Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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FIFE, n.

1. The name of the eastern county of Scotland, lying between the Firths of Forth and Tay. See Kingdom. Hence (1) Fifan, adj., belonging to Fife: only in poetical use; (2) Fifer, a native of Fife, sometimes used opprobriously to denote a greedy, rather unscrupulous person. Gen.Sc. Also applied to a kind of soft, dull brown marble (Abd. 1900 E.D.D.; Bnff.2, Abd.27 1942); (3) Fifish. Fifeish, eccentric, daft, slightly deranged (Ags.17, Fif.10 1945). Hence Fifishness, n. (Lth. 1825 Jam.). (1) Edb. 1772 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 5:
Wharefor begin a sad an' dowie strain, Or banish lilting frae the Fifan plain?
Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 85:
How proud was I to hear my sang Sae roos'd the Fifan bards amang!
Edb. 1856 J. Ballantine Poems 191:
These distant Fifan hills behold.
(2) e.Lth. 1887 P. McNeill Blawearie 73:
He'll be awfu' cunning, for a' the Fifers are burstin' fu' o' that commodity.
Sc. 1897 Edb. Ev. Dispatch (18 Sept.):
The Fifer is quite aware that unfortunate folk who do not happen to have been born in the ancient kingdom, relieve their feelings by tacking on a long string of opprobrious epithets to his name; they call him “canny Fifer,” “pawky Fifer,” “Fifer with an eye to the main chance.”
(3) Per. c.1800 Lady Nairne Fife Laird i.:
Ye shouldna ca' the Laird daft, his bannet has a bee, He's just a wee bit Fifish, like some Fife Lairds that be.
Sc. 1822 Scott Pirate ix.:
He will be as wowf as ever his father was . . . very, very Fifish, as the east-country fisher-folk say.
Per. 1821 Farmer's Mag. (Feb.) 47:
If your correspondent F had not dated his remarks on my gate at Elgin, I should have thought him Fifeish.

2. A move in draughts (see quot.). Sc. 1905 A. Anderson Draughts xvi.:
The “Fife” is formed by the first five moves: — 11–15, 23 19, 9–14, 22 17, 5–9. It has been so called since 1847, when Wyllie, hailing from Fifeshire, played it against Anderson.

3. In Combs.: (1) Fife bannock, a scone made of flour and oatmeal (Fif. 1951); (2) Fife-mou't, deceitful (Abd.4 1930). (1) Fif. 1938 St Andrews Cit. (21 May):
Baking. Fife Bannock. 1[st prize]. Mrs D . . .

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"Fife n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 May 2021 <>



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