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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SKELP, v.1, n.1, adv. Also skilp, skellop. [skɛlp]

I. v. 1. (1) tr. and intr. To strike, hit, esp. with something flat, as the palm of the hand, etc., to slap, smack, specif. to smack the bottom, to spank (Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. Gl., 1808 Jam.; Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Agric. Ayr. 693). Gen.Sc. Vbl.n. skelpin, a thrashing, spanking, ppl.adj. skelpit in phr. skelpit leatherin, id. (Per., wm.Sc. 1970).Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. v. iii.:
They skelpit me when woodly fleid.
Abd. 1777 R. Forbes Ulysses 27:
[He] skelpit Hector's hips.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) I. 147:
They skelped at them night and day.
e.Lth. a.1801 R. Gall Poems (1819) 49:
Baith fools an' knaves you crousely bang, An' wightly wag the skelping whang.
Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 143:
You and Malachi 'll skelp their doups.
Fif. 1872 Mrs Cupples Tappy's Chicks 42:
With difficulty I could prevent her from giving Davie, who had laughed, “a gude skelping.”
Bnff. 1880 J. F. S. Gordon Chrons. Keith 66:
The Truant was led to the Dominie, who [dismissed] the Quines before the Skelpin.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona v.:
Getting skelped in the parish school.
Gsw. 1903 J. J. Bell Wee MacGreegor xv.:
“Wull yer Maw skelp ye?” inquired Willie gently.
Ags. 1915 V. Jacob Songs 25:
He'll skelp the scholars wi' the tawse.
Sh. 1922 J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 19:
If doo soodna a gotten a gude skelpit hide fur dy pains.
Bnff. 1934 J. M. Caie Kindly North 50:
Tae rugg their heids an' skilp their lugs.
Gsw. 1947 J. F. Hendry Fernie Brae ii. i.:
“Shut yer gub!” shouted his father, roused by frustration. “I'll gi'e ye a skelpit leatherin'!”
Wgt. 1952 Abd. Press and Jnl. (18 March):
[He] skelped Agnes on the bottom and on the face with his hand.
wm.Sc. 1965 Alan Sharp A Green Tree in Gedde (1985) 339:
'She doesn't skelp him.'
'Does he skelp her?' Moseby grinned and kissed her eyes.
'No, he doesn't. Now get to sleep.'
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 31:
... Maggie and Will held back from taking a toe to his rump or giving him the skelping they felt he so richly deserved.
Gsw. 1987 James Kelman Greyhound for Breakfast (1988) 63:
' ... Can you imagine? You'd have got your bloody arse skelped.' He called to his wife: 'That boy, it's a bloody good hiding he needs!'
Abd. 1987 Sheena Blackhall in Joy Hendry Chapman 49 56:
Shakkin weet fur
Like an auld mat skelpin the win'
I mistrust the shifty element o' wave.
Staunin heich an dry's a deity
I drap it a doon-luik,
An a distance opens, blank an wide's the haar.
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 23:
The Doctor's Messan set Scottish paitren
tae mak oor hoggs thair Scottish lugmairks tine.
For speakin Scots wee duddie bairns are skelpit.
Ayr. 1989:
Ye'll get a skelpit bum if ye dae that.
Lnk. 1991 Duncan Glen Selected Poems 26:
There bidit a man in Glasgow
lady, lady.
He was weill-kent for his weekly shauchle
doon to the broo. His lady, lady
pushed a pram to the steamy
and skelpt the bairns
oot onto the streets.
Edb. 1994 Gordon Legge I Love Me (Who Do You Love?) 102:
'Well, it's kind of like the way his face is the colour of a skelped arse.'
em.Sc. 1999 James Robertson The Day O Judgement 7:
Skelpit by cankert howderin storm
Ah! hou the yirth will rive an screed,
An like an ants' heap heaving, sae
The mools an lairs boak up their deid.
Sc. 1999 Herald (11 Sep) 16:
"I started working at the Playboy Club but I didn't tell my parents for about three months," says Ross. "I made a mention of it and my father said he would put me over his knee and skelp my backside if I did it. ..."

(2) to hit or strike in gen., to drive with blows, kicks, etc.; to beat or hammer. Gen.Sc. Phr. to let skelp, to let fly, to hit out.Edb. 1765 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 2:
Sae weel's he'd fley the students a' Whan they war skelpin at the ba'.
Slg. 1804 G. Galloway Luncarty 15:
Hither blith comes tinker John Who skelps the kettle.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 126:
We'll skelp him to hell, where his frien's will him crown.
Sc. 1876 S. Smiles Naturalist 17, 183:
The fun the boys had in skelpin' out the bees. . . . Sewing, hammering, and “skelping away at the leather”.
Lnk. 1892 W. Ewing Poems 20:
I let skelp with a stick.
e.Lth. 1903 J. Lumsden Toorle 248:
I e'en stown for them, an' skelpit Aft a lock aff kist or press!
Ags. 1929 Holyrood (Hamilton) 175:
Eh, the tow-row-row O' the brawny gow As he skelps on the stithy wi' a snae-snick-snee.

(3) Fig., of the blows of misfortune. Gen.Sc.Rxb. 1811 A. Scott Poems 18:
Mony a ane afttimes he helpit, Whan like to be wi' fortune skelpit.
Rnf. 1815 W. Finlayson Rhymes 114:
Sent me wi' a vengeance forth, By fortune skelpit.
Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 71:
Fate, the jaud, micht fume; Yet aye when she has skelp'd me warst, I've whistled on my thoom.
ne.Sc. 1937 Our Mither Tongue (MacWhannell) 313:
Though fortune skelps ye sairly.

2. intr. Of the veins: to beat, pulsate, throb; of a clock: to tick. Ppl.adj. skelping, throbbing (Uls. 1924 Northern Whig (14 Jan.), of a headache).Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 28:
“Wait on,” quoth Clock, “I scorn his Help, Baith Night and Day my lane I skelp.”
n.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
The veins are said to be skelpin, when the pulse beats very quick or hard, as in a strong fever.

3. (1) absol. or intr. with at: to work with energy or gusto at, to be vigorously busy (Bnff., Cld. 1880 Jam.; Sh., ne., m.Sc., Slk. 1970).Ayr. 1785 Burns 3rd Ep. J. Lapraik iii.:
I'm bizzie too, an' skelpin at it.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 312:
Whenever they came to a cramp word to pronounce, the Dominies bade them call that a passover, and “syne skelp awa”.
Sc. 1839 Wilson's Tales of the Borders V. 126:
Kilt yer coats, ye cutty, an' skelp at it.
Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 42:
Her gentler tailors sat in raws, Thrang skelpin at the Nairday braws.
Fif. c.1887 St Andrews Cit. (20 March 1937) 9:
For three long hours the battle raged, An' at it hard they skelpit.
Sc. 1952 Scots Mag. (May) 131:
Gin I had five pair o' they [horses] I could skelp on wi' the winter sowin'.
Sc. 1999 Herald (23 Aug) 17:
Their bare torsoed, hard-hatted, artistic welly skelpin' came at the end of an hour's music, movement, and impishness where unsuspecting audience members were yanked onstage to take part in dance sequences that quite possibly will now be giving them nightmares.

(2) tr. To do (a piece of work) vigorously, to reel or rattle off (Kcb. 1970). Freq. with up (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 157).Rnf. 1807 R. Tannahill Poems (1900) 90:
To skelp ye aff a blaud of rhyme.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 28:
Let me hear a cheel skelpin a sermon affloof.

4. (1) To strike the ground with the feet or hooves, specif. of running barefoot, or through puddles or mud, to skip, trip, scamper along, to gallop, move quickly, hurry (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Also absol. with it as cognate accus.Sc. 1720 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 178:
Instead of Coach, on Foot they skelp it.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Holy Fair vii.:
The lasses, skelpin barefit, thrang.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xiv.:
Skelping as fast as his horse could trot.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 47:
She took to her “scrapers”, and skelped home in a crack.
Fif. 1841 C. Gray Lays 228:
Through rhyme and sang I aften skelp it.
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 23:
We skilpit barefit i' the peels.
Sc. 1892 Stevenson Letters (1924) IV. 162:
All the time David Balfour is skelping along.
Fif. 1933 J. Ressich Thir Braw Days 54:
They tummelt oot an' skelpit doon Market Street like the Fife Hunt.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick vii.:
'E gidd skilpin ben 'e rodd.
m.Sc. 1991 Tom Scott in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 39:
Past trees o coral, sunken hulks, he gaed,
And fishes' maws grew rounder at the sicht.
Hermit-crabs fair couried doun frae them,
Dauphins skelpit awa like fleggit queyns,
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 44:
... they loss the urge
ti live, an e'en the warlike charge,
it whyles has haltit,
when freen an foe, lay doun the targe
an bushward skelpit.

(2) tr. and intr., of liquids: to (cause to) splash or dash, to spatter, pelt (Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Kcb. 1970).Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 157:
He skelpit up the wattir in 's face.
Bnff. 1884 Banffshire Jnl. (11 Nov.) 2:
The hail skelpin' doun the lum fill us wi' awe.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 131:
The rain and hail clashed and skelpit doon in torrents.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick iv.:
Flans o' shooers skilpin roon wir lugs.

5. Deriv. and comb. usages: (1) skelp-doup, a contemptuous epithet for a schoolteacher; (2) skelp-the-dub, contemptuously for a low-class menial or gadabout person; (3) skelper, (i) one who skelps or smacks (Sc. 1825 Jam.). For doup-skelper see Doup, n.1, 2. (1); (ii) a quick vigorous person; (iii) fig. anything big or impressive of its kind, e.g. of a fish (Bwk. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 167). Also in Eng. dial.; (4) skelpie, -y, adj., deserving to be smacked, naughty (wm.Sc. 1887 Jam.), gen. of a girl, hence skelpie-limmer, a mischievous girl, a little hussy; n., id. (Ib.; Dmf. 1894 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 155), “a little worth person” (Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems Gl.); (5) skelpin, big of its kind, “whacking great”, “thumping” (Sh., n. and m.Sc., Slk. 1970); hearty, vigorous, lusty, active (Sc. 1825 Jam.); (6) skelpor, ? = (3) (iii), a tall overgrown person. Also in Eng. dial. But cf. Scalpour.(1) Abd. 1863 G. Macdonald D. Elginbrod i. x.:
I dinna care the black afore my nails for ony skelp-doup o' the lot o' ye.
(2) Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail xci.:
A skelp-the-dub creature to upbraid me wi' his justly dues!
(3) (i) Bnff. 1890 A. Gordon Carglen 168:
Ye incompetent lazy drone o' a taicher, ye cowardly skelper.
(ii) Cld. 1825 Jam.:
He's a skelper at gangin'.
(4) Ayr. 1786 Burns Halloween xiv.:
Ye little skelpie-limmer's face! I daur you try sic sportin.
Slk. 1820 Hogg Winter Ev. Tales I. 286:
Thou hast worn thysel' a gliff's cracking wi' that skelpie.
Sc. 1860 Banffshire Jnl. (24 April) 13:
Frae the time when a daft thoughtless skelpy she ran.
Ags. 1868 D. M. Ogilvy Willie Wabster 39:
I was a skelpy, cutty queen.
(5) Ayr. 1786 Burns Jolly Beggars Recit. ii.:
Aye he gies the tozie drab The tither skelping kiss.
Sc. 1822 Scott Pirate xxx.:
Half-a-dozen of skelping long lads.
s.Sc. 1898 E. Hamilton Mawkin xiii.:
A skelping kiss upon the cheek.
(6) Rnf. 1801 R. Tannahill Poems (1900) 10:
That day ye fee'd the skelpor Hielan callan.

II. n. 1. (1) A stroke, blow, esp. with a flat object, a slap, smack, with the open hand, a sword, whip, etc. (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Comb. ¶howdy-skelp, the slap given by a midwife to give vitality to a new-born infant (ne.Sc. 1922 P. MacGillivray Bog-Myrtle 87).Ayr. 1794 Burns Contented wi' Little i.:
I gie them a skelp as they're creepin alang.
Edb. 1798 D. Crawford Poems 58:
Frighted he might get a skelp.
Sc. 1808 Jam.:
The water is said to come with a skelp on a boat, when its shock is sudden and violent, so as to make it give way.
Ags. 1822 A. Balfour Farmers' Three Daughters IV. viii.:
I took the mare a skelp.
m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 216:
As little change on me as the skelp o' a pick wad dae to the road on a frosty mornin'.
Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sketches 68:
Doon cam' a coarn o' wet shute, an' hat him wi a skelp richt ower da nose.
Sc. 1896 Stevenson W. Hermiston v.:
I mind when I was a bairn getting mony a skelp.
Abd. 1913 C. Murray Hamewith 98:
Rax back your rung, an' ance — nae mair — Gie saucy Meg a canny skelp.
Rxb. 1918 Kelso Chronicle (9 Aug.) 2:
A light-limbed, athletic dame or damsel bestowing upon one of the male sex a definite and conclusive “skelp in the lug” and settling the disturbanee.
Uls. 1929 M. Mulcaghey Ballymulcaghey 61:
The Masther hit his reverince a skelp of the ash plant.
Sc. 1951 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 44:
In thae days the hole was a guid thing shorter, so wi' the gutty twa lang skelps puts you hame.
Ork. 1952 R. T. Johnston Stenwick Days (1984) 28:
"Dottan indeed. Thoo're workin' for a right skelp on the lug, Henrietta Kirkness."
Dmf. 1964 Dmf. Standard (3 Oct.) 13:
I only hit him one skelp.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 7:
Flipote! you're staunin' in a dwamm like a big daft dug!
Get a move oan or Ah'll gie you a skelp on the lug,
Edb. 1990 James Allan Ford in Joy Hendry Chapman 59 Jan 48:
"Ah seen it masel, Jeck," she called out. "There wis nae skelp in it. He wis interferin wi her, the dirty auld bantie cock."
Edb. 1998 Gordon Legge Near Neighbours (1999) 189:
Mean he's a mate, like, and he's alright, like, but see for all that he's calmed down over the years; well, let's just say there's not too many of us as would bet against him dishing out a few skelps if the mood so took him.

(2) the sound of such a blow, a crack. Gen.Sc. Phr. to play skelp, to go crack, emit a sharp slapping sound.Sc. 1833 M. Scott T. Cringle's Log xvii.:
They came crack down on their bottoms with a loud skelp on the seats.
Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 31:
A lingle played skelp like the crack o' a whup.
Abd.15 1938:
Makin' up the butter, an' garrin' the butter kyards play skelp, skelp like a' that!

(3) A blast or gust of wind, a squall, a downpour of rain (Sc. 1825 Jam.); a stroke of lightning; a splash or spatter of liquid.Sc. 1820 A. Sutherland St Kathleen III. iv.:
An unco skelp o' wind an' sleet.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 35:
As the storm wis gien the tither skelp.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 157:
He got a skelp o' bilin' wattir on's feet.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 9:
Awfu' jaws an' skelps o' rain.
Abd. 1931 D. Campbell Uncle Andie 8:
A muckle skelp o' lichtnin' sent the oak heelster-gowdie tae the grun.
Kcd. 1934 L. G. Gibbon Grey Granite 218:
The bus ran through a great skellop of tar.

(4) Fig. of a blow of misfortune (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc.Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 213:
Wi' skelps like this fock sit but seenil down To wether-gammond or how-towdy brown.
Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 93:
Just submit to fortune's frown, An' thole her skelps as well's I can.
Sc. 1937 Our Mither Tongue (MacWhannell) 270:
I got frae fortune mony a skelp.

(5) an indirect satirical reference, a thrust, hit, side-swipe (ne.Sc., Lnl., Ayr. 1970).Bnff. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 12:
Weel, dominie, that's a skelp at me.

(6) an attempt, try, “shot,” “crack” (Sh., em.Sc.(a), wm.Sc., Kcb. 1970).Arg. 1901 N. Munro Doom Castle xx.:
“A hole in the ballant,” commented the Provost. “Have another skelp at it, Factor.” . . . Ye might have another skelp at yon tune if it's your pleasure.
Edb. 1979 Albert D. Mackie in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 44:
I had a skelp at commerce - no my line,
Tho I gied thae economists a hyst
Sc. 1998 Daily Record (14 May) 56:
I have to look at what I've achieved and say I've had a good skelp at it and hundreds of players would swap places with me because I still have a cup final before it is really all over for me.

(7) Vigour, energy. ne.Sc. 1991 Alexander Hutchison in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 101:
Nae lowpin jauds, bit driddlan
slaw - wi skeel an skilp agley.
Mochie, moosy, mizzelt for nowt
fan aa the jaw gings by.

2. = skelpie s.v. I. 5. (4).Kcb. 1897 A. J. Armstrong Robbie Rankine at Exhibition 4:
The bit skelp o' an orra lassie fairly rackin her stays wi' lauchin'.

III. adv. With a smack or crack, energetically, vigorously. Gen.Sc.Ayr. 1786 Burns Author's Earnest Cry xxviii.:
Till skelp — a shot — they're aff, a' throw'ther to save their skin.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 157:
He geed skelp through wee's job. The sklates cam skelp off o' the riggan o' the hoose.
Ags. 1889 Arbroath Guide (20 April) 3:
I gaed skelp up again' Marg'et.

[O.Sc. skelp, a blow, 1540, to smack, clash, a.1590, North. Mid.Eng. skelp, to whip, a blow. Prob. of Scand. orig. and cogn. ultimately with Skelp, n.2, q.v., with the same semantic development as between strip, of cloth, ground, etc., and stripe, (the mark of) a lash.]

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"Skelp v.1, n.1, adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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