FURTH adv., outside, beyond
Furth is one of those words that we don’t always realise is Scots. Its most common usage now is with ‘of’, meaning beyond, or outside the environs of – as illustrated in the Dictionary of the Scots Language (www.dsl.ac.uk) by this 1992 quotation from the Herald: “It is a pity that a leading Scottish newspaper should still be churning the old ‘kent his faither’ philosophy which has bedevilled Scotland throughout the centuries and sent so many of its artists furth of its borders”. Indeed.
And in this quote from the Minutes of the Justices of the Peace for Lanarkshire, ed. Charles A. Malcolm (1708), we see that this usage isn’t always confined to the physical sense of outside: “Any such man . . . who is eable and cappable of service, and unmarried, and furth of service”.
In earlier times the meaning was more akin to ‘forth’, as in “Thou sall pas furth with my blessing”, from John Barbour’s The Bruce (1375), and “Thow ma … consydder That ane blynde man is led furth be ane uther”, from the Poems of William Dunbar (a1508).
The compound furthfarin means enterprising or adventurous. A furthsetter is one who sets forth, an author, a publisher; so, in an 1821 edition of the Scots Magazine, we read “Tho’ they be written by the same furthsetter”. The adjective furth-the-gate means candid, honest or straightforward, as in this quote from James Ogg’s Glints i’ the Gloamin’ (1891): “Despite yer arrowy sho’ers an’ fleein’ cloods, You’re honest, furth-the-gate”.
The phrase ‘the furth’ means out-of-doors or out in the open. So in Charles Murray’s In the Country Places (1920) we read “O it’s little we care gin the furth it be fair, Or mochie or makin’ for snaw”, and in the Huntly Express (1863): “I wis born the furth, an’ I’ll dee the furth”.
Scots Word of the Week is written by Ann Ferguson of Scottish Language Dictionaries www.scotsdictionaries.org.uk, 9 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh EH3 7AL, firstname.lastname@example.org. For £20 you can sponsor a Scots word.