Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SKELF, n.2, v. Also skelv(e), and reduced form skel. Dim. skelvock. [skɛlf]

I. n. 1. A thin flat fragment or slice, a flake, a lamina (n.Sc. 1808 Jam., skelve; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Cai. 1970), lit. and fig.; a splinter, small sliver or chip of wood, esp. one lodged in the skin (wm.Sc. 1880 Jam.; Uls. 1910 C. C. Russell People and Lang. 35; Slg. 1930; Uls. 1953 Traynor; I. and m.Sc. 1970). Dim. skelvock. Adj. skelfy, skelvy, laminated, tending to split in layers, splintery. Uls. 1884 Cruick-a-Leaghan and Slieve Gallion Lays and Leg. I. 88:
Nor a skelf av their hides, nor a tuft av their hair.
Sc. 1895 Dundee Advertiser (16 Nov.):
The lance-head in the whale has troubled it less than a “skelve” would bother a human being.
Arg. 1914 N. Munro New Road xxx.:
He cut a skelf from the boarding of one hole.
Mry. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 25:
It's but a wee bit, less or mair, A skelvock here, a murlie there.
Gsw. 1947 H. W. Pryde 1st Bk. McFlannels ii.:
He had a skelf in his finger.
Sc. 1959 Bulletin (8 May):
Don't neglect the pricks from rose thorns, rusty (or even clean) wires, a skelf of wood.

2. A very thin flagstone slab (Cai. 1970).

3. The chip cut out of the trunk of a tree at the start of felling (Kcd. 1950, skel); a wedge of wood driven into the cut by tree-fellers to ease the motion of the saw (wm.Sc. 1970).

4. A large snowflake. Hence skelvie, of snow: in large flakes. Sh. 1881–95 Williamson MSS.:
Every skelv is fain lek a skovin. . . . Da last snaa wis mair hailie an skelvie.

5. Fig. A small, thin, insignificant person (wm.Sc., Rxb. 1970). Gsw. 1927 Scots Mag. (June) 172:
Pit doon that fryin-pan, ye wee skelf.
wm.Sc. 1951 N. B. Morrison Hidden Fairing 97:
A wee skelf of a man put in his head.

II. v. 1. tr. To take off in or as in flakes, to slice (Sh., Per., Slg., wm.Sc. 1970). Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 106:
Ye can skelf aff da siller laek da leaves o' a beuk.
Gsw. 1953 Bulletin (13 March):
It prevents the fat from being absorbed by the body of the skelfed spuds.

2. intr. To flake, break into flat slices or fragments, e.g. of stone by weathering (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Ork. 1970). Ags. 1961 Forfar Dispatch (4 May):
The little enamel saucerie, blue ootside and white inside (for it hedna skelved).

[O.Sc. skelf, splinter, c.1610, prob. ad. Du. †schelf, a scale, flake, or splinter of wood. Cf. Skelfer below. The exact relationship to the forms Skelb, Skelp, n.2, is somewhat uncertain. The word is prob. ultimately cogn. with Skelf, n.1, from a root *skelf-, to split.]

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"Skelf n.2, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 6 Dec 2021 <>



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