Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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KNAB, n.2 Also knabb, nab (Ayr. 1790 A. Tait Poems 236). Dim. (k)nabbie, -y, nauby.

1. A person of importance or prestige; †a leader, chieftain; one of moderate wealth, one who lays claim to some social standing (Sc. 1808 Jam.; n.Sc., Dmb., Ayr., Kcb., Dmf., Slk. 1960), a snob, a conceited self-important person. Comb. half-nab(bie), a person of the middle class (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Cf. Eng. slang half-nib, one who apes gentlemen. Abd. 1748  R. Forbes Ajax Title:
Ajax His Speech to the Grecian Knabbs, from Ovid's Metam. Lib. XIII.
Gsw. 1793  R. Gray Poems 91:
Than with some knabs wha equipage maintains, And ev'n of power sometimes do hold the reins.
Fif. p.1807  E. Henderson Ann. Dunfermline (1879) 500:
The name settled comfortably down to that of the “Knabbie Raw” and “Knabbie Street”, from some one or two well-to-do weavers having been styled nabobs, or nabbies, by the public.
Kcb. 1815  J. Gerrond Poems 94:
At the corner sit some chosen nabs, Good punch are busy making.
Ayr. 1836  Galt in Tait's Mag. (June) 393:
A Highland tartan plaid, belonging to a nauby that was going to Tobermory.
Clc. 1885  J. Beveridge Poets Clc. 124:
And a' the Laings are to be bidden; A' the Bennies and a' the Dabbies, And a' the hale o' our half nabbies.
e.Lth. 1892  J. Lumsden Sheep-head 62:
Upo' her back the wauchty creels, She thraws as eithly in a spell; As yon “half-nabs” do their mantels.
Edb. 1917  T. W. Paterson Wyse-Sayin's xxi. 22:
A wyse man speels ower the tap o' a toon-fu' o' knabbs, An' gies their upsettin silly consait an unco ding ower.

Hence (1) (k)nabbery, knabery, knabrie, -y, [′(k)nɑbri; Abd. ′knebri] those who lay claim to a certain social position, “cock-lairds”, gentry, people of quality (Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 9; ‡ne.Sc., w.Lth., Rnf., Ayr., sm.Sc. 1960). Also attrib. Sometimes ironical. Hence comb. half-nabbery, id. (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; ‡Slk. 1960); †(2) knabbie, -y, knabbish, adj., well-to-do, having rank, means, or position (Sc. 1808 Jam.), genteel, pretentious, dressed above one's station (Ayr. 1880 Jam.). Cf. Eng. dial. nobby, nobbish, id.; (3) nabity, adj., = (2); n., a well-dressed person (Cld. 1880 Jam.); (4) knabley, wealthy, dignified (Sc. 1818 Sawers). (1) Ayr. 1821  Scots Mag. (April) 351:
The swaping o' the court, an' the peetiefu' gait whilk the fowk spak thereawa, soon gart our knabrie tyne a' that auncient greeshoch whilk they had for their forebears.
Rxb. a.1860  J. Younger Autobiog. (1881) xxvi.:
Those that we designate by the. title of “nabbery”, or small would-be gentry.
Lnk. 1880  Clydesdale Readings 121:
My peregrinations were amang the kin' o' nabbery bodies o' the district, wha, when measured wi' the ellwan o' debt, are much o' a muchness wi' their puirer brethern.
Ags. 1882  Brechin Advert. (12 Dec.) 3:
Gin he saw ony o' the knabery fae Brechin or Farfar i' the kirk.
Bnff. 1924  Swatches o' Hamespun 36:
Noo, you knabry, haad furth — ben te the kitchie.
Lnk. 1926  W. Queen We're a' Coortin' 9:
There's naebuddy should turn up their nose at a herrin' — the nabbery eats thim as weel as workin' folk.
(2) Rnf. 1788  E. Picken Poems 178:
The herds o' mony a knabbie laird War trainin' for the shambles.
Lnk. 1853  W. Watson Poems 2:
Our lairds an' nabby renters.
Ayr. 1879  J. White Jottings 185:
A seam o' teeth she had, nae doot, Richt nabbie, for a ball or route.

2. A sturdy boy (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 226). Hence knable, id., knablich, a sturdy, strong little animal (Ib., Bnff. 1960). Cf. Knap, n.1, 4. Bnff. 1957  Banffshire Jnl. (10 Sept.) 4:
Jock o' Bennachie, fa maun hae been a gey knable o' a lad.

3. A contemptuous term for a disobliging person (Kcb. 1919 T.S.D.C.), phs. from 1., a “snooty” person.

[Orig. obscure. Cf. Eng. slang nab, a fop, c.1690–1750, nob, a person of rank, position, or wealth, known from the early 19th c. Phs. initially ad. Eng. slang (k)nob, the head, with Sc. a (see P.L.D. § 54, and cf. Knab, n.1). But there appears to be some influence from nabob.]

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"Knab n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Mar 2018 <>



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