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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

CANTRIP, CANTRAIP, Cantrap, Cantrup, n. Mostly used in pl. and sometimes attrib. Gen.Sc. [′kɑntrɪp, ′kɑntrĕp]

1. A charm, spell, incantation; magic.Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shepherd Act II. Sc. ii. in Poems (1728):
Here Mausy lives, a Witch, that for sma' Price Can cast her Cantraips, and give me Advice.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 361:
An' noo begins the cantraps roond the bilin' pot.
Ags. 1866 R. Leighton Poems (1869) 294:
Now ye'll try your might on a cantrip sleight.
Edb. publ. 1779 R. Fergusson Sc. Poems (1925) 86:
Ne'er . . . deal in cantrup's kittle cunning To speir how fast your days are running.
Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 110:
Then, by nae cantraip terrors scar'd, I'd catch th' Enchanter by the beard.
Gall.(D) 1901 Trotter Gall. Gossip 123:
There use't tae be lots o' cantraips cairry't on for curin orra bits o' troubles an complents.
Rxb. 1820 in Edb. Mag. (June) 535/1:
The career of their misfortunes was only checked by their . . . taking out, and burning the heart of one of the horses that had died through their mischievous cantrips.

Comb.: †cantrip-time, “the season for practising magical arts” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2).Sc. 1820 Blackwood Mag. (Aug.) 513:
I mauna cast thee awa on the corse o' an auld carline, but keep thee cozie against cantrip-time.

2. A trick, antic, piece of mischief. This is the more common use in present-day Sc.Mry. 1887 J. Thomson Recoll. Speyside Par. 94:
Oh, the limmer! He's nae the first ane that she's played her cantrips wi'.
Abd. 1991 Douglas Kynoch in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 87:
An whiles, yon haan o hers that straikit me sae croose
Made on as though tae flyte bairn cantrips nae that douce.
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 44:
An infinity o lichts
That ding oor human cantrips intae smachrie -
A pucklie smush
Ooto the wallopin faulds
O the pooch o time.
m.Sc. 1991 William Neill in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 48:
Thay hae thair freens athin this keep
whaur traison's cantrips growe,
an while ye're liggin fast asleep
they'll sett the hoose alowe.
Arg. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days xi.:
If your Auntie Bell comes in she'll — she'll skin me alive for letting you play such cantrips with her candles.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie II. xx.:
“Come, come, lucky,” cried our hero, “none of your antic cantrips with me.”

[O.Sc. cantrip, cantrap, a harmful spell or charm, earliest quot. 1597 (D.O.S.T.). Origin obscure, but for first element cf. Cant, v.1 Despite phonological difficulties it is just poss. that the word is a corruption of Gael. canntaireachd, the system of musical notation consisting of a series of otherwise meaningless syllables memorised by pipers in learning their tunes. Hence applied to a kind of magic abracadabra.]

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"Cantrip n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Apr 2024 <>



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