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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

KNAP, n.1 Also knapp, (h)nap(p). [(k)nɑp]

1. (1) A lump, bump, any rounded knob; a knot or protuberance, as of wood, rock, etc. (Sc. 1880 Jam.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork. 1929 Marw.; Ork., ne.Sc. 1960). Dims. knappy; and knappock, for which see (1) below.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 218:
It is a good tree that hath neither Knap nor Gaw. There is nothing altogether perfect.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 134:
Her reins, wi' siller knaps fu' clear.
Rnf. 1769 in S. Collet Relics Literature (1823) 28: 
I'm e'en comen hirplen ben wi' my cards to clawt the knaps out o' a pickle mair o't [flax].
Ags. 1790 D. Morison Poems 106:
Tho' on his brow spring up apace, Twa knaps the emblem o' disgrace.
Abd. 1847 W. Thom Rhymes 153:
He faun' ayont the tailor's tap, An' cam', gweed life! on sic a knap!
Abd.11 1910:
Roofing tiles keep their place on the roof by a knap on the back resting on the pan, or tile lath.
Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.:
Da hnap a da staff.

Hence (k)nappie, -y, lumpy, bumpy (Ork. 1887 Jam.; ‡Bnff., Abd. 1960); of land: friable; of oatcakes: crisp and easily broken into fragments, brittle.Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 84:
The grit fock wha thee [oatcakes] dounae see, Or scarce thy nappic [sic] crust'll prie.
Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 27:
Wi' cheese an' nappie noor-cakes, auld An' young weel fill'd an' daft are.
Nai. 1828 W. Gordon Poems 218:
Wi' her rage she brak the pan; Davie's head she made a' knappy.
Dwn. 1951 E. E. Evans Mourne Country 66:
Nearly all the agricultural land in our area overlies the shales, which break down into a warm friable stony soil, “knappy” or “chawndry”, as it is termed in South Down.

(2) Specif. (a) comb.: fir-knap, a knot of fir, a candle-fir (Abd. 1960). Also knappock, knablock, id.; (b) a joint on the stem of knot-grass (Mry. 1909 Colville 145). Hence comb. knap-girse, knot-grass, Polygonum aviculare (Mry. 1919 T.S.D.C., Mry. 1960, -gress); (c) the tassel on a bonnet or night-cap (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork. 1929 Marw.; Sh., Per. 1960), a matted clump of wool, a ravelled ball of twine, a clump of heather (Abd. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads (1875) I. 226; Ork. 1960).(a) Bnff. 1880 J. F. S. Gordon Chrons. Keith 69:
Rap upon rap, louder and louder, caused the gash auld wives to loup from their sedilia, as they “cracked” by the light of the fir-knap!
Bnff. 1883 Trans. Inv. Scientif. Soc. II. 345:
This was the Spealg chrois — that is, the “crusie” on which knappocks or knablocks — that is, splinters, chips, or knots of fir — were burned.
(c) Rnf. 1769 Weekly Mag. (24 May) 242:
I'm e'en comen hirplin ben wi' my cards, to clawt the knaps out o' a pickle mair o't.
Ags. 1794 W. Anderson Piper of Peebles 6:
Upo' their spindles, near the tap, They biggit ay a bulgy knap O' thread, cross-brath'd, firm to defend The rest frae reav'ling o'er the end.
Bch. 1832 W. Scott Poems 131:
An' penny loaves pill'd o'er an' o'er, An' twine in knaps.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xlviii.:
One of those substantial bonnets that were wont to be manufactured on big knitting wires, and the “nap”, or top, was formed of a huge bunch of worsted, wrought up right in the centre of the bonnet.

2. The process of a bone or joint: (1) in the human body (Ork. 1903 G. Marwick Old Roman Plough (1936) 5), e.g. the knee-cap (Sc. 1818 Sawers; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 306; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Kcd., Ags., Fif. 1960), the point of the elbow (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., rare; Sh. 1960), the Adam's apple (Ork. 1929 Marw.), etc., see Ork. 1922 quot.; (2) of cattle: a shin or joint of beef. Hence combs.: (i) (k)nap-bane, the knee or knuckle-joint of the animal's leg (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 141; m. and s.Sc. 1960); (ii) knap-layer, a shin of beef, the slice of beef round the shin. See Lire, n.1(1)Sc. 1724 W. Macfarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 341: 
The hole where the knap of the thigh bone joyns it.
Slk. 1829 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) xiv.:
His breeches came exactly to the knap of the knee.
Fif. a.1850 R. Peattie MS.:
She had been troubled wi' the pains i' the knaps o' her knees.
Mry. 1875 W. Tester Select Poems 77:
I crept up the stair, an' I dirl'd at the door Wi' the knaps o' my knockles.
Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 107:
The bases of measurement to be attended to were the human limbs — the breadth of the hand and the span; the arm from the “knap o' the shackle-bane” . . . to the “knap o' the shoother” . . . from the “knap o' the cuit” to the “knap o' the hainch bane”.
(2) Sc. 1829 Mrs Dalgairns Pract. Cookery 72:
The names of the various pieces, according to the . . . Scotch method of dividing the carcass, are as follows: — . . . the Lair — Neck and Sticking-Piece — the Knap — Cheek and Head.
Sc. 1849 H. Stephens Bk. of Farm II. 693:
The nap or shin is analogous to the hough of the hind leg.
Lth. 1955 Scotsman (1 Dec.) 5:
We watched first the neck piece and then the hough and knap removed from the fore-quarter.
(i) Gsw. 1951 H. W. Pryde M. McFlannel's Romance 124:
Ach, it'll be that wife McCorduroy in for the len' o' the nap-bone ye made soup wi' yesterday.
(ii) Sc. 1736 Acts of Sederunt (24 Jan.) 310:
The Magistrates . . . had come to a resolution to exempt from weighing in sale the following particular pieces of flesh, viz. knap-layers, mid-layers, shoulder-layers, and craigs or necks.

3. A small hill, hillock, knoll, mound, a rise in the ground (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork., ne.Sc., Ags., Fif. 1960), a rock in the sea (Bch., Kcd. 1960); in pl.: patches of shallow ground in a piece of cultivated land (Sh. 1960). Found as a place-name. Dims. knappie (Abd. 1925 R. L. Cassie Gangrel Muse 13), knappock. Also in Eng. dial.Kcd. c.1800 Fraser Papers (S.H.S.) 57:
On the top of an eminence or knap on the estate of Allardice called Tilly Martin.
Mry. 1804 R. Couper Poems II. 17:
The gadsman whistles loud and shill, 'Mang knaps right benty.
Fif. 1812 W. Tennant Anster Fair v. viii.:
Turning their faces to the knap of ground, Whence burst upon their ears the loud assaulting sound.
Abd. 1890 Sc. N. & Q. (Ser. 1) IV. 52:
O'er hills and o'er hapocks, O'er cairns and o'er knapocks.
Ork. 1914 M. Spence Flora Orc. 45:
Hoy Hills and Knap of Trowie Glen.
Abd. 1927 E. S. Rae Hansel fae Hame 50:
It's jist owre the ley knappie there.
Bch. 1943 W. S. Forsyth Guff o' Waur 19:
Afore the tide sweels roun' your sheen And drives you aff the knap.

Phr.: †the knap of the causey, the middle of the street (Abd. 1825 Jam.), hence to keep the knap of the causey, to go about boldly in public (Ib.). Cf. Cantle, 3., Crap, n.1, 4., Causey, n., 5. (3).

4. (1) A sturdy, well-built lad (Mry.1 1925; Cai.8 1934; Abd. 1960), a fellow, chap. Also in dim. forms knap(p)al (Cai. 1902 E.D.D.), knappik (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 97), (k)nappy (Ork. 1929 Marw.), id., also a familiar name for a troll, a water spirit, a Kelpie, and deriv. napsie, “a fat little animal, such as a sheep” (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 359). Cf. Knab, n.2, 2.Edb. 1825 Jam. s.v. knape:
The boys of the High School of Edinburgh . . . call one “a queer nap” or “knap”, who is a sort of quizz, or . . . “an odd fish”.
Dmf. 1836 A. Cunningham Lord Roldan I. viii.:
The napps wi' apples, to have a dive . . . and I give ilka ane liberty to pouk my stacks.
Abd. 1903 W. Watson Auld Lang Syne 36:
I was then a “gey knap o' a loon”.
Ork. 1909 Old-Lore Misc. II. iii. 131:
When the tirl refused to go, [he] would take a “teengs o' brands” and run out and throw it underneath in the water, where it came boiling out from the tirl, in the dark evening, to make “knappy” a trow or water spirit — let go his hold of the wheel.
Rs. 1916:
The duke's sons wir twa knaps o' sheelies (lads).
ne.Sc. 1928 J. Wilson Hamespun 46:
The knaps wi' nimmel heel To bank return.

Hence (k)nappy, nappie, stout, sturdy, strong (Marw.), knapply, thick-set, dumpy (Cld. 1880 Jam.).Ayr. 1825 Jam.:
A nappie callan.
Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 47:
Nappy, knoity Donal' Mac, A gentle an' a kind loon.

(2) Specif. a schoolboy name for a pupil of George Heriot's Hospital, Edinburgh. Cf. Edb. 1825 quot. under (1) above.Edb. 1898 J. Baillie Walter Crighton 22:
The exclusive idea which separated all boys into two classes, viz., Herioters or knaps as they called themselves, and non-Herioters.

[O.Sc. knap, a tassel, 1562, the point of the elbow, a.1578, a shin of beef, 1688, a lad, fellow, 1496, Mid.Eng. cnap, O.E. cnœpp, top, crown, peak; O.N. knappr, knob, round top. Cf. Knop, n.1 The Ork., Cai. forms under 4. may be adopted from Norw. dial. knape, a fellow, O.N. knapi, a boy-servant.]

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"Knap n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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