Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)
HANDY, adj., n. Also hany (Mry. 1806 J. Cock Simple Strains 109); hannie (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 252); hanny (Ayr.4 1928); han'y; handie. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. handy.
I. adj. 1. Manual, of or by the hand. Now obs. in Eng. Phr. by handy micht, by main force.
Lnk. 1709 Minutes J.P.s (S.H.S.) 84:
Breaking the Sabbath day . . . in useing of handy labour. Abd. 1872 J. G. Michie Deeside Tales 121:
Seean' nae way for the laird out o' his difficulty but by handy micht.
2. Light-fingered (Lnk. 1825 Jam., hanny). Gen. used in a bad sense = thievish.
3. Dexterous, skilful, as in Eng. Hence comb. handy wife, an unqualified midwife or knowledgeable woman who used to assist at confinements (Abd., Kcd., Per., Fif., m.Lth., Ayr. 1956).
Ags. 1894 Brechin Advertiser (13 Feb.) 3:
He rade to Brechin for Luckie Ga', the handie wife. Sc. 1920 D. Rorie Auld Doctor 53:
At ilka cryin' I'm handy wife, Wi' herbs I hae trokit awa'. Sc. 1927 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 212:
The handy-wife . . . mounted pillion behind him, and the worthy pair started hell-for-leather on the return journey.
4. With neg.: easy to accomplish or to put up with (Bnff., Ags., Ayr., Kcb., Uls. 1956); adj.phr. nae handy (always following the word qualified), “awful”, beyond moderation, excessive; also used adv. (Abd.16 1947, Abd. 1956). Of price: moderate, reasonable (wm.Sc.1 1956).
Bch. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 68:
“I kent,” quo she, “'twas some good gift, To fleg me was na handie.” Fif. 1806 A. Douglas Poems 69:
Gin ye angry grow, or glowr, That winna be sae handy. Abd. 1839 A. Walker De'il at Baldarroch 21:
To strive wi' some it's nae sae handy. Ayr. c.1892 R. Lawson Ballads Carrick 8:
When climbing owre the Hadyet Hill It wasna han'y wark, man. Abd. 1913 G. Greig Mains Again 42:
I cam on Peter oxterin Kate nae handy. Abd. 1926 E. Duthie Three Short Plays 9–10:
She's affa feart o' bein' lost fan there's onybody else aboot. It's nae handy, bit fit can ye dee? Abd. 1951 Buchan Observer (28 Aug.):
And he proceeded to lay off at a rate nae handy. But he summed up, at “lang lenth.”
5. Of an animal: quiet to handle, amenable, adaptable (ne.Sc. 1956).
Abd. 1765 Aberdeen Jnl. (12 Aug.):
Four Years old Geldings . . . broke to be quite handy and gentle. Abd. 1954 Buchan Observer (28 Dec.):
For Sale Shetland Pony, Harness, very handy. Young Calver Cow for Sale, very handy.
II. n. A nickname for one who has a maimed or missing hand. Cf. Fittie, n., 5.
Bwk. 1796 Session Papers, Bell v. King (25 Feb.) 9:
Mr Purves (who went by the nickname of Handy, on account of his having lost a hand).
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"Handy adj., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Oct 2019 <https://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/handy>
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