Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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FLAFF, v., n. Also flaf, flauf(f): floff (Uls.), ¶flowff. [n.Sc. flɑf, m.Sc. flf]

I. v. 1. intr. To flap, flutter: to wave; to palpitate. Gen.Sc. Also in n.Eng. dial. Edb. 1773  R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 64:
Their duds in targets flaff upo' their back.
Ayr. 1787  Burns Addr. Beelzebub 45–47:
An' if the wives an' dirty brats . . . Flaffin wi' duds an' grey wi' beas.
Ags. 1815  G. Beattie Poems (1882) 204:
The watchfu' mate [lapwing] flaff'd i' the gale Wi' eerie screech and plaintive wail.
Bwk. 1862  J. G. Smith Old Churchyard 51:
She was a sair forfochten beastie, Wi' lang lean snout and flaffin' breastie.
Abd. 1900  C. Murray Hamewith 27:
There noo, the ill bird's flaffin' on the very riggin' stane.
Rxb. 1925  E. C. Smith Mang Howes 15:
Eis baird, wheite as the drieen snaw, flaffin i the wund.

Hence (1) flaffer, that which flaps or flutters: (a) a bird's wing. Rare; †(b) a young duck before its quill-feathers have grown. Cf. Eng. dial. flapper, id; (c) a pound note (Slk.1 1929; ne.Sc., Ags., Fif. 1951); (2) ppl.adj. flaffing, flighty, frivolous; (3) vbl.n. flaffin(g), (a) fluttering, palpitation (Sh.10, Bnff.2, Fif.10 1945); (b) “a flake of whatever kind, any very light body” (Fif. 1825 Jam.), fluff; a snowflake (Fif.17 1951); a thin fall of snow (Per. 1950). (1) (a) Abd. 1871  J. Milne Songs 110:
The birds had their flaffers, the ships had their sails.
(b) Sc. 1844  H. Stephens Bk. Farm II. 718:
In this state wild ducklings, under the name of flaffers, make good sport.
(c) Slg. 1862  D. Taylor Poems 42:
Just seven flaffers i' the year.
Lnk. 1883  A. R. Fisher Poems 94:
'Twas said Tam had flaffers to spare.
Gsw. 1904  “H. Foulis” Erchie xxii.:
He . . . put his hand in his pooch to feel his money. “Mind I have only the three flaffers and a half, Erchie,” says he.
(2) Dmf. 1834  Carlyle Letters (ed. Norton) II. 245:
I hope she will be a small acquisition to Jane, who has little sympathy with the flaffing ways of the Cockney women.
(3) (a) Edb. 1828  D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) xii.:
A severe shaking of the knees and a flaffing at the heart.
Fif. 1864  W. D. Latto T. Bodkin ix.:
When the flaffins come ower my heart, I'm sometimes like to despair o' seein' through this winter.
(b) Fif. 1825  Jam. MS. Poem:
O! War but you, and a' your brood Set skimmin' in a broken boat, An' twenty miles to row, Whar flaffins sma' wad dreichly float.
Fif. 1916  G. Blaik Rustic Rhymes 39:
Some flaffins o' snaw jist noos an' nans fa'in.

2. Of light: to flicker, gleam intermittently. Fif. 1841  C. Gray Lays 194:
Her merry dancers, shifting, streaming From pole to zenith — flaffing, gleaming.
Kcb. 1912  A. Anderson Later Poems 38:
Just as that licht gaed flauffin' by.

3. Of the wind: to blow in gusts (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh., Ags., Fif. 1950). Vbl.n. flaffin, a gust. Also fig. Abd. 1804  W. Tarras Poems 6:
Lat hail or drift on lums, or winnocks flaff.
Bch. 1861  J. Davidson Poems 40:
An' syne fan he [the wind] wad oxter you, An' flaf, an' howl, an' rair.
Edb. 1915  T. W. Paterson Auld Saws 123:
He'll fling ye a flaffin o' speeches galore.

4. Of gunpowder: to go off with a puff, to explode. Sometimes with aff. Also tr. to fire powder (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Fif. 1823  W. Tennant Card. Beaton 28:
The Bishops and their gang, that stood glowrin', and gapin', and gawfin', as the powther flaffed aff.

5. tr. To cause to flap or flutter (Gen.Sc.); to fan (a flame or fire) (Uls. c.1920 J. Logan Uls. in X-Rays 74; Fif. 1951). Also fig. With out, to beat out, extinguish (a flame). Dmf. 1808  J. Mayne Siller Gun 55:
And Love in youthfu' breasts was flaffing A mutual flame.
Fif. 1827  W. Tennant Papistry 5:
Thou . . . flaff't thy wings, and in a crack Flew frae th' unsicker stance!
Ayr. 1882  J. Hyslop Dream of a Masque 127:
Till auld Time's wing flaff'd out the flame.
Lnk. 1887  A. Wardrop Mid-Cauther Fair 124:
[The lintie] still flaffs his wings, an' loups an' sings.
Abd. 1920  G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 16:
Syne flaff't the aul' smiddy richt up in a lowe.

II. n. 1. A flapping or fluttering movement (Gen.Sc.); a light blow with something flat, a flick (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 47; Bnff.2, Abd.9 1942); a slap, a slam. Sc. 1827  Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 277:
The snaw was getting dour at them, and giein them sair flaffs and dads on their faces.
Sc. 1844  in Sc. Songs (ed. Whitelaw) 403:
The craw put up his sooty head, And gied a flaf wi' his rousty wings.
Sc. 1846  J. Grant Romance of War I. xiv.:
The howlet gied me a flaff wi' its wing.
Edb. c.1875  J. Smith Hum. Sc. Stories 10:
She made the bowster spin owre my head wi' a flaff that made me stagger.
Ayr. 1887  J. Service Dr Duguid 43:
He took me a flowff i' the haffet with his loof.
Kcb. 1895  Crockett Bog-Myrtle 202:
Taking the door after her as far as it would go with a flaff.

2. A gust or puff (of wind). Gen.Sc. Also fig. a brief moment, an instant. Slg. 1805  W. Towers Poems 54:
Then I felt a flaf o' wind, It smote me on the face.
Bwk. 1827  R. Chambers Picture of Scotland I. 60:
A flaff of darkness, as he described it, came across him, and for a moment obscured his vision.
Sc. 1834  Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) IV. 63:
Thinkna ye, gin if I ever, for a flaff, . . . forgot my ain cosy bield.
Abd. 1836  J. Grant Tales of the Glens 64:
It was only the skirl o' the wind, man — a flaff o' the blast amang the auld trees i' the crook o' the water.
Kcb. 1894  Crockett Raiders xxxvi.:
Lochnaw may scart his fit, his act is but a flaf o' wind.
Per. 1898  C. Spence Poems 165:
Five years hae gane, aye, every flaff o't.
Arg. 1912  N. Munro Ayrshire Idylls (1935) 273:
A little flaff of purging wind came out of the west and a few small drops of rain.

3. Fig.: Something light, fluffy, unsubstantial. Also applied to persons, a fop, a vain empty-headed person (Cld. 1825 Jam.). Lnk. 1853  W. Watson Poems 20:
Nor see the self-important flaff Wi' “yes, auld Watty's fa'in aff.”
Gsw. 1904  “H. Foulis” Erchie iii.:
I ken their dinners . . . a game croquette that's jist a flaff o' windy paste.

4. A flash (of lightning) (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl., lichenin flaff). Dmf. 1836  A. Cunningham Lord Roldan I. iv.:
He's like a flaff of fire with thunder at the back on't.
Per. 1881  R. Ford Sc. Readings 43:
Afore I had time to speak again she was round the corner like a flaff o' lichtnin'.

5. Used adv. = with a sudden fluttering movement (Bnff.2, Abd.2 1942). Ayr. a.1878  H. Ainslie Pilgrimage (1892) 325:
Whan, huff! aff she's flying, Flaff, like a flee.

[Orig. imit. O.Sc. flaf(f), to make unsteady, c.1470, to flutter, 1513, palpitate, 1591.]

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"Flaff v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 Nov 2019 <https://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/flaff>

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