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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

BONAILIE n farewell, a parting toast

This is the way to go. A bonailie is a very cheery parting. It is derived from French ‘bon' meaning good and ‘aller' to go, although the Older Scots variant ‘bonvale' is clearly influenced by ‘vale', the Latin farewell. We find this variant in Peebles Burgh Records (1645), used in the accounts for a liquid leaving-do: “For ane quart of sack drunk be the baillies ... at Mr John Hay['s] ... bonvale boun for Newcastell”.  A grander valediction is described in Memoirs of the Maxwells of Pollock (1634): “Quhen nobill cummis heir [to the Castle of Dunbarton] to vissit the same, thay get sum schot of the grit ordinance to thair bonevale”. According to the Diarey of Robert Birrell, the departure of James McOneill, who visited Edinburgh in 1597, also went with a bang: “The 7 day of Maii he went home ward, and for honour of his bonyalla, the cannons shott out of the castell of Edinburghe”. Later bonalies seem quieter. The travellers partake of a modest deochandorus in Ivory Burnett's The Ravens Enter the House (1931): “The men went off next morning. Catherine brought out their bonailie with her own hands, the three glasses on a silver ashet”. There is a convenient rhyme in Walter Scott's poem of 1815: “On the brave vessel's gunnel I drank his bonail, And farewell to Mackenzie, High Chief of Kintail!” A hint of wistfulness clouds this question in Selections from the Writings of William Forsyth (1882): “ An' whare awa's the auld dear een, That oor bonalie blinkit in At the merket cross o' Aberdeen”. However, the dictionary quotations overwhelmingly show the positive approach to moving on, typified in John MacTaggart's The Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia (1824): “Kirrcormock's blyth lairdie, or he gaed awa ... Invited his neebours about ane and a' To gi'e him a merry bonello”.

Scots Word of the Week is written by Chris Robinson of Scottish Language Dictionaries