Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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PEERIE, n.1 Also peery, pearie, -y (Jam.), pierie, peri (Rxb. 1921 Kelso Chron. (11 Nov.) 4), pery, perrie, pirie, -y. Dim. forms of Peer, n.1, q.v. [′piri]

1. A child's spinning-top (Sc. 1786 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 112, 1808 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen. (exc. I.) Sc. Also attrib. in combs. such as peerie-cord, -string, the string with which the peerie is set in motion. Ayr. 1756 Session Papers, Montgomery v. Francis, Proof (24 May) 7:
Boys scourging their Tops, and casting their Pieries there.
Lnk. 1805 G. McIndoe Poems 40:
At three year auld he crys for whips, And bowls, and ba's, and taps and pirys.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xx.:
Mony's the peery and the tap I worked for him langsyne.
Sc. 1821 Blackwood's Mag. (Aug.) 34:
At another [time], dozing of taps, and piries, and pirie cords, form the prevailing recreation.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 306:
The teacups in air were like pearies a turning.
Rxb. 1845 T. Aird Old Bachelor 91:
There go the “bools” and the “peeries”, just as of yore, without the slightest prearrangement among the callants.
Fif. 1875 A. Burgess Poute 116:
They maun lace an' draw themsel's in wi' a perrie-cord as tight as if they were bindin' a sheaf o' pizz.
Lnk. 1910 W. Wingate Poems (1919) 74:
Keps, skeely pen, pencils, and white peerie-string.
Ags. 1921 A. S. Neill Carroty Broon x.:
A peerie is a top with a cast-metal point, and you spin it by winding a string round it and then throwing it with a jerk. The best spinners held the top upside down while throwing.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch-Wood i.:
Doun in the glen ye're that clamjamphried wi' michty trees that your heid spins like a peery.
Gsw. 1931 H. S. Roberton Curdies 86:
A top . . . was distinguished from a peerie by being flogged into spinning life . . . a peerie was spun by means of a string.
Edb. 1940 R. Garioch 17 Poems for 6d. 12:
Peeries come in Janiveer, guiders in the month o June.
Dmb. 1945 Folklore LVI. 369:
In a game played with the . . . peerie . . . the tops were thrown, spinning, and aimed to fall into a ring marked on the ground. Those falling outside the ring were lifted, if still spinning, and dropped, spinning all the time, into the ring; these, besides those aimed successfully, were winners. Those failing to spin at all and those that “died” before they could be lifted were losers and were laid in the ring.
Gsw. 1958 C. Hanley Dancing in the Streets 52:
The object of peeries is to acquire merit for your own peerie by knocking down other peeries with it, and a peerie with a big score of successes is naturally a prize peerie. This is one of the dirtiest games in the whole field of sport.
Fif. 1959:
I'll cut yer peerie-cords for ye (a jocular threat to a mischievous child).

Combs. and phrs.: (1) French peerie, a humming top (Lth., Dmb. 1965); (2) peerie heels,, the high, sharply-pointed heels of a woman's shoes, stiletto heels (m. and s.Sc. 1965); (3) peerie-heidit, in a state of mental confusion, in a whirl, having one's thoughts spinning like a peerie (Uls. 1903 E.D.D.; m. and s.Sc. 1965); (4) peerie-ring, a game played with peeries (Lth. 1965). See 1921 quot. and cf. 1945 quot. above; (5) peerie-stone, a pear-shaped stone which could be made to spin on its apex like a top; (6) like (as sound as) a peerie, in regard to sleep: soundly, deeply, undisturbed (m. and s.Sc. 1965). (1) Sc. 1808 Jam. s.v. Pearie:
The humming-top of E[ngland] is in S[cotland] denominated a French pearie, probably as having been originally imported from France.
Gsw. 1875 Recent Sc. Poets (Murdoch 1883) 361:
Buy a whup for horsey, or a roon drum; Buy a French peerie that can dance and hum.
Dmb. 1945 Folklore LVI. 369:
Peeries differing from the ordmary peg-top were known as “fancy peeries,” and of these “French” and “English” peeries were distinct types.
(2) m.Sc. 1959 I. and P. Opie Lore and Language 182:
There she goes, there she goes, Peerie heels and pointed toes.
(3) Gsw. 1904 J. J. Bell Jess & Co. x.:
She . . . workit oot a lot mair sums that wud ha'e turned the schule-maister peery-heidit.
Sc. 1953 Sc. Home & Country (July) 238:
What a day! what with boilers and washings and visitors, I'm just about peerie-heidit.
(4) Fif. 1883 J. W. Wood Gipsy Heir 147:
Charlie Lees's foreland brings Back again the peerie-rings.
Ags. 1901 W. J. Milne Reminiscences 72:
A'e day fan Jeem Dryster an' him war playin' at the peery-ring.
Sc. 1921 A. S. Neill Carroty Broon 130:
You drew a large chalk ring on the concrete floor of the shed, and if your peerie fell inside the ring it had to lie there until someone knocked it out. Hence you always had at least two peeries, so that you could knock your imprisoned peerie out. But while you were trying to do this the other boys were all having shots at your peerie with their pikers. Their ambition was to split your peerie.
Ags.17 1937:
The rhyme to secure the last and favourite shot: I've a peerie, I've a string, Henmaist dab at the peerie ring.
(5) wm.Sc. 1954 Bulletin (19 March) 4:
[Lord Kelvin] once spent a whole summer at the coast dozing peery stones and skiting spinners over the sea. That was in aid of not only observing but also of understanding the mystery of the gyroscope.
(6) Rnf. a.1813 A. Wilson Poems (1876) 13:
Auld Saunders begoud for to wink. Syne couped as sound as a peerie.
Gsw. c.1832 Whistle-Binkie (1890) II. 21:
He sleeps like a peerie. 'tween father and me.
Bwk. 1863 Border Mag. (July) 40:
Were't nae for that cutty, Jean, I'd sleep as sound as a peerie!
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 134:
He waunered in the hame-gaun, and lying doon on the roadside, fell as soon's a peerie in less than a meenont.
Arg. 1912 N. Munro Ayrshire Idylls (1935) 292:
I'm no' complainin', I aye tak' my meat, and sleep like a peerie.

2. A small pear-shaped wooden handgrip on the end of the cord of a weaving loom. Sc. 1844 P. Chalmers Dunfermline 356:
On the lower end of these cords were pieces of rag, named bobs, sometimes of wood, named peeries, from their resemblance to a child's toy, laid hold of by the weaver in drawing the cords.

3. A fir cone, from its pear-like shape (s.Sc. 1965). Comb. fir-peerie, id. (Uls. 1965). Rxb. 1958 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. 22:
We would go for scrogs or chestnuts and sometimes herried nests; gethered peeries.

4. The ornamental flourish which often decorates the apex of a peaked object, e.g. the pom-pom on the top of a hat or suchlike, a Toorie, q.v., a tuft. Hdg. 1883 J. Martine Reminisc. 344:
Beautiful grain stacks . . . tightly “raiped” down, so as to stand the blast of all storms, and with an ornamental “peerie” on the apex.

5. A conical-shaped tool for taking out dents in bore-hole tubes (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 50); a small conical drill for boring (Sc. 1950 B.B.C. Broadcast (12 May)).

6. A small stone marble (Bnff. 1930; Mry., Bnff., Abd. 1965).

7. A plump, lively child. m.Sc. 1897 A. Rodger Poems 134:
Lively, louping, plump wee peerie.

[O.Sc. pery, = 1., 1665.]

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"Peerie n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 May 2021 <>



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