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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.

PRICK, v., n. Also prikk; preek, preik, prig. Freq. form prickle. Sc. forms and usages:

I. v. 1. As in Eng. Hence pricking, a thorn hedge on an earth rampart (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Also in Eng. dial. Combs. and derivs.: (1) pricker, n., (i) a contemptuous term for a tailor. Cf. (2) and (3) below; (ii) the basking-shark, Cetorrhinus maximus, from its projecting back-fin (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.); (iii) an instrument for piercing or pricking, specif. a long poker used by locomotive firemen (Dmb. 1964); (2) prick-the-clout, a jocular term for a tailor. Cf. (1) (i) above and (3) below. Also attrib.; (3) prick-the-louse, = (1) (i) and (2) above. Now only dial. in Eng. Jocular pl. -lice.(1) (i) m.Lth. 1793 R. C. Brown Carlop Green (1817) 126:
Here's frae Blair-bog, the pricker prim.
(ii) n.Sc. 1701 J. Brand Descr. Ork. 6–7:
Before Peterhead we saw the fins of a great Fish, about an yard above the Water, which they call a Pricker.
(2) Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter xii.:
Ye prick-the-clout loon.
(3) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 216:
Cou'd Prick-the-louse but be sae handy To make the breeks and claise to stand ay.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Reply to Trimming Epistle ii.:
Gae mind your seam, ye prick-the-louse, An' jag-the-flae!
m.Lth. 1793 R. Brown Carlop Green (1817) 126:
The twa pert prick-the-lice, Wee Yuky's sons.
Rnf. 1827 W. Taylor Poems 17:
To nicknames, nor to prick-the-louse, He ne'er gaed heed.
Ags. 1886 Arbroath Guide (12 June) 4:
He gangs nae mair noo to the hoose — The puir, wee, feckless prick-the-louse.

2. In Mining: to pierce (rock, etc.) with the point of a pick (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 52). Vbl.n. pricking, “a thin stratum suitable for holing in” (Ib.).

3. To slaughter a cow or the like by cutting the spinal cord at the back of the neck (Sh. 1966).Sc. 1899 Shetland News (4 Nov.):
“What dü ye ca' prikkin?” “Dey tak' a narrow sharp shiss'l, and set him i' da hole o' da koo's neck, behint her head, . . . an' wi' a straik apo da heft wi' da löff dey send him doon an' cut da möny, an' da koo fa's.”

4. As in Eng., to spur a horse. Hence pricker, a light horseman, a skirmisher, applied specif. in the Border country to a moss-trooper or reiver; hence later of the light pony on which he rode (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 144), comb. pricker-nail, a nail used in shoeing a small horse (Ib.).Sc. 1808 Scott Marmion i. xix., v. xvii.:
For here be some have prick'd as far On Scottish ground, as to Dunbar . . . Northumbrian prickers wild and rude.
s.Sc. 1824 J. Telfer Border Ballads 78:
“Gae hunt and kill,” the pricker cry'd “The fox sae sair forfoughte.”
Sc. 1894 W. Tweedie Arabian Horse 165:
What the cleverest collie is to the Cheviot shepherd, gives but a faint idea of what his mare is to the desert pricker.

5. Of grazing cattle: to stampede in an attempt to escape from the stings of gadflies and other insects, “to run as cattle do on a hot day” (Ags. 1825 Jam.; Bnff., Abd. 1966).Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis:
They say also that cattle prick, when they run to and fro in hot weather, being sting'd with gad-flees or such insects.
Nai. 1768 Session Papers, Campbell v. Rose (24 Dec.) 31:
They never came there unless when the cattle were pricking.
Bnff. 1852 A. Harper Solitary Hours 78:
Wi' her tail ower her rump — she's been prickin' like wid, The wasps an' the hornets wer' suckin her bluid.
Abd. 1903 W. Watson Auld Lang Syne 59:
As the day advanced, it became very hot, and the cattle stampeded (which we then called “prickin'”).
Abd. 1955 Huntly Express (20 May):
I niver saw less prickin' amon' oor beas'.

6. (1) To fasten or secure with a pin, skewer or the like (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Also fig. in 1722 quot. of being married.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 67:
Better fill'd than prick'd. Taken from Blood Puddings, apply'd jocosely to them who have often Evacuations.
Sc. 1722 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) III. 28:
Joukum and Rose were prick'd thegither.
Abd. 1746 W. Forbes Dominie Depos'd (1765) 40:
They said therefor The Clout about me would be pricked At the Kirk-door.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 20:
Their sacken sarks or gowns on them, like a piece of an auld canvass prickt about a body.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 133:
The warden's trunk-hose to his fecket Wi gowden corkin-priens was pricket.

(2) by extension: to dress oneself in a painstaking, elaborate way, to take great care with one's appearance, to titivate oneself (Rxb. 1825 Jam., preek, preik). Also with up. Also in Eng. dial. Freq. in phr. prick and prin (see Preen, v., 2.). Ppl.adj. preekt, preekit, dressed-up, foppish (Rxb. 1942 Zai). Combs. prick maleerie, an odd or eccentric-looking person, a figure of fun. Also attrib.. See Leerie, n.2; prick-me-dainty, -ma-denty, an affected, self-conscious person, a dandy, an exquisite (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Mry. 1966). Also attrib., = over-refined, mincing (‡Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bnff., Rnf., s.Sc. 1966). Hence prick-ma-daintilie, adv., mincingly, affectedly, in a selfconscious, finical way (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 178).Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie xxxiv.:
Gallanting frae Dan to Beersheba with an auld prickmalearie dowager.
Sc. 1824 Scott St. Ronan's W. xii.:
“Nane of your deil's play-books for me,” said she; “it's an ill world since prick-my-dainty doings came into fashion.”
Sc. 1831 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1864) III. 313:
Some of the betises of this prick-ma-dainty Reviewer.
Bwk. a.1859 W. Brockie Leaderside Leg. (1876) 46:
Nae wonder that ye're timmer-tuned, Preekt, pauchty, pudgel loons.
Sc. 1897 L. Keith Bonnie Lady vii.:
If he had told her what a high-bendit, prickmadenty lady he had in his mind's eye.
s.Sc. 1898 E. Hamilton Mawkin vi.:
She . . . took it to be one of her young prick-me-dainties coming a-jinking after her.
Kcd. 1932 L. G. Gibbon Sunset Song 76:
Chris . . . prigged out her hair in front of the glass.

7. tr. To thrust forward, to push prominently in front; to set high, as on a pinnacle. Cf. II. 2. (4).Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems I. 108:
I' the vera front in state, Forsooth, ye maun be prickit.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man (1973) xx.:
Gude faith but we are a queer set that are prickit up on the top o' this tower thegither!

II. n. 1. As in Eng., a sharp stab, or the pointed instrument which makes this, a mark, a dot, etc. Dim. prickie, a slight jab with a pin (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Adj. pricky, having sharp points or spines, prickly (Sc. 1903 E.D.D.; ne. and sm.Sc. 1966). Combs. and phr. Prickie and Jockie, a children's game played with pins (Rxb. 1825 Jam.). Also prickey-sockey, id. (see quot.); pricksworth, in neg. phrs., (not) a jot, tittle, scrap, etc.; to flit the pricks, appar. in 1815 quot. to criticise all round, to make petty censorious remarks about all and sundry.Lnk. 1760 Session Papers, Hutton v. Rive, State of Process 9:
As he had now a child of his own, Marion Hutton should never get a prick's worth of what belonged to him.
Sc. 1808 Jam.:
He didna leave me a pricksworth.
Kcb. 1815 J. Gerrond Works 71:
Characters here torn in tatter, Some throw clods, some flit the pricks.
Sc. 1898 A. B. Gomme Trad. Games II. 78:
Christmas morning is ushered in by the little maidens playing at the game of “Prickey Sockey”, as they call it. They are dressed up in their best, with their wrists adorned with rows of pins, and run about from house to house inquiring who will play the game. The door is opened and one cries out — Prickey sockey for a pin, I car [sic] not whether I loss or win. The game is played by the one holding between her two forefingers and thumbs a pin, which she clasps tightly to prevent her antagonist seeing either part of it, while her opponent guesses. The head of the pin is “sockey”, and the point is “prickey”, and when the other guesses she touches the end she guesses at, saying, “this for prickey,” or “this for sockey”. At night the other delivers her two pins.

2. Specif.: (1) a skewer (Sc. 1808 Jam.); “a wooden bodkin or pin for fastening one's clothes” (Ib.); the pointed head of a weapon or the like, an arrow-head, a spike, thorn. Obs. in Eng. in 17th c. Hence prick-batt, n., a metal staple having sharpened points (Lnl. 1719 Binns Papers (S.R.S.) II. 105). See also Bat, n.1; prick-horned, adj., of an animal: having erect horns like pricks or spikes.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 184, 198:
It's a bare Moor that you'll go o'er, and no get Prick to your Blanket. If ever you make a good Pudding, I'll eat the Prick.
Ayr. 1744 Munim. Irvine (1891) 331:
To the meal mercat of Irvine to 9 prick batts 12 lib. . . . 3s. 6d.
Sc. 1748 Session Papers, Stewart v. MacFarlane Proof 2:
A stript branded Quey of the same Age and Lugg-Marks with the Quey last mentioned, prick horned.
Lnk. 1757 H. Davidson Lanark (1910) 152:
Discharging all smiths within the burgh from making any pricks to arrows or darts to the schoolboys.

(2) a knitting-needle or -pin. Also used attrib., = made by means of knitting needles. knitted. Comb. prick-nib, the point of a knitting-needle. See also Neb, n.Sc. 1707 Records Conv. Burghs (1880) 431:
For the better improvement of stocking manufactures it is thought fitt that for hereafter all prick stockings may be made of three plyed wosten and of due proportione.
Abd.4 1929:
“Keep yer prick-nibs short,” said to children beginning to knit in the olden days, so that the work might be closer done.

(3) in pl.: (i) “the long polished iron tools used by bound makers in weaving” (Sc. 1818 Sawers).

(ii) “a V-shaped wooden contrivance on which to wind up a cod-line” (Ork. 1929 Marw.).

(4) a pointed piece of masonry, esp. the spire of a steeple. Cf. Pricket.Fif. c.1728 A. Mercer Dunfermline (1828) 180:
The height of the steeple, from the bottom to the top, is 198 foots; the length of the stalk, or prick, upon which the cock stands, is fifteen foot long.
Sc. 1929 F. Grierson Haunting Edinburgh 58:
His right hand adorned the prick of the West Port.

3. As in Eng., a spur, goad. Hence “impatient eagerness to accomplish anything” (Lnk. 1825 Jam., preek). Comb. prick-haste, great urgency or haste, “a tearing hurry” (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis).

[O.Sc. prik, a steeple, 1510, a knitting-needle, 1613. The long vowel form, arising from lengthening of i in O.E. prician, prica, is found in O.Sc. prek(e), from 1375.]

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"Prick v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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