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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

LOIT, v. to make a soggy mess

Loit has some rather unsavoury meanings. The first definition in the Dictionary of the Scots Language (www.dsl.ac.uk) is ‘To throw something, usually wet and soggy, in a mass on the ground’ and we are then told that this often applies to discharges from the body (either end).  

So, one example from Kirkcudbright dated 1900 is:“A drunk man aften loits up what he has drunk like a mill shillin”, and another from Perth (1902) is: “That lazy donkey stands up loitin’ every half-hour”.  In this quotation from Walter Gregor’s Dialect of Banffshire (1866) it means to fall with a dull thud: “He lytet our on’s back”.

More generally, to loit is to do any kind of work clumsily and unskilfully, especially to mess about with some wet, soppy material, or to puddle about. It can also mean to tell a long, rambling story, or to talk at length and to little purpose.

As a noun, a loit is defined as ‘an unseemly mass of any substance, liquid or semi-liquid’, or a lump of horse or donkey dung. An 1824 quotation from the Scots Magazine illustrates the former: “Yonder’s a cloud, too, that’s wearying to get a loot aff its stamach”, and the latter appears in this 1951 extract from the New Shetlander describing someone as “A big-boned, loud-voiced Amazon of a woman, who could step it out across the heather and da lyjoiks as well as any man”. 

Among the cleaner meanings of loit are a spurt of water, especially from a boiling pot, or a small quantity of any liquid. Thus we read in a 1911 edition of the John O’ Groats Journal: “Jean asked him for a wee lawyt of the cod liver oil”. Figuratively, loit can refer to a quantity of anything in disorder, or a confused swarm or small creatures.

 

Scots Word of the Week is written by Ann Ferguson of Scottish Language Dictionaries www.scotsdictionaries.org.uk, 25 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh EH8 9LN (0131) 650 4149 mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk. For £20 you can sponsor a Scots word.