Staying, stopping and living

I noticed recently that in Scottish English and Scots people use the word stay to mean that you live in a place, i.e. that you live there on a permanent or long-term basis.

When I hear this I usually know what is meant from the context, but it can be ambiguous at times, as to me a stay usually a short-term thing, such as holiday. I would use live to indicate a long-term stay – e.g. I live in Bangor, but am currently staying with a friend in Lerwick in Shetland.

According to the Online Scots Dictionary, stey [stəi] means “To stay, to remain, tarry. To dwell, reside permanently, to make one’s home.”

Related words include:
– bide [bəid] = to dwell, reside, wait, stay, await, stay for, remain
– stap [stap] = to live or stay at an address (among many other meanings)
– wone [wɔn, wɪn] = to dwell, live, stay habitually. To accustom oneself to, be reconciled to.

I can’t find an equivalent Scots words for a short-term stay, though I think bide is used in this context, particularly in Shetland.

In other varieties of English and in other languages is there a distinction between a short-term stay and a long-term one?

This entry was posted in English, Language, Scots, Words and phrases.

5 Responses to Staying, stopping and living

  1. Béru says:

    Well in French, especially in Québec, “rester” (to stay), can either mean to stay temporarily somewhere or to live there durably. I know it is used that way in many regions of France as well. Of course “demeurer”, “habiter”, “vivre” all still mean “to live (somewhere)”.
    This short video explains how, strangely, that meaning of “rester” has always been rejected by academics and dictionary makers:

  2. David Eger says:

    I’ve heard ‘stay’ used in that way in Ulster English as well.

    I quite often hear ‘stop’ in colloquial English, used to mean ‘stay’ in the temporary sense. With the same meaning, ‘crash’ (short for ‘crash out’) was coming into vogue among my peers when I was in my late teens/early 20s (about 20 years ago) – “Is it alright if I crash at yours tonight?”

    ‘Wone’ is presumably cognate with German ‘wohnen’. I can’t think of any (standard) English equivalent.

  3. Di says:

    Kenyan English uses stay to mean live. For example, mzungus (white residents) say ” I stay in Kenya” to pay resident entry fees to tourist venues, rather than paying the higher charges for visiting tourists. If they were to say “I live in Kenya”, they clearly don’t, as they would have said “I stay in Kenya”.

    A friend from the north west of England uses an expression for visiting a place ( i.e. complete opposite of “staying” there). She says something like “I’m passing through Bristol”, when I know she is visiting Bristol for a specific purpose, and then coming home.
    Does anyone else know of this usage?

  4. Joe Mock says:

    Filipino English also uses stay to mean live. And for me it does cause problems because there is no way to distinguish between permanent and temporary ‘staying’ – perhaps though the point is that wherever you are ‘staying’ is your home – or should be.

  5. Jim M. says:

    African American vernacular English uses “stay” this way too, or used to.

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