The word dreich has only made one appearance on EL&U, that I can find, and it was a questionably brief appearance in answer to a single word request.

This unassuming word did, however, top the polls five years ago in a Scotsman survey to find the most favoured word in the Scots language by its own speakers.

Merriam Webster, at least online, has a minimal note on dreich which states only 'dreary' and misses the breadth of the word in its spoken usage.

Born in the far north of Scotland in the early 1950s, not far from where the last wolf was killed in Britain and almost within sight of the ruins of a Pictish broch, I learned the word almost as soon as I was able to drink my free school milk unaided, for the weather in that area (one hundred miles north of Inverness) is almost always dreich.

As the saying goes in those parts, 'if you can see the hills it is about to rain and if you cannot see them it is raining already'.

The EL&U answer which quoted dreich was accurate in comment :

Your dictionaries, Martha, are inaccurate. The word dreich explicity implies humidity and dampness. It would never be used to describe dry conditions.

This agrees with my own usage (and the usage in the north of Scotland) to describe dark overshadowing clouds, persistent (though never copious) drizzle and a cold (though not frozen) wind.

It is such a suitable word for Scottish weather that I am surprised it has no foothold in other parts and I am convinced that it must have crossed the Atlantic - in the Mayflower or later - to lurk, perhaps little noticed, in some dreary location where it is whispered over mugs of steaming cocoa as the cold dampness knocks quietly at the door.

Is there any sign of it, in any shape or form, in AmE ?

  • 1
    So the question is: “is dreich used in AmE”? – user121863 Jan 21 '18 at 22:27
  • You’re more apt to see it spelt dree as in to dree the drither: “He did great pyne and meikle sorrow dree.” Wait wait, that’s still Scottish! :) – tchrist Jan 21 '18 at 22:29
  • @user159691 Or - has it modified into something else ? Question edited to include this. – Nigel J Jan 21 '18 at 22:32
  • @user159691 It isn't slang in Scotland as the Scotsman survey indicates. – Nigel J Jan 21 '18 at 22:38
  • I guess they refer to its usage in England. – user121863 Jan 21 '18 at 22:39

A search on Google Books show a few usages of “dreich” in AmE, but they all appear to be related to Scots authors or to Scotland.

The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang by Tony Thorne says that “dreich” was used in England in the late ‘90s as a slang term.

A dialect term which was occasionally heard as a colourful new colloquialism in self-conscious use amongst middle-class inhabitants of England in the late 1990s.

  • The weather is rather, as they say, dreich.

while the Green’s Dictionary of Slang has no entry for “dreich”.

The Dictionary of the Scots Language entry for dreich suggest that its usage is in Scotland and in north England dialect.

(2) Of the weather, scenery, etc.: dreary, cheerless, bleak. Gen.Sc. Also in n.Eng. dial.

Bnff. 1856 J. Collie Poems 120: Ae night when I came, wet and weary, Throu Habbie's howe baith drigh and dreary.

Ags. 1924 A. Gray Any Man's Life 44: In the cauld dreich days when it's nicht on the back o' four.

Fif. 1841 C. Gray Lays and Lyrics 83: The cauld frost had locked up ilk riv'let and fountain, As I took the dreich road that leads north to Dundee.

Ayr. 1788 Burns Duncan Davison i.: The moor was dreigh, and Meg was skeigh, Her favour Duncan could na win.

Kcb. 1881 T. Newbigging Poems 56: He's owre the hills that I love best, Yon lonely hills so dark and dree.

Rxb. 1916 Kelso Chron. (31 March) 4/1: Doon ablow it's dreich and gloomy as we wade among the slush.

Evidence suggests that the term didn’t survive in its original spelling in AmE though it most likely crossed the Atlantic.

As suggested by @tchrist in a comment the related term dree can be found in AmE, but its usage is not common. Other variants are dreigh and driegh.

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  • All interesting stuff. Thank you. Up-voted and accepted. – Nigel J Jan 22 '18 at 7:53

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