Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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PIRR, n.2, v. Also †pirrhe.

I. n. 1. A gentle breath of wind, a light breeze (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 175, 1914 Angus Gl.; Sh., ne.Sc. 1966); a ripple on water (Sh. 1966). Dim. pirrie, id. Found in Eng. dial. in form pirrie, perry. Also fig. Fif. 1831  Fife Herald (18 Aug.):
And were they [corn fields] to be visited with a pirr of wind, . . . the result would be seriously felt.
Sh. 1891  J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 115:
As da pirr o memry, blaain, Frae mi een da skub aa clears.
Fif. 1894  J. Geddie Fringes of Fife 134:
To sigh . . . in vain for a “pirrhe” of wind.
Sh. 1918  T. Manson Peat Comm. 45:
A gentle “pirr” of wind to keep the heat from becoming oppressive.
Abd. 1954  Buchan Observer (23 Nov.):
A gey pirrie o' win' an flans o' shooers skilpin roon wir lugs at 'e plooin.

2. A sudden access of activity, specif. (1) a burst of energy, a vigorous onslaught (on a task, etc.). Hence pirrie, -y, of persons: given to sudden bursts of activity, unpredictable, unsteady, unreliable (Sh. 1966). Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 127:
He gangs till's wark wee a pirr.
Sh. 1924  T. Manson Peat Comm. 178:
Dis man is ower muckle laek da nor-wast wind — he's too pirrie . . . wan time strong an da next time nearly awey.

(2) a harassed, over-excited state of mind, a flurry, panic, rage (I. and ne.Sc. 1966). Bwk. 1856  G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 127:
When one is in a pirr about things which do not go well.
Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 127:
The gueedewife geed intil an unco pirr fin the laird cam t' see 'ir.

(3) a fit of temper, a sudden rage, a “fizz”, a fit of pique (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 127; Mry. 1925; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; I. and ne.Sc., Bwk., s.Sc. 1966); a fretful, irritable person (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 142). Adj. pirrie, -y, quick-tempered, touchy, easily annoyed (Rxb. a.1838 Ib., 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bwk., Rxb. 1966); prim, precise (Bwk. 1825 Jam.); hence pirrie-tempered, id. (Watson), pirriness, irascibility, touchiness (Ib.). Bwk. 1880  T. Watts Woodland Echoes 100:
An' troth! she was a pirrie quean.
Bnff. 1923  Banffshire Jnl. (29 May) 5:
I tell ye fat it is, I canna unnerstan' fock gettin' intill a pirr o' that kin'.
Mry. 1931  J. Geddie Characters 166:
Moggie picked it up and in a “pirr,” threw it back again.
Ork. 1956  C. M. Costie Benjie's Bodle 94:
There steud Peggy in as proper a pirr as iver I saa her in, cheust dancan wae maderam.

II. v. 1. Of a liquid; to ripple; “to flow with force in a small stream, to stream” (Cld. 1880 Jam.; Sh., Uls. 1966); of persons, animals, vehicles, etc.: to bowl or whirr along. Hence pirrie and reduced form pirr, adj., having a springy, tripping gait, spanking along (Bwk. 1825 Jam.); gaily dressed, trim, well turned-out (Ib.). Gall. 1824  MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 383:
Blood is said to pirr from the wound made by a lancet. . . . A girl is said to look pirr when gaily dressed.
Dmf. 1850  J. W. Carlyle in
L. & E. Hanson Necessary Evil (1952) 404:
The little snaffle of a messin called Nero commonly goes with me, runs snuffling into every hole, or pirrs about at my side like a little glassy rat.
Dmf. 1852  J. W. Carlyle Letters (Bliss 1949) 231:
I started myself, in a little gig, with a brisk little horse, and silent driver. Nothing could be more pleasant than so pirring thro' quiet roads.
Sc. 1935  W. Soutar Poems in Scots 33:
A' the seepin' sap, like bluid, Pirr'd saftly frae the cankert wud.

2. Of a breeze: to blow gently (Sh. 1966). Ppl.adj. pirrin(g); fresh, blowing lightly. Fif. 1827  W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 62:
Careerin' on the pirrin' breeze, A greedy gled.
Sh. 1901  T. P. Ollason Mareel 58:
He'll be pirrin' up a grain by an' bye, an' he's nae time o' nicht geen yet.

3. To tremble with anger, to be in a fearful temper, to “fizz” with rage (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Sh. 1966). Ork. 1956  C. M. Costie Benjie's Bodle 159:
He cam' back cheust pirran . . . and flang them [books] at first een an' than anither.

[O.Sc. pirhe, 1600, of wind. Onomat. Cf. Birr.]

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"Pirr n.2, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Oct 2018 <>



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