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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid


DEAVE v., n.


Round about this time of year we are deaved with April Fool’s pranks. According to the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL), deave originally meant to “deafen” but soon became extended to mean, “to bother, to annoy; especially to annoy or weary by constantly talking or asking questions, to bore”. On 1st April, many of us have been fooled by something online or in a newspaper or indeed on any of the media platforms available to us in the 21st century.

DSL dates the term back to the 15th century in the Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland by Andrew Wyntoun:


“Thay fell on kneys and cryid sa fast, That thai hym devyd at the last”.



Still meaning deafening, in Ramsay’s Poems of 1721 we have:


“But dinna wi’ ye’r Greeting grieve me, Nor wi’ your Draunts [a drawling tone] and Droning deave me”.



In Northern Ireland, deave still means to deafen:


“John Kennedy is now one of the few living links with this older tradition, when men had a repertoire of up to 50 tunes, and he can afford to criticise those who have learned only a handful of tunes and would deave ye’ with them.”

(Belfast Newsletter, September 2021).



Deave, with its meaning of annoyance, appears in Scott’s Heart of Midlothian (1818):


“Houts, Mrs Saddletree . . . dinna deave me wi’ your nonsense”.



Finally, Rab Wilson, writing in the National of September 2017, records how he likes to engage with bairns rather than bore them:


“The weans wir quite young, atween five an 10-year-auld aiblins, sae ah cuidnae deave thaim wi ony lang-winded academic stuff anent Burns”.




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