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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

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), nippick, 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.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 6:
Like nippicks o a brukken keekin-glaiss, the fowk o the Howe mirrored the ae image, fur aa war a pairt o't.

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) 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.

Phr.: nip someone's heid, To nag, to scold (Bnff., Ags., Fif., Edb., Gsw., Ayr., Dmf. 2000s) . Cf. heid-nippin s.v. heid n.Gsw. 1985 Michael Munro The Patter 49:
nip ... to nip someone's heid is to nag him or give him a row: 'Ma maw's always nippin ma heid aboot sumhin.'
m.Sc. 1992 Herald (9 Nov) 6:
MONDAY: Green Geraldine has been nipping my lug for months now to build a new henhouse and she was at it again today.
m.Sc. 1993 Herald (12 Jul) 6:
Now he's nipping my heid saying - and here's a chilling Civil Service line "my curiosity does lead me to inquire further whether you can add to your published comments." The cheek!

(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.
Sc. 2000 Scotland on Sunday (7 May) 5:
My travelling companion was suffering from an embarrassing condition brought on by a fatal combination of a week's walking in high humidity, and those nippit wee Wham!-style shorts favoured by even the straight community that summer. The resultant chafing had left him almost unable to walk.
Sc. 2003 Aberdeen Evening Express (25 Jul) 22:
I'd developed a passion for clotted cream and split my increasingly nippit jeans the first time I bent down to untie a rope.
Edb. 2001 Scotsman (9 Jun) 16:
However, armed with a 100 per cent attendance record at board bus meetings, the Labour group chairwoman, Lesley Hinds, nipped the Ayatollah's heid that much that he caved in.

(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., stinging (Sh., Ork., Cai., Bnff., Abd., Ags., Fif., Edb., Gsw., Ayr., Dmf., Rxb. 2000s). Adv. nippily, in a sharp, painful manner. Comb. nippy biscuit, a children's name for a nasturtium leaf from its spicy flavour when chewed (Dmb., Kcb. 1975).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 Kirkcumdoon 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!
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 38:
"It's a lassie to laugh wi' you and walk wi' you and cuddle your bairns that you want Bryce, no jist a hardy girl as can thatch your roof for you. Sometimes the sturdy workers come wi' nippy tongues mind."
Sc. 1993 Herald (20 Aug) 12:
"Nippy" administrator gets 10,000 over sacking [heading] A payroll administrator described as "a bit nippy" by her director was unfairly dismissed when about to go on maternity leave, an industrial tribunal yesterday ruled in Glasgow.
Edb. 1994 Irvine Welsh Acid House 78:
Knoxie's been deid nippy since eh came back fae that Supervision Part Two course up the City Chambers. They seemed tae fuck the cunt's heid up thair.
Edb. 1994 Irvine Welsh Acid House 248:
He clocked my tense, hurt expression and said Fuck me, tell ays you're no nippy the day. Only joking man. But I knew he wasn't.
Edb. 1999:
That cream's awfie nippie when ye pit it oan sunburn.

Comb. nippie sweetie, (1) A sharp-tasting sweet, often used in expressions referring to a bad-tempered or disapproving person (Bnff., Ags., Edb., Arg., Gsw., Ayr., Dmf., Rxb. 2000s). (2) A nip of whisky (Edb., Ayr. 2000s). (1)Gsw. 1985 Michael Munro The Patter 49:
nippy sweetie ... used to describe a bad-tempered person: 'Just keep out of that yin's road; she's a bit of a nippy-sweetie.'
Gsw. 1989:
I got the nippie sweetie look.
Edb. 1994:
She's goat a reputation as a bit o a nippie sweetie - but she's a'right once ye get tae ken her.
Sc. 1994 Scotsman (16 Jun):
Latest smart thing to do for the rich young German is to suck a Fisherman's Friend. For some reason the original nippy sweetie has become a trendy accessory in the land of 1,000 types of sausage.
Gsw. 1998 Herald (30 Oct):
Nina Simone is famously the nippiest sweetie in the not untemperamental world of jazz, a woman to whom not even the bravest no-good sax player would dare bring home a broken pay [packet] -
Edb. 1999:
Don't give me that nippie sweetie look when Ah've smoked a cigar!!
Sc. 2000 Times (19 Jul):
The emphasis on the word 'English' was sufficiently strong to suggest he had just swallowed a nippie sweetie and that the English ... were rather distasteful.
(2)Edb. 1985:
He's too fond o the nippie sweeties tae be healthy.
Gsw. 1985 Michael Munro The Patter 49:
nippy sweetie A jocular term for a drink of spirits: 'How about a nippy sweetie to finish off?' ... The derivation is from the sense of nippy meaning sharp-tasting, burning to the taste, etc.
Gsw. 1987 Peter Mason C'mon Geeze Yer Patter! 37:
C'n ah git a nippy sweetie? May I have a small glass of whisky?
em.Sc. 1990 Ian Rankin Hide & Seek (1998) 204:
He ... exchanged the names of local watering holes with him, making promises of a drink, a nippy sweetie some night in the future.
Sc. 1999 Daily Record (9 Jan):
If you're only old enough for sweeties, and not for nippie sweeties, the Aberdeen Youth Festival in August is a feast for the ears.
Sc. 1999 Financial Mail (Johannesburg; electronic edition) (20 Dec):
Nippy sweetie price watch ... In all, there are 127 brands of whisky available on the SA market.

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.
Gsw. 1985 Michael Munro The Patter 49:
nip To hurt, be sore, as in 'Ma heid's nippin.' ...
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 4:
... if a neebor draps by fur tea
Or Missis asks visitors in for a wee swaree,
Where's the herm? What does he think'll happen
That he nags us till our heids are nippin'?

5. To starve, pinch with hunger. Ppl.adj. nippit thin and frail looking (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.
wm.Sc. 1978 Christine Marion Fraser Rhanna (1979) 17:
'... The wee lass McKenzie's wed's a nippet cratur - bonny, mind, but no' made for rearin' bairns.'

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' nipping 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.
Sc. 1990 Scotsman (15 Nov) 14:
I suspect he would have been disappointed in the nippit effort by Dr David Purves (Points of View, 7 November) to use [John] Buchan to attack the Conservative Party and to use one brief passage from a Buchan short story to criticise one group in particular.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web v:
Wi Gaelic there's a rowth o foreplay, speecially in the barderie o the tongue. Wi Doric, as the Americans style it, it's "Wham, bam, thank you ma'am" - a terse, nippit spikk; ae wird cairryin a rowth o meanins on its back, an fyles an ejaculatio praecox forbye.

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 22 May 2024 <>



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