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GYTE adj. mad, out of one’s senses

The origin of gyte is unknown, but there are many examples of it in the Dictionary of the Scots Language (www.dsl.ac.uk) dating from the eighteenth to the late twentieth century, and showing that it could mean mad in a whole range of contexts.  So we have gyte meaning insane, as in this quotation from James Hogg’s The Shepherd’s Calendar (1874): “He supposed the moon was at the full, for Jock Amos was ‘gane quite gyte awthegither’.”  And it’s not only peope who are described as gyte, as shown by this from William Nicholson’s Tales in Verse (1814): “Till Kate wauk’d, wi’ an unco fike, Cries What’s ado! the dog’s gane gyte!”

It could also mean mad with rage, pain, fear or joy.  Thus we have “…gyte, wi nervous fear” from Alexander G Murdoch’s The Laird’s Lykewake (1877), and “Love will drive you gite, and send you Ower the muir amang the heather” from Alexander Gray’s Songs and Ballads (1920).

There are also several examples of gyte meaning mad with longing or desire, or lovesick.  In Dr Duguid by John Service (1887), we read that “They had a’ lads; indeed, half the young fallows of the kintra side were gyte aboot them”, and in Andrew Dodds’ Songs of the Field (1920): “And her for him was jist gaun gyte; Bit still an’ on he wadna’ hae ’er.”

In the following quotation from the Chronicles of the Atholl and Tullibardine Families, ed. John, Duke of Atholl (1724), gyte (spelt gaet) means befuddled by drink: “Willie fanced himself the soberest, tho’ he begane to grow very gaet”.

Finally, when used of things, gyte could mean nonsensical or awry: “He couldna coont a dizzen richt; his writin’ aye gaed gyte”, from G P Dunbar, A Whiff o’ the Doric (1922).

Scots Word of the Week is written by Ann Ferguson of Scottish Language Dictionaries www.scotsdictionaries.org.uk, 9 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh EH3 7AL,  mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk. For £20 you can sponsor a Scots word.