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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.

SCRUIF, n., v. Also scruiff, scruf(e), †scroof, skreuf, skrüf, skröeff (I.Sc.); scrif(f), skriff, ne.Sc. forms screef, scrief, skreef, ¶screeth; skruf(f). Derivs. scriffle, scruffle. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. scruff, excrescence, scab. [skrøf, skrɪf; ne.Sc. skrif]

I. n. 1. As in Eng.: scurf, dandruff (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.- B., 1942 Zai; Sh., m. and s.Sc. 1969). Adj. scruify, scurfy (Watson).

2. A hardened skin or scab, a piece of encrusted skin, hair, dirt, filth or the like (Uls. 1924 Northern Whig (14 Jan.), scroof; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Ork., m.Sc. 1969). Adj. scruiffy, scruffy, filthy, caked with dirt (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., 1942 Zai; Ayr. 1969).Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 142:
[She] had wasted her body with water lythocks into a scrufe of skin and bane.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 332:
I ken he is no' vera bonnie, But scrooffie, an' scruntie, an' auld.
Ayr. 1928:
When ye're judging a man dinna luk for the scruiff and the scaw.

3. The skin itself, the epidermis. Comb. scruif-skin, the surface skin.Arg. 1732 Arg. Justiciary Rec. (Stair Soc.) II. 460:
Cutting off the scrufe or skinn of the flesh.
Slg. 1788 R. Galloway Poems 18:
But faith his nose will lose the scruf, Gif he fa' down.
Edb. 1792 New Year's Morning 13:
Yon daft coof, Wha dang aff Tonal's nose the scroof.
Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 41:
Till e'en the scruif-skin o' my moo Hangs like an empty blether.

4. A thin layer on the surface of anything, a film, crust, rind, hardened surface soil, moss, etc. (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 163; Uls. 1953 Traynor; I. and n.Sc. 1969), e.g. crust on bread, snuff of a candle (Ork. 1969), of snow or ice (Mry., Bnff., Abd. 1921 T.S.D.C.); also fig. the superficial aspect.Sc. 1700 R. Wodrow Early Letters (S.H.S.) 68:
Any cork or arcel of the scrufe of quhich is made corkie lit with quhich the peaple in the Highlands dy purple.
Sc. 1723 W. MacFarlane Geog. Colt. (S.H.S.) I. 404:
Under that there was an inch of scurff like mug metall.
Ork. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XVII. 234:
From its [Standing Stone] being clothed in moss or scruf, it has a very venerable majestic aspect.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 151:
He broke the scroof o' three or four [cheeses].
Bnff. 1869 W. Knight Auld Yule 39:
The scrif o' a'thing, too, he maistly kent, But never farther than the scrifin' went.
Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms Intro. 2:
Wha but the ill-deedie draigs o' the lan' or scruif o' the yird?
ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 192:
Another means to bring back a cow's milk, when taken away by a witch, was to pour a little of the milk that still remained on a boulder between the “screef an the stehn,” that is, below the lichen growing on the stone.
Uls. 1884 Cruck-a-Leaghan and Slieve Gallion Lays and Leg. 58:
He'd broken the scroof aff each saycret.
Ags. 1894 People's Friend (6 Aug.) 498:
A scriff o' cloud flew in front o' him.
Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.:
A skruf a frost.
Ork. 1920:
Tak the skreuf afo the week o the lamp.

5. Specif.: a kind of limpet, prob. from its covering the rocks like a crust.Bwk. 1842 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1849) 36:
Our fishermen distinguish three kinds of limpets: viz. . . . (2) Scroofs, which for bait are as little valued as the preceding. The foot is soft, greenish-grey, or olive-coloured and streaked, encircled with a paler margin: the sides of the snail bluish-grey; the snout cream-yellow, with olivaceous tentacula often dusky about the tips. The shell is strongly ribbed and rather vividly streaked in general with yellow or red, appearing especially on the inner side.

6. The layer of sward, or other vegetation on the surface of the ground (Sh., Cai., Abd. 1969).Sc. 1710 Philosoph. Trans. XXVII. 296:
The Surface is covered with a healthy, and (as they call it) a heathery Scurf.
Abd. 1719 Philorth Baron Court Book MS III 31:
Casting up the Scriff of the ground of Powsward and Gash moss.
Abd. 1817 J. Christie Instructions 39:
Without a bit of screef aboon, But bare and naked craigs o' stane.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 163:
There's a fine skreef o' girs on that shift.
Abd. 1925 R. L. Cassie Gangrel Muse 33:
An' swack little feeties trip licht o' the screef.
Abd. 1952 Buchan Observer (7 Oct.):
You may weel spier fa's to cast yer divots, gin sae be that ye ken o' a bittie o' gweed screef.

7. The surface of water or the sea (Sh. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 199; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Mry., Bnff., Abd. 1969).Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 69:
Dis made the sillicks begin ta bool i' da scrüiff o' da water.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 49:
A muckle selkie rakin' his heed abeun de skreuf o' the water.
Cai. 1921 T.S.D.C.:
Floating in 'ee scriff i.e. floating and partly submerged in the surface.
Abd. 1943 W. S. Forsyth Guff o' Waur 70:
“Peter's Thoombs” come glancin' to the screeth.
Sh. 1953 New Shetlander No. 35. 14:
The skröeff was broken in a blaze of mareel and a shining black monster was bundled aboard.
Bnff. 1958 Banffshire Jnl. (8 April):
Saumon i' the peels wid gae ma flee a rug Gin warmer air wid tryst them tae the scruff.

8. Applied to a person or collectively: a mean worthless character; the scum of the earth, riff-raff (m.Sc. 1969). Phs. orig. an Irish usage. Adj. scruiffy, mean, avaricious (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Gsw. 1935 McArthur & Long No Mean City vii.:
Behaving so much better than the ordinary “scruff” of Glasgow.
Gsw. 1958 C. Hanley Dancing in the Streets 44, 119:
You get out of this back, you wee scruff! . . . The best thing ye can dae wi scruff like that is kid on ye don't know they're alive.

II. v. 1. Freq. with ower: to cover with a thin crust or layer, to cake over; fig. to gloss over, to cover up some embarrassing or discreditable matter (Sh. 1969).Sc. 1699 Proper Project for Scotland 13:
To huddle all up, and scroof all over with Fair Generals.
Sc. 1726 Caled. Mercury (28 April):
What the Radical Judicatories of the Church . . . may apprehend, with respect to their intrinsick Power, from such Instances, but more especially this, if scruff'd over.
Abd. 1950 Buchan Observer (6 June):
When there was plenty of rich and juicy wild white clover to “screef” the leas.

Vbl.n. scriffin, -en, scruffin, a thin crust or covering, as of ice (Sc. 1808 Jam., scrufan); a membrane (Cai. 1904 E.D.D.) enveloping a calf or lamb at birth (Dmf. 1925 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. XIII. 38); the face of the earth; a small amount of anything, a sprinkling.Per. 1811 J. Sim Poems 65:
Ye filthy meager raggy-muffin, As e'er was kend upo' the scriffen.
Bnff. 1869 W. Knight Auld Yule 119:
For as the Gospel rifer grows, it flings Awa' the scriffin that's afore oor e'en.
Ags. 1879 Arbroath Guide (1 Mar.) 4:
Frae this cauld scruffin [he] took his crawl.
Abd. 1880 W. Robbie Yonderton xix.:
They were jist a lump o' wid an' the thinnest scriffin o' threed on them 'at ever ye saw.
Ags. 1892 Brechin Advert. (26 April) 3:
A sheer wilderness, wi' neathing on the face o' the scriffen but thorns an' thristles.
Slg. 1921 T.S.D.C.:
I just put a scriffan o' butter in the pan.
Sc. 1928 J. G. Horne Lan'wart Loon 23:
Tam tint his toungue-raik a' thegither, An' deil a scriffin had to tell.

2. To become covered with a film or crust (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 163).

3. (1) To pare or scrape (off) the surface or top layer of anything, to raze, graze, skin, peel (Sc. 1825 Jam.); to brush against, touch lightly. Also in form scriffle (Fif. 1958). Vbl.n. scruiffin, a thin paring or scraping, as of butter or cheese (Slg., Fif., Lnk. 1969).Fif. 1862 St. Andrews Gazette (3 Oct.):
The boy was sleeping on the cart and fell down, and his head was a little ‘scruffed' on the wheel.
Ags. 1963 D. Phillips Wiselike Ned 8:
His shoulders scriffing the walls on either side.

(2) specif. of sward or other vegetation: to loosen top soil, skim off weeds, etc., to hoe (Sh., Bnff., Abd. 1969). Hence screefer, a small sock fitted to a plough in front of the share to cut the top turf off old pasture as a skim coulter (Abd. 1921 T.S.D.C.); screef-mark, in forestry: the patch left by the removal of a piece of turf from the ground; scruiffin-time, the hoeing season.Sc. 1825 Jam.:
“It scruft the ground”, it glided along the surface. Applied also to slight and careless ploughing, when merely the surface of the ground is grazed.
Sh. 1892 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 246:
Whin da scruffin-time cam afore dey got da bere pooed oot an' da rig made tattie-laek again.
Abd. 1926 Trans. Bch. Field Club XIII. 82:
Small places had the turf skinned off or “scriefed”.
Sc. 1948 Country Life (8 Oct.):
To screef is to clear the ground of surface vegetation (such as heather) with a mattock or comparable tool.
Sc. 1950 R. Jenkins So Gaily Sings the Lark xxii.:
With the spade the vegetation was scraped away, and in the black ‘scrief-mark' as it was called an L notch was made, into which the tree was carefully inserted, the earth being firmed again by careful pressure of the heel.

(3) in golf: to graze the turf in striking the ball (Fif. 1857 H. B. Farnie Golfer's Manual 80, scruff).

(4) fig.: to deal with or discuss in a shallow superficial manner.Sc. 1720 E. Erskine Works (1871) I. 91:
How many are there who either scruff over the duty in a superficial manner, or else live in the total neglect of it.
Sc. 1825 Jam.:
He only scruft his subject.

4. To draw (something) lightly over a surface.Ags. 1929 Scots Mag. (May) 150:
He scriffed his haund doon ower his cheek.

[O.Sc. skruiff, skrufe, scurf, rubbish, 1559, skruif, to scrape off a surface, c.1590, scroofe, a thin crust or coating, 1591, scrufe, to slur over a matter, 1639, scrooffe, soil surface, 1683, Mid.Eng. scrofe, late O.E. scruf, met. form of scurf. Cf. also Norw. skurv, Icel. skurfur. For ne.Sc. forms cf. P.L.D. § 121.]

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"Scruif n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Mar 2023 <>



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