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SYND v. to rinse hastily

Synd, or syne was a common word used in my family for a hasty or perfunctory wash; for example, if you were having a second cup of tea my mum would say: “Just syne oot the cups and I’ll gie ye a refill.”


Synd has a long pedigree in Scots and makes its first appearance in the Dictionary of the Scots Language ( in the Miscellany of the Spalding Club of 1597-8 with this rather gruesome example: “The said Isobel...gaitherit ane number o deid folkis baines, and seyndit thame in water.” Why the ‘said Isobel’ undertook this task is not made clear.


In the ‘modern’ period synd widens its meaning: “A cup of beer goes round at first, Their thirsty throats for synding”: this from Scotland’s Glory and her Shame published both in 1752 and 1842.


Synd is defined in the DSL as “To wash (the face, clothes, etc.), to give a quick swill to (an object) by drawing it through water” and the following example from Angus shows us that women always were fussy about having clean clothes: “A lass there sinding out her duds.” (David Morison Poems 1790).


Although sometimes the Scots are not so pernickety as they would have others think. Peter Mason in his C’mon Geeze yer Patter! from 1987 shows us: “Ye’d think they’d sine oot the plates afore dishin up yer dinner”.


As with many of our Scots words both the Oxford English Dictionary and the Dictionary of the Scots Language tell us that the origin of the term is obscure.


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