Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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BUFF, Bouff, n.2 and v.2 [bʌf Sc.; bʌuf Mry., Bnff.]

1. n. A blow, gen. one which gives out a dull sound; a blow given as a challenge to fight; “a term used to express a dull sound” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.), as of a soft, heavy body falling. This meaning is obs. in Eng., but cf. Mod.Eng. buffet. Known to Bnff.2, Abd.2, Lnk.3 1936. Hdg. 1887 P. McNeill Blawearie xi.:
Then “buff” after “buff” fell fast and hard, and the howls and shrieks of murder that followed were anything but disagreeable to the ears that heard them.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
“Say buff!” (command by a person daring a boy to fight another). In phrs.: (1) to play buff, “to strike with a dull sound on any object” (Bnff.2, Abd.19, Fif.1, Lnk.3 1936; Ayr. 1914 (per Clc.1)); fig. and neg., to make no impression (Bnff.12 1930); (2) to cry bouff, to give out a dull sound.
(1) Sc. 1893 R. L. Stevenson Catriona xv.:
The leid draps hadnae played buff upon the warlock's body.
Ags. 1872 Kirriemuir Observer (5 July) 4/2:
We got them (sermons) sae meekly an' quietly, they never played buff upon's.
(2) Mry.2 1937:
A gert the saft lump o' a loon cry bouff on the fleer.

2. v.

(1) To strike, beat; gen. applied to the striking of anything soft (Bnff.2, Abd.22, Lnk.3 1936). Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 21:
By Fortune I ha'e lang been buff'd.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake, etc. 198:
I've kent a bodie buff'd aboot, Wi' nane to tak' his pairt.
Ayr. 1796 Burns Twa Herds (Cent. ed.) xiii.:
A chield wha'll soundly buff our beef — I meikle dread him.

(2) “To give grain half thrashing” (Sc. 1808 Jam.); “to thrash a sheaf without unbinding it so as only to beat out the weightiest grain” (Nai. 1813 W. Leslie Gen. View Agric. Nairn and Moray 450). Also with off. Sc. 1925 W. G. R. Paterson (ed.) Farm Crops I. 262:
The sheaves are fed in the ordinary way, namely, head first, but . . . only the heads of the sheaves enter the mill, in order that they may come in contact with the revolving drum and the grain be set free. The sheaves are then withdrawn by the feeder and retied by his assistant. This method of threshing is known in Scotland as “buffing off” the grain.
Abd. 1904 Reminisc. of Drachlaw in Bnffsh. Jnl. (24 Oct.) 8:
An' birr! the drum gaed with a clatter An' buff't the corn o' Drachlaw.

(3) “Of a storm: to beat down, flatten (corn)” (Bnff.2, Abd.2 1936). Nai. 1813 W. Leslie Gen. View Agric. Nairn and Moray 450:
A field of growing corn much shaken by the storm, is buffed.
Bnff. 1867 Bnffsh. Jnl. (19 Nov.) 2:
Big hailstanes dance upon the stooks And buff the unshorn grain.

(4) In phr.: the best o(f) him (ye) is buft, — buff'd, “commonly used to denote that one is declining in life, that one's natural strength is much gone” (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate (1822) xxxix.:
“Why, he has suck'd the monkey so long and so often,” said the boatswain, “that the best of him is buff'd.”
Mearns c.1880 Mearns Proverbs in Montrose Standard (5 July 1929):
The best o' ye's buff'd.

(5) To emit a dull sound. Fig. Cai. 1907 D. B. Nicolson in County of Cai. 67:
A dull preacher “jist buffs awa.”

[Imitative, or phs. from O.Fr. buffe, a blow (Godefroy); O.Sc. has buff to make a soft or puffing sound (D.O.S.T.).]

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"Buff n.2, v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Jan 2022 <>



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