View site in Scots

Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid


LYART adj of hair, streaked with white; variegated, multi-coloured


The roots of this word are obscure but it is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, possibly from older French ‘liart’. 


The first recorded use in the Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL:  comes from the Scots Courant of 2-4 August 1710: “A black din lyred Horse-Staig . . . with the Hair unpolled” and in 1721 Ramsay in his poem The Prospect of Plenty: A Poem on the North-Sea Fishery: “Now Nereus rising frae his watry Bed, The Pearly Drops hap…down his lyart Head”. Robert Burns in the Cottar’s Saturday Night (1786) directly links lyart with old age as in “His lyart haffets [sideburns] wearing thin an’ bare”. 


Lyart Haffet is itself was used as a pseudonym by a journalist writing in the Dundee Courier of 17 February 1925: [Headline] “Wet Weather and Optimism” by Lyart Haffets. 


Its continued use in the twentieth century is evidenced in this, albeit historical context, article from the Edinburgh Evening News of 24th December 1932 discussing “Curious Old Scottish Customs”: “…This painted wooden figure, prepared beforehand with great care, and having a lyart periwig on its head…”. 


There are further, even later examples in the DSL as in John McDonald writing for the magazine Chapman Number 37: “I kent her in youthheid, sae gowden-bobbed (nou sae lyart)” (1983). And in 1988 James Robertson wrote in a later Chapman (Number 52) “Weill, they sat an they spied, an the derk drew in, an their lang lyart bairds raxed [reached] doun tae their hochs, [hocks]…”


Finally, in Scottish Language Dictionaries’ Word Collection there are 21st century examples: firstly, from Matthew Fitt in his science fiction novel But an Ben a go go, published in 2000: “A lyart-grey advection fog wis gaitherin roon the bens tae his left. The wund wid cairry it an mask his progress tae the next summit range”, and a further reference to weather from Chapman (Number 58 2008) in William Neil’s poem October Day: “But wha kens gin his een will seek the hill; when lyart winter liggs on the beld croun; an skraichin bairns scliff on December ice?”


Scots Word of the Week is written by Pauline Cairns Speitel of Scottish Language Dictionaries 

First Published 24th August 2015