Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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KNEEF, adj. Also knief, kneif(f), knif(f), cnif (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 191); gnief (Bnff.1 1930); hnif(f), niff, hnjif, hnof, n(j)of(f) (I.Sc.). [knif, Bnff. + gnif, I.Sc. + (h)n(j)ɪf]

1. Mentally or physically alert, smart, agile, lively, cheerful, keen (Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems Gl.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork. 1929 Marw.; Sh., Ork., Cai., Abd., Ags. 1960); fit, in sound health and spirits (Abd. 1913; Cai.1 c.1920; Mry.1 1928; Abd., Per. 1947), “very often applied to persons as recovering their animation after severe illness” (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Also used adv. Abd. 1748 R. Forbes Ajax 11:
[He] twin'd us o' our kneefest men By death and by exile.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 66:
Little foukies, clad in green and blue! Kneefer and trigger never trade the dew.
Sc. 1829 R. Chambers Songs II. 395:
Jenny sat jouking like a mouse, But Jock was kneef as ony cock.
Ags. 1880 Brechin Advertiser (6 April):
She grew knief again and hale.
Sh. 1922 J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 18:
Sibbie wis queefin' aboot da butt flüir as kniff as a biggin' sparrow upo' da aisin' o' a hoos.
Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 65:
Their aged partners attempted all the freaks of the fantastic toe, all the while encouraging the ladies . . . by such remarks as, “Shack thee noo, Chirsee,” or “Thoo're foo niff yet, Betty.”
Abd. 1932 R. L. Cassie Scots Sangs 47:
The reek risin' sae kneef fae the kitchie lums.

Hence (1) kniefly, kneifly, adv., briskly, in a lively fashion; (2) kniffie, -y, adj., alert, nimble, agile (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., Sh. 1960). (1) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 162:
But she'll craw kniefly in his crap, Whan, wow! he canna flit her Frae hame that day.
Mry. 1804 R. Couper Poems II. 80:
And a' the tykes, and a' the town, Fu' kniefly guided he.
(2) Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sk. & Poems 43:
Her glorious eyes taking in every wiggle of his kniffy little person.

2. Intimate. Fif. 1825 Jam.:
O'er kneef suggests the idea of criminal intercourse.

3. Sharp of temper. Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 97:
A wyte he wiz fell kneif wee me, though a wiz only seekin' ma ain.

[Orig. obscure. Phs. imit. Cf. Gnib.]

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"Kneef adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 6 Dec 2021 <>



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