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GRUE, v., n., adj.


Our daughter and her boyfriend have recently developed a taste for horror films. I can’t see the attraction myself – why got out of your way to get a fright? But at least this new enthusiasm has given me an idea for this week’s Scots word: grue, a verb or noun meaning ‘shudder’.


According to the Dictionaries of the Scots Language, grue is first recorded in 1732 as a verbal noun:


“A Chilliness or Gruing affects the Body”.


This appears to relate to illness, but the word seems much more commonly to be used with reference to emotional responses. For instance, a fussy eater is recorded from 1916 as someone who


“couldna face a bannock, an’ a partan garr’d him grue”.


A writer in the Aberdeen Journal Notes and Queries (1910) defined the noun as follows:


“A ‘grue’ signified the involuntary shudder of the body on standing over the spot destined to be its earthly receptacle”,


while a citation for the related verb (from P Hunter’s James Inwick, 1894) described a vigorous sermon:


“it was a nailer an’ nae mistake … [that] gar’t the weemen greet an’ the men grue”.



A sensitive writer in the Scots Magazine in 1953 records how the sight of


“a couple of hoodie crows feeding on a dead carcase ... made me grue”,


while another contributor from 1949 describes how


“The very mention of ‘Culbin Sands’ is still sufficient to send a grue through many a man o’ Moray”.


(Deforestation led to the village of Culbin being buried under shifting sands in 1694.)



This Scots Word of the Week was written by Jeremy Smith. Visit DSL Online at