Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SKEER, v., n., adj. Also skeir, skier, skear, scear, sker-; skirr-; skyre, skire. Sc. forms, also in Eng. and U.S. dial., of Eng. scare. See also Scar. Sc. usages. [ski:r, †skəir]

I. v. 1. tr. As in Eng., to frighten, alarm (n.Sc., Slg., Fif., Lth., Ayr., Wgt., Rxb. 1970). Sc. 1873 D. M. Ogilvie Willie Wabster 9:
And ay he skirled to skyre the skrae.
Sc. 1880 J. Skelton Crookit Meg xvii.:
What gars you skeer an auld wife wi' sic antics?
Fif. 1886 G. Bruce Poems 336:
He was bumbased, and almost feared — He was at first sae sudden skeired.
Per. 1897 C. R. Dunning Folk-Lore 6:
Deav'd wi her skirlin' an' skeer'd wi' her muckle e'en.
s.Sc. 1901 Border Mag. 135:
Mebbe, folk are na sae easy skeert wi' 'im [the Devil] as they were lang syne.
wm.Sc. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days xxi.:
I wouldn't be skeered, Cap', if I was you.
Abd. 1917 D. G. Mitchell Clachan Kirk 99:
A lauch is a sma' thing; but hoo mony does it skeer awa?

2. To shy away from, to shun, slight, neglect. Slk. 1835 Fraser's Mag. (Sept.) 281:
I wonder what can him provoke To skyre his mate sae sair.

3. intr. To shrink, startle, to shy away, recoil in fright or aversion (Cai. 1970). Sc. 1828 Lord William in Child Ballads No. 254 B. xiv.:
And when she came to Mary's kirk She skyred like the fire.

4. To look in a silly, amazed manner (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 165, skyre). Ppl.adj. skyrin, having a silly, frightened look (Id.).

II. n. 1. A fright, scare (n.Sc. 1880 Jam.; Cai. 1970).

2. A person of silly, amazed look (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 165, skyre). Cf. I. 4.

III. adj. Of human beings or animals, esp. horses: nervous, agitated, fearful, restive, in a state of great excitement, “worked-up”, highly-tensed, flighty, skittish, of a girl, behaving in a strange or irrational manner, mentally unstable, crack-brained (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.). Comb. skyre-leukin, having a vacant foolish look (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 165). More commonly in derivs. skeerach (Per. 1950), ske(e)rie-, scearie, skirry, adj., id. (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 427; wm.Sc. 1880 Jam.; Ork. (skirry), n. and m.Sc., Rxb. 1970), also used as a n., a wild, undisciplined girl, a skittish, mad-cap romp (wm.Sc. 1880 Jam.). Combs. skeer-eyed, squint-eyed (Ayr. 1904 E.D.D.). This usage is somewhat doubtful. Cf. skyre-leukin above; skeerie-ma-linkie, skittish, frolicsome, wild (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 266); skeer-wittit, silly, foolish, skeer-wud, stark mad (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.). Rarely in ppl. form skeart = skeerie above. Mry. 1825 T. D. Lauder Lochandhu xxi.:
A wee skier wi' ower muckle drink.
Ags. 1860 A. Whamond James Tacket vii.:
Scarcely compos mentis, which the people expressed by saying that he was a little skeir.
Ags. 1873 T. Watson Poems 18:
His piercin' een and visage swart Wad made a skeerie maiden start.
Abd. 1888 Bon-Accord (1 Sept.) 18:
Skeerie of passing the place o' nights.
Ork. 1894 W. R. Mackintosh Peat-fires 243:
She did not know that “Luggie” was “skirry” or she would have flung her “bootie” to have scared him.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) 138:
That very mornin' afore he deid his favourite dog gaed clean skeer.
Ags. 1914 I. Bell Country Clash 125:
Miss Marthy, you're fair skeart the nicht.
Fif. 1916 G. Blaik Rustic Rhymes 13:
Wanters wad their faces thraw, An' ca' sic lassies skeerie.
Ags. 1945 S. A. Duncan Chrons. Mary Ann 47:
We thinks o' bangin' thim ee door-knocker, but passers-by micht think us skeery.

[The forms with [i] are unexplained though found from the 14th c. onwards. See note to Scar.]

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"Skeer v., n., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Oct 2021 <>



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