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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI).

NIG NAY, n., v. Also nignaye (Abd. 1832 A. Beattie Poems 153), -nae, -naw (Rnf. 1835 D. Webster Rhymes 195), -noy (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.), -nye (Rnf. 1813 E. Plcken Poems I. 124), -nie; nag-naye; nig-man-ie (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 364; Kcb. 1900); and, with separated elements, nigs and naws. [′nɪg′ne, -′nɑ(e), †-′nɔɪ]

I. n. 1. A nicknack, trinket, trifle, an unnecessary ornament or frill, a gew-gaw, a petty matter or proceeding (Sc. 1808 Jam.: Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.).Sc. 1718 News from Bathgate 22:
The Courtly Nag-nayes of a Stile he waves, And to this Purpose rattles forth, and raves.
Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 46:
Poor Pousies now the Daffine saw Of gawn for Nignyes to the Law.
Sc. 1747 Lyon in Mourning (S.H.S.) I. 156:
If you go on in asking questions so particularly, and if he shall tell you all the nig-nacs [MS. -naes] o't, he believes indeed his account will take up much more time and paper than he imagined.
Abd. 1759 F. Douglas Rural Love 16:
Sae what nig-naes a bride wad need Provide yoursel with a' your speed.
Rnf. 1835 D. Webster Rhymes 151:
They can describe wi' souple jaws, The weaver's trantlums, nigs, and naws.
Bnff. 1853 Banffshire Jnl. (21 June):
And frae the farthest warld's-end Get a' the nigays [sic] e'er were kend.
Lnk. 1884 J. Nicholson Willie Waugh 23:
He had a lot o' curious auld nig-nayes.
Wgt. 1885 G. Fraser Poems 222:
They need wee nig-ma-nies tae start, An' keep them gaun.

2. A quarrelsome hypercritical person, one who picks faults (Dmf.3 1920, nigmanie).

II. v. To trifle, fuss about, work without result (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.), to hum and haw (Dmf. 1934). Ppl.adj. nignayin, full of whims (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 118), vbl.n. nignayan, fussing over a task (Ib.).Ib.:
He nignays ass lang aboot a'thing he diz it a wid far raider nae seek 'im.

[O.Sc. nignay, = I, 1., a.1689. Prob. an arbitrary formation based on such words as nick-nack, Nignag, Niffnaff. For the form nig-ma-nie see -Ma-.]

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"Nig Nay n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 6 Oct 2022 <>



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