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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SIFT, v. Also †siff (Sc. 1713 White Swan with Black Feet 18). Freq. form siffer.

Sc. usages: 1. As in Eng. Vbl.n. siftin, a sprinkling or light scatter (of snow) (Per. 1970). Phr. †siftin (da) siller (see quot.) (Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 193).Abd. 1898 J. M. Cobban Angel viii.:
A sifting of snow on the ground.
Sh. 1920 J. Nicolson Folk-Tales 81:
Hallowe'en, however, afforded the greatest scope for peeping into the future. One method was that known as siftin' da siller. A girl would go all alone into a dark room, and placing some silver coins on a sieve, would take her stand in front of the window and repeat, as she moved the sieve with a circular motion: — “My siller I sift, my siller sift I, If I be ta get a man, may he pass by.”

2. In freq. form sifter, to grope about fumblingly in darkness, to feel one's way (Ork. 1929 Marw.), sc. from the similar motion of the hands in sifting meal, etc.

3. To be inquisitive, gen. in agent n. sifter, a “nosey-parker” (Dmf. 1970).

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"Sift v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Mar 2023 <>



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