʌx; s.Sc. ʃjuxʍ; Sh. ʃɔx; Ork. søx]

I. n. 1. A trench in the ground, esp. one cut for drainage, a ditch, open drain (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; m. and s.Sc. 1970). Also in n.Eng. dial. Also attrib. and fig. Adj. sheuchy.Gall. 1702 Session Bk. Minnigaff (1939) 78:
He caused his servants divert the water by a little shouch about his hous.
Edb. 1715 Burgh Rec. Edb. (1967) 292:
Whosoever baits his horse or cow on his neighbours knows, dykes, baulks, or sheuchs.
Sc. 1763 Chrons. Atholl and Tullibardine Families III. 503:
The trees in the shough oposit to the Hermitage.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Twa Dogs 72:
A cotter howkin' in a sheugh.
Sc. 1802 Wife of Usher's Well in Child Ballads No. 79 A. vi.:
It neither grew in syke nor ditch, Nor yet in ony sheugh.
Slk. 1818 Hogg Wool-Gatherer (1874) 147:
A deep dry seuch at the back of the garden.
Fif. 1822 Trans. Antiq. Soc. Scot. II. 193:
Sheuchy Dyke, so called, I suppose, for its being intersected with ditches, called Sheuchs.
Lnk. a.1832 W. Watt Poems (1860) 352:
Thir get noucht, to weet their mouth, But sma' swipes or sheuch water.
Mry. 1849 A. Blackhall Lays of North 92:
Aul' Clootie sat in his sooty seugh.
Wgt. 1877 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 74:
Priest, book and everything cam doon wi' a clooster in the sheuch amang the glaur.
Uls. 1889 H. Stephens Bk. Farm I. 107:
In some parts of Ireland the land is not ploughed into ridges at all, being made with the spade into narrow strips called lazy-beds, separated by deep narrow trenches named sheughs.
Ags. 1895 J. Inglis Oor Ain Folk 203:
I fand him lying in the sheuch by the roadside.
Uls. 1924 Northern Whig (2 Jan.):
I fell in a dry shough and very near brock my neck. I fell in a wat shough and very near got drooned.
Rxb. 1955 Abd. Univ. Review (Aut.) 150:
As ebbs the restless ocean's tide, And winter sheuch in Simmer's dried.
Uls. 1987 Sam Hanna Bell Across the Narrow Sea 24:
'Over the sheugh and away wi' ye, man,' said Alexander, waving towards a coppice of rough undergrowth that ran into the hills.
em.Sc.(a) 1991 Kate Armstrong in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 110:
Frae muckle warld tae muckle warld, bairnie tae mither,
spicket tae seiver, onding tae quernstane,
sae Scotlaun's fowk, skailt frae ae clood or ither
intil a sheuch descrives them as her ain,
Uls. 1993 Times 17 Apr :
He is fond of vernacular language and treasures the rich resonances of Ulster dialect where a stagnant stream is a "sheugh", a whore is a "hoor" and vomit becomes the clipped onomatopoeic "boke".
Sc. 1995 Herald 25 Nov 19:
... we suffered the humiliation an repression o cultural imperialism an bein brainwasht intae thinkin aw oor native languages, Gaelic an Scots, wir only fit for barbarians an sheuch howkers, no for educatit folk at aw.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 4:
O a suddenty, the back wheel o the tractor laired in the dubby sheugh aside the burn an furled roon, spirkin glaur in ilkie airt. Deeper an deeper it sank, fair stukken, held ticht in the rut o the sappy grun.
Edb. 2004:
We were playin fitba an loast the baw in a sheuch.

2. A trench or furrow into which plants are temporarily set until they can be finally transplanted or used. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1812 W. Nicol Planter's Kalendar 229:
Nothing is more destructive to young seedling trees, than allowing them to lye too thick together in the shough.
Sc. 1844 H. Stephens Bk. Farm I. 373:
The plants are taken from the sheughs when wanted.
Sc. 1946 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 429:
The sheughs for the trees to lie in.

3. A furrow made by a plough (Sc. 1808 Jam., 1869 J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 725; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Sc. 1835 Trans. Highl. Soc. 311:
Making small open drains of 6 inches by 4 between the potato shoughs before the potatoes were raised.
Gall. 1892 Farmer's Curst Wife in Child Ballads No. 278 B. i.:
The auld Deil cam to the man at the pleugh, Saying, I wish ye gude luck at the making o' yer sheugh.
Lnk. 1923 G. Rae Langsyne vii.:
Nane o' yer Amairican ploos, but an auld-farrant smiddy-made yin that can drive a guid deep sheuch.

4. A street gutter (em.Sc.(a). Lth., wm.Sc. 1970).Dmb. 1894 T. Watson Kirkintilloch 199:
Huge open gutters or “sheuchs” on either side of the streets, received all the sewage.
Fif. 1952 R. Holman Behind the Diamond Panes 70:
No street lighting guided their way on roads flattered by the name of street, . . . showing up a few of the many puddles or crudely-made “shuch” or gutter.
Gsw. 1953 J. J. Lavin Compass of Youth I. v.:
Sellin' balloons on the Argyle Street sheughs.

5. A hollow road, ravine or passage way of any kind; an alley between houses (Lth. 1970); fig. the gullet, throat, the nape of the neck.Sc. 1875 A. Hislop Anecdotes 128:
Hout Atropos! hard hearted hag, To cut the sheugh of Jamie Craig.
Rnf. 1877 J. Neilson Poems 49:
Wi's big blue Kilmarnock; but jist like a seck It hung in the sheuch o' the dramatist's neck.
Sc. 1906 J. A. Harvie-Brown Fauna of Tay 184:
There is a “glac” or deep “scaur” or “sheugh” in Strathfinella Hill.
Ayr. 2003:
The lane that connects Ladykirk Road with Prestwick Main Street is known locally as 'the Puddock Shuch'.
Uls. 2004 Belfast News Letter 3 Jun 22:
Jeffrey Donaldson ventures that it would be better located out among the 'sheughs' and spuds of the Maze in his Lagan Valley constituency.

6. In jocular usage: the North Channel in the Irish Sea between Scotland and Ireland (Uls. 1970).Uls. 2000 Belfast Telegraph 9 Mar :
A hornet's nest has been stirred up. We're all only too familiar with the sorry history of our Assembly. Across the sheugh, Scottish Labour had to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
Uls. 2004 Sunday Mirror 4 Apr 68:
I wonder how much this pointless little debacle has cost the taxpayer?
Meanwhile the Sellafield menace is till operating across the sheugh ...
Uls. 2004 Belfast News Letter 10 Apr 20:
Frae quhat differ prittas ir cried ye're fit tae jalouse tha monie o' thaim wur bred athwort the sheugh i Scotlan.

7. In fig. usages. Phrs. in a or the sheuch, in a state of squalor or misery, in the “gutter”, abject, ruined, in a sorry plight (Uls. 1953 Traynor; w.Lth., Ayr., Wgt. 1970); up a sheuch, in error, mistaken (Dmf. 1970).Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 147:
A puir wretch wallowin' in the sheugh O' cursed alcohol's pollution.
Edb. 1897 W. Beatty Secretar viii.:
He was in a bit of a sheugh, one that he was in a sweat to be out of.
Arg. 1917 A. W. Blue Quay Head Tryst 72:
Weak, distressfu' mortals: up wan day, in the sheuch the next.
Dmb. 1931 A. J. Cronin Hatter's Castle ii. iv.:
Back in the sheuch I took him out o'.

I. 8. The cleft of the buttocks; the buttocks.Per. 1990 Betsy Whyte Red Rowans and Wild Honey (1991) 82:
'I can see my father giving her a kick on the shuch one of these nights,' Annie was saying.
Kcb. 1990s:
'The sheuch of yer erse' on a person, refers either to the area around the backside and genitals in general, or more specifically the cleft between the buttocks.
Sc. 1993 Herald 16 Apr 12:
Have you seen the way children walk now? They walk as if they have an especially sharp sixpence up their sheughs and their shoes are lined with the kind of sanitary towels which have wings on them.

II. v. 1. tr. and intr. To dig, trench, make a ditch or furrow (in) (wm.Sc. 1880 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Per., Fif., Lth., wm.Sc., Wgt. 1970); tr. of peats: to dig out from a trench, to cast (wm.Sc. 1880 Jam.; Ayr. 1928).Rxb. 1808 A. Scott Poems 34:
Sic sheughing pranks we dinna need to fear; Except for quarrie, or a five-feet ditch.
Ayr. 1892 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 334:
They're howkin' sae in bank an' brae, An' sheughin' hill an' howe.

2. To lay a plant, etc., in the ground, specif. to put seedlings, root crops or the like into a temporary trench for later transplanting or storage in order to retain the sap (Sc. 1808 Jam., 1869 J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II 725; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Ork. 1929 Marw.). Gen.Sc. Also fig.Sc. c.1714 Jacobite Minstrelsy (1829) 46:
Sheughing kail, and laying leeks.
Hdg. 1790 J. Mylne Poems 32:
My only hope was sheught in thee.
Sc. 1799 W. Nicol Practical Planter 167:
The plants being prepared as directed, brought to the ground and soughed in.
Sc. 1871 Trans. Highl. Soc. 444:
The plants should be carefully sheughed as soon as they are brought forward from the nurseries.
Sc. 1904 R. Ford Vagabond Songs 331:
In the winter when we're sheuchin' neeps.
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo 22:
Thae leeks'll never be sheuched.
Ags. 1951 Elgin Courant (9 Nov.):
A team of six pullers and a tractor or horseman with a plough should be able to “sheugh” about 5 acres a day.
wm.Sc. 1957 Bulletin (2 March):
Roses, which arrived from the nursery in the middle of January and were carefully sheuched in.
Ags. 1990s:
Sheuch: v. trench; earth up.
Sc. 1991 Scotsman 2 Mar 21:
I noticed that bare-root gooseberry bushes - including the newish variety, Invicta, which is said to be fairly resistant to mildew - were on offer in the same garden centre. If soil conditions are not suitable for planting them immediately after purchase, they should be taken out of their plastic bags and sheuched in temporarily to prevent the roots drying up.
Sc. 1999 Edinburgh Evening News 13 Nov 16:
There, I would sheugh in the plants temporarily. Do you know what I mean?

3. To bury, to cover with earth. Also fig.Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Ajax 3:
Ajax bangs up, whase targe was shught In seven fald o' hide.
Rnf. 1838 Whistle-Binkie II. 101:
The bodies in Mauchlin Wish Meg in her kist, an' as deep sheugh'd as Lauchlan.
Per. a.1880 W. Fraser Red Bk. Menteith I. 403:
They just shoughed it at the point of Coilmore, whence it was exhumed and placed afterwards in the old chapel.
Hdg. 1908 J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 199:
His wanton widow sheuch'd him here.

[O.Sc. sewch, 1501, souch, 1570, shouch, 1665, furrow, trench, ditch, seuch, to make a furrow, 1513, Early Mid.Eng. sogh, furrow. Of uncertain orig. N.E.D. compares Brabant dial. zoeg, a meadow ditch.]

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"Sheuch n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 May 2024 <>



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