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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SCLAFF, v., n., adv. Also sklaff, and freq. forms sclaffer, sklaffer (Gregor). [sklɑf, Inv. slɑf, ʃlɑf]

I. v. 1. To strike with the open hand, or with some flat surface, to slap (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 158; Abd., m.Sc. 1969); to throw down flat (Gregor).Abd. 1931 Press and Journal (19 Feb.):
They hae a gluff that gies the feck O' folk a sclaffin dunshach.
Edb. 1992:
I sclaffered my hand on the door when I was trying to get the table oot the room.
Gsw. 1999 Anne Donovan in Moira Burgess and Donny O'Rourke New Writing Scotland 17: Friends and Kangaroos 36:
The cauld hits you as soon as you're ootside, efter the heavy door sclaffs shut. Oor hair is soakin, plastered tae wer heids and wee dreeps run doon the back of yer neck.

2. Golf: to graze (the ground) with the club in the act of striking the ball and so shorten the shot (Sc. 1897 Encycl. Sport I. 473), to hit (the ball) in this way. Gen.Sc. In 1957 quot. of a football kick sim. delivered.Sc. 1887 W. G. Simpson Art of Golf 163:
A great secret of steady putting is to make a point of always “sclaffing” along the ground.
Sc. 1891 J. G. MacPherson Golf and Golfers 14:
It mattered not whether his master “sklaffed”, or “topped”, or “heeled” his ball.
Sc. 1904 Westminster Gazette (13 May) 3:
An uncertain proportion are shorter, in consequence of sclaffing the ground.
Sc. 1950 St. Andrews Cit. (14 Oct.) 5:
In playing the proper club, should he perform the action known as “top” or “sclaff” the ball, he is in default as if he had played the wrong club, and must therefore penalise himself one stroke.
Sc. 1957 Scotsman (14 Nov.):
Medwin “sclaffed” a shot from about six yards which was just wide of the post.
Sc. 1995 Scotland on Sunday (2 Jul) 20:
By then, Thistle had sclaffed and miskicked in front of goal and then gone behind to a gem.
Sc. 1999 Herald (28 Aug) 5:
Lambie brought in his own players over the close season and directly from the second-half kick-off on Saturday, one of these superior sportsmen sclaffed the ball straight to an opponent.
Sc. 1999 Herald (20 Sep 5):
"Maybe if I had sclaffed the ball, it would have gone in."

 Deriv.: sclaffer, A player who sclaffs.Sc. 1994 Scotland on Sunday (3 Apr):
When his caddie handed Lietzke his driver, he whipped off the cover, only to find the banana, decomposing badly, mangled around the clubhead.
"What the ..." gasped Lietzke in astonishment.
Fellow sclaffers, there is a moral here somewhere for us.
I'm just not sure where it is.
Sc. 1998 Herald (17 Feb) 33:
Word of the Week, thanks to the efforts of goalkeepers Woods and Schmeichel, is undoubtedly a sclaff. Our dictionary tells us the original meaning is to strike with the open hand or something flat.
In golf, sclaff means to graze the ground with the club in trying to strike the ball. With the advent of the pass-back rule, the associated noun is "sclaffer" - "a big clumsy flat-footed person."
Sc. 2001 Scotland on Sunday (30 Sep) 17:
... at least they could book a round. At the 18th, sclaffers pulled up short of that famous lake with the fountain as ducks waddled by untroubled on the green where Sam Torrance once memorably stood receiving the acclaim of the galleries.
Sc. 2002 Herald (28 Mar) 33:
With the Masters now only two weeks away, golfers, and even that other poor breed known as sclaffers, are lovingly looking at their clubs and savouring the start of the new season.
Sc. 2002 Herald (9 Apr) 28:
Yes, Doug Ford, king of the Masters sclaffers, is no more. Or, at least, Ford is no more at Augusta National. Licking the wounds accrued from a whopping 406-over-par for the 31 Masters Ford has played since last making the cut in 1971, he is currently laid up at home and in a sulk.

3. To walk in a flat-footed or shuffling way, to plant the feet with a slapping motion or sound on the ground in walking (Fif., Lth. 1825 Jam.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 265; ne. and m.Sc. 1969). Also in freq. form sclaffer, id. (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 159; Arg. 1882 Arg. Herald (3 June); ne.Sc. 1969). Adj. sklaffy(-fittit), shuffling (Fif. c.1850 Peattie MS.; Per. 1950). Deriv. sclaffer, see II. 3.; a shuffling gait (Per. 1915 Wilson); a big clumsy flat-footed person; a flat foot (ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1969). Comb. sklaff-fittit, flat-footed (Cai., Bnff., em.Sc. (a), Gsw., Wgt. 1969).Arg. c.1850 L. McInnes S. Kintyre (1936) 29:
Nor I a sclaty scybal thus To sclaffer after thee.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 158:
She eye gangs sklaffin' aboot wee aul' slippers on.
Fif. 1875 A. Burgess Poute 87:
His Shachlin Sklaffy Staps are Short.
Lnk. 1889 A. MacLachlan Songs 80:
D'ye ken yon big sclaffer ca'd “Wild Willie Hotch”?
Arg. 1917 A. W. Blue Quay Head Tryst 152:
Gosh! my inside sclaffered tae my heid.
Bnff. 1933 M. Symon Deveron Days 51:
Weel, syne I rise an' rax my shins, An' sclaffer owre the fleer.
Abd. 1964:
Keep your muckle sclaffers at peace!

4. To make a flat stone skip over the surface of water, to play at ducks and drakes (Ayr. 1969).

II. n. 1. A blow with the palm of the hand or some flat instrument, a slap, box on the ear, a falling-flat, a clap, thud (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 158; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 265; ne. and m.Sc. 1969); the noise made by such (Ib.). Phrs. to gie (someone, something) the sclaff, to do for, deal with, dispose of, finish off (someone or something) quickly and effectively (Fif. 1957); to play sclaff, to fall flat.Fif., Ayr. 1882 Jam.:
A sclaff on the lug, a sclaff on the ice. To play sclaff on the grund.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 115:
Wha's mair deservin' a sclaff than you!

2. Golf: a muffed shot, caused by the club grazing the ground before striking the ball. Gen.Sc. See v., 2. Adj. sclaffy, of a stroke: scrapy, muffed in this way. Comb. sclaff-mark, the scrape or hack made in the ground by such a stroke.Sc. 1887 W. G. Simpson Art of Golf 96, 111:
How coarse and sclaffy the latter's shots are by comparison! . . . His adversary's “sclaff” will send as far anything else, provided he has his grip firm.
Sc. 1928 Edb. Ev. News (19 April) 6:
He was sclaffy wi' his baffy, he was crooked wi' his cleek.
Fif. 1955 St. Andrews Cit. (13 Aug.) 6:
A six at the 13th, where he was in a sclaff mark from his drive.

3. A light loose-fitting shoe or slipper, an old worn-down shoe, sometimes used as a slipper (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 158; Fif. 1882 Jam.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 265; ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Fif. 1969). Freq. also in form sclaffer, id. (Gregor; Fif. 1882 Jam.; ne.Sc. 1969).Arg. c.1850 L. McInnes S. Kintyre (1936) 30:
Khetch . . . put her sclaffers on.

4. A thin solid substance (Gregor); a thin flat slice of anything (Cld. 1882 Jam.), esp. of food (Abd. 1969). Adj. sclaffery, in Mining: liable to break off in thin fragments, as the roof of a working (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 57). Cf. Sklefferie.

5. An untidy slatternly person (Fif. c.1850 Peattie MS., Fif. 1969), prob. an extended use of 3. Adj. sclaffie, untidy (Id.).

III. adv. Also in form sklaffer. Flat, smack, plump!; with a light flat step (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 159).

[Imit. of the noise made by a flat blow. Cf. Skleff.]

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"Sclaff v., n., adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Apr 2023 <>



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