Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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LITTLE, adj., n. Also litle; luttle (Sc. 1928 J. G. Horne Lanwart Loon 24). Compar. littler, superl. littlest (n.Sc. 1825 Jam., Cai. 1902 E.D.D.). Gen.Sc. Deriv. littlie, littlish, rather little (Lth. 1825 Jam.).

Sc. usages:

I. adj. 1. (1) As opposed to meikle: younger or less important in rank or status, etc. Common in farm-names, freq. of the lesser of two farms made up of unequal portions of an older settlement in the general agricultural reconstruction of the 18th and 19th c. Gen.Sc. For quots. cf. 2. (14). Abd. 1696  List of Pollable Persons (S.C.) I. 273:
Elspet Wyllie, servant, her fee ¥4 for all in the year, she being bot litle.
Mry. 1715  E. D. Dunbar Documents (1895) 20:
Both men and women servants, meikle and little and hooks.
Sc. 1763  Caled. Mercury (19 Oct.) 504:
The Two Oxgates of Little and Meikle Blackmiddins.

(2) Freq. used followed by wee, with little more than intensive force = Eng. tiny. See Wee. Gen.Sc.

2. In Combs.: (1) little body, a child, an infant (Ags., Fif., Uls. 1961). Cf. Littlin; (2) little-boukit, -bookit, -buikit, (a) small in body or bulk, shrunken (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 257; n.Sc., em.Sc.(a), Dmf. 1961); (b) small in importance, of small account, insignificant, often = deflated in esteem, “small” (Bnff., Per., Cld. 1880 Jam.; ne.Sc. 1961); (3) little coal, a rather soft cubical coal of high quality; (4) little-coatie, a petticoat; (5) little denner, see Denner, 1. (2); (6) little doucker, the little grebe, see Dooker, n.; (7) little feltyfare, the redwing, see Feltieflier, 2. (2); (8) little fiddler, the sandpiper (Sc. 1884 Chambers's Jnl. (12 July)). See Fiddler, Killieleepie; (9) little-fingered, light-fingered, nimble, deft, given to sleight of hand and cheating; (10) little folk(s), -fouk(ie)s, the fairies. Gen.Sc., liter. Cf. Gael. na daoine beaga, id.; (11) little guid, -gude, (a) the devil. Freq. in Galt.; (b) the sun-spurge, Tithymalus helioscopia, a troublesome weed with an acrid milky juice (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Lnk. 1831 W. Patrick Plants Lnk. 210; Rxb. 1876 Science Gossip 39, 1923 Watson W.-B.). Also in dim. forms -gudy (Jam.), -goody (Ags. 1848 W. Gardiner Flora Frf. 161), -giddie (Clc. 1886 B. and H. 310), -gweedie (Abd. Ib.; Bnff., Abd. 1961), and as gairden little guid (Watson). Also in Eng. dial.; (12) little house, -hoose, (a) a privy, water-closet (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; ne.Sc., em.Sc.(a), Ayr., s.Sc., Uls. 1961). Now only dial. in Eng.; †(b) a church vestry or session-house; (13) little-houseleek, a variety of stone-crop, Sedum acre (Ib.). Also in n.Eng. dial.; †(14) little man, a junior or adolescent male servant on a farm. See 1. above and (24) below; (15) little pickie, the little tern (Ags. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 204). See Pickie; (16) little play, playtime at school, elevens; (17) little Setterday, the Saturday before the Communion Service, observed as a Fast-Day; also Wednesday, as being gen. the weekly half-holiday (Abd. 1961); (18) little sole, the solenette fish, Microchirus boscanion (ne.Sc. 1903 G. Sim Fauna ofDee” 248); †(19) little Sunday, = (17) (Slk. 1919; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); ‡(20) little-thing, used without the indef. art., a small matter, a mere trifle (Abd., Ags. 1961); (21) little threave, see quot.; (22) little whaup, the whimbrel, Numenius phæopus (Ork. a.1795 G. Low Fauna Orcad. (1813) 80; e.Lth. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 199); (23) little wheel, see Wheel; (24) little-wit, adj., silly, stupid, giddy. Prob. a nonce formation based on (26); (25) little-woman, a young female servant, not quite adult. Cf. (14); (26) little-worth, of worthless character, having no principles (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Cai. 1902 E.D.D.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 202). Gen.Sc.; in poor health (Sh. 1961). Also used subst., a person of bad or worthless reputation (Dmf. 1825 Jam.). Arch. in Eng. since 17th c. (1) Fif. 1857  W. Blair Rambling Recoll. 34:
Ye ken she had a little body to a ploughman o' the name o' Robin Rattle.
(2) (a) Abd. 1746  W. Forbes Dominie Depos'd (1765) 37:
The carlings Maggy had so cleuked They made her twice as little bouked.
Sc. 1904  R. Ford Hum. Sc. Stories II. 67:
He was growin little-buikit in his claes … he was gettin' shilpit an' thin in the chafts.
Abd. 1912  J. Stephen Donside Lilts 40:
Nae doot I'm growin' aul' an' grey An' unco little-boukit.
Per. 1915  Wilson L. Strathearn 192:
Guid gear's little-boukit.
Sc. 1929  Scots Mag. (May) 148:
She sat there afore the fire, a little-buikit auld wife i' the hin-hairst o' her days.
(b) Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 227:
He made a speech agehns him, an' made 'im unco little-bookit.
(3) Fif. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 XII. 541:
It is generally known by the name of Balbirnie coal, and consists of two species, called the little coal and the great coal. The quality of the little coal is extremely good.
Ayr. 1845  Stat. Acc.2 V. 444:
A mine has been run to the dip across the strata, and a pit sunk at the extremity, which gives the Bow-bridge, five-quarter, parrot, turf and little coal, at the depth of 70 fathoms.
(4) Fif. 1827  W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 132:
Without her jupes or little-coatie.
(9) Fif. 1864  St Andrews Gaz. (9 July):
These little-fingered thimblers exercise a kind of useful if not legitimate trade after all.
(10) Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 66:
And O the gath'ring that was on the green Of little foukies, clad in green and blue!
Sc. 1908  E. B. Simpson Folk-Lore 93:
The wily, knowing not where they might be lurking, were careful to call them [fairies] “the good neighbours,” “the honest folk,” “the little folk,” “ the gentry.”
Sc. 1935  I. Bennet Fishermen vii.:
The creels were not to be found. … “The little folks made off wi' them,” volunteered Angus.
(11) (a) Ayr. 1821  Galt Annals xlix.:
Running here and riding there as if the little-gude was at his heels.
Ayr. 1828  Galt Entail lxvi.:
The mim maidens nowadays have delivered themselves up to the Little-Gude in the shape and glamour o' novelles and Thomson's Seasons.
wm.Sc. 1835  Laird of Logan 164:
If ever I saw “Little Gude himsel” in my life, it was there ae nicht.
(b) Bwk. 1853  G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 175:
Euphorbia Helioscopia. Little good. … The milky juice is used by children to remove warts.
(12) (a) Gsw. 1764  Glasgow Past & Present (1884) III. 133:
There is a little-house built upon the side of the burn, Molendinar, in the yard belonging to the Tannery Company, a little below their bark mill, and that the said little-house empties itself into the said burn.
Sc. 1773  Boswell Tour (Pottle 1936) 291 [reading restored by conjecture]:
I should have mentioned that in the old castle here [Coll] is a little-house … There is not one at the new house.
(b) Sc. 1713  R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) II. 185:
My informer went on to the litle house; he put on his goun, and waited a litle for the precenter.
(14) Abd. 1696  List of Pollable Persons (S.C.) I. 595–6:
William Murdoch, litle man his fee per annum ¥6. 10. George Sanders, litle man, year's fee ¥3.
Sc. a.1814  J. Ramsay Scot. and Scotsmen (1888) II. 209:
Our ordinary farmers' households consisted of a big man, a little man, a pleghani.e., a lad of fifteen or sixteen years of age, who could drive the plough or thrash occasionally.
Per. 1835  J. Monteath Dunblane Trad. (1887) 76:
At sixteen he was little-man on a farm in the vicinity of Logie. At twenty, he was muckle-man on the same farm.
(16) Abd. 1961  Huntly Express (10 Feb.):
“Little play” came at eleven, and never a murmur about what was to happen in the afternoon.
(17) Sc. 1915  Rhymour Club Misc. II. 98:
This is little Setterday, The morrow's Capernaum; We'll all get up on Monanday, And set the mills a' gaun.
(20) Per. 1830  Perthshire Advert. (8 April):
It was hard to be sae cheated by a blackguard; but the loss o' the siller was little-thing to what Grizzie wad say when he gaed hame.
(21) Bnff. 1897  Banffshire Jnl. (28 Sept.) 7:
In the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, and Moray there was a “muckle threave” and “a little threave.” In the muckle threave every sheaf was required to measure ten inches in diameter at the band. The measurement for the sheaves in the little threave was seven and a half inches. Half a century ago the shearer was paid threepence for the muckle threave and twopence for the little threave.
(24) Kcb. 1896  Crockett Grey Man xxiv.:
That debauched villain, the Laird of Benane, and his little wit sister.
(25) Abd. 1696  List of Pollable Persons (S.C.) I. 596–7:
Jannet Hutcheon, his litle woman, yearly fee ¥4. Barbara Mories, litle woman to George Davidson fee yearly ¥5.
(26) Sc. 1733  E. Erskine Works (1871) II. 189:
Lax little-worth young men.
n.Sc. 1773  Boswell Tour (21 Aug.):
He found him “a little worth person”!
Ayr. 1822  Galt Provost xxxvi.:
The actress was a little-worth, termagant woman.
Lnk. 1853  W. Watson Poems 46:
Yer claes are yer ain! so, an' wha's ca' ye mine, Ye littleworth piece o' a littleworth kin'.
Ork. 1880  Dennison Sketch-Bk. 11:
Ye common littlewort villain, ye tae spaek o takin a born lethy on yur shuther indeed.
Sh. 1886  J. Burgess Sketches 30:
I tink he's a little-wirt kind o' a crater.

II. n. 1. As in Eng., a little while, a short time; phr. a little ago, a short time ago (Sc. 1881 A. Mackie Scotticisms 26). Gen.Sc.

2. In pl.: the stitches picked up on each side of the heel flap of a stocking on which the foot is knitted, the lap-loops (see Lap. n.) (Abd. 1919 T.S.D.C.).

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"Little adj., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jun 2019 <>



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