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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.

SKIFT, v., n.1 Also skift, scift, and freq. form skif(f)ter.

I. v. 1. To shift, change one's position.Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 67:
The sun now frae the twal hour point, Had nearly skifftit twa hours yont.

2. (1) To move lightly, skim, scud, skip (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.). Vbl.n. skifting.Rnf. 1791 A. Wilson Poems 215:
High owre my head the sheep in packs, I see them mice-like skift.
Kcb. 1815 J. Gerrond Works 93:
The lads hae changed their wauking dress, For skiftin pumps that glisten.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 182:
Skiftin' owr the roofs like fire.
Ayr. 1841 J. Paton Songs 35:
Scifting pumps for dancing balls.

Deriv. skifters, the game of ducks and drakes (Mry. 1925; Cai., Lth. 1970). Also fig. in quot.Ags. 1743 W. Macfarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 284:
He will hear the stones tumbling down as if they were thrown with hands for which the hill getts the name of the Skifters.

(2) Specif. of rain or snow falling (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 157). Hence skiftin, a light fall or sprinkling of snow (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; ne.Sc., Per., Fif., Lth., Lnk., Rxb. 1970). Also in freq. form skiffter, to rain, snow or hail gently (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 157).Abd. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 26:
Tho' fell drift skifts owre the knap.
Rnf. 1852 J. Fraser Poems 10:
Cauld sleety show'rs round the auld kirk skifted.

II. n. 1. A quick light step or gait.Per. 1869 R. M. Fergusson Village Poet 160:
The cheerin' smiles An' speedy skift o' Gartmore Maggie.

2. Also in forms skifter, skiftie. A light passing shower of rain or snow (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., skift; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 157; wm.Sc. 1880 Jam.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Sh., n.Sc., em.Sc.(a), Lth. 1970, skifter).Bnff. 1852 A. Harper Solitary Hours 108:
Nae skift o' dew now wets thy plumes.
Cai. 1934 John o' Groat Jnl. (16 March):
Hes 'is skifter o' sna' pitten 'e shivers on ye?
Ags. 1945 Forfar Dispatch (5 April):
A skiftie o' rain cam on.

3. A thin strip of wood-shaving (Sh. 1904 E.D.D., Sh. 1970). Also in deriv. skifting, id. (Ork. 1904 E.D.D.). Cf. Skiff, n.1, 1. (3).

4. A hurried or cursory dusting (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Ags., Slg., Bwk., wm.Sc., Rxb. 1970). Cf. Skiff, v., 4.

[For I. 1. cf. North Mid.Eng. skift, O.N. skipta, the Norse equivalent of O.E. sciften, to shift. For I. 2. cf. O.Sc. skift, to skip, trip lightly, a.1586, which may be an extended usage of the same word, or alternatively an onomatopoeic formation, now more freq. in the reduced form Skiff, v., n.1, q.v.]

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"Skift v., n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Mar 2023 <>



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