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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1934 (SND Vol. I). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BIG, adj. [Phon. as in Big(g),v. and n.1]

1. Elated, swollen-headed, consequential. Gen.Sc. Regarded as colloq. or slang in St.Eng.Mry. 1865 W. H. L. Tester Poems 139:
His wife as braw an' big as Lady Tenny.
Ags.(D) 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) xvi.:
Sandy was rale pleased when he saw me so big aboot my cake.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 66:
“Hear til him!” says he; “he downa be spoken to, he's that big!”

2. Friendly, intimate.Mry.2; Abd.2 1934:
Me an' Jock's gran' billies an' we've aye been big thegither.
Ant. 1898 W.J.K. in E.D.D.:
In common local use. John an' me's no big.

3. Of a market or fair: on a larger scale than usual, freq. of the half-yearly hiring markets as opposed to the smaller weekly ones. See various combs. under Muckie, adj., 1. Cai. 1934 John o' Groat Jnl. (9 Nov.) 2:
A Bower farmer attended a "Beeg Friday" sale and purchased a grice early in the day.
Per. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 X. 525:
Big Thursday. Second Thursday of March [at Crieff].

4. Principal (Ork., Cai., Bnff., Abd., Fif., Edb., Arg., Gsw., Ayr., Dmf., Rxb. 2000s).Edb. 1994 Gordon Legge I Love Me (Who Do You Love?) 131:
Deke put their big light off, their wee light on then went through the bathroom to practise a few of his whacked out and weary expressions.
Edb. 1997:
Ah dinnae like the big light in ma hoose.

Combs.: (1) Big-boukit, “advanced in pregnancy” (Ayr.4 1928).

(2) Big Buik, the Bible.Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. of Sc. Life and Char. 50:
When the auld gowkoo-clock wad gie warnin' o' ten, Then the table was set an' the big Buik brocht ben.

(3) Big-coat, greatcoat, overcoat. N.E.D. gives this as Sc.Sc. 1828 J. Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 120:
Big-coats wi' fur . . . gie an agreeable rouchness to the . . . stream o' life.
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Chron. of Keckleton 41:
Wi' that Matthew got up an' stept out to the hallan to put on his big coat.
Rxb. 1917 Jedburgh Gazette (27 April) 2/6:
For those night rides he used a long drab “big-coat.”

(4) Big end, larger room of a small school where the 'senior' pupils are taught. Highl. 2005:
The school I went to in Wester Ross in the 1940s had a big end for the older children and a wee end for the younger ones.
wm.Sc. 1998 Alan Warner The Sopranos (1999) 85:
... Chell's spindly legs hit-hitting the seat back making her go OOF, OOF and the slap of the little girl's feet on the polished floor not stopping till the janitors caught the chair at the door to the Big End ...
Wgt. 1979 Fred Urquhart Palace of Green Days 171:
The school had only two large rooms: the Big End and the Wee End. The Big End was for children over ten, and Mr McConnochie, the schoolmaster, looked after it.

(5) Big ha'-Bible, the family Bible, so called from its original use in the hall or principal room of the house, where the household assembled for religious services. See Ha', Hall.Ayr. 1786 Burns Cotter's Saturday Night xii.:
The Sire turns o'er, with patriarchal grace, The big ha'-Bible, ance his Father's pride.

(6) Big hoose, — house. (See first quot.); the town hall in a city.Sc. 1989 Scotsman 9 May 13:
President Daniel Ortega's visit to Edinburgh City Chambers at the weekend was not made, as some cynic suggest, just to thank the Labour administration for insisting that everyone at the Big Hoose drinks Nicaraguan coffee.
Abd. 2000 Herald 20 Mar 19:
Now, last year, Mossie agreed to advise the Young Laird on how to grow an extra tonne of barley to the acre. The deal was that the Young Laird would do exactly as Mossie said, and Mossie would get to that farthest up-market of shoots, the New Year bash at the Big Hoose.
Ags. 1759 Session Papers, Fife v. Ogilvy (9 March 1762) Precognition 7:
They saw no Light in the big House at that time. . . . Her Uncle went into the big House of Craig.
m.Sc. 2000 Herald 2 May 19:
The three-day fest is free and happens mainly in the Callendar Park, the big hoose and estate of a former laird o' Falkirk. The blossoming of a festival in the central toon might fill the gap for those who still miss Glasgow's Mayfest and can't wait for the Edinburgh fest.
Per. 1928 A. Stewart A Highland Parish 178:
The Big House, as the laird's dwelling was called.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 26:
At this the hizzies frae the big hoose, in the pew ahint, a' nudged ane anither an' giggled.

(7) Big man, term of respect for a man, often used as a form of address. Sc. 1991 TV advertisement for Scottish Power privatisation :
hello there big man how's it gaun [a spider talking to Robert the Bruce].
Sc. 1994 Herald 29 Aug 1:
The tributes, which numbered about 200, included the messages: "You'll be missed big man," from a local family and: "You will always have a place in my heart," signed simply, Love Lorraine.
Sc. 2000 Herald 14 Aug 32:
Perhaps if Andy Howitt can convince Tartan Army members that his dance would be an enjoyable experience for them he might have a sell-out on his hands, with kilted, flag-adorned, beer-swilling audience members burping their way through a performance with suitable comments like: "Here Boab, did ye see the wy the boy birled roon' there and sold us aw a dummy? Whit a loup that wiz, eh?" "Ay Jimmy, and whit a lovely pirouette an' aw. Just like wee Erchie in Argentina. Well done big man." Because they always say big man, don't they? Even though the big man might only be five feet and the wee man perhaps and inch shorter.
Sc. 2003 Herald 6 Aug :
'Aye ye look a pure diddy in that dickie bow by the way. Gonnae take it aff. We're here tae rock'n'roll big man'.
m.Sc. 1992 James Meek Last Orders 16:
Aye and she's fucking driving me up the wall, Brian. Hey, big man! He shouted at a group of people who had just come in.
m.Sc. 1996 Christopher Brookmyre Quite Ugly One Morning (1997) 162:
Lieutenant Larry Freeman had been nervous. Larry was about seven feet tall with shoulders 'the size of a Kansas prairie', as his wife put it, a frightening sight in black shades and a black, bald head. And Larry was never nervous.
'Something in the air then, big man?'
Edb. 1991 Gordon Legge In Between Talking about the Football 123:
We're waiting.................we're standing about like workies.............waiting for The Big Man.
Edb. 1994 Irvine Welsh Acid House 208:
Hard lines, big man, nae luck at aw, he smiles extending his hand and shaking mine theatrically.
wm.Sc. 1983 William McIlvanney The Papers of Tony Veitch 16:
'Hey, you! Big man. Ah'm talkin' to you. Gi'es a fag!'
wm.Sc. 1985 William McIlvanney The Big Man 1987 pp (50-1) :
Frankie White's calling him 'big man' hadn't helped. Big man. The implied stature beyond the physical the words sought to bestow on him was an embarrassment. He remembered an expression his mother had used to cut him down to size when he was in his arrogant teens and impressed by the status he felt himself acquiring. 'Aye, ye're a big man but a wee coat fits ye.'
Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 43:
Sorry aboot the nails, big man. Nae hard feelins, eh?
Gsw. 1992 Jeff Torrington Swing Hammer Swing! (1993) 141:
'Shat yersel there, big man, eh?' He tapped his lips with two leprous looking fingers.

(8) Big mavis, “the missel-thrush” (em.Sc.(b) 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 2).

(9) Big miss, great loss by death, or by the departure of a friend. Still in gen. use.Mry.2; Abd.9; Slg.3 1934:
He'll be a big miss in the clachan.
Abd.2 1934:
A letter last week from New Aberdour deploring the sudden death of a young man says “His sister will have a big miss.”

(10) Big oxeye, “the great titmouse, Parus major” (Rxb. 1915 G. Watson Nat. Hist. Lists i.). C. Swainson Brit. Birds (1885) 32 gives this for Frf., e.Lth., Rxb.

(11) Big school, secondary school.Sh. 1986 Robert Alan Jamieson Thin Wealth 42:
There was one thing they did agree on - she was growing fast. After the summer holidays, she would off to the big school in Lerwick.
m.Sc. 1997 Christopher Brookmyre Country of the Blind 234:
Paul's abiding impression of her was formed at the age of nine, having scaled the swingpark climbing frame and noticed with some distress that 'Belter' Burns, a weasel-eyed and nasal-toned hard-ticket from the big school, was heading his way, past the see-saw, smoking as demonstratively as possible for the instruction and edification of junior on-lookers.
Edb. 2003:
The bairn's gaun tae the big scuil efter the hoalidays.
Gsw. 1988 Michael Munro The Patter Another Blast 6:
big This is used to mean older, senior, or most important, as in the big school, secondary school: 'Don't tell us ye're gaun tae the big school noo, hen?' ...
Gsw. 1991 Anna Blair More Tea at Miss Cranston's 236:
I remember my two years at that wee school better than the eight I had at the big school.

(12) Big sma' faimily, a large family of young children. 1884 D. Grant Chron. of Keckleton 96:
My ain youngest Wee Johnnie, that's noo a big, stoot man and the father o' a big sma' faimily in America.

(13) Big spell, a school reading-book printed in capital letters only. See also Spell, n.1, 3. (1). Lth. 1842 P. McNeill Tranent (1884) 37:
It's a lang time since I was at the schule; I could read in the 'big-spell'.

(14) Big-wimed, big-bellied.Abd. 1904 W. A. G. Farquhar The Fyvie Lintie 73:
A big-wimed County Council man Was chosen to be Chairman.

(15) Big yin, (i) “a large size of ‘bool' or marble” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). In pl., older boys; (ii) a tall person; a person in authority.(15) (i) m.Lth. 1894 W. G. Stevenson Puddin' 22–23:
Sometimes the big yins sets us on, an' we wad be ca'ed “cooardy” if we didna fecht.
(ii) m.Sc. 1996 Christopher Brookmyre Quite Ugly One Morning (1997) 32:
Parlabane stood up and slapped Duncan on the back.
'Naw, you're all right, big yin.'
'Where are you going?'
wm.Sc. 1998 Alan Warner The Sopranos (1999) 200:
What's the point paying fifty quid to sit in choochter hall wi the draught up yur skirt when you can hear all the Big Yin's [Billy Connolly's] routines from this wanker for nothing!!
Gsw. 1987 James Kelman Greyhound for Breakfast (1988) 107:
Och naw, said Fat Stanley, I dont think so Oanny.
Aye you better fucking believe it big yin!
Victor shook his head slightly.
You kidding? frowned Oanny.
Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 2:
Three chairs fur the big yin. She's fadin away tae a gable end.

Phr.: Big Aggie's Man, an imaginary character on whom blame is placed.Gsw. 1988 Michael Munro The Patter Another Blast 7:
Big Aggie's Man A mythological character on whom anything you would rather not admit to can be blamed: 'It wisny me - it was Big Aggie's Man. The original Big Aggie and her man appeared in a popular song of the 1930s.
Uls. 1999 Belfast News Letter 2 Oct 17:
I count myself fortunate in not being old enough to have experienced the inexplicable behaviour of Big Aggie's man, although I often heard my father talk about him. He was, I believe, something in the shipyard.
Uls. 2004 Belfast News Letter 5 Jul 34:
The Ulster characters portrayed by James Young were legendary: Wee Sammy the schoolboy, Big Aggie's man, the slightly inebriated shipyard worker; Mrs O'Condriac, who invariably attended the doctor's surgery at least once a week; ...

[Origin obscure. Its connection with Bigly, adj., is rendered doubtful because of the meaning of the latter.]

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"Big adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 May 2024 <>



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