Show Search Results Show Browse

Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology

Abbreviations Cite this entry

About this entry:
First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

GLIFF, v., n. Also †glif, gleff. Cf. Glaff, Gloff, and Gluff. [Sc. glɪf, but Bwk., Ayr., Rxb. + glɛf]

I. v. 1. (1) tr. & intr. with at. To glance (at), to look (at) in a hurried or careless and unheeding manner (Ags.19 1953). Sometimes used tr. with direct obj.; “to evade quickly or suddenly” (S.D.D. Add.). Obs. in Eng. since 16th c., but still found in m.Yks. dial.Abd. 1868 W. Shelley Wayside Flowers 181:
Now haud ye cheerie, neebors a', And gliff life's girnin' worriecraw.
Sc. 1887 Old Song in Jam.6:
Fu' lang he glower'd at Jenny, But she barely gliffed at him.
Abd. 1923 B. R. M'Intosh Broom Scent 13:
I sat by mysel' i' the snug ingle-neuk, Whiles biggin' braw dreams, and whiles gliffin' a buik.
Edb. 1928 A. D. Mackie Poems 15:
Maggie pits oot an airm, the cauld tae gage, While Peter gaunts, and gliffs up at the nock.

(2) To strike a glancing blow at, to slap, spank (Rxb. 1954). Phr. to gliff someone's breeks, to chastise (someone) on the seat of the trousers.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
A'll gliff eer breeks for ee.

2. intr. “To glint, gleam, or glare, like a flush of sunshine or a flash of light” (Jam.6).

3. Transf. sense, tr. To frighten, startle (Lth., Borders 1808 Jam.; s.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Cai.1 c.1920; Lth., Bwk., Peb., s.Sc. 1954); to dispel (snow). Also in n.Eng. dial.Bwk. 1808 “Bwk. Sandie” Poems 11:
. . . he was sae glift, He ran wi' speed To save their lives.
Slk. 1817 W. Crozier Cottage Muse (1847) 73:
And gin ye meet, amang yere glens, A wreath o' snaw, Be sure to tumilt into drains, An' glift awa'.
Lth. 1882 “J. Strathesk” Blinkbonny xiii.:
I was that gliffed that I couldna even say Thank ye.
Slg. 1910 Scotsman (12 Sept.):
The farmer still sets up in his fields “tattie-bogles” to “gliff” the “craws”.
Rxb. 1919 Kelso Chron. (22 Aug.) 2:
A “heid yin” of the harvest field approached the consequential gamekeeper and asked what right he had to be there — evidently trying to “gliff the folk”.

II. n. Dim. gliffie, -y (Edb. 1839 W. McDowall Poems 117).

1. A glimpse, a glance (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 233; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 245; Sh.10 (rare), em.Sc.(a), wm. and sm.Sc., Slk. 1954).Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums iv.:
I got a gliff o' something white before me.
Dmf. 1920 D. J. Bell-Irving Tally-Ho 55:
If ye canna get a gliff o' the wunner, juist tak' an inwick aff yer ain stane an' cuddle intae the back o' her.
em.Sc. (a) 1931 Glasgow Herald (8 Aug.):
I catches a gliff o' Mr Mitcham staundin' a wee thing back in his parlour yonder.
Gall. 1937 Gallov. Annual 91:
We should juist catch a gliff o' the manse up there through the trees.
m.Sc. 1997 Liz Niven Past Presents 14:
Thi Orkney sun
On the green grun
Gliff o sunlicht
On steading door.

Phr.: at the first gliff, at first blush (Ags.19 1954).Sc. 1887 Stevenson Underwoods 121:
I was, and I will no deny it, At the first glif a hantle tryit To see yoursel' in sic a station.

2. Anything that lasts for only a very short time: (1) A moment, an instant (Kcb.4 1900), a short while; a short snatch, a “wink” (of sleep) (Dmf. 1825 Jam.; w.Dmf. 1899 Country Schoolmaster (ed. Wallace) 348; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 245), cf. Gloff, n., 4. Often in phr. in a gliff, in a trice (Sh., Per., Slg., Kcb. 1954).Edb. 1798 D. Crawford Poems 66:
There were twae birkies on a day, Gade out to tak a wee glif play.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xliv.:
And then if ye're dowie, I will sit with you a gliff in the evening mysell.
Ags. 1822 A. Balfour Farmers' Three Daughters IV. 157:
I hadna a gliff o' leisure till this mornin'.
Sc. 1826 Scott Journal (1890) I. 211:
After just a little bit gliff of a prayer for the mercy that sent them to my help.
ne.Sc. 1836 J. Grant Tales 62:
For a gliff I kentna whaur I was, but I was rous't wi' a soun' like the din o' a mill.
wm.Sc. 1854 Laird of Logan 266:
Just bide whar ye are, and I'll be back in a glif and haver a moon wi' ye, gin ye like.
Dmf. 1877 R. W. Thom Poems 14:
Troth, the Laird's lang dochter, bonny Miss Jean, Maun wait a wee gliff langer for me.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 111:
Then for a wee I'm like to greet, Till, in a gliff, there comes to me The words ye tell't me aft sae sweet.
em.Sc. 1988 James Robertson Chapman 52 72:
An he stude up an aa, an tumed the pockfu o chips intil his gab, the haill jingbang, an swallied them doun in a gliff.

(2) A momentary look or resemblance (to) (Sh.10 (rare), Abd. 1954).Sc. 1862 A. Hislop Proverbs 172:
Some show a gliff o' the gowk, but ye're aye goavin.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped vi.:
Ye have a kind of gliff of Mr Alexander.

(3) A flash, a glint (Bnff.7 1927; Sh.10 1954, rare). Also fig.Rnf. 1835 D. Webster Rhymes 59:
O throw down a gliff o' thy lily-white gleam.
wm.Sc. 1868 Laird of Logan App. 502:
Now I ride on a gliff o' the fyreflaucht o' nicht.
Kcb. 1885 A. J. Armstrong Friend & Foe 12:
My auld heart gets licht an' youthfu' again, when I look on thae young cratur's wha haena even a gliff o' the warld's dark shadow.
Edb. 1915 T. W. Paterson Auld Saws 135:
Days o' lanesomeness an' fear Got the gliff o' Jenny's kindness.

(4) A slight attack, a touch (of illness), esp. in phr. a gliff o' (the) caul(d) (Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 123; Ayr.4 1928; Abd., Ags., Slg., Fif., Edb. 1954). Cf. Glisk, n., 3. (2).Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick ii.:
There were some wadna promise to atten' the meetin, maistly on accoont o' aye gettin a gliff o' the cauld ilka time they put on their Sunday's claes.

(5) A whiff, a puff; a slight or suddenly perceptible smell (Sh.10 (rare), ‡Cai.7, Abd., Ags., Per., Fif., Edb., s.Sc. 1954). Also fig. of a rumour, report (m.Lth.1 1953).Sc. 1820 Scots Mag. (May) 423:
The mirk came in gliffs — in gliffs the mirk gade.
wm.Sc. 1868 Laird of Logan App. 559:
My lady . . . put hersel' in sic a puff o' heat, that a gliff o' win' . . . catched her by the throat, and sat doun on her lungs, puir thing.
Kcb. 1895 Crockett Bog-Myrtle 200:
He never has the gliff o' [smoke] aboot him.
Fif. 1897 “S. Tytler” Witch-Wife viii.:
I've had a gliff of the rumour before.
Dmf. 1912 A. Anderson Later Poems 134:
An' O, but the sang comes bonnie, On a gliff o' the win' up the brae.
Mry. 1914 H. J. Warwick Tales 71:
There wisna as muckle as a gliff o' win', for nae a leaf wis steerin'.

(6) A sudden or passing sensation either of pain or pleasure: a shock, a thrill; an impulse (Borders 1954).Sc. 1732 T. Boston Memoirs (1852) 494:
A person wading a deep and cold water; who is, upon his first entering it, struck to the heart, but the first gliff, as we call it, is the worst.
Ags. 1947 J. B. Salmond Toby Jug vii.:
So for my sake, ye'll juist thole an auld craitur's wey o' gettin' a second-hand kind o' gliff oot o' a marriage.

(7) A sudden, violent blow, a wallop. Lnk. 1920 G. A. H. Douglas Further Adventures Rob Hewison 70:
She gi'ed me sicna gliff that I thocht Carnwath Public Hall was topsy turvy.

3. Transf. sense. A fright, a scare (Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 245; Ayr. 1928, gleff; Bnff., Lth., Bwk., Peb., Gall., Dmf., s.Sc. 1954); a state of excitement. Cf. Glaff, n. 3., Gloff, n. 1. Also in n.Eng. dial. Also fig. Cf. Fleg, n.1, 2. (1).Sc. 1776 Ramsay Proverbs 70:
There came never sic a gliff to a daw's heart.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxvii.:
I, like a fule, gat a gliff wi ' seeing the lights and the riders.
Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck viii.:
For my part, I never gat sic a confoundit gliff sin' I was born o' my mother.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) iv.:
My love had vanished like lightning; but oh, I was in a terrible gliff!
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Merry Men (1925) ii.:
It's an unco life to be a sailor . . . Mony's the gliff I got mysel' in the great deep.
Ags. 1901 W. J. Milne Reminisc., App. 293:
They gat sic a gliff — ilka tod tint his hen.
Rxb. 1910 Jedburgh Gazette (13 May) 3:
They tell mei that the sheep got an awfu' gliff when they saw ye. Nae wonder!
Ayr. 1913 J. Service Memorables v.:
Puir Wull got sic a gliff that he gaed bye himsel' a'thegither.
m.Sc. 1947 Scots Mag. (April) 14:
“Ye'll no' likely can feenish i' the Sooth Rig the morn?” “We may no' feenish't,” says I, “but we'll gie't a maist almighty gliff.”

Hence gliffy, adj., nervous, easily frightened (Dmf. 1954). Also in Nhb. dial.m.Dmf.3 c.1920:
That horse is gliffy.

[Origin obscure, phs. imit. of some sudden unexpected movement, with influence from Glent, Gley, Glisk, Glim, etc. O.Sc. has gliffin, to look quickly, to glance up, from 1375.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Gliff v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Mar 2023 <>



Hide Advanced Search

Browse SND: