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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

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 pre-arrangement 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).
m.Sc. 1979 Ian Bowman in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 41:
I'll gar their wulkies gang tapsalteerie
an' birl them roun' an' roun' like a peerie.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 57:
I'm gleg as a flech, spinnin like a peerie,
singin like a lintie an' oh, I canna weary.
Edb. 1991 Dae Ye Mind ...? Volume Three of Stories and Memories from Members of St. Ann's Reminiscence Group 35:
The three places were the only play areas for the boys living on the slope. Most importantly, they were paved. Great for Peerys and booley.
Rnf. 1993 History on your Doorstep, The Reminiscences of the Ferguslie Elderly Forum 5:
When I was a child in Port Glasgow the neighbours was out playing with the children, peever beds and everything, even the hoops, and piries; everybody joined in
Gsw. 1993 Margaret Sinclair Soor Plooms and Candy Balls 19:
Funny how each game came aroon', how did the weans know,
Peeries, girders, kick the can, in cycles they wid go.
wm.Sc. 1996 Robin Jenkins Lunderston Tales 11:
He had to go into the back shop and, amidst the smell of over-ripe pears, take a couple of paracetamol tablets, to calm the nerves in his stomach. His mind was spinning like a peerie.
Lnk. 1998 Duncan Glen Selected New Poems 46:
It is slantit wey across the Square, a cubist mirror
makin straucht what Empire State's orange shooders
twist. Time has a daunce on it,
five nudes cairryin you roond and roond. You're atap
a peerie in the sky. It is Henri Matisse's pentin, like ozone
and Venus, like licht years - stert and end yin.

Combs. and phrs.: (1) French peerie, a humming top (Lth., Dmb. 1965); (2) peerie heels, n.pl., 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); (7) peerie-top, = n. 1. (Sh., Ags., Fif., Edb., Ayr. 2000s).(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) Edb. 1938 Fred Urquhart Time Will Knit (1988) 245:
You didn't know what he'd think when he saw those peery heels and the powder on her nose. She looked a real fast one.
m.Sc. 1959 I. and P. Opie Lore and Language 182:
There she goes, there she goes, Peerie heels and pointed toes.
Gsw. 1972 Molly Weir Best Foot Forward (1974) 26:
She, however, continually sported new hats, and 'peerie heels' on her smart shoes.
m.Sc. 1994 Mary McCabe Everwinding Times 95:
Two girls, wobbling home, peerie heels and straight skirts. The lads closed in and a cloud of scent assailed their nostrils.
(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.
(7)wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 30:
"Dinnae scold him Bryce, he's wantin' Hugh. You ken Hugh could aye birl his peerie-top for him and make him reed-whistles. The bairn's jist lost,"

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)); a turnpin or tampon used by a plumber, from its shape (Sc. 1972 J. Hastings Plumber s Comp. 107).

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 29 May 2024 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/peerie_n1>

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