Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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NICK, n.2 As in colloq. Eng. = the Devil. Common in Sc. as Auld Nick (see Auld, 3.) and in dim. forms Nickie, Nick(e)y. Also an evil spirit, an imp, phs. confused with Eng. nix, a water-sprite. Bch. 1804  W. Tarras Poems 40:
Come nicks or hags, in front or rear, Be thou our stay.
Fif. 1806  A. Douglas Poems 81:
To cheat an' lie is just the trade They learn'd in Nicky's cellar.
Sc. 1823  R. McChronicle Legends Scot. III. 97:
I thought that ye twa, Macseizin, had made a tryste ti gang ti Nickie thegither.
Sh. 1892  G. Stewart Tales 255:
Auld Nickey . . . is aye kind till his ain.

Combs. and Phrs.: 1. ane ta Nickey, “devil a one”, not one; 2. his Nickship, a jocular form of address for the Devil; 3. Nickie-ben, Nicky-, -bend, a name for the Devil, apparently originated by Burns metri causa (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 447; Edb. 1839 W. McDowall Poems 53); a drubbing, trouncing, the devil to pay; 4. Nickie Blue-Thooms, id. (Abd.4 1930); 5. Nick's tar, ? pitch; 6. Nic(ky) Frog, a contemptuous term for a Dutchman as personifying Holland; 7. Nicky Tam, the Devil, found in an oyster-dredging song of the Firth of Forth. 1. Sh. 1898  Shetland News (21 May):
Fir my share, ane ta Nickey A'm seen yet at sood geng aroond me sae aisy.
2. Bch. 1861  J. Davidson Poems 97:
Sae down I sat upon a bush, According tul his Nickship's wush.
3. Ayr. 1786  Burns Address to the Deil xxi.:
But fare-ye-weel, Auld Nickie-Ben! O' wad ye tak a thought an' men'!
Edb. 1821  W. Liddle Poems 184:
Nicky, ben [sic] will some day skelp ye.
Per. 1879  P. R. Drummond Bygone Days 408:
Blind Milton had no mind to “Nickie-ben”.
Lnk. 1884  P. Carmichael Cld. Poems 88:
Your prayer — that God defend Your Nannie frae Auld Nickybend.
Kcb. 1893  Crockett Raiders xxi.:
Come hame wi' the water this meenit, or ye shall get “Nickie Ben” frae your “Jo Janet”.
Sc. 1933  W. Soutar Seeds in the Wind 20:
“I'll name four reavers,” said the hen: “The whitrack's ane, the tod's anither, The rottan, an' auld Nickie-ben.”
5. Bnff. 1787  W. Taylor Poems 106:
Ouse-John, the master o' the pack, Thought fit to metamorphose Jack [a colt]; Then cramm'd his guts first wi' ram-brose, O' Nick's-tar neist he gae'm a dose.
6. Sc. 1712  J. Arbuthnot Works (1892) 268:
I left John Bull sitting between Nic. Frog and Lewis Baboon, with his arms akimbo, in great concern to keep Lewis and Nic. asunder.
Ayr. 1812  A. Thom Amusements 19:
Duncan from the Nore, That made old Nicky Frog to roar.
7. m.Lth. 1963  Scotsman (3 Aug.) Suppl. 1:
But if we're lang, They [oysters]'re only use — For Nicky Tam.

[The word is recorded in Eng. a.1643, phs. as an abbreviation of the name Nicholas, but phs. also associated with Nick, v.2, 1., to catch, seize, recorded in Eng. in this sense from 1634.]

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"Nick n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 13 Dec 2018 <>



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