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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

GREAT, adj., n. Sc. usages. Also Sc. forms grit (Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel iii., Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.), †gritt (Sc. 1797 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 534), grite, gryte, grytt (s.Sc. 1873 J. A. H. Murray D.S.C.S. 171), gret(t), †grete, †grait; and met. forms †girt (Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems 125; Lnk., Rnf., Ayr. 1825 Jam.), gurt (Abd. 1931 J. H. Hall Holy Man 89). Hence †grytly, adv. (Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 48, Mearns 1819 J. Burness Plays, Poems, etc. 296). Most of these forms are also in Eng. dial. [I., m., s.Sc. grɪt grɛt; mn., sn.Sc. ‡grəit, Kcd. + grit]

Sc. forms of Eng. great. m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 90:
Tae scape the butts he [pheasant] hesna a gret howpe ...
he sprachles lik a bumbee thro the air
an gets a chairge o leidshot in his dowp.
m.Sc. 1994 John Burns in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 25:
He lookt up an saw the two o them: Jock, big an sweity and hairy wi his muckle gret moustache an the hairs pokin oot the en o his nose, an Tam wi his wizent wee futret face scruncht up ablow his bunnet.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 87:
Wi a gryte yark o his hurdies an a skelp o his flippers, Zeffirino brakk frae the sea tae fob; ...

I. adj. 1. Coarse in grain or texture (Ags.19 1955). See Groff, adj., 1.Sc. 1901 N.E.D.:
That meal (or salt) is ower gryte; I like it sma'.

Comb.: †great salt, large-grained sea salt.Sc. 1713 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 499:
Nyne and ane half barrells hering, made with great salt, sent to London, on the touns accompt.
Sc. 1756 F. Home Bleaching 238:
The sea salt . . . called Sunday-salt, or great salt, from the largeness of its grains.

2. Thick, bulky, roomy, of things (Ags.18 1955); of persons: big, stout (Bnff.7 1927; Sh.10, Abd.27 (coast) 1955). Also in Eng. dial.Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck vi.:
I dinna like your fleem ava, man — 'tis rather ower grit for an auld body's veins.
Sc. c.1826 Earl of Aboyne in Child Ballads No. 235 ix.:
Wi her fingers sae white, and the gold rings sae grite, To welcome her lord from London.
wm.Sc. 1837 Laird of Logan 133:
The twa sides of it [ladder] were so thin and shachly, in fack they looked nae gritter than a fishing wand.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxxiii.:
Between his waistcoat pouch an' a button-hole there dangled a chain . . . as grit as my curnie-wurnie.
Knr. 1895 J. L. Robertson Dunbar in Mod. Sc. 87:
On stool beside the fire she sat; Gude kens if she was grit an' fat.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 221:
There's nae hoose grit enough for twa guidwives.
Ags. 1920 A. Gray Songs 27:
D'ye ken what way the coffin Maun be sae grite and strang?
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
The three Eildons make yeh grit hill.
Abd.27 1954:
Foo aul's your loonie noo? He's growin a gryte boy.

Comb.: †great timber, the larger pieces of wood, such as beams, rafters, posts, used in the main structure of buildings.Sc. 1806 Farmer's Mag. VII. (Aug.) 384:
Proprietors, in numerous instances, continued to furnish all the great timber, or, more particularly, what was required for roofing the farm house and offices.

3. Big with young. Obs. exc. in comb. grit ewe (Gen.Sc.).Slk. 1798 R. Douglas Agric. Rxb. 258:
To ensure a plentiful store of food for the mothers and their lambs, it is usual, in several farms, to sell a certain proportion of ewes while great with young, from whence they are called great-ewes.
Peb. 1815 in A. Pennecuik Works 52:
The superannuated breeding ewes are either sold fat . . . or with lamb, in March, . . . when they are called Great Ewes.
Abd. 1949 Abd. Press & Jnl. (22 March):
100 Grit Ewes, including 36 superior B.F. Ewes in lamb, yeld ewes and hoggs.
w.Sc. 1950 Scots Mag. (March) 424:
Their various classes of “grete” ewes (those with lambs), yeld ewes and hoggs.

4. Of the heart: full, “big” with emotion, gen. that of grief. Obs. in Eng. since early 17th c.Sc. 17— Ramsay Eagle and Robin (1800) II. 579:
The teirs ran hopping doun his cheik, Grit grew his hairt, he could nocht speik.
Edb. 1801 H. Macneill Poet. Works II. 78:
Soon the tears began to start, Grit and gritter grew his heart!
ne.Sc. 1802 Edb. Mag. (July) 56:
I'm like to swarf, my heart's sae gryte Fan I look back.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xiv.:
My heart was ower grit to be behadden to her, when I had seen that loon slavering and kissing at her.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 43:
She kissed them ance, she kissed them twice, Wi' heart owre girt to speak.
Ags. 1855 “Robin” Rimes and Poems 40:
O my heart is grit and sair, and I feel as I wad choke!
Sc. 1864 M. Oliphant Katie Stewart xxv.:
It's blithe to greet when ane's heart is grit and running owre wi' joy.
Dmf. 1894 in R. Reid Poems 253:
Our hearts grow grit, our pulses beat.

Hence (1) great-hearted, having the heart filled with emotion, ready to cry, sorrowful (Sc. 1808 Jam., grit-; ne.Sc., Ags., Fif. 1955); (2) gryte-hertedness, grief, compassion (Ib.); (3) gritwise, = (1), full of emotion.(1) Ags. 1826 A. Balfour Highland Mary Ix.:
George winna be gryte-hearted about that.
Abd. 1898 J. R. Imray Sandy Todd 35:
I'm rale great he'rtit tae see ane sae young an' bonnie sae sair boo'd doon wi' grief.
Ags. 1927 Brechin Advertiser (25 Oct.) 3:
Hamely, sweet, grite-hearted meetin'!
Abd. 1929 N. Shepherd Quarry Wood xviii.:
Late that night Mary Annie died. Aunt Josephine was great-hearted, and talked of her own end.
(2) Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 138:
But greetin' wisna a' the help the Maister haed to gie, Altho' the Lord's gryte-hertedness wis comfortin' to see.
(3) Fif. 1831 Gasometer 110:
My heart grew a wee gritwise.

5. †Of a river: swollen with rain, in flood. Of the sea: high, stormy (Ork.5 1955).Gall. 1692 A. Symson Descr. Gall. (1823) 30:
A rivulet called Pinkill Bourn, which is sometimes so great, that the people, in repairing to the church, are necessitat to go almost a mile about.
Ork. 1794 P. Fea MS. Diary (22 Dec.):
Some less wind but a great Sea from the East-ward.
Sc. 1825 Jam.:
During a flood it is said; “The water's grit,” or “very grit, it winna ride.”

6. Big with importance, boastful (Bnff.7 1927); proud, elated.Sc. 1824 Cornhill Mag. (Sept. 1932) 277:
He was very great I remember when he was made master o' that relic.
Ayr. 1870 J. K. Hunter Life Studies 296:
He was a splorin' sort o' a goose, and was always great before his sweetheart.

7. Intimate, friendly (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen.Sc., somewhat obsol. Common in Eng. dial.Sc. 1723 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) III. 118:
Mr Cunninghame was Indulged to Dunlop; but he was great with all sorts of Ministers, Indulged and not Indulged.
Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shepherd iii. ii.:
Betooch-us-to! and well I wat that's true: Awa, awa! the Deil's o'er grit wi' you.
Ags. 1765 Trial of K. Nairn 92:
Eastmiln's suspicion, that the Lieutenant was too great with Mrs Ogilvie the pannel.
Rxb. 1801 in Leyden Compl. Scot. 377:
As grit as the gouk and the titlene.
Edb. 1843 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie 130:
He could spout a' last speeches, could sing a' new ballants, . . . Grew grit wi' the lasses, an' great wi' the callants.
wm.Sc. 1854 Laird of Logan 498:
Sair, sair, she socht to get grit wi' the gentrie.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Lilac Sunbonnet ix.:
Yer ower great wi' manse Bell . . . for a man that comes to see me!
Uls. 1901 North. Whig, Ulsterisms:
Him and me is not very great, though we never had a fall out.
Rxb. 1919 Hawick Express (7 Feb.) 4:
Losh, John an' mei was awfu' grit afore aw was that age!
Arg. 1950 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 199:
She asked me about the fishing, but never mentioned the Captain ataal, a thing I thought gey strange, and them that used to be so great.
Ayr. 1998:
A'm great wi your Emma. Doke, you're great wi Jimmy.

8. Combs.: ‡(1) great avizandum, “avizandum [q.v.] from a judge in the Outer-House to the judges in the Inner-House” (Sc. 1890 Bell Dict. Law Scot. 493), “a report by the Lord Ordinary to the Inner House in certain actions, such as proving the tenor, in order that judgement might be given. Largely obsolete” (Sc. 1946 A. D. Gibb Legal Terms); †(2) great board, a table. See Buird, n.1, 3.; †(3) great coal, “large pieces of selected coal” (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 33); †(4) great corn, see Broked corn; †(5) great fish, white fish as distinct from herring. Hence great fishing, the period from February to June when fishing was carried on; (6) grit folk, people of rank or position (Abd., Per. 1955); †(7) great head, ? the sturdy or gid in sheep. Cf. heid-ill s.v. Heid; (8) great-line, grit-, gret(t)lin, the line used in deep-water fishing, “for catching the larger kinds of fish, as, cod, ling, etc.” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 69, grettlin; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., grit-; †Sh., †Cai., ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., gartlins, gert-, Bwk. 1955), orig. Sc. but since 19th c. assumed by Eng.; (9) grit oath, a solemn oath, an oath of special solemnity (Ags.19 1955). Obs. since 16th c. in Eng.; †(10) great-pipe, the bagpipes, a translation of Gael. piob-mhor; (11) great plucker, the angler or fishing frog, Lophius piscatorius (Sh. 1899 Evans and Buckley Fauna Sh. 220); ‡(12) Gryte Tiesday the market held on the Tuesday nearest term-day (Ags. 1955); (13) great whaup, the curlew, Numenius arquata (Ork. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 200).(2) Lth. 1829 G. Robertson Recoll. 93:
There was a bunker — a long, low chest, of about sixteen inches broad, and sufficient to serve four or five persons to sit upon; it was placed at the back of the great board, or table.
(3) Edb. 1709 Edb. Courant (25–27 May):
At Woolmet Coallierie, There is to be Sold plenty of great and small Coals. Price of the Dale of great at the Voal-Hill is Five Shillings and Eight Pence, and the Dale of the small is Two Shillings and Eight Pence.
Slg. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XVIII. 131:
Some of the farmers . . . employ themselves during a considerable part of the summer, in carrying the great coal to the port of Alloa.
(5) Kcd. c.1722 in Stat. Acc.1 XV. 230:
The small boats were then employed in catching haddocks, whitings, &c. till the end of February, when the near great fishing, about 8 or 10 miles from land, commenced.
Bnff. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIII. 402–3:
Cod, ling, skate, halibut, and a few tusk, are the only great fish caught in the Moray Firth. . . . The small boats are used for catching haddocks, whitings, flounders, &c. Besides these, a good many great fish are caught with the small lines.
Bnff. 1930 P. F. Anson Fishing Boats 205:
The “great fishing,” as it was called, used to bring in about £8 to £12 to each man. . . . The “great fishing” being over, the herring fishing started.
(6) Inv. 1739 Trans. Gael Soc. Inv. XIII. 143:
New Lyes made against me by Castleethers and Phopachy, which Determin'd the great ffolks to have my Son in England next Spring.
Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 2:
The grit fock jamph an' jeer at ye, Wha bake their bread.
Edb. 1801 J. Thomson Poems 72:
But ye're weel aff by me poor Craw, That's sae protected by the law, An' has for friends the grit fo'ks a'.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxix.:
The secrets of grit folk . . . are just like the wild beasts that are shut up in cages.
(7) Gall. 1807 Hogg Shepherd's Guide 113–4:
If they [the sheep] got liberty to settle upon it three nights at one time, numbers of them would instantly appear affected with the great head.
(8) Abd. c.1750 Sc. N. & Q. (Ser. 2) VII. 49:
At a fishing which was called “the great-line shots,” a term now completely obsolete, but which stood no doubt for “the shooting of the great-lines” or more simply “great-line fishing,” each boat's crew had its own particular area at sea set apart wherein to cast their lines.
Kcd. a.1914 Mearns Leader (23 June 1950):
Scotch codlins oor burden for herbour o' Gurdon, Fient a sweltin' amang them — a' fit for the pan, Newlins catched on oor gretlins, weel baited by Nan.
Abd. 1953 Abd. Press & Jnl. (27 July):
It was pointed out in the discussion that Aberdeen was the only port with a fleet of great-line fishing vessels and eighty per cent of all the halibut brought into the country was landed at Aberdeen.
(9) Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter xi.:
I am sure that ilk man there set down will take his grit oath for what purpose I borrowed the money.
(10) n.Sc. 1698 Fraser Papers (S.H.S.) 17:
And when she fell in Lamenting and Crying, The great Pipe was blown up, to drown her cryes.
Arg. 1896 N. Munro Lost Pibroch 52:
“Lift we and go, for the Cattle's before!” said Alasdair Piobaire on the chanter of a Dunvegan great-pipe.
(12) Ags. 1893 Brechin Advertiser (14 Nov.) 3:
Syne there's the muckle market, or as we ca'd it in auld times, the Gryte Tiesday at Martinmas and Whitsunday.

9. Used adv. in comb. with pa.p. of a v.; †(1) grit-bred, adj., high-bred; †(2) grit-printed, adj., printed in large type.(1) Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 296:
She is owr bonny, tho' she war nae mine, An' may wi' ony grit-bred beauty shine.
(2) Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. 87:
Wi' her auld creepie chair, an' her grit printed beuk!

II. n. In phr. †the grytes o' the legs, the thighs (Abd.27 1930).Abd. 1874 W. Scott Dowie Nicht 13:
There's a ooman, stiff deed up tae the grytes o' the legs, amo' the snaw yon'er at the ga'le o' the public-hoose.

[O.Sc. has gret(t), grete, gryt(e), grite, grytt, grit(t), in sense 1. from 1456, sense 2. from 1513, sense 3. (of a woman) from a.1400, sense 5., 1572–5, sense 7., 16–, grytly, from 1570, and comb. (8), girt lyne, 1576, gartling from 1567, girt, from a.1568. The form gryte is a diphthongal development of the earlier ē forms, corresp. to 18th c. Eng. [gri:t], the normal descendant of O.E. grēat. The short vowel forms derive orig. from the comparative stem grett-.]

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"Great adj., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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