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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

Y, n., letter of the alphabet. The twenty-fifth letter of the alphabet, called, as in Eng., wy [wɑe], in Sh. also †ya [jɑ], its pronunciation varying according to its origin, function, and prosody, viz.:

1. (1) in stressed syllables as a diphthong developed chiefly from O.E. ī, , O.N. í, ý, O.Fr. i, sounded [əi, s.Sc. ɛi], but finally in monosyllables and, esp. in m.Sc., before r and voiced fricatives as [ɑe], in such words as By, dry, Kye, n. pl., Kye, n., my, Byre, Flyte, Fyke, Hythe, Kyle, n.1, Kyle, n.2, v., Sybow, Tyne, Wyte, etc. This coincides in most cases with i in similar positions (see I, letter, 3.) and alternates arbitrarily with it and occas. with ei- in spelling, y being thought of as gen. more archaic, e.g. byde, Bide, pyne, Pine, tyke, Tike, n.1, Tike, n.2, whyte, White, adj., n.1, v.1, White, v.2, n.2, ydent, Eident, ingyne, Ingine. y also develops from Mid.Eng. oi, ui, unrounded as in jyner, Joiner, dytt, Doit, n.1, myen, Moyen.

(2) in unstressed syllables, chiefly representing an orig. diphthong reduced to [ɪ, e], notably in the suff. -y, as an alternative to the commoner Sc. spelling -Ie, q.v. This ending does not appear in many French- or Latin-derived words which have -ary, -ory in Eng., these having the Anglo-French form in -arie, -orie, as opposed to the Continental Fr. -aire, -oire which has been regularised in Sc. Hence Dictionar, Donator, Missionar, Necessar, Notar, Ordinar, Secretar, Secondar, Summar, Declarator, Interlocutor, Interrogator, Inventar, etc.

2. As the voiced front fricative consonant [j] representing (1) an earlier palatal guttural, as O.E. ȝ-, as in Yaird, Yeld, Yestreen, Yett, Foryet, Yon, though in n. and s.Sc. it tends to be dropped before [i] as in 'Ear, Eild, adj.2 In Ags. new is commonly pronounced [nu]. For the spelling of this sound as z, see Z, letter; (2) a development from an earlier diphthong, gen. O.E. ea, eo, in yenoo, Eenoo, Yerl, Yird, Yill, Yowe, or from a later breaking of O.E. a, ā initial or after h-, esp. in em.Sc. (b), wm.Sc., s.Sc., as in Yae, yin Ane, adj., pron., n., Yin, pron., adj.1, Yin, adj.2, Yit; hyim, Hame, hyirse, Hairse, hyill, Hail, adj. (s.Sc.); similarly from Fr., yiblins, Aiblins, yiss, Ess, n.4 See P.L.D. §§ 28.1., 84, 97.4. This is represented as a regular feature of the speech of James Hogg as he appears in Wilson's Noctes Ambrosianae, e.g. yamateur, yawto-biograffy, yawnin, etc. This glide also develops before e as in Yink, v.1, Yirn; and in s.Sc., now mostly obsol., as yeditor, yeerie, yeildins, Eildins, yepie, Epie, Yerb. Cf. also yenterrupt (Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xviii.), yepic (Sc. 1825–6 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 13, 152), yepiscopawlians (m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 14), ypissle (Ayr. 1819 Kilmarnock Mirror 231), yepistolary (Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xliii.), yeternity (Mry. 1830 T. D. Lauder Moray Floods (1873) 110), yevidence (Sc. 1761 Magopico (1791) 46), yimmigrate (Slk. 1875 Border Treasury (15 May) 477). A. McCormick Galloway (1932) 208 gives examples from Gall. c.1750 in the spellings of the proper names Yelizebeth, Yelen; (3) a glide developed after an initial consonant before (i) in ne.Sc., esp. Bch., an orig. a as in Byaak, bake, cyard, Caird, n.2, cyarn, Cairn, n.1, fyaak, Faik, n.1, lyaag, Laig, nyakit, Nakit, nyatter, Natter, gyang, Gang, tyangs, Tangs; blyaave, Blaw, v.1, snyauve, Snaw, Yawins, yaucht, Aucht, v.2 See P.L.D. §§ 141.; (ii) orig. ō followed by a guttural in ne. and m.Sc., and before r in ne.Sc., becomes [ju, jʌ], as in Byeuk, dyuck, Deuk, enyuch, Eneuch, hyuck, Heuk, tyuch, Teuch. See P.L.D. §§ 35.6., 86, 93.1. A palatal glide developing after l and n occas. causes the elision of these consonants as in Blue byoo, plew, Pleuch, pyoo (em.Sc. (a), wm.Sc.), Kyuk, Yachie, Yake, Yeuch, Youp, v.2; Yew, Yimmet, Yimp, Yowther, n.1, v.1, Yowther, v.2, n.2 See P.L.D. § 93.7. Graphically, [j] in O.Sc. mss. was usu. written as ȝ, for which the letter z did service in some types used by early Sc. printers. See further under Z, letter.

3. As in Eng. in many mss., y and the O.E. letter þ, th [θ, ð] became confused, hence the spellings ye (the), yat (that), yis (this) in mss. of the 18th c. Trotter in Gall. Gossip (1901) uses this arch.

4. y also alternates with i in the digraphs ay, ey, oy, uy, for which see the articles A, E, O, U.

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"Y n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Jul 2024 <>



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