† Abay (ăbēⁱ·). Obs.
[a. OFr. abai barking, f. vb. abayer to bark ; cf. mod. Fr. aboi in phrase être aux abois, mettre aux abois (found in 15 c.): to be or put at bay, said of the stag etc. in the moment of extremity, when closed in by the dogs which are barking after him. See BAY sb.³]
1. Barking, baying of dogs upon their prey; especially when they have run it down, and are closing round it. To stand at abay, said of the dogs: to stand barking round.
1580 Baret: Alvearie Abbay is a French woorde, and signifieth barking against something … For when the Dere is utterly wearied and out of breath, then is he faine (setting himselfe to some hedge, tree, etc.) to stande at defiance against all the houndes barking rounde about him, and to defende himselfe with his hornes, as it were at the sworde poynt, as long as he is able. Hereupon we say commonly of men at variance: He will holde or keepe him at abbay.
1616 Surfl. & Markh.: Countrey Farme 700 At such times as foxes and brocks haue young ones, you must take all your old earth dogs, and let them take the earth, afterward when they shal begin to stand at an abbaie, then must the young ones be brought vnto the mouth of the hole one by one and there cause them to heare the abbaie.
2. To be at abay, said of the hunted animal when the dogs ‘stand at abay’ round him, or have reduced him to desperation; hence, to be in extremities, to be in straits so as to have nowhere to turn, to be in desperation. (Now at bay.)
c 1350 Will. Palerne 46 And euere the dogge at the hole held it at a-baye.
c 1400 Sir Degrevant 238 Hertus bade at abey One a launde by a ley.
c 1430 Hymns to Virg. etc. (1867) 70 Y am huntid as an herte to a-bay, I not whidir y may me turne.
1430 Lydgate Chron. Troy I. vi. She was at abay yset Amyd hope and fearfull dreade also.
1580 Sidney Arcadia (1622) 34 The Stagge … turning his head, made the hounds, with change of speech, to testifie that he was at a bay; as if from hot pursuit of their enemie, they were suddenly come to a parley.
1596 Spenser State Irel. Wks. 1862, 536/I All former purposes were blancked (and) the Governour at a bay.
1670 Milton Hist. Eng. Wks. 1851, v. 229 Who like a wild Beast at abbay, seeing himself surrounded, desperately laid about him, wounding some in his fall.