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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

SKEO, n., v. Also skeoe, -ou, skio(w), skjo, skyo, skew, skeu. [skjo:]

I. n. A small house or shed built in an exposed position of dry-stone walling to admit air and used as a kind of store house or larder in which meat and fish may be cured by wind-drying (Ork. 1825 Jam.; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl.; Ork. 1929 Marw.). Now hist.; contemptuously also applied to a poor badly-constructed dwelling-house (Marw.; Sh. 1970). Hence skeo-blawn, -dried, of meat and fish: cured by drying in a skeo (Sh. 1935, -blawn).Sh. 1701 J. Brand Descr. Zetland (1883) 121:
But some of these Houses they may designedly so build, that the Wind may have free passage through them, for drying of their Fishes, which Houses some call Skeos.
Sh. 1750 J. Campbell Acct. Herring Fishery 17:
The Top of a high Hill, where they have a little Hutt, or what they call a Skiow.
Sh. 1794 J. Mill Diary (S.H.S.) 101:
To have murdered the child, and concealed the body in a Skeo.
Sh. 1822 S. Hibbert Descr. Sh. 417, 563:
A skeo is a small square house formed of stones without any mortar, with holes through which the air may have a free passage; for which purpose the building was erected on a small eminence, being at the same time protected from the rain by a roof. It is not long since it was customary, before using beef or mutton, not to salt it, but to hang it up in one of these places, until the wind, by which it was penetrated, should, at the necessary degree of temperature, have so completely dried the meat as to preserve it from putrefaction. . . . Fish was also hung up unsalted in the skeo, but in this case a slight degree of putrefaction was promoted. . . . The tables labouring under the weight of skeo-dried vivda.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (15 Oct.):
Did doo pit a grain o' saut apo' da piltiks at doo pat i' da skio yesterday?
Sh. 1952 J. Hunter Taen wi da Trow 87:
An noo dey say dat he haes taen Twa oaliks fae aald Rasmie's skio.

II. v. To dry in a skeo. Hist.Ork. 1884 R. M. Fergusson Rambles 177:
These natural mummies . . . were preserved in the same manner as beef and mutton “by skeuing, that is by placing the body in a situation where the air can get in to absorb the juices, but insects are excluded; so that in time the body becomes like a dried haddock.”

[O.Sc. (Sh.) skeo, n., 1602, skew-hows (Ork.), 1594, Norw. dial. skjaa, a drying-house or shed, Icel. skjá, a shelter.]

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"Skeo n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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