Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

GANFER, n. Also ganfir, gamfer, gaenfore; gonfer(t) (Marw.), -for.

1. A ghost, apparition (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., ganfir; Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 151; Ork. 1929 Marw.; ‡Sh. 1954); “an apparition of a living person in a place where he is not corporeally present; supposed to be a portent of the person's death” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.). Ork. 1774  G. Low Tour (1879) 8:
There are many other particulars of this kind of folly still remaining among the more ignorant vulgar as . . . deaths by death-lights . . . or by Ghosts, here called Ganfers.
Sh. 1822  S. Hibbert Descr. Shet. 548:
“Ganfers” or ghosts are . . . very commonly seen, particularly by the sagacious shelty.
Sh. 1899  J. Spence Folk-Lore 162:
A person likely to die was said to be fey, and a gaenfore or feyness was a prelude of death.
Ork. 1912  Old-Lore Misc. V. ii. 70:
Atween dem baith he saw his son coman' . . . Hid was his gonfer, for when he met dem dere was juist de twa weeman.

2. (1) An atmospheric sign or phenomenon; a portent; (2) “any supernatural phenomenon” (Ork. 1929 Marw.). (1)   Ib.:
A “sun-gaa” or a “broch aboot the moon” is regarded as a gamfer betokening bad weather; in winter, a cold, foggy drizzle is regarded sometimes as a “gamfer for snaa.”
Ork. 1929 1 :
This wather's like a ganfir afore sna.
(2) Ork. 1929  Marw.:
He'll be seean gamfers this night afore he wins home.

3. Fig. “An unwieldy, uncouth person” (Sh. 1900 E.D.D.).

[Norw. gjenferd, an apparition, a ghost, from *gagn (gegn)-ferð, a returning, meeting, haunting by ghosts.]

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

"Ganfer n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Dec 2018 <>



Try an Advanced Search

Browse SND:

Browse Up
Browse Down