Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

AT, †ATT, prep. There are several Sc. usages and idiomatic phrases. [ɑt, ət]

A. Idioms not confined to fixed phrases.

1. At a person: within reach of (so as to thrash, etc.); “dealing with” (a child that deserves punishment); meddling with or hurting. Gen.Sc. Sc. 1808  E. Hamilton Cottagers of Glenb. (1822) ix.:
“If I were at you,” cried Mrs MacClarty, “I'd gar you —.”
Arg. 1928 1 :
(To a weeping laddie or lassie) Who wuz at ye? — i.e. who was meddling with you or hurting you that you are crying?

2. At before “here,” “there,” is marked as a Scotticism. Rare. Sc. 1799  H. Mitchell Scotticisms 19:
We began at here, and they left off at there. — Scotch and Irish. We began here, and they left off there.
Lnk. 1932 1 :
I have occasionally heard “at here” used by children — We begin at here (pointing to a school-book) and we get doon to there.

3. At after a verb that usually takes a direct obj. may be used to imply continued or repeated action. Gen.Sc. Sc. a.1828  Walter Lesly in Ballads ed. Child (1904) No. 296 x.:
I'd rather be in Duffus land, selling at the ale.
Abd.(D) a.1809  J. Skinner Lizzy Liberty, Amusements, etc. (1809) i.:
So a' the lads are wooing at her.
Ags. 1889  J. M. Barrie W. in Thrums (1899) viii.:
“A body doesna buy cloaks to be wearin' at them steady,” retorted Jess.

4. At with verbs of asking. Gen.Sc. Obs. in St.Eng. Common in O.Sc. Sc. 1719  Monymusk Papers, Spald. Club Misc. (1842) 98:
While I was sitting with Captain Grant, me asking what news att Aberdeen att a servant [etc.].
Lth. 1926  J. Wilson Cent. Scot. 83:
Speer at yur mudhur. — Ask your mother.
Hdg. ?1745  A. Skirving Johnnie Cope vi.:
When Johnnie Cope to Dunbar came, They speer'd at him, “Where's a' your men?”

5. After the nouns anger, hatred, ill-will, objection(s), at is usual in Sc. Sc. 1782  J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 28:
To have hatred at a man.
Current Sc. 1932  :
He's ta'en an ill will at 'im.
Lnk. 1882  J. Carmichael Poems 41:
Few can keep anger at a bairn.
Ayr. 1785  (publ. 1808) Burns To J. Lapraik (3rd Ep.) vi.:
If ye mak' objections at it.

6. To be at a person about a thing = to talk to him about it; to try to gain his consent, in relation to it. — Also = to keep scolding, or finding fault with, or teasing. (More freely used than in colloq. Eng.) Gen.Sc. Arg. 1928 1 :
Ah'll be at um tae go — i.e. I'll see him and urge him to go. — Ah wuz at um aboot it — i.e. I spoke to him about it. — He's aye at me; he canna lee a bōdy alane.
Lnk. 1922  G. Blake Clyde-Built (Sc. Nat. Plays No. 3) 50:
Was your father at ye aboot a motor car he's got it into his heid to buy?

7. At the dancing (and the like), learning to dance, etc. Sc. 1881  A. Mackie Scotticisms 55:
My cousin is at the dancing.

8. = by, with distributives. Sc. 1746  More Culloden Papers (1930) V. 119:
The Duke was also pleased to approve of my raising those Companys at Hundreds . . . it was his intention to reduce them to seventys.

B. Phrases:

1. At a', ata'. See Ata.

2. What are ye at? (and the like) = What do you mean? (etc.) Sc. 1823  J. G. Lockhart Reg. Dalton III. 110:
“Her relations! What are ye at?” “I mean to say [etc.].”

3. At a back, at a loss. Bnff. 1932 2 :
I'm clean at a back t' ken fat t' dee next.
Abd.(D) 1916  G. Abel Wylins fae my Wallet 69:
I'm jist at a back, but I'm nae to greet: New-fanglet wyes, an' an aul'-fashion't breet [etc.].

4. At a stick, at a standstill, at a loss. (See Stick.) Sc. 1889  R. L. Stevenson M. of Ballantrae viii.:
It is a strange thing that I should be at a stick for a date.
Mry. 1932 2 :
The wark notna been at a stick for wint o' a man.

5. At a' will. See A', C. (10) and Will.

6. At e'en, in the evening. Now chiefly poetical. Sc. 1818  Scott H. Midlothian xvi.:
Where was ye yesterday at e'en, Madge?
Ayr. 1786  (1787) Burns Green grow the Rashes iii.:
But gie me a cannie hour at e'en.
Gall. 1824  MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 22:
Ateen — At evening. At night.

7. At him, her, etc., with have and stand. Sh. phrases (at here is of O.N. origin). (See quots.) (1) Sh. 1908  Jak. (1928):
What has du at him? What have you against him?
(1)   Ib.:
He bade him stand at him, he begged him to move a little aside.

8. At himsel' (hersel', etc.): (1) (see first quot.); (2) in a healthy condition of body, or mind. (1) n.Sc. 1808  Jam.:
At him or her sell, in the full possession of one's mental powers.
Bnff.(D) 1929  Knappies, etc., Banffsh. Jnl. (1 Oct.) 2/4:
My temper had been barmin' up a bit, bit or I wan the len'th o' the merchan's, I wis mair at masel.
Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore 18:
Hallach'd an' dameist, an' scarce at her sell, Her limbs they faicked under her an' fell.
Abd. 1930  N. Shepherd The Weatherhouse 48:
There's lots that's nae quite at themsels and nae ill in them.
Uls. 1898  A. M'Ilroy Auld Meetin'-Hoose Green 59:
Ye'r half asleep, an' no' at yersel'.
(2) Sh. 1908  Jak. (1928):
To be weel at anesell, to be in good condition, vigorous and well nourished, he is weel at him; O.N. vel at sēr, capable; good, etc.
Clydes[dale] 1808  Jam.:
Weill at himsell, plump, lusty, en bon point; a vulgar phrase.
Kcb. 1900 4 :
A luscan is a tramp young an' yaul' an' weel at himsel'.
Uls. 1880  W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn. 3:
“He's no at himsel” — i.e. he's not well.

9. At his sight, in his sight, before him (legal phr.). Sc. 1816  Scott O. Mortality xix.:
If the lad was to be executed on my estate . . . he ought, at common law, to have been delivered up to my baillie, and justified at his sight.

10. To come at it, to acquire proficiency. (Cf. At, adv.2) Bnff. 1932 2 :
Johnnie's some slow in the uptak', bit he'll maybe come at it by and bye.

11. At lang an' last, at last and lang, at last, finally. St.Eng. “at (the) long last” (now rare, N.E.D.). Abd. 1778  (2nd ed.) A. Ross Helenore 39:
At last and lang, as we are riding hame, My father says [etc.].
Hdg. 1896  J. Lumsden Battles, etc. 90:
A month ahin', at lang an' last.

12. At length an' lang, at the lang length, at length, at last. Bnff. 1932 2 :
Alick Jeems coorted Mary for ten year, an' he's gotten marriet at the lang length.
Edb. 1798  D. Crawford Poems 47:
At length an' lang, Thought I, what needs I mair time spen'?
Hdg. 1801  R. Gall Poems (1819) 38:
But a' agreed, at length an' lang, The byre to enter in a bang.

13. At no hand, on no account, not at all. Sc. 1816  Scott O. Mortality iv.:
“If they come to lounder ilk ither, . . . suld na I cry on you?” “At no hand, Jenny.”

14. At peace, quiet, silent. Sc. 1881  A. Mackie Scotticisms 55:
You children there be at peace.

15. At the bit, at the exact or critical moment. Ayr. 1786  Burns To the Deil xi.:
The best wark-lume i' the house, . . . Is instant made no worth a louse, Just at the bit.

16. At the gate, at the road, (1) on the road, afoot; (2) fit to go about, in good health. (1) Ayr. 1786  Burns Holy Fair ii.:
Three hizzies, early at the road, Cam skelpan up the way.
(2) Abd.(D) 1916  G. Abel Wylins fae my Wallet 20:
For file we're kneef an' at the gate We need some ploy.

17. To be at this wi't; to be at that o't, to be brought to such a point or extremity. (Cf. at ane mae wi't, s.v. Mae.) Mry.(D) 1897  J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sketches vi.:
A'm sure gin I'd noticed I nottna [= need not have] been at this wi't.
Arg. 1931 1 :
I hear owld McAlistair's workin at the hairvest: I'm shair he hez nae need tae be at that o't, for he's weel eneuch aff [etc.].

[O.E. æt, O.Sc. at(e), att(e).]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"At prep.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Dec 2017 <>



Try an Advanced Search

Browse SND:

Browse Up
Browse Down