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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid


SHED, v., n.


Last Friday was National Hair Day, which put me in mind of this week’s word. Originally shed meant to


“separate out…especially lambs from ewes”.


Later, the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) gives a wider definition:


“to part or comb (the hair, a sheep’s fleece), the parting of the hair to one side or the other”.



An early eighteenth-century example comes from Alexander Ross in The Fortunate Shepherdess:


“Gin he look’d blyth, the lassie looked mair, For shame was past the shedding o’ her hair”.


And this sense continues down the centuries, as seen in the following spoken examples - from Ulster (1993),


“do you shed your hair in the middle?”,


and Edinburgh (1997),


“Shed yer hair oan the right”.


We then, in July 1999, find this comment in the Scotsman:


“He appears as if by magic, dressed immaculately in a dark blue suit, his hair shed severely, ...”.



As ever, here at DSL, we do enjoy some research to find out how current (or, indeed, obsolete) a term might be. In dictionary terms, a late twentieth-century example would qualify it to be included as current, but 1999? That’s twenty-one years ago. Here are two samples of recent research. Firstly, from the The Cumnock Chronicle of September 2019, which details a haircut gone wrong:


“A spokesperson for Miss K Hair Studio said: ‘I cut her hair in a heavy side part because she came with one. … If she put it back in the heavy side shed it’d be fine’”.


The second is from the Herald of March 2021:


“There was metaphorical bunting hung over my dodgy ticker and a shed in my hair, my coiffure kept in place by liberal application of mater’s saliva. It was the Glesca answer to Vidal Sassoon products”.


Evidence of the practices of mothers in days gone by.


This Scots Word of the Week was written by Pauline Cairns Speitel, Dictionaries of the Scots Language