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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.

BIT, n.1, adj. (quasi), adv.1

1. n. Used as in St.Eng. to indicate a small portion of anything, a morsel, a fragment. Special Sc. usages: (1) (a) A small piece of ground, a spot.Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xlv.:
It's a wild bit to meet ony other body.
Mearns 1890 J. Kerr Reminisc. of a Wanderer I. 103:
Ere lang ye maun flit — I'm thinkin' I'll shortly be gettin' your bit.
Lnk.3 1934:
A village “natural” once told me he had been at school, and added “But yon's a noisy bit.”
Rxb.(D) 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 5:
Yon's aboot the snellist bit 'at A ever meind o be-in in o.

(b) Situation, place of residence or employment. More common in m. and s.Sc. than in n.Sc.Sc. 1824 Sir Walter Scott Redgauntlet Vol. 1 (1894) 152:
We had lived on the grund, and under the Redgauntlets, since the riding days, and lang before. It was a pleasant bit; and I think the air is callerer and fresher there than onywhere else in the country.
Sc. 1931 J. Lorimer Red Sergeant x.:
"Sae tak' yer wey wi' me tae me bit." In the Highlands a peasant would have termed it "my poor house"; but there was no apology for his biggin' in Amos.
Sc. 2003 Edinburgh Evening News (2 Oct):
The estate was fairly new and was brilliant compared to the high-rise blocks in other schemes. Our bit consisted of three tenement blocks, bordered on one side by government buildings and on the other side by an industrial estate.
m.Sc. 1997 Liz Niven Past Presents 18:
A wee hing fae Scotland, like me at ma windae
Only they wur lookin doon on some
O thae sleekit Southern weys
At Westminster (ken the P.M.'s bit?)
m.Sc. 1999 Stuart B. Campbell in Moira Burgess and Donny O'Rourke New Writing Scotland 17: Friends and Kangaroos 20:
After the song Erchie says to her,
'Dae ye want tae come up tae ma bit an see
Ma yak-wool carpet collection?'
(you know your equivalent)
Edb. 1991 Gordon Legge In Between Talking about the Football 16:
After being dropped off at his bit in the early evening, I would immediately set about starting up the big coal fire.
Edb. 1993:
Ah'll come roond tae your bit.
Edb. 1999:
I'm away down to Malcolm's bit.
Gsw. 1988 Michael Munro The Patter Another Blast 7:
bit 1 A local word for one's home, or home area: 'Emdy fancy nickin back tae ma bit?'
Gsw. 2000 Herald (19 May) 19:
Mary Cairney from Yoker was less enthusiastic: "Somebody would steal it round our bit."
Ayr. 1990:
Come back ti ma bit.
Kcb.5 1934:
McKeady his a big waage now, he's in a grand bit.
Kcb. 1997:
We'd been drinking at my bit, but we werenae drunk.
Kcb. 1998:
I wouldn't like to stay in a bit like Dundrennan.
Dmf. 1899 J. Shaw Country Schoolmaster 344:
Have you got a new bit?
Rxb. 1967:
Shei works in our bit i.e. in our mill or factory.

(c) Original position; a particular spot, one's place, the point at which one is reading in a book.Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
He canna stan' in a bit.
Bnff.2 1928:
Peter's been tyaavin at it for the maist o' a week bit he's nae comin' oot o' the bit.
Dmf. 1956:
A child was looking through the questionnaire, turned away to say something, then turned back to it saying "I've lost my bit".
Rxb.(D) 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 9:
A coodna wun off the bit aa day.

Phr. aff the bit, wrong, in error, 'out'; by the bit, too much, excessive; over the score (sm.Sc. 1975); near the bit, pretty correct, accurate, near the mark (Sh., ne.Sc. 1975); in or on the bit, on the spot, without further ado.em.Sc. 1912 W. Cuthbertson Dykeside Folk 126, 153:
The auld wife that telt the young lass hoo to please her man, was to feed the bruit, wasna faur aff the bit. . . . I'm whiles no' jist as near the bit as I sood be wi' ma fac's.
Lnk. 1877 W. McHutchison Poems 155:
They condemn or acquit, juist on the bit.
Gall. 1955:
It's the expense o't that's by the bit.
Slk. 1817 Hogg Tales (1874) 150:
I fell just down i' the bit wi' lauchin.

Comb.: ill bit, hell.Kcb. 1885 A. J. Armstrong Friend and Foe xxix.:
If he forgot that lassie an' thae twa bonnie een, he wad be mair than human, an' waur than the blackest imp frae the ill bit.

(2) A mouthful (used for Eng. bite), hence sustenance, food.Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. of Scott. Life and Char. 56:
He socht his bit frae toun to toun.

Phrases: (a) Bit an' baid, food and clothing.Abd. after 1768 A. Ross Fortunate Shepherd MS. 10:
His bit an' baid, adds she, will ne'er be mist And fowk, they say, that help the poor are blest.
[Used also in Ross Helenore 108.] [Baid, of obscure origin. Cf. Sh. Bad(d), an article of clothing.]

(b) Bit and bed, food and board.Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Gloss. 4:
Bit and bed = bed and board, meat and clothes. [Pop. etym. for baid, see (a).]

(c) Bit and brat, bit and the brattie, id.m.Sc. 1838 A. Rodger Poems and Songs 313:
Our bairns they cam' thick — we were thankfu' for that, For the bit and the brattie cam' aye alang wi' them.
Rnf. 1846 W. Finlay Poems 191:
We've lived our bairns to see In want o' baith their bit and brat, While we ha'e nane to gi'e.
[See also Brat.]

(d) Bit and the buffet, food and blows; the good with the bad, the rough with the smooth (see quots.).Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 311:
Take the Bit, and the Buffet with it. Bear some ill Usage of them by whom you get Advantage.
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xxi.:
Bucklaw . . . was accustomed to, and entertained by a fellow, whom he could either laugh with or laugh at as he had a mind, who would take, according to Scottish phrase, “the bit and the buffet.”
Sc. 1829 Scott Letters (Cent. Ed.) XI. 257:
We must take bit and buffet.
Ayr. 1823 Galt Gathering of the West 19:
Ye let me hae nothing without a grumble — the bit and the buffet's my portion.

(e) Bit and drap, food and drink.Ayr. 1821 Galt Ann. Parish i.:
She had to work sore for their bit and drap.

(f) Bit an' the dud, food and clothing.Abd.(D) 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxxviii.:
Wi' that, he mum'l't oot something aboot fowk makin' themsell's eesefu' as lang's they not [needed] the bit an' the dud.

(g) Bit and sup (sowp), food and drink.Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xxviii.:
They shared every bit and sup wi' the whole folk in the Castle.

(3) Critical point.Knr. 1891 “H. Haliburton” Ochil Idylls 41:
He's past the braes; he's at the bit Whaur folk may ware their gather'd wit.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Add. to the Deil xi.:
When the best wark-lume i' the house, By cantraip wit, Is instant made no worth a louse, Just at the bit.

Phr.: to come to the bit, to come to the point.Edb. 2003:
When it comes tae the bit ye'll aye stand up for yer faimily.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 21:
Nae peety for them that cause a big stramash and yit
Jist gie in when it comes tae the bit.
Ayr. 1822 J. Goldie Songs 100:
For their courage grew cauld when it cam' to the bit.
Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.:
To “come to the bit,” is to come to the point; to arrive at the last stage of a bargain.
Uls. 1993:
When it comes to the bit ...

[O.Sc. at the bit, at the critical moment, 16th cent. (D.O.S.T.).]

(4) In pl., followed by of, used depreciatively. Bit of, as in bit of a coward, is good colloq. Eng. as well as Sc., but the pl. is more exclusively Sc.Bnff.2 1933:
Wyte or I get my bits o' things pitten thegither, an' I'll be wi' ye in a meenit.
Ags. 1820 A. Balfour Contemplation, etc. 265:
The bits o' hirdies, cauld an' weet, Near hand the fire durst never teet.
Ags.(D) 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) xviii.:
I was busy at the back door, hingin' oot some bits o' things.
Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.:
Bits of things. Household furniture.

(5) Distance (Ork., ne.Sc., Ags., Per 1975).Ags. 1896 A. Blair Rantin Robin 180:
Ye needna come yont wi' me, Andrew. I'll manage brawly, for a' the bit.

(6) A sheep-mark consisting gen. of semi-circular piece cut out of the ear (I.Sc. 1975). Cf. Fore-bit. Hence also hind-bit (Sc. 1901 E. Dwelly Gaelic Dict. s.v Comharradh).Edb. 1734 Caled. Mercury (10 June):
Back bit in the Stump, and busted in the far Side with I.D. cyphered.

2. adj. (quasi). By omission of prep. of. Indicates smallness, trivialness, endearment, contempt.Sc. 1700 R. Wodrow Early Letters (S.H.S.) 66:
A bit stick beginning to be incrustated with clay.
Sc. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days vi.:
“A body's the better of a bit greet, whiles,” she said philosophically.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 142:
Ach, but she mayna stop here long. Another one o them shither that think living in the country is great, escape fae the toon and come here wi their dreams and their bit money, doing their grand ecological thing, wi no a clue as to what it's really like.
Mry. 1830 Sir T. D. Lauder Moray Floods (1873) 121:
We also took in a maid-servant, twa bit lassies, and twa men.
Abd. 1992 David Toulmin Collected Short Stories 45:
A bit loonie hoiterin on ahin 'im.
Mearns 1933 L. G. Gibbon in Scots Mag. (Feb.) 331:
She would stare and wonder and give a bit laugh.
m.Sc. 1838 A. Rodger Poems and Songs 293:
My bonnie wee wifie . . . Has a canty bit ingle, a hearth white and clean.
m.Sc. 1986 Colin Mackay The Song of the Forest 179:
Mungo was troubled. He believed in the miracles with all his heart and soul. He made up his bit verses about the miracles of flowers and sunrise.
wm.Sc. 1995 Alan Warner Morvern Callar 50:
Back in the flat I chucked away the bit mail from model shops in the south.
Uls. 1898 A. McIlroy Auld Meetin'-Hoose Green i.:
We'll alloo' ye tae keep the bit troot: only watch and dinna' choke on't.

3. In adv. phr. a bit, to some extent, rather, a little;nae a bit, used as an expression of surprise or incredulity, really, you don't say! (ne.Sc. 1975).Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian v.:
Am no sae young as I hae been, Mr Butler, and a wee bit short in the temper.
Abd. 1920:
"S. left ten thousan." "Nae a bit!"

[O.Sc. bit, byt, a small piece, morsel of food. O.E. bita, a morsel, from bit-, weak grade of O.E. bītan, to bite.]

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"Bit n.1, adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jun 2024 <>



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