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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

ONFA, n. Also -fall; -feh (Rxb.). [′onfə]

1. A heavy fall of rain or snow (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ayr. 1897 H. Ochiltree Out of her Shroud x.; Kcb. 1900; Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 16; Sh., Abd., Fif., Lth., Lnk., s.Sc. 1964).Sc. 1820 Scots Mag. (April) 373:
This onfall [of snow] was soon accompanied by a rapid and stupifying drift.
Fif. 1868 St. Andrews Gazette (13 June):
There were at times a cloudy sky and indications of a heavy onfall, but these appear to have been what farmers know as a feeding of the drought.
Lnk. 1910 C. Fraser Glengonnar 11:
There were ither signs forebodin' an on-fa' o' the dreided snaw.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 76:
This onfa' o snaw'll make the birds caif.

2. An attack of disease, freq. of unknown origin (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); now esp. an attack of cold (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). The 1830 quot. is strictly a variant of Weidinonfa.s.Sc. c.1830 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1916) 86:
Many women when suckling their children are liable to ephemeral fevers, vulgarly called weeds and onfas.
Rxb. 1958 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. 25:
Gey waff and like takin' an onfeh.

3. The fall of evening (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., Rxb. 1964).Rxb. 1825 Jam. (old song):
But or the onfa' o' the nicht, She fand him drown'd in Yarrow.
s.Sc. 1897 E. Hamilton Outlaws xi.:
They winna mak' their set till the onfa' o' the nicht.

[O.Sc. onfall, an attack, 1651.]

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"Onfa n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Mar 2023 <>



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