Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SCUFF, v., adv., n. Also skuff; †scaff (in sense III. 4.). [skʌf]

I. v. 1. To touch lightly in passing, to graze, to draw one's hand, etc. quickly over the surface of something, to brush off or away (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 423). Gen.Sc. Also fig. of a slight shower of rain (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 151), of a low sound, etc.; to take surreptitiously, pilfer, “swipe”. Dmf. 1723  Sermon by P. Linn 18:
Like what you call a Flying Shower or Scuffing Rain.
Ags. 1815  G. Beattie Poems (1882) 204:
The watchfu' mate flaff'd i' the gale . . . Now soar'd aloft, now scuff'd the ground.
Ayr. 1826  Galt Last of Lairds xxxviii.:
I just scuffed it doun wi' the head o' my staff.
Edb. 1844  J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie viii.:
This waesome croonach scuffs his ear.
Lth. 1853  Justiciary Reports (1855) 261:
A stone 2 lbs. weight had been thrown down the pit and had scuffed his right shoulder.
Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 151:
Scuff the stew aff o' yir sheen.
Edb. 1875  J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie 356:
“Scuffin' the poor-box clink”, pilfering money, etc.
Ags. 1901  W. J. Milne Reminiscences 89:
The gut-ends juist scuffed his nose an' he never moved.
Abd. 1928  Abd. Weekly Jnl. (1 Nov.) 9:
He felt a “wheen” stray pellets “scuff his shins”.

2. To hit (a ball, etc.) with the flat of the hand, to strike with a glancing blow (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Uls. 1953 Traynor). Hence scuffin' hails, a street-game consisting in two teams trying to scuff a rubber or paper ball to a hail or goal at either end of a pitch (Watson); to beat the ears from a head of oats (Uls. 1953 Traynor).

3. To touch at or pay a short visit to (a place) in passing. e.Lth. 1899  J. Lumsden Poems 251:
Through ‘Hell's Gates' to the Red Sea, Scuffing Perim.
e.Lth. 1908  J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 192:
The clachan o' Innerwick's stuck on a brae, Which by guid luck I only just scuff'd.

4. To ruffle or stir up the surface of anything lightly, as in digging or hoeing, to do work in a light superficial or careless manner (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 151).

5. tr. and intr. To shuffle with the feet, to draw the feet over (the ground, floor, etc.) in a light but noisy manner, to scuffle (Sc. 1794 J. Ritson Sc. Songs (1869) II. 570; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 151). Gen.Sc. Also in Eng. dial. Abd. 1768  A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 145:
With a pair of rough rullions to scuff thro' the dew.
Sc. 1897  W. Beatty Secretar xlviii.:
To whilk speech, after I had skuffed the boards with my feet . . . I made answer.
Sc. 1902  Blackwood's Mag. (Jan.) 41:
I vainly tried to scuff over the boards with my leather-soled shoes in the same noisy fashion.
Abd. 1932  D. Campbell Bamboozled 35:
Yon awfa reid pair yer ain mither used tae scuff-scuff in.

6. To wear away (clothes) with hard usage, to make worn and shabby, to tarnish (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 170, 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1904 E.D.D.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 265). Gen.Sc.; to wear for rough work or odd jobs (Sc. 1808 Jam.); intr. to go about in old clothes (Id.). Ppl.adjs. scuffed, shabby, tarnished, damaged (Uls. 1953 Traynor). Gen.Sc. Also U.S.; fig. of persons: scruffy, disreputable; scuffin, of clothes: second-best (Fif., Slg., Lnk., Kcb., Dmf. 1969). Fif. 1827  W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 90:
Wide copes, great hoods a' riv'n and rent, And scapularies scuff'd and shent.
Sc. 1828  Blackwood's Mag. (Feb.) 232:
Charging his son not to skuff out his shoes.
Ayr. 1836  Galt in Tait's Mag. (Jan.) 33:
He came back, shewing in the two scuffed women.
Gsw. 1862  J. Gardner Jottiana 59:
In second best (or as they ca') Her scuffin gown.
Fif. 1886  W. Wilson Echoes of Anvil 79:
Our velvet broon coat, though scuffed at the tail.
Arg. 1914  J. M. Hay Gillespie i. viii.:
He was that scuffed lookin', I couldna keep my eye off the tie he'd on.
Fif. 1916  G. Blaik Rustic Rhymes 133, 160:
Sae I mun aff at aince my brat, An' don my buits an' scuffin hat, . . . Sae I pat on my scuffin' goon, An' ta'en a stap 'wa' doon the toon.
Uls. 1913  A. Irvine My Lady of Chimney Corner ix.:
A piece of paper yellow with age and so scuffed with handling that the scrawl was scarcely legible.
wm.Sc. 1936  W. C. Tait All Her Days 59:
Mirren's eyes almost bored through the scuffed wood.
Fif. 1961  People's Jnl. (7 Jan.):
Nae matter though they [boots] 're gie weel scuffed, The new are ne'er the same.

Hence adj. scuffie, -y, shabby, worn, tarnished, mean-looking, lit. and fig. (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 265; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; ne., m. and s.Sc. 1969); niggardly (ne.Sc. 1969). Ayr. 1861  Carrick Anthol. (Finlayson) 210:
His character was gayan scuffy.
Lnk. 1895  W. C. Fraser Whaups xiii.:
He wears black claes, awfu' scuffy.
Edb. 1928  A. D. Mackie In Two Tongues 16:
Dinnae spurn The scuffy bass, for yince inowre ye'll learn The hoose is braw.
Bnff. 1930 6 :
The aul fermer treatit me in a gey scuffy wye.
Fif. 1935  Rintoul & Baxter Fauna of Forth 77:
A few pairs [of tree sparrows], in gradually diminishing numbers and increasingly scuffy plumage.
Abd. 1968  Buchan Observer (20 Aug.) 2:
Gie skuffie wis the feed.

II. adv. With a whizzing or scuffling noise, in a scuffing grazing manner (Abd., Ags. 1969). Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 151:
A hard the stane gang scuff past the side o' ma hehd.

III. n. 1. A glancing or brushing stroke of the hand, a slight touch or graze in passing (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 151; Uls. 1953 Traynor), a hasty wipe (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., Rxb. 1969), a slight sweeping, hoeing or the like (Gregor). Gen.Sc.; a puff of wind (Uls. 1953 Traynor). Gall. 1824  MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 423:
The scuff is the wind, as it were; the scuff of a cannon ball, blows a man to pieces.
Edb. 1839  D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xxiii.:
After giving his breeches-knees a skuff with his loof, to dad off the stoure.
Dmb. 1899  J. Strang Lass of Lennox xv.:
Gie'in' his een a bit scuff wi' the back o' his haun'.
Bnff. 1924  Swatches o' Hamespun 34:
Bit fat's a scuff on the back o' the heid?
Rxb. 1925  E. C. Smith Mang Howes 23:
A skuff doon wui a claes-brush.

2. A kind of scraper used by a blacksmith for raking and trimming his fire (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). Cf. Scuffet.

3. A flat stick or bat used in the game of handball (Rxb. 1825 Jam.). See also Scuif.

4. A slight passing shower of rain (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 421; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 151; Ayr. 1928; ne.Sc., Lth., sm.Sc. 1969). Hence scaffie, of a shower: fleeting (MacTaggart). Kcb. 1895  Crockett Moss-Hags xlviii.:
A dark gloomy day, with scuffs of grey showers.
Abd. 1928  J. Baxter A' Ae 'Oo' 9:
An antrin April scuff or twa.

5. A collection of low characters, the scum of the population, riff-raff, the rabble (Per., Fif., Lth., wm.Sc. 1969); an individual of this class (Peb. 1950). Sc. 1838  Chambers's Jnl. (27 Jan.) 1:
Nobody here but scuff.
Edb. 1844  J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie x.:
On King's birthdays thy squibs and pluffs, Slapp'd in the face o' drucken scuffs.
Abd. 1880  G. Webster Crim. Officer 103:
Apprehen'in' William Ogilvie, a wanderin' kin' o' a scuff.

6. A spree, carousal, the “batter”, esp. in phr. (up)on the scuff. Sc. 1832  Chambers's Jnl. (July) 193:
If he is sure every Saturday, when he gets his wages, to go upon the scuff.
Crm. 1854  H. Miller Schools 323:
We got upon the skuff after you left us.

7. A scuffle, a rough-and-tumble fight, a brush. Sc. 1715  West-Country Intelligence (13 Dec.) 7:
The frequent scuffs betwixt the students and the soldiers.

[Orig. prob. chiefly imit., confused in some meanings, e.g. I. 1. and III. 5., with scruff, Scruif, and Scuffle. The word is recorded first and most frequently in Sc. O.Sc. has skuff, a jibe, skoof, to slur over, 1560.]

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"Scuff v., adv., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 8 Dec 2019 <>



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