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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid



bide v. remain, stay, reside; await, stay for; tolerate, endure


Bide, from Old English bidan, is found in Scottish and English sources dating from the Middle Ages, although now more frequently associated with Scots and some dialects of northern English. Many of the current meanings of the word have been in use in Scotland since the 'beginning' of Scots literature in the late fourteenth century.

One of the texts from this early period is the Legends of the Saints, and in this text we find various uses:


"Thou sal stil byd here", "Thou bidis & sufferis, til that we Thru repentance wil turne to the" and "The clergy ... byde Goddis wrake (vengeance)".


In medieval Scots, the present participle form of the verb typically ended in "-and", and the word bydand, with the sense "abiding" or "steadfast", was taken up as the motto of the Gordon family and the Gordon Highlanders.

Bide is also found in literature from all later periods, and according to J. Kelly's collection of Scottish proverbs (1721),


"The Dee'l bides his Day" was "Spoken when People demand a Debt or Wages before it be due".


Bidin also used in A. Laing's Wayside Flowers (1846) to refer to the lasting quality of materials:


"Hameart mak' is best o' wear, Thae market things they ha'e nae bidin'."


Bide, meaning remain, is frequent in early twentieth-century literature such as A. Taylor's Bitter Bread (1929):


"I'd as soon bide at home and get drunk on my ain claret".


It also appears in the modern media. A description in the Aberdeen Evening Express of the St Leonard's hotel, Stonehaven, noted that customers can "sit in the swish Orangery restaurant or bide in the cosy bar". And as forms of social biding evolve, so does the language, as demonstrated by the following Daily Record quotation (1995):


'This is the age of the "bidey-in", the co-habitee, the "partner", live-in lover or "significant other".'  


This week's Scots word was written by Dr Maggie Scott.


First Published 11th December 2006