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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

PRAT, n., v. Also pratt; prot (n.Sc.); pret(t), prate.

I. n. 1. A trick, prank, practical joke, a piece of mischief (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis; n.Sc. 1808 Jam., prot; ‡Sh. (prett), Cai. (prot) 1966); also applied jocularly to ill deeds of a more serious nature, “a wicked action” (Sc. 1808 Jam.), a misdeed. Comb. ill-prat, id. Derivs. pratty, protty (Sc. 1808 Jam.), pretty, adj., freq. in comb. ill-pratty, -pretty, mischievous, ill-doing, naughty (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.). Also in ppl. form ill-pratted, -pretit, -prottit, id. (Cai. 1903 E.D.D.); pratfu, pret-, full of pranks (Lth. 1825 Jam.).Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis:
Roguish or waggish boyes, are called Ill-pratty.
Abd. 1746 W. Forbes Dominie Depos'd (1765) 33:
The kirk then pardons no such prots.
Sc. 1756 M. Calderwood Journey (M.C.) 266:
I tell him fine stories about the Highlanders and the Pretender in the time of the rebellion, and all the ill prats of the Duke of Cumberland.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 231:
Pate o' the Pans play'd a sad prat, by casting in twa pounds of candle among the kail.
Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 325:
A pratefou callan' lately set a girn; The hare was grippit — but nae near hand dead.
Sc. 1812 W. Hanna Life T. Chalmers (1849) I. 293:
You always thought me an ill-pratted chiel.
Fif. 1824 J. Bissett Poems 191:
They are a base unruly set, For playing you sic a nasty pret.
Ags. 1859 C. S. Graham Mystifications 14:
Lord Gillies was reminded of the time when he was an ill prettie laddie, and of breaking the lozens of one of her windows.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin iii.:
The licence to play ill pratts maun, in his case, be raxed to its utmost limits.
Ags. 1894 F. Mackenzie Cruisie Sk. 126:
When I was a wean, I wad never hae ventured into ony sic pretts.
Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928):
Yon is a bony prett.

2. Specif., an act of disobedience of mischief in a horse, a jib; a bad habit or vice in a horse. Phr. to tak the prat(e), to be disobedient, to jib, refuse (Rxb. 1825 Jam.); to take the huff, to sulk (Rxb. 1967).Sc. 1713 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) II. 177:
He takes his horse, was a very good one, [and] free from all pratts.
Rxb. 1808 A. Scott Poems 164:
The beastie Took aft the prat apo' me.

II. v. 1. To play tricks, “lark around”, act in a mischievous, light-hearted manner, to romp; of a horse: to be disobedient or restive, to jib, refuse, misbehave (Rxb. 1825 Jam., ‡1923 Watson W.-B.).Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 89:
Some Beaus may snarl if we should prat.
Lth. 1801 J. Thomson Poems 60:
And to her breast she drew him in, Syne he a prattin' did begin.
Peb. 1836 J. Affleck Poet. Wks. 60:
I [horse] never pretit onie where At midday, night or morn.

2. With wi: to meddle or interfere with, to have dealings with, occupy oneself with, play around with, tamper, trifle or “fiddle” with.Edb. 1851 A. Maclagan Sketches 153:
As for her sons, their foes will find They're no to prat wi'!
m.Lth. 1858 Dark Night 211:
Thae simmer caulds is no tae be pretted wi'.
Slg. 1876 A. B. Grosart Wilson's Poems I. xxix.:
He is a man of some means and substance, and not at all one whom it would be safe to prat wi', or try conclusions with in any way.
Per. 1897 C. R. Dunning Folk-Lore 4:
Thae brownies warna to prat wi'! They played gey pliskies whiles, an' did muckle mischeef.
Slg. 1964:
Dinna pret wi that knife.

[O.Sc. pratt, n., a trick, prank, 1513, pratting, ppl.adj., false, deluding, 1570, prattie, adj., restive, mischievous, of a horse, c.1650, O.E. prœtt, a trick, guile.]

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"Prat n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Apr 2024 <>



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