Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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NICHER, v., n. Also neicher, n(e)igher, nichar (Sc. 1843 Chambers's Jnl. (28 Oct.) 324); niccar (Abd. 1852 A. Robb Poems 170), nicker (Slk. 1820 Hogg Tales (1874) 186, Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 97; Ork. 1929 Old-Lore Misc. IX. ii. 79); knicker (Rxb.); nik(ke)r (Sh., 1908 Jak. (1928)); niger. [′nɪçər, ′nɪk-, Sh. ′nj-]

I. v. 1. Of a horse: to make a snickering noise, gen. expressive of pleasure, anticipation or desire, rarely of fear, to neigh, whinny (Sc. c.1724 Johnie Armstrong in Child Ballads No. 169 C. x.; Rxb. 1801 J. Leyden Compl. Scot. 357; Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Uls. 1953 Traynor). Gen.Sc. Also of sounds resembling this. Also in n.Eng. dial. Ppl.adj., vbl.n. nicherin (ne.Sc. 1964), neighrin, neighering (Uls. 1953 Traynor), nickrin (Bch. 1832 W. Scott Poems 22). Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 235:
Little may an old Horse do, that may not Nigher. Spoken of over-grown decayed Rakes, that Speak Baudy.
Edb. 1772 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 91:
Without the cuissers prance and nicker.
Slk. 1813 Hogg Queen's Wake (1874) 15:
Afore we wan to the Sandy Ford, The gor-cockis nichering flew.
Ags. 1822 A. Balfour Farmers' Three Daughters 80:
Water-kelpie standing, like a black sheltie, at the Drumlyford, nichering, as the spate comes down frae the hills.
Slg. c.1860 Trans. Slg. Nat. Hist. and Arch. Soc. (1923) 23:
O' lairds on nicherin naigs! O' leddies in coaches braw!
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters vi.:
The horse nichered wi' fear and tried to wheel.
Abd. 1903 E.D.D.:
Farm servants thirty years ago had a saying, on the term day, “There'll be nicherin' the day for the horses to win oot”, meaning the money to be taken from the drawers in payment of serving men and maids. Either on account of St George's steed on the gold, or owing to, say, the unicorn on our paper notes, this saying derived its origin.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 17:
A stane-nappin injin gaed on like a tuim mill, — skrunshin — chaampin . . . nickerin — dirlin.
Sc. 1929 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 360:
Keep the pownies frae neichering, thir lanward fouk'll tak warnin' frae a whaup's skirl let be the squeal o' a horse.
Sh. 1932 J. M. E. Saxby Trad. Lore 204:
A horse . . . nikkers when he is well pleased . . . A dog . . . nigers when he snarls.
Sc. 1962 Scotsman (27 Oct.) Suppl. 5:
That soft nickering will just show that he is reliving past glories on the parade ground.

Derivs.: (1) nickeram, a single-soled shoe (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 126), see next; (2) nickerer, a neighing horse, one who nickers (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); in pl.: new shoes, “probably from their making a creaking noise” (Rxb. 1825 Jam., 1923 Watson W.-B.); (3) nickram, nechram, “a ludicrous term for a horse” (Abd. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 215). Comb. ¶nechram dress, horse-hide. (2) Sc. 1846 M. A. Richardson Borderer's Table-Bk. VI. 235:
Scotch nickerers are made of horse leather.
(3) Slg. 1792 G. Galloway Poems 16:
That chield . . . Wha first did tan Neat Nechram dress.

2. To laugh with a snickering sound, gen. in a ridiculous manner, to snigger (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork. 1929 Marw.; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Ork., ne. and m.Sc., Kcb., Rxb. 1964), to make a snickering noise from cold. Ppl.adj., vbl.n. nicherin (Abd. 1868 W. Shelley Wayside Flowers 273), nickering (Uls. 1924 Northern Whig (2 Jan.)). Also in Eng. dials. Phr. nae tae nicher at or ower, not to be despised or derided, “not to be sneezed at” (Abd.4 1930). Sc. 1820 Scott F. Nigel xxxi.:
Ye needna nicher that gait, like a cusser at a caup o' corn, e'en though it was a pleasant jest.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie ii.:
I'm no saying, so ye needna nigher, that ever this pyet will steal either horse or black cattle.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 22:
He nicker't a lang gaffaw.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 140:
He stirs, starts up, an' laughin', claws his pow . . . An', nicherin', roars “Haith! but I hae it now.”
Fif. 1894 J. W. M'Laren Tibbie and Tam 59:
Tam could discern the smiles o' the crood, and hear their nicherins, whilk cut him deeper than the umbrella.
Kcb. 1911 G. M. Gordon Auld Clay Biggin' 7:
A gey solemn thocht tae, no ane til nicher ower yon gate.
Lnk. 1922 T. S. Cairncross Scot at Hame 58:
Nicherin' to yersel' And smilin' roun' at life.

II. n. 1. The snickering sound made by a horse, a whinny, neigh (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ayr. 1903 E.D.D.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Gall. 1930; Uls. 1953 Traynor). Gen.Sc. Also in Eng. dials. Sc. 1791 Lochmaben Harper in Child Ballads No. 192 A. xv.:
When she came to the harper's door, There she gave mony a nicher and sneer.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Siege Rxb. (1874) 628:
Corby, another nicker an' another snore, lad, an' we'll soon see you aff at the gallop.
Hdg. 1848 A. Somerville Autobiog. 63:
He gave a neigh, or “nicker” as we called it.
Abd. 1882 T. Mair John o' Arnha's Latterday Exploits 81:
The nicher o' Essilmont's lanesome steed As he shiverit in ghaistly feare.
Fif. 1896 G. Setoun R. Urquhart ii.:
I've heard ye gie'in' a bit nicher, yoursel', when I was bringin' ye a feed.

2. A snigger, a soft suppressed laugh (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Dmb. 1894 D. MacLeod Past Worthies 112; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Ork., ne. and m.Sc., Rxb., Uls. 1964). Also in Nhb. dial. w.Sc. 1835 Laird of Logan 264:
“Weel, weel,” said he, wi' a bit laugh — ye mind his bit nicher, Jenny?
Edb. 1882 J. Smith Canty Jock 3:
A hearty, canty, cheery lauch — nane o' yer blue-faced, compromisin' mongrel nichers.
Per. 1883 R. Cleland Inchbracken xxvi.:
Auntie Lillie she just leugh, an' gae a kin' o' glint o' the e'e, an' syne she gae the ither nicker.
Ags. 1895 Caledonia I. 216:
His stereotyped laugh . . . a gentle spontaneous nicher, not at all like the proverbial horse laugh.
Abd. 1900 Weekly Free Press (18 Aug.):
There was a nicher o' a lauch at this.
Rxb. 1916 Kelso Chron. (24 March) 3:
The crack in the paper was gude, but the stour it has raised is geein' a' and sundra a graund nicker.

[Imit. in orig. Cf. Snicher, Knikker. O.Sc. nikkir, = I. 1., a.1588.]

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"Nicher v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2021 <>



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