Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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NICNEVIN, prop. n. Also nicnevin. The name of a witch well-known in medieval Sc. folklore (Sc. 1808 Jam., 1935 D. A. Mackenzie Folk-Lore 150). [nɪk′ni:vən] Sc. 1820 Scott Abbot xxvi.:
For a' that folk said about the skill and witcheries of Mother Nicneven, he would put his trust in God. . . . She was no common spaewife, this Mother Nicneven. . . . She had lords and lairds that would ruffle for her. Note. — This was the name given to the grand Mother Witch, the very Hecate of Scottish popular superstition. Her name was bestowed, in one or two instances, upon sorceresses, who were held to resemble her by their superior skill in “Hell's black grammar”.

[First found in Montgomerie's Flyting (a.1585), 368–460. The name is Gaelic in orig., from nic, daughter of —, + naohim, little saint ( > the proper name Niven), used prob. euphemistically as a witch's nickname, and perhaps passed on to succeeding generations of witches. For a similar nickname, cf. Nikclerith, from nic + cleireich, a cleric, described in 1643 as “sister daughter to Nik Neveing”. See Dalyell Darker Superstitions of Scot. 233.]

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"Nicnevin prop. n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 Jul 2020 <>



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