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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WHILE, n., conj., prep. Also Sc. forms whyl-, whill, ¶whail (Sc. 1711 D. Warrand Culloden Papers (1925) II. 29); arch. quhill, quhile; whul'(Peb. 1832 R. Brown Hist. Dramas v. 26, 33). For n.Sc. forms see File. [ʍəil]

I. n. As in Eng., a certain length of time, and adv. Freq. in Sc. dim. forms whil(l)ie, whyllie, whileie, -y; whil(e)ock, -ok, whyl(e)ock; whileag (Cai. 1905 E.D.D.); whilockie (Per., w.Sc., Dmf. 1825 Jam.). Sometimes also in possess. case while's, obs. in Eng. Cf. (2) below.Sc. 1746 S.C. Misc. (1841) 387:
After a whiles hearing of parties.
Kcd. 1819 J. Burness Plays, etc. 29:
Master Clinton is out a whyllie syne.
Per. 1831 Per. Advertiser (14 April):
The Papists keep what they ca' Lent for a wee whilok in the spring o' the year.
Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. iv. 183:
After it was burned a whiley.
Dmf. 1920 J. L. Waugh Heroes 18:
When ye've been a whilie here.
Crm. 1933 D. A. Mackenzie Stroopie Well 4:
I aye drop in to news a whiley.
Ags. 1970 Dundee Courier (10 Dec.):
It spained him frae the coortin' for a whilie.
em.Sc. 1988 James Robertson in Joy Hendry Chapman 52 71:
' ... Weill, ilka mornin the factory bummers'd soun aff, aince tae gar the warkers get out o their beds, an aince mair, a wee whilie efter, tae gar them get intil their wark. ... '
em.Sc.(a) 1991 Kate Armstrong in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 110:
Tae whitna maitter scarts atween these banks
on loan a whilie, we sall gie particlar name. But gif
the medium be the message, raither mind hoo thocht
or scoukin haar kenna the immigration laws.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 34:
'Och, he can amuse himsel for a whilie, a big loon like him.'

Sc. phrs. and comb.: (1) a while back, some time ago, in the past (Sc. 1905 E.D.D.; Ork., n.Sc. 1974); (2) a while's time, some time, a period of time (Ork., Abd., Per. 1974); (3) by whyl(i)es, temporarily, for the time being, by turns. Obs. in Eng.; (4) this while (back, — o' days), for some time past, for the past days, weeks, months, etc. Gen.Sc. Obs. in Eng. exc. in phr. all this while. Cf. (1) and (5); (5) while sin, -syne (gen. with a or this and sometimes written as one word), a certain time ago, for some time past. Gen.Sc. Also this whilesin' back. Cf. (1) and (4).(1) Abd. 1972:
There wis neen o this nonsense amang the students a while back.
(2) Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xxvi.:
There might be wisdom in giving them a whiles breathing time.
Abd. 1832 W. Scott Poems 201:
We'll maybe find it out oursel', To tak' a whillie's time wi't.
Lnk. 1840 Poets & Poetry Scot. (Wilson 1876) I. 383:
A wee while's time they wasted I' the house that day.
Abd., Per. 1972:
I wad need a while's time afore I could tell ye that.
(3) Knr. 1891 H. Haliburton Ochil Idylls 60:
Ye that are lords o' fix'd degree, Ye that are lords by whylies.
Kcb. 1895 Crockett Moss Hags xxiii.:
Bywhiles, atween the spells o' the questions.
(4) Ayr. 1786 Burns Author's Cry xvi.:
This while she's been in crankous mood, Her lost Militia fir'd her bluid.
Ayr. 1833 J. Kennedy G. Chalmers xvi.:
Hae ye been doing onything that way this whileock?
Ags. 1881 J. S. Neish By-Ways of Life 88:
I hinna heard ye sing this while o' days.
Edb. 1886 R. F. Hardy Within a Mile iv.:
It's jist a mercy that she's been awa yont Gilmerton at her grannie's this whiley back.
e.Lth. 1903 J. Lumsden Toorle 43:
But an they hae hairsts in Heaven, raley, Effie, they'll hae haen a lang and a fat ane this gey while-ie!
Cai. 1920 John o' Groat Jnl. (14 March):
A hevna met ye 'is whiley back.
(5) Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian v.:
She was here greeting a wee while syne about her tittie.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 80:
This whilesin' back I've studied her.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 186:
Mr Caption dee'd a whyleock sin' syne, and left a fine feck of gear.
Abd. 1900 C. Murray Hamewith 47:
The sky, a whylock syne sae grey, To fleckit red had shifted.
Sc. 1925 H. McDiarmid Sangschaw 30:
Only a wee whiley-sin' it was fidgin' fu' fain In its gowd and green.

II. conj. 1. Until, up to the time that (Cai. 1905 E.D.D., Cai. 1930; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Ork., Cai., Mry., Ags., Per. 1974). Also in n.Eng. dial. Now somewhat liter.Dmf. 1731 A. Steel Annan (1933) 72:
The Children and Servants [who] shall be convicted as said, shall be incarcerated and kept, while payment be made of the sums forsd.
Cld. 1818 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 155:
My ain bonnie grey stintit nae whill he wan to Nether Auchenleck.
Sc. 1829 R. Chambers Sc. Songs II. 526:
Yet I'll take my fiddle in my hand, And screw the pegs up while they stand.
Ork. 1884 R. M. Fergusson Rambles 247:
Mansie steud an' hauled whill he filled his sea-cubbie.
Abd. 1893 G. MacDonald Songs 49:
Quhill he cam, i' the licht o' the mune, Quhaur michty stanes lay scattert like sheep.
Mry.1 1928:
Will ye be long while ye come back?
Sc. 1947 D. Young Braird o' Thristles 23:
Haud back the Laird frae his intent Whill my guidman wins hame.
Rnf. 1986 John Mitchell Class Struggle 3:
... thanks to Judith for general encouragment, being around, and letting me off the dishes while it was finished.

Phrs. (1) ay and while, in legal formulae: until such time as. See also Aye, adv., 4.; (2) quhile or now, before now, of old. Arch.(1) Sc. 1711 Atholl MSS.:
To Continue and endure ay and while compleat payment be made.
Sth. 1739 C. D. Bentinck Dornoch (1926) 445:
To stand before the congregation of Dornoch, ay and while they shall see satisfying evidence of his repentance.
Peb. 1765 Burgh Rec. Peebles (B.R.S.) 173:
Ay and quhill he find cautione in the same termes.
(2) Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms cxix. 152:
Quhile or now, o' yer tellins I trew: that ye founded them weel, lang eneugh.

2. In comb. whileas, while, whilst. Obs. in Eng.m.Lth. 1794 G. Robertson Har'st Rig (1801) 29:
Whileas the show',r does last.

III. prep. Until.Inv. 1702 Inv. Session Rec. (Mitchell 1902) 49:
Do not come whill after the first prayer.

[O.Sc. quhill, until, from 1375, this quhyle, for some time past, c.1480, ay and quhile, 1557. In II. quhill, with shortened vowel in unstressed position, is the reg. form in O.Sc.]

While n., conj., prep.

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"While n., conj., prep.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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