Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)
KITTLE, v.1, n.1, adj. Also kitl(e), kitill, kettle, k(j)ittel (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), 1914 Angus Gl.), kjettle (Ork. 1949 “Lex” But-end Ballans 9), kyittle (Sh. 1916 J. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr (Aapril 21)), kuittel. Obs. exc. dial. in Eng.
I. v. 1. (1) To tickle (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 88), to irritate by tickling (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)). Also fig. Vbl.n., ppl.adj. kittlin(g), kyitlin. Gen.Sc. Cf. Cuittle, v.2
Edb. 1739 Caled. Mercury (11 Jan.):
The famous Lozenges: The Virtues thereof are, they perfectly cure the Cough, kittling of the Throat. Dmf. 1810 R. H. Cromek Remains 64:
He played his hand 'mang mylang brown hair An' kittled my white cheek fairly. Ayr. 1821 Galt Annals x.:
A terrible host that came on her in the kirk, by taking a kittling in her throat. Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxx.:
I — kissed the man . . . an' kittled his oxters. Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 116:
The reek geed kittlan ap his nose An' gae his trapple sic' a wheeze. Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 97:
Says I, “Hoots! mak a aer o tay, It's naethin bit a kyitlin.” Lnk. 1893 J. Crawford Sc. Verses 109:
Clear an' caller's the burn that ran through Eden's yairdie, Where the leek or the haun o' maraudin' skule wean Never kittled the wame o' the wee whiskered bairdie? Arg. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days iii.:
Mother used to say that she was aye kittling your feet till you laughed when you were a baby. Bch. 1946 J. C. Milne Orra Loon 6:
The pints o' yer fuskers are kittlin' ma face!
(2) Fig. To touch the skin with a weapon, to stab, to prod by way of punishment, to drub, “touch up”.
Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley xxix.:
Her ain sell . . . could . . . kittle his quarters wi' her skene-occle. s.Sc. 1836 Wilson's Tales of the Borders II. 3:
To kittle underneath the ribs with his poniard. Edb. 1866 J. Smith Poems 111:
The Muscovite Czar had provoked her to war, An' she ca'd out her sodgers to kittle his croun.
2. Extended uses, tr. and intr., freq. with up: (1) to stimulate, please, flatter, to excite pleasurably (ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., m.Lth., Ayr., Dmf., s.Sc. 1960); to make or become lively or excited, to prick up (the ears) attentively. Vbl.n. kit(t)lin(g), a feeling of stimulation, a pleasurable sensation (Ayr. 1825 Jam.; Sh. 1960).
(1) Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. ii. i.:
I've gather'd News will kittle your Mind with Joy. Abd. p.1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 173:
But the fain kitling of a canty thought, By some kind Muse into their bosoms wrought. Ayr. 1786 Burns Holy Fair xix.:
It never fails, on drinkin' deep, To kittle up our notion. Rxb. 1793 T. Scott Poems 316:
Till baith our kittelt sauls flee up Wi' fire divine. Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xiii.:
He kittles the lugs o' a silly auld wife wi' useless clavers, and every twa words a lee. Ayr. 1822 Galt Steam-boat xi.:
She pointed to the starns in the firmament with a jocosity that was just a kittling to hear. Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man II. vii.:
On the hill o' Hawthornside . . . I first saw the face o' an enemy. There was . . . a kind o' kittling, a sort o' prinkling in my blood like. Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 57:
But would ye hear an auld-warl' tale! then kittle up your lugs, And listen to the hamely crack o' twa auld-farrent “Dowgs”. Edb. 1882 J. Smith Canty Jock 76:
Auld Satan kittles ye up whiles. Kcd. 1933 Scots Mag. (July) 268:
You finished up your dram and felt fair kittled up.
(2) Of a fire: to stir, poke up (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., m.Lth., s.Sc. 1960), also fig. of trouble, strife, etc.; to burn or blaze up more vigorously; to kindle. Vbl.n. kitlin. Also in n.Eng. dial. Of the wind: to rise, freshen, increase in force, to blow irregularly but strongly (Fif. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc. 1960). Of steam: to increase the pressure of; fig. to put on speed.
Abd. 1882 T. Mair John o' Arnha's Latter-day Exploits 50:
Then, settin's face the wye o' hame, Began to kittle up the ste'm. Hdg. 1908 J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 17:
Trav. . . . The fire is lit? Swack. Bleezin' like a kitlin o' Vesuvius, sir. Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 18:
A hantle heh the twaesome [hills] seen sin the beacons war kuittelt on ther heathery pows. Bch. 1940 C. Gavin Hostile Shore vii.:
Kittle up the fire, Davie! Get the whisky and the glesses, Lenny!
(3) Of health or circumstances: to pick up, improve, ameliorate, to regain strength or prosperity (Abd., Ags. 1960).
Kcd. 1932 L. G. Gibbon Sunset Song (1937) 17:
She wept right sore over the pass that things had come to, but they kittled up before her own jaw was tied in a clout.
(4) To stir or rouse to anger, excitement or mischief, to provoke, annoy, tease. Gen.(exc. I.)Sc.; to become angry, moved or annoyed (Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 80; Abd. 1960). Of a horse: to become restive (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 95; ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1960).
Abd. 1868 W. Shelley Wayside Flowers 177:
She kittled like a caird in drink. Dmf. 1888 G. Sproat Dalma Linn 66:
It tell'd o' a meetin' that kittled his bluid, By wantin' to shorten his dram. Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 138:
Ye only kittle fowk fin ye tell them they're feels for gyaun tull a Kirk, an' fin ye misca' their ministers. Per. 1950 4 :
It'll kittle him up if ye tell him that.
(5) To chide, reprove, give (someone) a “doing up” (Abd., m.Lth. 1960); vbl.n. kittling, a rebuke, scolding (Cld. 1880 Jam.).
3. Of a musical instrument: to set the strings, etc. in motion (with the fingers or a bow), to tune (up), to strike up (a tune on), lit. and fig. (ne.Sc., Fif., Kcb. 1960); to compose, make up (a song or poem). Phrs. to kittle hair on thairms, kittle (up the) thairm, to play the fiddle. See Thairm.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 162:
A better violer never scrided on a silken cord, or kittled a cat's tryps with his finger-ends. Ayr. 1786 Burns Jolly Beggars 200:
An' while I kittle hair on thairms, Hunger, cauld, and a' sic harms May whistle owre the lave o't. Edb. 1821 W. Liddle Poems 199:
Kittle up a moorland screed, To make us fain. Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter x.:
The best fiddler that ever kittled thairm with horse-hair. Abd. 1841 J. Imlah Poems 14:
And the “Blue Bonnets” spur the pride O' the old Border; But kittle up Loch Erochside, He's prime in order. ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 78:
Ten teeth withoot a tongue, It is gueede sport t' aul' an young; Take it oot o'ts yallow fleece An kittle't on the belly piece? Ans. A fiddle. Gsw. 1904 H. Foulis Erchie iii.:
A lady wi' tousy hair's kittlin' the piano till it's sair. Lth. 1920 A. Dodds Songs 1:
Come, fiddler kittle up yer string.
4. To puzzle, perplex, nonplus (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; m.Lth., Rxb. 1960).
Sc. 1824 Scott St. Ronan's W. xv.:
Studying the Bible on the work days, to kittle the clergyman with doubtful points of controversy on the Sabbath. Sc. 1839 in Lockhart Scott lix., note:
To a remark of my mother, that he seemed to know something of the words of every song that ever was sung, he [Scott] replied, “I daresay it wad be gey ill to kittle me in a Scots ane, at ony rate.”
Phr.: †kittle-the-cout, kittlie-cout, -cowt, -kow, a children's game in which a concealed handkerchief or other object is searched for, a variant of “hide the thimble” (Sc. 1808 Jam., 1818 Sawers), so named from a call in the game (see 1825 quot.). See Cowt, and cf. hide-the-mare s.v. Hide, v., B. 5. “Cout seems originally to have denoted the person employed to seek, denominated from the various proofs given of stupidity; in the same sense as gowk, i.e. fool, is used in Hunt-the-gowk. It is thus equivalent to Puzzle the colt” (Jam.).
Sc. 1821 Blackwood's Mag. (Aug.) 33:
I find I can take a game with the bairns at Kittlie-cout or blind Harry as well as ever. Sc. 1825 Jam.:
It is the same game that in some parts of the country is called Kittlie-kow. All the players, save the person who hides, shut their eyes till the handkerchief, glove, or whatever is used, be hidden. When the task of hiding is finished, the hider cries, Kittlie-kow, or Kittlie-cout. Then every one attempts to find it. The only information, that is given by the person who has hid it, is that he cries Cold! when the seeker is far off from the thing hidden, and Hot! when he is near it. Sc. 1827 C. I. Johnstone Eliz. de Bruce II. x.:
Out of some hole or bore in the lining of his breeches, which would have defied a Bow-street officer, or even the most adroit practitioner in the old Scottish game of Kittliecout, dropped the secreted coin.
5. Curling: to give speed to a stone by sweeping the ice before it (Ayr.4 1928; Abd., Fif., Lnk. 1960). Cf. Heel; see also 1914 quot.
Edb. 1895 J. Tweeddale Moff 163:
“Give 'im days”, cried Willie Gair excitedly, the moment the stone touched the ice. “Kittle 'im, boys, kittle 'im.” Dmf. 1937 T. Henderson Lockerbie ix.:
He therefore decided on breaking up the now useless guards, and, placing his besom on the face of the outer guard shouted, “Noo, sir, fair on the face and kittle them weel.”
II. n. 1. A tickle, tickling sensation (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 95; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen.Sc.; an irritation, as of the throat. Gen.Sc.; fig. a pleasurable excitement or flutter (of the heart), stimulus, charm, cause for laughter. Hence kittlesome, ticklish (Sh. 1899 Shetland News (3 Dec.), Sh. 1960).
Lnk. 1816 G. Muir Cld. Minstrelsy 6:
Devoid of elfie's charm or fairy's kittle. Sc. 1874 W. Allan Hamespun Lilts 7:
By way o' gi'en their hearts a kittle. Ags. 1892 Arbroath Guide (2 April) 3:
I ga'e Marg'et a kittle below the chin. Fif. 1895 S. Tytler Kincaid's Widow iii.:
They are very good for a kittle or dryness in the throat. Sc. 1906–11 Rymour Club Misc. I. 171:
Maiden, maiden if ye be, Bear a kittle on the knee. Kcd. 1933 L. G. Gibbon Cloud Howe 124:
There was better kittle in the story of what happened to Jim the Sourock on Armistice Eve.
2. Applied to a fire: a stir, a poke (ne.Sc. Ags., Fif., Lth., Ayr., Dmf., Rxb. 1960). Also with up.
Abd. 1928 N. Shepherd Quarry Wood xv.:
It's nae a terrible grand fire . . . Gie't a kittlie up.
3. A difficult feat (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Lth., Gall., s.Sc. 1960), a teaser.
4. A polish, a shine (Abd.13 1910; Bnff.2 1942; Abd. 1960), a rub (Abd. 1960). Cf. Cuittle, v.3
Abd. 1915 15 :
Od, hisna he a richt kittle on's harness?
III. adj. 1. Tickly, itchy, easily tickled, having a sensitive skin (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Inv. 1902 E.D.D.; Ork., Cai., em.Sc.(a), Edb., Wgt., Kcb., Rxb. 1960). Rare in this sense, Kittlie being gen. preferred; in extended sense, amorous. Also adv.
Rnf. 1807 R. Tannahill Poems (1900) 12:
[He] cracks, an sings, an giggles sae licht an kittle. Ags. 1942 17 :
“Weelum's claes are aye fell shauchlie.” “Ay, but he's that kittle, 'at he canna lat a tyler measure 'im.”
‡2. Likely, apt, inclined, easy, prone, freq. with inf. (Wgt. 1960). Also adv.; of a mechanism: easily set off (e.Lth. 1900). Comb.: †kittlebrode, the board in a trap on which the bait is placed, the trap itself. Cf. Eng. dial. kittle-board.
Ayr. 1787 Burns Death & Dr. Hornbook x.:
Put up your whittle, I'm no design'd to try its mettle; But if I did, I wad be kittle To be mislear'd. s.Sc. 1857 H. S. Riddell Psalms lxix. 22:
Let thair tabel becum ane girn afore thame; an' that whilk shud hae been for thair weelfare, let it becum ane kittlebrode. Sc. 1884 T. Speedy Sport in Highlands 346:
The traps are set “kittle,” in order that they may be sprung with their light weight. Kcb. 1900 4 :
It'll be shooers, lang-tailed shooers, wi' rain atween; kittle tae plump. but nae wecht o' weet.
3. Of persons or things: (1) capricious, fractious, fickle, not easy to get on with, unpredictable, changeable, unreliable, rash (s.Sc. 1790 F. Grose Gl.; Uls. 1953 Traynor; ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., Lth., sm. and s.Sc. 1960).
Sc. 1711 Tinclarian Doctor Mitchel's Letter to the King of France (Broadsheet):
If you be as Kittle a Gentleman as our Ministers Represent you, them that has least adoe with you has best Penneworths. Sc. 1756 J. Haldane Player's Scourge 6:
To them all conjunctly H—s maid is said to have brought forth two bumpkin gytlings at one birth — accordingly the whore calls on all the kittle three to be exact in their payment. Ayr. 1789 D. Sillar Poems 33:
But binna in owre great a haste, Altho' ye're something kittle. Mry. 1810 J. Cock Simple Strains 69:
She [Fortune] 'll maybe turn her kittle wheel, An' gie me yet a kin'ly smile. m.Sc. 1838 A. Rodger Poems 324:
Never a wooer advances To oxter me hame, Alas, now, how kittle my chance is! Bnff. 1885 Banffshire Jnl. (4 Aug.) 2:
For o' a' the plenishin' o' this warld Woman's the kittlest gear. Ayr. 1885 Gsw. Ballad Club 156:
But there's a lan' ayont the blue, That kens nocht o' oor kittle weather. Ags. 1887 A. D. Willock Rosetty Ends 25:
Show-folks gettin' the reputation o' bein' kittle and slippery customers to deal wi'. Hdg. 1903 J. Lumsden Toorle 75:
Toorle's far owre clever a fallow to let out what he's no' deid sure o' anent sich a kittle customer. Ork. 1929 Peace's Almanac 137:
Whiles he waas stootly ill-snored an' kittle tae win' on wi'.
(2) Quick-tempered, touchy, easily roused or excited (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnfff. 95; Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 152; Cai.3 1931; ne.Sc., em.Sc.(a), Lth., Kcb. 1960). Also adv. Hence kittlesome, of a horse: nervous, excitable (Uls. 1953 Traynor).
Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xxviii.:
I'll stand on mine honour as kittle as ony man, but I hate unnecessary bloodshed. Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes lxxvii.:
A woman wi' ae son's like a coo wi' ae horn, some kittle ye ken. Bnff. 1872 W. Philip It'ill a' come Richt xiii.:
Tho' she his a kittle temper, she's worth studyin'. Sc. 1889 Stevenson M. of Ballantrae i.:
Kittle folks are the Durrisdeers They ride wi' ower mony spears. Sc. 1895 A. S. Swan Gates of Eden xv.:
Ye're jist like that kittle mare o' yer uncle's — ye canna rest a meenit. Arg. 11941:
Oor Leezie is a kittle lass And no just very canny: Her temper's like a pint o' Bass When heated in a panny.
(3) Combs. and phr.: †(a) kittle-breeks, a nickname for a person of irritable temper (Abd. 1825 Jam.); (b) kittle cattle, people (or animals) difficult to deal with, contrary, capricious or unmanageable. Gen.Sc.; (c) kittle in the trot, quick-tempered, irritable, irascible (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 95; ‡Abd. 1960). Cf. Short.
(b) Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxxviii.:
Kings are kittle cattle to shoe behind, as we say in the north. Lnl. 1881 H. Shanks Musings 342:
Now, women are (compared wi' men), More contumacious; and when, Their “birse” is up, — my certy! then They're kittle cattle. Abd. 1887 Bon-Accord (30 April) 17:
They are kittle-cattle the Forgue farmers. Sc. 1888 Trans. Highl. Soc. 197:
Even as machines are easily deranged so sheep are “kittle cattle”; no more delicate animal breathes. m.Sc. 1932 A. D. Cowan New Provost 12:
The ratepayers are kittle cattle. (c) Abd. 1898 J. Imray Sandy Todd 65:
I hinna been fin'in' myself a' thegither richt this filie back, an' I'm sometimes gey an' kittle in the trot.
4. Risky, precarious, insecure, unsteady, ticklish (Sc. 1825 Jam., 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 40; ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., Lth., Dmb., Ayr., Kcb., Dmf., Rxb. 1960). Also used adv.
Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 46:
It is kittle to waken sleeping dogs. It is kittle shooting at corbies and clergy. It is kittle for the cheeks when the hurlbarrow gaes o'er the brig of the nose. Abd. 1768 in A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 6:
In kittle times when faes are yarring We're no thought ergh. Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 142:
Sure Major Weir, or some sic warlock wight, Has flung beguilin' glamer o'er your sight; Or else some kittle cantrup thrown. Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel v.:
Your own pacific government . . . has made main force a kittle line to walk by. Sc. 1862 A. Hislop Proverbs 223:
Mettle's kittle in a blind mare. Edb. 1884 High School Mag. 21:
The “kittle nine steps”, nine narrow ledges at the foot of the wall on the north-west side of the Castle. Ayr. 1889 H. Johnston Glenbuckie iv.:
I have much faith, however, in my wife's prudence, especially when she gets to know the kittle nature of the ground on which she stands. Per. 1894 I. Maclaren Brier Bush 262:
A Hieland ford is a kittle road in the snaw time. Dmf. 1915 J. L. Waugh Betty Grier 93:
It's a kittle time o' the year for them that are no' very strong. m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood xi.:
It's a kittle thing, and him that invokes it is like to get the redder's straik.
5. Fig. Hard to deal with, intractable, intricate, in gen. Specif.: (1) of a task or problem: difficult to solve or achieve, tricky, puzzling, hard to decide, not easy (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork., Abd., m. and s.Sc. 1960). Also adv. Derivs. kittlish (Abd. 1960), kittle-some, id. (ne.Sc., Fif., wm.Sc., Kcb., Rxb. 1960). Combs.: ‡(a) kittle H's, the game of noughts and crosses (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., Rxb. 1960). See Fickle; †(b) kittle-strips, a rope hung over a beam and having a noose at the end into which a person seated astride the beam places his feet, and tries to balance himself whilst picking up with his teeth something placed before him (Rxb. 1825 Jam.). For kittle cast, see also Cast, n., 1. (1) (b).
Sc. 1709 D. Warrand Culloden Papers (1925) II. 13:
Wee can not thinke of attackeing them and even then as they have intrinshed themselves and haveing advantage of the river and the ground itt will be a kitill pise of work. Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 39:
The Case was new, and very kittle, Which puzzl'd a' the Court na little. Lth. 1762 A. Dickson Agriculture 208:
Every common plowman will tell you, that, when the plough-irons are short, his plough goes kittle. By this he means, that it is easily turned aside, and is difficult to manage. Edb. 1772 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 89:
For he's a man . . . . . . right gleg, whan things are out o' joint, At sattlin o' a nice or kittle point. Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xxiii.:
It's a kittle cast she has gien me to play; but yet it's fair play, and I winna baulk her. Dmb. 1835 D. MacLeod Past Worthies (1894) 87:
I am to take all the wicks or kittle shots. Fif. 1876 G. Setoun R. Urquhart xxii.:
That'll be a kittle question for them to settle. Dmf. 1913 J. L. Waugh Cracks wi' R. Doo 85:
I had played the wise man in the kittleist and quirkiest trade in the world. Gsw. 1933 F. Niven Mrs. Barry 201:
He's stopping with relatives, and stopping wi' relatives is a kittle business whiles. s.Sc. 1933 Border Mag. (Dec.) 180:
Trees darkened the way here. . . . “Hoo er ye managing?” . . . “Fine . . . but some o' the ruits er kittlesome t' get ower”. Sc. 1952 Sc. Home & Country (Feb.) 37:
Angus . . . found that courting her was a kittlish business. Rxb. 1955 Abd. Univ. Review (Aut.) 143:
The wicked plans lay slee and kittle; He turns them ither than they ettle.
(2) Of an angle, bend or corner: awkward, difficult to negotiate (ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., Lth., Ayr., s.Sc. 1960).
Abd. 1825 Jam.:
An angle may be obtuse, and yet . . . owre kittle. ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 75:
Clean forgot a kettle corner, Dobbin took it like the win', But alas! he left the saiddle, Dominie, an' a' ahin'.
(3) Of writers, or their words or thought: difficult to understand or pronounce, obscure.
Sc. 1719 in Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 119:
Ye're never rugget, shan, nor kittle, But blyth and gabby. Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 107:
They labour still, In kittle words to gar you roose Their want o' skill. Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Poems 13:
Name kittle words, as smooth as satin, An' shaw how they war born frae Latin. Sc. 1820 Blackwood's Mag. (Aug.) 516:
The tenth chapter of Nehemiah — called among Scottish schoolboys the “Kittle Tenth”. Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of Lairds v.:
Twa three bonny kittle words out o' the dictioner. Abd. 1868 W. Shelley Wayside Flowers 72:
Whyles thae kittle words perplex him, Past unravellin' they seem.
6. Clever, adept, cunning, skilful (Ags. 1960).
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost vi.:
The bailie was a kittle hand at a bowl of toddy. Abd. 1875 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 166:
A dry't up whingein' bodie 't 's kittle aneuch it may be amo' bills an' bank credits, but awa fae the office dask hisna the smeddum o' a new spean't calf. Ags. 1931 Barrie Julie Logan 3:
I heard my fiddle playing . . . it was grander playing than Posty's, though he is a kittle hand.
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