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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.

GARVIE, n. Also gervie; garvuck (Rs. 1990);  ¶garve (Crm. 1829 H. Miller Herring Fishing 15).  [Sc. ′gɑrvi, ′gɑrvək, but Rxb. + ′gɛrvi]

1. The sprat, Clupea sprattus (Fif. 1710 R. Sibbald Fif. & Knr. 53; Abd. 1878 Trans. Nat. Hist. Soc. Abd. 91, garvie, garvock; Mry., Tay, Forth 1903 G. Sim Fauna ofDee” 263; ne.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., gervie; Inv., Slg., Fif., Edb. 1954). Also garvie-fish (Sc. 1705 J. Spruel Accompt Current 11), -herring and garvock (Sim).Per. 1722 W. MacFarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 306:
In this parish [Tuliallan] there is . . . great quantitys of sprats known here by the name of Garvies.
Sc. 1768 Weekly Mag. (1 Dec.) 288:
A little below Stirling, in a cruive for catching of garvies.
Inv. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 IX. 609:
The fish caught on this coast, are herrings, and garvocks, or sprats.
m.Lth. 1811 Wernerian Soc. Mem. I. 545:
Garvie-herring. It is a prevalent opinion among the fishermen of Newhaven, that this is nothing else than the young of the common herring.
Sc. 1826 “Mrs Dods” Manual ii. 123:
In Scotland sprats, garvocks, etc. and herrings, are roasted on the girdle which toasts the family bread, and this plan answers very well in cottage economy.
Fif., Edb. 1881 in Fife Jnl. (13 Jan.) 5:
Numbers of the Firth of Forth “garvies,” as they are called, find their way to some of the large Enghsh towns; and it is no secret that large quantities of them are despatched to market in tin boxes cured as sardines.
Edb. 1929 F. Grierson Haunting Edb. 39:
Bervies and garvies, cockles, whelks and mussels.
Rs. 1936 C. Macdonald Echoes Glen xviii.:
Magnificent fresh herrings were procurable as well as “Kessocks” and “garvies.”

2. A small specimen of any fish, e.g. of a trout.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
Thae's only gervies.

3. Fig. in pl.: a nick-name given to the Ninety-Fourth Foot Regiment (2nd Battalion Connaught Rangers) because of the youth or poor physique of the recruits, most of whom came from the Edinburgh district.Lnl. 1867 A. Dawson Rambling Recoll. 35:
The 94th regiment of the line was embodied in Linlithgow . . . generally named the “Scotch Brigade” but the townspeople called it the Garvies . . . because it consisted of mere boys.
Sc. 1869 N. & Q. (4th Series) III. 298:
The 94th regiment, which, when it was re-raised in 1823, was called “the Garvies” on account of the lankness of the recruits, who were chiefly raised in Scotland.

[O.Sc. garvine-fish, 1680, garvie-, 1681, id., of uncertain origin. It has been suggested that it may come from Inch Garvie in the Firth of Forth. Garvock = Gael. garbhag, id., which itself is from the Sc. garvie.]

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"Garvie n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 Jun 2022 <>



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