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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.

SORRA, n., adj. Also so(a)ra; sorro, soaroo, sowroo, sorroo; ¶sowrow, sorry, sorrie (Fif. 1845 T. C. Latto Minister's Kail-yard 47, 49; e.Lth. 1903 J. Lumsden Toorle 163), ¶sorrih, ¶sorraye (Sc. 1826 Lord Lovel in Child Ballads 75. D. ix.). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. sorrow. [′sorə, -o, -u, -ɪ]

I. n. 1. As in Eng. (1) in deriv. sorrowfu, causing vexation, troublesome (Sh., Cai., Per. 1971); (2) phrs.: (i) better a deid sorrow than a living ane, death is preferable to disgrace (Abd. 1921 T.S.D.C.); (ii) not to have one's sorrow(s) to seek, to have plenty of trouble on one's hands, be greatly distressed or troubled (Sh., n. and m.Sc. 1971); (iii) there's nae sorrow like a living ane, dishonour is the supreme misfortune (Abd. 1921 T.S.D.C.).(1) Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir. A. Wylie xliii.:
Thou was aye a sorrowfu' laddie.
Ayr. 1834 Galt Stories of Study III. 9:
Ye might as soon bid a keckling hen with egg forbear to lay, as that sorrowful woman to hold her tongue with a secret.
(2) (ii) Bnff. 1893 G. G. Green Kidnappers x.:
She'll nae hae her sorrow to seek wi' yon in o' hers. He his an ill leuk.

2. The Devil. Sc. usages (see also Deil): (1) as in Eng. devil, esp. with a rather humorous or familiar application, (the powers of) mischief (Ork. 1884 R. M. Fergusson Rambles 166; Uls. 1929; Sh., ne.Sc., Ayr., Wgt. 1971). Esp. common with pron., the sorra himself, sorra's sel', id. Combs.: the big sorra, the Muckle Sorra, id.; the sorra-in-a', the worst case imaginable. Cf. Eng. the devil and all, id.; sorra's buckie, a refractory person. Cf. deil's buckie, s.v. Buckie, n.5Sc. 1756 M. Calderwood Journey (M.C.) 178:
The holydays play the sorrow with the poor people.
Abd. 1813 D. Anderson Poems 116:
An' rogues o' Jews, they are nae arrow, Wi' tricks fu' sly, Wad pest the very muckle sorrow To trock or buy.
m.Sc. 1819 A. Rodger Poems (1897) 113:
The big sorrow tak lang Geordie Fleck.
Rxb. 1821 A. Scott Poems 26:
Ye sorra's lims, quo' he, d'ye see What sort o' wark ye've made o't.
e.Lth. 1885 S. Mucklebackit Rhymes 6:
Racin', an chasin', and friskin' ower the lea, Sorrow's sel' couldna such a sight with stand!
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped xxii.:
The sorrow's in their horses' heels, they would soon ride you down.
Bnff. 1900 Banffshire Jnl. (6 Nov.) 8:
An offending pupil being frequently addressed as a “Soras buckie.”
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 314:
The maist o' them's half-English, or haes English wifes, an' the sorra hissel wudna get siller oot o' them.
Ayr. 1912 G. Cunningham Verse 77:
The sorra's in the kye.
Bnff. 1930:
That coo's the sorra-in-a' for brakin' her binnin'; nithing'll haud her.

(2) in phrs.: (i) of malediction, exasperation, etc. (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh., n.Sc. 1971), e.g. a sorrow of, sorra on, the sorrow's in't, sorra fa, scad, set, speed, swall, tak, devil take, to hang with, sorra care(s), that's just too bad!, hard luck! (Crm., e.Rs. 1914), sorra kens, goodness knows.Ayr. 1775 Burns O Tibbie iv.:
Sorrow tak him that's sae mean.
Ags. 1798 Bards Ags. (Reid 1897) 12, 14:
But certes sorrow speed the cat, He said, 'tis seldom I get that . . . And sorrow care, it was a shame For him to run sae far frae hame.
Rxb. 1811 A. Scott Poems 24:
Thinks he, ah me! — the sorrows in 't, The faithless hizzie has me flung.
Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xxvi.:
The College didna get gude £600 a year out o' bishops' rents (sorrow fa' the brood o' bishops and their rents, too).
Ags. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxx.:
Sorra kens what it has descendit frae.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 119:
Sorrow speed me! but we're intae anither tonnel.
Abd. 1877 W. Alexander Rural Life 37:
Sorra set ye laddie, fat need ye a' trail't it!
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona ii.:
And their pleas, a sorrow of their pleas!
Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 29:
The dowffest auld maid — sorra behaud's — Gaed settin' her cap at the men.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (29 Jan.):
Da sorro' scad da baand o' shams.
Arg. 1917 A. W. Blue Quay Head Tryst 126:
Sorrow tak' you for a ramshackle o' disgrace.
Abd. 1936 D. Bruce Cried on Sunday 13:
But fut'll folk say? Lat them speak, sorra care!

(ii) after interrog. prons. and advs. in impatient questions, as hoo sorra, hoo the sorra (way), what (a) sorra, what the sorra (way), where sorra, where in (the) sorra, wha (the) sorra (I. and n.Sc. 1971).Sc. 1746 Lyon in Mourning (S.H.S.) I. 168:
How sorrow such a notion could ever enter into their heads?
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 62:
What a sorrow ails you?
e.Lth. 1796 R. Gall Poems (1819) 29:
What the sorrow way? D'ye think that I can watch her aye?
Knr. 1831 Perthshire Advert. (24 Feb.):
What the sorrow took ye awa stravaiging amang unco folk?
Abd. 1832 W. Scott Poems 2:
Fa sorra is't that leaves the buckets here?
Abd. 1837 J. Leslie Willie & Meggie 25:
Phat sorrows earth wid ye dee gaun straveggin hine awa there?
m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning vi.:
I really wonder what the sorry way ye let the great big iggerant horse bluid the puir man.
Bnff. 1891 W. Grant Anecdotes 68:
Fu the sorra wy cud I set it on fire?
Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Benachie 205:
Far are ye gaun? Turra! Far sorra idder?
Sh. 1926 Shetland Times (9 Oct.):
Whit sorro oese hit's gaein ta be ta dem caain' da baess.
Abd. 1954 Buchan Observer (16 Nov.):
Foo sorra sud she be bidden an' her nae a drap's bleed tae ony o's?
Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall in Neil R. MacCallum Lallans 51 15:
"Fit the sorra possessed them tae bigg a tinny monstrosity like yon?" moued Kirsty the Cou. "It minds ye on a muckle firewirk."

(iii) as an emphatic neg., esp. with indef. article, as Eng. devil a . . ., never a . . ., not a . . . . Also in Eng. dial. Sc. usages: ane ta da sorrow, wan ta soaroo, een ta sorro, not one (Sh.); sorrow me, I don't at all, I'm blessed if . . . (I. and n.Sc. 1971).Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xxiv.:
Sorra a bit, if I were him.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 185:
Sorry a flow had cross't their gizen O' solid or o' sap.
Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 35:
The sorry a biddin' he needet but ane.
Mry. 1865 W. Tester Poems 93:
Sorra me can see a blink.
Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 66:
Bit soar-a-peel dere cam ta sicht.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xv.:
When the corp was examined the leid draps hadnae played buff upon the warlock's body; sorrow a leid drap was to be fund!
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 67:
Sorra haet ye'll do yt onyboddy wants ye.
Sh. 1928 Shetland Times (14 July) 3:
Een ta sorro o da blankets cood move.
Sh. 1958 New Shetlander No. 48. 25:
Boy, dey'll no wumman ever git her cloorrs inta me. Na, wan ta soaroo o dem!. . . . Bit whin we looked inside, lippenin ta fin Lang Jeemie neebin owre in da back-saet, soaroo sign o him saa we.

(3) transf.: a rogue, a rascal, an unmanageable or troublesome child, a plague or pest of a person (Sc. 1880 Jam.; Sh., n.Sc., Per. 1971). Also in Eng. dial.Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxvi.:
Get out o' the gate, ye little sorrow!
Abd. 1832 W. Scott Poems 23:
As seen's my father had fa'en o'er the heugh, The wylie sorra disappear'd an' leugh.
Gsw. 1863 J. Young Ingle Nook 109:
Kate was owre dounricht a sorra for that.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin v.:
The auld sorra was as mad as the hills.
e.Lth. 1905 J. Lumsden Croonings 95:
Anither steerin' sorrie.
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 11:
Yih saucy sorrih! ee'r owre fow-hauden.
Abd. 1933 J. H. Smythe Blethers 16:
Some said the aul' sorra wis sib tae the De'il.

II. adj. Sad, sorry (Ayr. 1863; Cai. 1971).Ags. 1826 A. Balfour Highland Mary II. 243:
I'm sorrow to say, we maun sinder.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) 28:
It's the bairns I'm sorra for.
Cai. 1922 J. Horne Poems 17:
Ma claes were smyaggered ower, and weet — A sowrow sicht till see.

[The adj. seems to arise from confusion with the totally different Eng. adj. sorry. O.Sc. sorow, used imprecatively, a.1568.]

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"Sorra n., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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