Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SKITTER, n., v.1 Also ¶skeeter.

I. n. 1. Thin excrement, watery stool (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Cai., Ayr. 1904 E.D.D.); with def. art. and freq. in pl., diarrhoea (Id.). Gen.Sc. Also fig. Hence ¶skitteration, excrementation, skitterful, suffering from diarrhoea, skitt(e)ry, id., purgative, causing looseness of the bowels. Applied in combs. to various birds which have a habit of voiding excrement when startled or rising in flight: skitterbroltie, -y, the corn bunting, Emberiza calandra (Ork. 1877 Sc. Naturalist (Jan.) 9, 1929 Marw., Ork. 1970). See Broltie; skittery deacon, the common sandpiper, Tringa hypoleucos (Slg. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 196); skittery feltie, -y, the fieldfare, Turdus pilaris (Slg., Fif., w. and sm.Sc. 1970). Sc. 1711  J. Watson Choice Coll. iii. 59:
To settle the Disjune Of those that have the Skitter.
Sc. 1721  J. Kelly Proverbs 16, 176:
A Spoonful of Skitter will spill a Potful of Skink. . . . If you was as skitterfull as you are scornful, you would file the whole House.
Sc. 1747  Execution Lord Lovat 9:
Upon which, the Warder ask'd his Lordship, what Wine he would please to have. Not white Wine, says he, unless you would have me go with the Skitter to the Block. For it seems white Wine generally gave him the Flux.
e.Lth. 1759  Address to Farmers 33:
His style was emphatically enough described as a skitter of words.
Gall. 1824  MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 81:
Ye seem tae hae the skitter, Or bloit this day.
Sc. c.1850  A Few Rare Proverbs:
Ye hae the wit o' skitteration, ye ought to be presented wi' a turd.
Sc. 1911  Rymour Club Misc. I. 135:
Sowens is a skittry dish.
Ork. 1911  Old Lore Misc. IV. iv. 186:
Yea' wirt o' tha bit a skitter broltie hid was dere!

2. Transf.: anything dirty, disgusting, unpleasant or vexatious, a mess, rubbish, trash, nonsense (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh., n.Sc., Ags., Per. 1970); an abusive term for an objectionable person, a dirty untidy slattern, a dawdler (Fif. 1958). Hence skitterie, piffling, trifling, contemptibly small or inadequate (Cai., Slg., Lnk., Slk. 1970), with vaguely derisory force in comb. skitterie winter, the last person to arrive for or, less freq., to leave work in a factory, mine, school, etc. on Hogmanay (wm.Sc. 1970). See Winter; esp. of a task; fiddly, footling, time-consuming (m.Sc. 1970). Cf. II. 2.

II. v. 1. To suffer from diarrhoea (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Sc. 1721  J. Kelly Proverbs 20:
A skittering Cow in the Loan wad ay have many Marrows. Spoken when ill People pretend that others are as bad as themselves.

Used tr. in fig. phr. to skitter the slaps, to take home the last load of corn at harvest (Ork. 1970). Cf. 2. above.

2. To waste time in trifling jobs, to dawdle, to potter in an aimless footling way (Fif. 1950). Kcd. 1934  L. G. Gibbon Grey Granite 114:
She wasn't to have the long nosed sniftering wretch skeetering around while she was alive.

[O.Sc. skitter, = II. 1., a.1508, = I. 1., a.1628, Mid.Eng. skiter, id., freq. form of Skite, v.2]

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"Skitter n., v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 Feb 2019 <>



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