Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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NINE, adj., n. Also ¶neen (Dmf. 1731 Gentleman's Mag. I. 123). Sc. usages. Adj. nint, ninth (Sc. 1862 G. Henderson St Matthew xx. 5; Ags. 1899 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1915) 21; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 73; ne.Sc. 1964).

I. adj. Combs. and Phrs.: (1) like nine ell o' win', see Ell, n., 2.; (2) nine-e(y)ed-eel. (i) a fish of the genus Petromyzonidae, the lamprey (em.Sc. 1808 Jam.; Bwk. 1838 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Hist. Soc. I. 176; Bnff. 1876 S. Smiles Sc. Naturalist 426). Also in Nhb. dial.; (ii) the gunnel, Pholis gunnellus (Abd. 1815 J. Arbuthnot Fishes 12; ne.Sc. 1903 G. Sim Fauna of “Dee” 228). Cf. Eng. dial. nine-een, -eyes, = (i) and (ii); (3) nine-holes. the cut of beef below the breast of an animal. “denominated from the vacancies left by the ribs” (Sc. 1825 Jam., 1869 J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 403; Cai., Gall. 1903 E.D.D.; Ags., Per., wm., sm. and s.Sc. 1964); †(4) nine merk court, the local magistrates' or police court, so called in Dunfermline (see quot.); †(5) nine midders' meat, — mothers' maet, food collected from nine mothers whose first-born were sons, used as a cure for a sick child (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)), nine being a magic number. A cake of nine constituents was used in certain Scandinavian spring rituals. Phr. to bid or tig de nine midders' maet, to go round asking for such food (Ib.); (6) nine O's, a game for two persons in which nine circles are arranged in three parallel rows to be connected by lines, one player selecting two circles at a time to be joined. The object is to connect the circles so that no lines cross, and no more than two lines lead from any circle (Sc. 1903 E.D.D.); (7) nine-tail(ed)-cat, -tails, the hangman's lash. the cat-o-nine-tails (Sc. 1887 Jam.). (2) (i) m.Lth. 1811  Wernerian Soc. Mem. I. 555:
Lesser Lamprey. . . . This is abundant in the rivers Leith, Almond and Esk. The popular name Nine-eyed-eel arises from the spiracles being taken for eyes.
(3) Sc. 1826  M. Dods Manual II. 207:
Choose the thin part of the flank, or what in Scotland is called the nine-holes, or runner.
Sc. 1844  H. Stephens Bk. Farm II. 169:
The nineholes . . . consists of layers of fat and lean without any bone.
Sc. 1857  J. Aiton Domestic Econ. 98:
For boiling pieces of beef, the runner, the nineholes, and the breast are the best.
(4) Fif. 1828  A. Mercer Hist. Dunfermline 111:
The Bailies hold a weekly court on Wednesdays, commonly called “The nine merk court,” but are entitled to decide respecting larger sums, should such cases be presented.
(5) Sh. 1899  J. Spence Folk-Lore 147:
The mother is further instructed to “tig the nine mothers' maet” for the bairn's restoration — i.e., nine mothers whose first born were sons are each solicited for an offering of three articles of food, to be used during the convalescence of the patient who has been thus snatched from the power of the trows.
(7) Ayr. 1785  Burns Epitaph on Holy Willie iii.:
But haud your nine-tail-cat a wee.
Ayr. 1787  Burns Ordination xi.:
Hark, how the nine-tail'd cat she plays.

II. n. 1. The justices of the supreme criminal court in Scotland. The number appears to have been chosen for the rhyme as the Justiciary Court at no time has had nine members (seven from 1671, thirteen from 1887, now sixteen). Cf. Fifteen. Sc. 1827  Mary Hamilton in
Child Ballads (1956) III. 392:
Rise up, and dress ye fine, For you maun gang to Edinbruch, And stand afore the nine.

2. Derivs. and Phrs.: (1) ninesie, n., the ninth movement in the game of Chuckies or fivestones, in which the five stones are thrown and caught, four then laid on the ground, the fifth thrown up again and the four scooped up by one hand while the other is waiting to catch the fifth on its descent (Ags., Per., Arg., Uls. 1964); (2) ninesome, n., a group of nine. Also attrib.; (3) to a ninepence, (up) to the nine(s), up to the mark, to perfection, just so (w.Sc. 1887 Jam.). Orig. Sc., now in colloq. Eng. usage, appar. derived from the game of nine pins. (2) Bwk. 1853  G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 187:
To go agathering nuts in the autumn is a favourite employ with your people. To find a cluster of nine, — “a ninesome bobbin,” — is fortunate, for it is a love-charm to dream upon.
Ayr. 1887  J. Service Dr. Duguid 224:
She had an auchtsome or a ninesome family.
(3) Sc. 1761  Magopico 33:
A brother whose complection fitted Magopico to a nine-pence.
Ayr. 1787  Burns To the Guidwife of Wauchope v.:
'Twad please me to the nine.
Sc. 1827  Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 315:
That young chiel Gibb hits aff a simple scene o' nature to the nines.
Lnk. 1881  A. Wardrop J. Mathison 17:
My ain wife Betty . . . dressed up tae the nines.
Ags. 1891  Barrie Little Minister vi.:
She was naturally a bonny bit kimmer rather than happit up to the nines.
e.Lth. 1895  P. H. Hunter J. Inwick xvii.:
Ye wad let a cratur like Pringle tak ye in, an' flatter ye up to the nines.

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"Nine adj., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Feb 2018 <>



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