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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

DEAF, DEEF, Deif, Daef, adj. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. deaf. [dif Sc., but Sh., Cai. def, Ags. deɪf, Per., Fif., Slg. + def]

1. (1) As in Eng. = hard of hearing. Gen.Sc. The form deef is also found in Eng. (mainly n.) dial. Sc. 1931 J. Lorimer Red Sergeant xix.:
Mistress Cowieson can be maist conveniently deif where folk speir.
Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes I. xxix.:
He's as deef's a door-nail.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 79:
"Father," says she,
"mind your menners." "Whit?" bawls he,
convenient deif whiles, "Whit?"
em.Sc. 1991 James Robertson in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 172:
There is nae justifiein us ava, our thrawn weys,
Our sklent een an our deif, deif lugs.
Fif. 1929 A. Taylor Bitter Bread 102:
I didna jalouse ye were deef and dumb as well.
Edb. 1995 Irvine Welsh Marabou Stork Nightmares (1996) 15:
Aye, aye, aye. He's always so fuckin loud. Ah'm no fuckin deef, ya cunt!
Ayr. 1789 Burns Kirk's Alarm iii.:
Provost John is still deaf To the church's relief.
Slk. 1914 Southern Reporter (17 Dec.) 9/1:
Ye're awfu' deef gettin', John. Can ye no' hear the powney?
Tyr. 1928 “M. Mulcaghey” Ballymulcaghey (1929) 15:
There's no use in payin' half-a-crown for a dog that's as deef as a stone.

Hence deafie, deefie, a deaf person (Sh., Ork., Fif. 1975; Sh., Ags., Edb., Gsw., Ayr., Dmf. 2000s).Edb. 2001:
Deefie! Ah've telt ye umpteen times tae pit the buckets oot!
Gsw. 1988 Michael Munro The Patter Another Blast 18:
deefie a cheeky name to call a deaf person: 'Hey deefie! Ah telt you tae get oot ma road.'

Comb.: deef-lugs, the common houseleek, Sempervivum tectorum (Ayr. 1916 T.S.D.C. II.); small valves in the ventricles of the heart of an animal (Sh. 1975). For lugs cf. Eng. auricle.

(2) Quiet, silent.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
The deef side o' a street.

2. Unproductive, empty, barren; of soil: poor, “spongy or springy to the tread (but dry)” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); of coal: dead, burning without flame. Cf. Dowf, adj., 5.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
Grain that hath lost the power of germinating is said to be deaf.
n.Sc. Ib.:
Deaf ground, an insipid soil, that either produces no crop, or a very insufficient one.
Abd. 1777 J. Anderson Essays II. 324:
In some of the spungiest, or, as the practical farmer would call it, deafest places.
Arg.1 1937:
Deef grun and deef laan are terms applied to poor, light, unresponsive soil.
Dmf. 1894 J. Shaw in Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 145:
Deaf coals don't burn easily.

Comb.: deaf nit (nut), a nut without a kernel (Lnk.3 1940); used fig. of something hollow, unsubstantial, usu. in phrs.: †(1) nae deaf nit (nuts), no trifle, no inconsiderable matter or person; (2) not (to be) fed (up)o(n) (wi') deaf nuts, (to be) plump, well-fed, well-developed; (3) not to leeve on deaf nits, = (2). Common in Eng. dial .Dmf. 1836 A. Cunningham Lord Roldan II. x.:
I wadna gie the worth of a deaf nit for the truth o' the intelligence.
(1) Sc. 1721 Allan Ramsay The Works of Allan Ramsay Vol. I (1944-5) 23:
Saxty Pounds Scots
is nae deaf nits: In little Bouk
Lie great Bank-Notes.
Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate xxiv.:
Bryce Snailsfoot says, that the value will mount to an hundred pounds English, and that is nae deaf nuts.
Peb. a.1835 J. Affleck Poet. Wks. (1836) 81:
I'm nae deaf nit: my tocher's fifty pounds in hale.
Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems, etc. I. 151:
His lang head Is nae deaf nit for Lair.
(2) Sc. 1737 Ramsay Proverbs 82:
Ye're not fed wi' deaf Nuts.
Abd. 1817 Broadside in Garland of Bon-Accord (1886) 4:
An' Rob, wi's brosy wame Wasna fed upo' deaf nits.
Fif.10 1930:
A well-developed child at birth in Fife was hailed with the remark, “Ay, this ane hasna been fed on deaf nuts.” The expression . . . was a ritual expression all over Fife.
(3) Sc. 1824 Susan Ferrier The Inheritance (1984) 380:
"... but I'm astonished, Elizabeth, that anybody come to your time of life, and who has kept a house so long, can think that people can live upon deaf-nuts now-a-days."
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 227:
He didna leeve on deaf nits onyway.

[O.Sc. has defe, deif, etc. = deaf, from a.1400, and = dull, unresponsive, a.1586. O.E. has dēaf corn, an empty ear of corn, but the word is not recorded in O.Sc. with this meaning. For the sense of “unproductive, barren, empty,” cf. Mid.Du. doofhout, rotten wood, and Ger. eine taube nuss. ]

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"Deaf adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jun 2024 <>



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