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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

KNUCKLE, n., v. Also nuckle; (k)nickle. Sc. forms and usages. See also Knockle.

I. n. 1. A measure, the length of the second finger from tip to knuckle (Uls. 1953 Traynor; 1.Sc. 1960).Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sk. and Poems 77:
Da calf wis been showwin' ipa da end o' da gravit. He wis aeten aboot twa nuckle o' it.
Sh. 1898 “Junda” Klingrahool 51:
What's twenty year ta dee or me? Hit's no a knuckle o wir towes.
Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 93:
Fower nuckle o' lastik fir gertans.

2. A sharp push, a jerk, specif. the flick given to the striking marble in the game (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 118, nickle); in extended sense, the marble so played (ne.Sc. 1960), a player at marbles. Also in comb. knickle-ringie, a variant of the marble game Ringie, q.v. (Fif. 1960).Bnff. 1880 Jam.:
He's a good nickle.

II. v. 1. To measure in lengths of the knuckle, as in n., 1. (Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., Cai. 1960).Sh. 1898 Shetland News (23 July):
Shü knuckl'd a slip 'at shü wis wirkin apo'.

2. To strike sharply, specif. in marbles: to propel or flick the marble with which the player strikes (Sc. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc. 1960). Cf. Knick, v., 2. (2); with in, to play in a marble from wherever it lies, without the advantage of being allowed to move it first from an awkward position, gen. in the call knuckle in! (Uls. 1953 Traynor; Wgt., s.Sc. 1960).Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 118:
Nane o' yer tipplan; nickle hard.
Kcb. 1897 Crockett Lads' Love x.:
“Go on,” she said, knuckling little stones at a puddock.
Per. 1902 E.D.D.:
In playing marbles, you may have to play from the foot of a wall. You call out “span”, which gives you some 8 inches of space from the wall. But suppose your enemy cries out “knuckle in” before you claim “span”, you must play from the foot of the wall where your marble lies.
Sc. 1951 Sunday Post (26 Aug.):
To “nickle in” is to turn the hand round in a strained position to make the throw.
Edb. 1991 Dae Ye Mind ...? Volume Three of Stories and Memories from Members of St. Ann's Reminiscence Group 32:
I had been playing booley when the tuppence wrapped in a bit paper completed its journey from two storeys up, on the back of my skull. The impact coincided with me nickeling my "glessie" and it popped right into the hole. I had won two coloured "glessies"! Yobba-dooby-doo! Oh, my flamin' head!

Hence (1) (k)nickler (Slg., Ayr. 1919 T.S.D.C.; Mry.1 1925), knuckler, the marble used in knuckling (Rxb. 1960); (2) knucklie, knuckl(e)y, knuckely, (a) a game played with marbles (Rxb. 1921 Kelso Chron. (11 Nov.) 4; Ayr.7 1942; Abd., Ags., Per., Fif., Lth., Gall. 1960). Also in comb. knucklie-chasey, a game in which two children propel marbles along a road, trying in turn to strike the other's marble (Fif. 1954); (b) in pl.: the game of Chuckie-stane (Abd., Ags., Ayr., Kcb. 1940).(1) Kcb. 1896 Crockett Cleg Kelly ii.:
Five marbles of the variety known as commonies, one noble knuckler of alabaster.
Slk. 1897 D. W. Purdie Poems 73:
And when at bools we lost oor a' Wi' knuckler on we changed the thraw, And wan the game.
(2) (a) s.Sc. 1921 A. S. Neill Carroty Broon x.:
In southern parts of Scotland the boys play “knuckly”: they place the bools in a ring, drawn on the ground by standing on the heel and birling round, and they try to knock the bools out of the ring by knuckling them with another bool.
Ags. 1934 G. M. Martin Dundee Worthies 178:
In “knuckely” (at bools) whoever was “down” had to place his shut hand with knuckles towards the kerb-stone and his opponent had to hit the closed hand with his “plunker” (the bool he was playing with).
Gsw. 1958 C. Hanley Dancing in the Streets 53:
There are three basic throws . . . knucklie, in which you grip the jaurie between the thumbnail and the index finger and flick it forward.

Phrs.: (1) nickle doon stiff's a poker, = hard nickle doun s.v. Hard, adj., 1. (15) (Ayr. 1920–60). See (3); (2) pussy-nickle, the method of propelling a marble by flicking it with the forefinger (Sc. 1951 Sunday Post (26 Aug.)); (3) to (k)nickle deid, (k)nuckle —, to play a marble with the knuckles firmly on the ground, to knuckle down (Edb. 1952 Edb. Ev. News (9 July)). Gen. used imper. as a call (Per. 1910 Scotsman (9 Sept.)).(3) Lnl. 1880 T. Orrock Fortha's Lyrics 90:
The game o' buttons and o' bools — “nae back-wipes; nickle deid”.
Edb. 1894 W. G. Stevenson Puddin' 18:
“I understand you must have all your knuckles on the ground.” “Ay,” said Jo, “that's the way we ca't knickle deid.”

3. To submit, give way (Cld. 1880 Jam.; Per., Lth., sm.Sc., Uls. 1960), to acquiesce. Cf. Eng. knuckle down or under, id.Rnf. 1814 A. Wilson Poems (1844) 150:
For a wee I quietly knuckled, But when naething would prevail, Up my claes and cash I buckled.
Dmf. 1823 J. Kennedy Poems 164:
She knuckl'd, we buckled, our bliss for to crown.
Sc. 1871 J. W. Carlyle Letters (1883) II. 237:
He had to knuckle and comply in all points.
Gsw. 1873 A. G. Murdoch Doric Lyre 43:
Misluck may sen' ye win' an' rain, But no for that ye'll knuckle till her.
Ags. 1942:
The hale committee's again' Jamie. I doot he'll hae to knuckle this time.

4. As in Eng., to press with the knuckles, to knead, in phr. knuckled cake, cakes “pressed out with the knuckles instead of being rolled out with the rolling pin” (Per. 1902 E.D.D.; Ork. 1960).Fif. 1841 C. Gray Lays 194:
Her 'knuckled cakes weel toasted brown'.
Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 66:
Knuckled Cakes, made of meal warm from the mill haurned, or havered, on the decayed embers of the fire.

5. To beckon, summon, sc. by bending the forefinger at the knuckle.Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 137:
I, thank Heaven! can knuckle to me A freen or twa.

 [The form knickle seems due to conflation with Knick, v., 2. (2).]

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"Knuckle n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jul 2024 <>



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