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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

PERNICKETIE, adj., adv., n. Also perni(c)kitie, -y, pir-, pick-, -ketty, -kittie, -kertie, pernikket(i) (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), 1914 Angus Gl.), perneekity (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.); perneckety; persnickety; pernackety; parnackity; pernigglety (Kcb. 1900); prignickitie (Rxb. 1825 Jam.); pirnickerie (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.); pernicky; and quasi-ppl. forms pernicked, pernicket(t) (Rxb. 1942 Zai).

I. adj. 1. Of persons and their actions, etc.: (1) extremely fastidious, very precise, obsessed by detail, fussy, niggling, over-scrupulous (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)). Gen.Sc., now entering St. Eng. Noun derivs. pernickertyism, ¶pick-, pernickittiness, fussiness, fastidiousness, niggling attention to detail. Cf. Perjink.Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1863) I. 217:
I maun confess that I like the Englishers, if they wadna be sae pernicketty about what they eat.
Rnf. 1828 Paisley Mag. 92:
The other derides such regularity, and accuses his orderly neighbour with being very pernickity.
Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 114:
Behold, wi' white neck on his coatie, Pirnicky, tidy, Obliging, civil, Jamie Scottie.
Abd. 1868 G. Macdonald R. Falconer xiii.:
But Robert wadna like me to tak siller whaur I did nae wark for 't. . . . He's some pernickety, Robert.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 279:
Nane o' yer prim, preceese, straicht-up, soorick-moo'd picknickertyism kin' o' genteelity for me.
Lnk. 1889 A. G. Murdoch Readings I. 15:
If it tastes hauf as weel as it smells, the pirnickiest mooth'll ha'e naething to fin' faut wi'.
Sc. 1900 Spectator (15 Dec.) 877:
It behoves every Minister to be careful to the point of fastidiousness, or, if you will, pernickittiness.
wm.Sc. 1934 T. Smellie Tea-Pairty 10:
They're maybe kinna nerra and contractit aboot things, and whiles a bit pernickety.
Abd. 1956 People's Jnl. (8 Dec.) 13:
Naebody seems tae hae the same pride in their wark an' naebody bathers aboot bein' pernickity.
m.Sc. 1992 James Meek Last Orders 140:
It's Sunday, they'll be closed, said Gordon.
And you need a licence.
Aye. They're pernickety.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 67:
' ... And he did, John, he did. Fower thoosan pund,' he finished hoarsely, pouring himself a fresh brandy, 'for a lump o rock, a flock o geese and a rickle o stanes that ye wouldna keep pigs in. At that price I didna even fetch back ma sheep - it would hae been ower pernickety, d'ye no think?'

(2) “prickly”, cantankerous, touchy, curmudgeonly, bad-tempered (Abd., Kcb., Uls. 1920); ill-natured, testy, hard-to-please (Sh. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 170, parnackitie, 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1965).Dmf. 1814 Early Life Carlyle (Froude 1896) I. 31:
A scurrilous, blackguarding, flattering, vexing, pernicked, humorous, witty, daft letter it is.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xxxi.:
I never saw any mortal man look as that pernicketty personage, the bailie, did at this joke.
Sc. 1827 C. I. Johnstone Eliz. de Bruce I. iii.:
[He] acquired the not less significant, and more appropriate title of Auld Pernickitie.
Fif. 1898 S. Tytler Mrs Carmichael's Goddesses xviii.:
You cannot believe that I lifted my hand to a purse-proud pirnickitie auld cadger like auld Powrie.
Sc. 1926 L. Moon Drumorty 48:
You're a persnickety old maid, there's no' a romantic hair on yer head.

2. Of things: requiring close attention or great care, fiddling, ticklish, intricate, troublesome (s.Sc. 1825 Jam., pirnickerie). Gen.Sc.; carried out in a niggling and mean-spirited manner.Bnff. 1880 J. F. S. Gordon Chron. Keith 69:
In future life these pernickitie minutiae were set at nought and exploded.
Sc. 1965:
It's pernickety work, compiling a dictionary.

II. adv. In a fussy and punctilious way, painstakingly.Lnk. 1889 A. G. Murdoch Readings I. 37:
Ye're no to be perneckety modest, an' set up an affronted refusal.
Cai. 1896 J. Horne Canny Countryside 210:
His hair . . . wis drookit wi' hair-ile an' combed most pernicked.

III. n. A detail, trifle, over-refinement, punctilio.Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie xcii.:
Surely we're no to stand on such pernicketies wi' the like o' Martha Docken and her oye.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 112:
There's nae eese for ony o' yer niceties or pick-nickerties here, comfort's afore ceremonie.

[Orig. uncertain. In form Per-, intensive pref., + a deriv. of Nick, but phs. due to some conflation of finicky, finical, + particular, with influence from ppl. forms.]

Pernicketie adj., adv., n.

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"Pernicketie adj., adv., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Feb 2024 <>



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