Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

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. 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. More common in m. and s.Sc. than in n.Sc. Kcb.5 1934:
McKeady his a big waage now, he's in a grand bit.
Dmf. 1899 J. Shaw Country Schoolmaster 344:
Have you got a new bit?

(c) Original position; a particular spot. 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.
Rxb.(D) 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 9:
A coodna wun off the bit aa day.

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 (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.”
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. 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. [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.

2. adj. (quasi). By omission of prep. of. Indicates smallness, trivialness, endearment, contempt. Sc. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days vi.:
“A body's the better of a bit greet, whiles,” she said philosophically.
Mry. 1830 Sir T. D. Lauder Moray Floods (1873) 121:
We also took in a maid-servant, twa bit lassies, and twa men.
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.
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. Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian v.:
Am no sae young as I hae been, Mr Butler, and a wee bit short in the temper.

[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.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Bit n.1, adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 5 Aug 2021 <>



Try an Advanced Search

Browse SND: