Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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NIP, n., v. Also nep, nup-; neep. Sc. forms and usages:

I. n. 1. As in Eng., which now tends to use the synonymous pinch, a sharp squeeze, bite, in specif. and fig. senses: a bite in fishing (Sc. 1808 Jam.), the pinch of hunger (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Ags. 1790 D. Morison Poems 190:
Ye'll find it smarter than an adder's nip.
Bwk. 1902 Trans. Highl. Soc. XIV. 44:
In stock breeding . . . a check, or, as it is expressively called, “a nip of hunger,” is a mistake not easily remedied.
Rxb. 1914 Kelso Chron. (11 Dec.) 4:
When the snow gets so deep or hard that hay is required, it is best, I think, to begin before the sheep get what we call a “nip of hunger,” as they are easier learned to eat hay when not too hungry.
Rxb. 1919 Ib. (4 April) 3:
Na, man, though I be seventy now, Ye'll ne'er gie me the nip — Haud your auld shears, screw up your brow — On life I ha'e the grip. Agent n. nipper, in pl., in sea-taboo usage: the fingers.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 114:
Sheu[boat]'s l'akan'! Weary fa' that! Pu' eft the sheet, boys, wi' your nippers!

2. Pungency, sharpness of flavour, “kick” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen.Sc. Sc. 1825 Jam.:
Bread, and especially cheese, is said to have a nip, when it tastes sharp or pungent.
Ags. 1889 Barrie W. in Thrums v.:
Lads, humour's what gies the nip to speakin'.
Fif. 1894 A. S. Robertson Provost 62:
I dinna like whusky wi' a nip.

3. An interruption or break, specif. in mining, marking the point at which a seam of coal tails off as if squeezed between the strata above and below it. Also in n.Eng. dial. Comb. nip-out, id. (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 46). Fif. 1835 Trans. Highl. Soc. 416:
The first nine seams meet with no interruption until they reach the “nip out” C. This trouble is occasioned by the roof and pavement meeting together and leaving no coal.
m.Lth. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 I. 560:
In general the flat seams in this parish are found extending in regular order: there are, however, what are technically termed nips and dikes, which, where they occur, occasion interruptions and dislocations.

4. Fig. An advantage, esp. in bargaining (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 118). Phrs.: to keep one's nip, to hold one's lead socially or in competition, to stay ahead of; to take or get a nip o', to take or get the advantage of in bargaining, to cheat. Abd. 1882 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 180:
He's tried hard several times sinsyne to get a nip o' Sandy i' the market in a quaet wye.
Abd. 1895 J. Davidson Ministers 138:
[He] ance took a nip o' me wi' the price o' a calf, an' I never got the chance o' gettin' my ain.
Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 8:
There's a lot o' eeseless throwin' awa' o' siller jist to keep their nip anent idders.
Abd. 1952 Buchan Observer (2 Sept.):
To keep your nip at the scythe was a much vaunted boast, and many an old-standing dispute between workers on the farm was settled on the hairst rig.

5. A fragment, morsel, small piece, pinch, sc. what can be broken off or taken between finger and thumb (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1924 W. Lutton Montaighisms 30). Gen.Sc.; a little insignificant thing. Also in Eng. dial. Dim. forms nipick(ie) (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 118), nippock(ie), nippie (ne.Sc. 1964), nipplin (m. Lth. 1870 J. Lauder Warblings 30). In line 2 of the 1810 quot. the word takes the same construction as Bit, n.1, 2. Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 43:
There chews the Warrant a' in little Nips.
Sc. 1810 Robin Hood and the Beggar II. in Child Ballads No. 134. 18, 19:
Think not that I will be afraid For thy nip crooked tree [arrow] . . . Or that I fear thee any whit For thy curn nips of sticks.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xxvi.:
Water, wi' twa or three nips o' braxy floating about in't.
Dmf. 1863 R. Quinn Heather Lintie 134:
The wee nips that had been clipped Aff ilka live thing.
Sc. 1874 G. Outram Lyrics 63:
For not a single Ait, Nor yet a spike o' Barley, Nor nip o' Meal, he's get Again irregularly.
Sh. 1892 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 84:
Aa aboot his nip o croft . . . He kent.
m.Sc. 1893 A. S. Swan Homespun xii.:
I wadna mind a nip o' the shortbreid an' a drink o' milk.
ne.Sc. 1923 Swatches o' Hamespun 67:
He jeest took a nippock o' breid an' a cup o' tay.

6. A sheep-mark, made by cutting a notch in the ear (Kcb. 1880 J. H. Maxwell Sheep-Marks 6; Ags., Per., wm.Sc., Gall., Slk. 1964). Abd. 1778 Aberdeen Jnl. (24 Aug.):
A Nip and a Slit on one of each's Ears.
Gall. 1955 Gall. Gazette (24 Sept.) 8:
4 Blackface Wedder Lambs . . . two with two back nips and two with nip on point of far ear.

II. v. 1. As in Eng., to squeeze, constrict, pinch, in various specif. or fig. usages: (1) Combs and Derivs.: (i) nip-lug, (a) a nickname for a schoolmaster (Cld. 1880 Jam.); (b) backbiting, squabbling, acrimony, in phr. at nip-lug (wi), at loggerheads (with) (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Kcd. 1925; Ags. 1964). See Lug; (ii) nip-nebs, Jack Frost (Rxb. 1923 Watson, W.-B.; Ags. 1964). See also John, 15.; (iii) nip-necks, v., of horses: to bite or nibble each other's necks in play (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.); (iv) nipperty, of gait: tripping with short steps, mincing (Uls. 1964). Reduplic. form nipperty-tipperty; (v) nippity, id., quick and jerky, with short sharp movements (ne.Sc., Ags., m.Lth. 1964); (vi) nipscart, (a) a peevish, crabbed, ill-tempered person (Cld. 1825 Jam.); (b) a niggardly person (Teviotd. 1825 Jam.; Ayr 1890 J. Service Notandums 110; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Also in form nippit scart, id. (Ags. 1825 Jam.). See Scart; (vii) nip(p)-sicker, -siccar, -sikker, (a) ill-natured, brusque, very positive and decided in one's manner and opinions (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1964); as a n., a person of this sort (Sh. 1964); (b) giving scant measure, niggardly. See Sicker. (i) (b) Ags. 1883 Arbroath Guide (13 Jan.) 4:
In the house there is naething but niplug and fecht.
Ags. 1896 A. Blair Rantin Robin 79:
Dae my best to please her, it was a' the same. It was juist nip-lug fairly wi' her!
(iv) Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xxi.:
Crackbrained and cockle-headed about his nipperty-tipperty poetry nonsense.
Abd. 1879 G. Macdonald Sir Gibbie xlvi.:
The nipperty mincin' stippety-stap o' the leddie ye see upo' the streets.
(v) Per. 1903 H. Dryerre Blairgowrie 431:
Duncan's short, “nippity” style of bowing provoked undisguised contempt of such players as Jamie Allan, whose “wondrous length of arm” required a bow an inch longer than ordinary players.
(vi) (b) Ayr. 1913 J. Service Memorables 10:
Being, as everyane kens, a nipscart o' a cratur.
(vii) (b) Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928):
He is very nipp-sicker wi' his weight.

(2) in baking: to pinch dough at its edges, to make indentations round pastry, etc. Gen.Sc. Vbl.n. nipping. Gsw. 1907 Justiciary Reports (1909) 333:
He had examined the cake of shortbread, and the shape and “nipping” at the edge were similar to that used in his bakery.

(3) of clothes: to (cause to) fit tightly, to grip, constrict. Ppl.adj. nippit, tight-fitting. Gen.Sc. Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel ix.:
A fashion of pronouncing like unto the “nippit foot and clippit foot” of the bride in the fairy tale.
Sc. 1847 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 219:
Nippit fit and clippit fit ahint the king rides, But pretty fit and little fit ahint the caldron hides [of Cinderella].
Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Tales 88:
A' clead in green claes, just neepid inta da skin.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums 77:
The craturs would really divert ye wi' . . . their stiltit heels and nippit taes.
Sh. 1901 Shetland News (5 Jan.):
Doo's no ta geng an' nip apo' me, Sibbie. doo kens A'm no cairin' fir fashen.
ne.Sc. 1930 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 274:
Her nippit coats, her clippit heid, her fite though weel-faur't face.

(4) Weaving: to allow two warp threads to go round one shuttle and so squeeze them together (Ayr. 1951). Vbl.n. nipping, a fault so caused.

(5) Golf: to hit the ball with an edge of the club-face, to scuff, to fail to hit squarely. Vbl.n. nipping. Edb. 1887 W. G. Simpson Art of Golf 49:
The player whose driving is feeble should hit harder, unless it be that he is nipping, or not hitting off the middle of the club, in which cases he ought not to nip, or should aim for the centre of the head.

(6) fig. in ppl.adj. nippit: narrow in outlook and sympathies, unimaginative, bigoted. Rxb. 1875 N. Elliott Nellie Macpherson 165:
As regards the langidge, ye maunna be ower nippet on that point.
Sc. 1899 Mont.-Fleming:
He's jist a nippit “U.P.” A Nippit Teetotaller is a common expression.
Sc. 1935 D. Kirkwood Life of Revolt 222:
Philip Snowden's views were precise. narrow, and moulded by the immediate circumstances. The Scotsmen used to call him “nippet”. He argued about details, like a lawyer.

2. tr. and intr. To bite off in small pieces, specif. of animals: to graze, nibble (Abd., Per. 1964). Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 367:
You was put out of the Oven, for nipping the Pies.
Fif. 1806 A. Douglas Poems 21:
The flocks an' herds are spreadin, seen, The fragrant suckies nippin'.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xxii.:
The milk-cows were nipping the clovery parks.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 118:
She sat an' nippit at her dainner mair nor an oor.

3. tr. To cause to tingle or smart, to pinch with cold; of food, etc.: to taste sharp or pungent (Sc. 1880 Jam.). Gen.Sc.; of acid: to sting, burn; fig. of a speaker or his words: to be sharp or biting, to address in a sarcastic manner. Hence nipper, a stinging remark; nippit, curt, tart, snappish (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen.Sc.; nippy, -ie, id. Adv. nippily, in a sharp, painful manner. Edb. 1796 H. Macneill Waes o' War 10:
Nipt wi' cauld — wi' hunger fainting!
Abd. 1817 J. Christie Instructions 34:
I thought the boiling quell'd their taste. And took awa the nepping maist.
Fif. 1842 Justiciary Reports (1844) 316:
She threw something in my face, wet, it nipped me awfully, and burned me on the face and breast.
Mry. 1865 W.H.L. Tester Poems 9:
Words that nip like plasters.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 118:
Han' me a kneevlack o' that nippin' cheese.
Dmf. 1875 P. Ponder Kircumdoon 18:
The lassies . . . speer'd, in a shairp an' nippit way, what I meant.
Per. 1895 I. Maclaren Auld Lang Syne 241:
There's a michty poo'er in a nippy tongue.
Kcb. 1899 Crockett Kit Kennedy xii.:
Duncan will gie ye your pawmies the morn richt nippily!
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters ix., xii.:
“Are you a farmer then?” Gourlay nipped him, with his eye on the white waistcoat. . . . That was a nipper to Wilson!
Edb. 1957:
I tried to be nice to her, but she was gey nippit in her answers.
Abd. 1962 Buchan Observer (24 July) 2:
Nippit wirds an' soor ill-naiter Gart her man an' bairns behave!

4. intr. To ache, smart, to tingle with cold (Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 424; Uls. 1903 E.D.D.). Gen.Sc. Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 86:
Ye're new risen and your young heart's nipping.
Fif. 1806 A. Douglas Poems 26:
O! but my heart nips for the fair. While thro' the green she wanders.
Uls. 1858 Ulster Jnl. Archaeol. VI. 40:
Go 'long, bring some clods from the turf-stack, For my toes an' my fingers is nippin.

5. To starve, pinch with hunger. Ppl.adj. nippit (Sh., Ags., Per. 1964). Comb. nip-kyte, in phr. to tak nip-kyte, to get nothing to eat, to go hungry (Kcd. 1959). See Kyte. e.Lth. c.1860 Scotsman (13 Sept. 1912):
“She is a puir nippet creater” — A poorly-fed child.
Per. 1895 I. Maclaren Bonnie Brier Bush 232:
Drums never complained tae me as if he hed been nippit in the Sooth.
Fif. 1895 S. Tytler Kincaid's Widow xii.:
And she had on a high silver-grey beaver hat that made her look langer and thinner, wi' her haffits mair pu'ed and nippet.

6. tr. and intr. To be stingy (with), to practise parsimony (on). Gen. in ppl.adjs. †nipping; nippit, -(p)et, niggardly, miserly, mean, cheese-paring, hard-natured (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; I., n., em. and s.Sc. 1964); scanty, pinched, of things (Watson). Hence nippetness (Sh. 1964) and comb. nairrowly-nippitness, miserliness (Lth. c.1868 Ellis E.E.P. V. 724). Adj. nippie, greedy (ne.Sc., Ags. 1964). Sc. 1757 Session Papers, Tulloch v. Falconer (4 Feb.) 12:
Taking the Keys from me, denying me the necessary Means of Subsistence, nipping me, and keeping me in perpetual Uneasiness.
Sc. 1808 Jam.:
A nippit dinner, a scanty one.
Sc. 1814 C. I. Johnstone Saxon and Gael I. ix.:
Na, na, I ne'er liket to be nippit or pinging, gie me routhrie o' a'thing.
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Poet Wks. 25:
A wylie, spruce, an' nippy blade, Wha made the penny ay his trade.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality vii.:
I'll get but little penny-fee, for his uncle, auld Nippie Milnwood, has as close a grip as the deil himsell.
s.Sc. 1857 H. S. Riddell St. Matthew xxv. 24:
I kennet thee that thou art ane nippet man, sheerin' whare thou hestna sawn, an' getherin' whare thou hestna strinklet.
Bnff. 1862 [R. Sim] Legends Strathisla 52:
We're nae sae nippet as to refuse a bit and a drap to ony fair-fashion'd body that comes the gate.
Knr. 1886 H. Haliburton Horace 33:
An' let that churlish Nawbal o' a fermer, Oor nippit neebor, hear.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters x.:
The East throws a narrower and a nippier breed.
Lth. 1924 A. Dodds Poppies in Corn 33:
Ye're naewise mean or nippit.
Ork. 1950:
She's right nippit. Fancy chargin' him for that.
Per.4 1962:
Ye neednae be sae nippit wi the margarine.

7. To get the better of in bargaining, to outsmart, to cheat (Gall. 1964). Hence nippie, quick in bargaining, tricky in carrying out a piece of business (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 118; Uls. 1924 W. Lutton Montiaghisms 30). Cf. Grip (Suppl.); nippin, a bargain; nipper, a person who is sharp and somewhat unscrupulous in his dealings. Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 118:
He fairly nippit 'im wee the trockan o's coo.
Gall. 1877 “Saxon” Gall Gossip 361:
Keep us a'! . . . but I hae been nippit the day; just look what kind o' beast I hae brought hame wi' me.
Abd. 1900 (well-known rhyme):
Gweed night an' gweed nippins, Fin I get a new goon ye'll get the clippens.
Fif. 1947:
Thon landlady must be a right nipper of a woman.

8. To seize, catch, lay hold of, snatch up, make off with, steal (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Dmf. 1899 Country Schoolmaster (Wallace) 102). Gen.Sc. Mainly dial. or colloq. in Eng. Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 135:
Frae your ain uncle's gate was nipt awa' That bony bairn.
Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 90:
Fill your pouches at Fairlaw; Nip it up, Tibby Redpath, Tak it a', Nelly Shaw.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 139:
Having his arm nippit by the fly-wheel of a new engine.
Ags. 1891 Barrie Little Minister v.:
She brocht the news, or we would have been nipped in our beds.
Per. 1895 I. Maclaren Brier Bush ii.:
He juist nippet up his verbs. Cæsar could na keep him goin'; he wes into Virgil afore he was eleven.
Lnk. 1928 W. C. Fraser Yelpin' Stane 39:
She wasna on the bauks this mornin'; I doot the tinklers maun hae nippit her.

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"Nip n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 6 Dec 2021 <>



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