Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SKLIFF, v., n., adj., adv. Also scliff; skleff; skluif(f), sklufe, scloof, ¶schloof; skluff; sklouff (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 161), skloof. Also in deriv. form skliffer, skleffer; sliffer. [sklɪf; Bwk. sklɛf; Rxb. skløf; ne.Sc. sklʌuf, Ags. skluf]

I. v. 1. To walk with a heavy shuffling step, to drag the feet in walking, to scuffle (Bnff., Lnk., Slk. 1825 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 161; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Dmf. 1925 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 17, schloof; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; ne.Sc., m.Sc. 1970). Hence adj. skluiffy, shuffling in gait, and subst. as a nickname. Combs. skluiffy-feet, shuffling or splay feet, one who has such (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), -fittit, splay-footed (Per., m.Lth. 1970). Vbl.n. scliffan, -in, sklouffin, shuffling (Gregor; Abd., Ags. 1970); a thin useless shoe (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 422). Dmf. 1824 Carlyle Early Life (Froude) I. 222:
In walking he does not tread, but shovel and slide. My father would call it “skluiffing”.
Slg. c.1860 Trans. Slg. Arch. Soc. (1923) 23:
Aye she sang as she skliffed alang.
Slg. 1893 Trans. Slg. Nat. Hist. Soc. 7:
“Skliffy”, a nickname due to a peculiarity of gait as he shuffled about in his slippers.
Arg. 1898 N. Munro John Splendid iv.:
There was a skliffing of feet on the road outside.
Abd. 1909 R. J. MacLennan In Yon Toon 130:
Miss Macpherson “skliffed” in bauchled feet to answer the summons.
Kcb. 1921 T.S.D.C.:
What are ye slifferin' alang there for? Lift yer feet.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 20:
Skluiffin shuin wurn inti bauchels.
Ags. 1929 Scots Mag. (May) 149:
Jeck had haen a licht, sklifferin' kind o' a fit.
Gsw. 1935 F. Niven Flying Years 163:
They scliffed through a golden pool of crisp leaves.

2. To strike with a dull heavy or flat glancing blow (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 161), to scuff, rub against (Cld. 1880 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Slg., Lth., w. and sm.Sc., Rxb. 1970).

3. To cut away the upper surface or covering of anything, to pare, slice (Sh., Slg., Lth., wm.Sc., Gall. 1970). Cf. n., 3. Sc. 1946 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 430:
You with a few diagonal spade strokes scliff off grass and bracken to leave a bare piece of earth.

II. n. 1. (1) A shuffling trailing way of walking or the noise made by this (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 161; Cld. 1880 Jam.; em.Sc.(a), wm.Sc., Gall. 1970); a dull heavy tread (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Ayr. 1928), also in reduplic. form skliff-skliff; a big, clumsy foot. Ags. 1921 T.S.D.C.:
Haud in thae big skloofs o' yours.
Rnf. 1928 G. Blake Paper Money 243:
The skliff of slippers [over linoleum].
Ags. 1929 Scots Mag. (May) 149:
She heard the skliff-skliff o' his fit.

(2) a clumsy or worn-out shoe, esp. one used as a slipper (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 161; Cld. 1880 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Mry. 1925, gen. in pl.; Lth., Ayr., Kcb. 1970).

(3) transf.: an easy-going, untidy, slatternly person. Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 161:
She's nae an ill sklouff o' a dehm.

2. A blow with a flat surface, a scuffing glancing blow, a swipe in passing, the noise of such (Bnff., Cld. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., skliff, skluff; Lth., wm.Sc., Rxb. 1970). Sc. 1949 Scottish Field (Jan.) 18:
A hare crossing a hummock [of snow] usually makes a scliff with its fud.

3. (1) A thin slice, shaving or paring (Sh. 1914); a segment of the moon, of an orange (Rnf. 1938 Daily Record (23 June); Per., Lnl., w. and sm.Sc. 1970), etc. Deriv. skliffer, skleffer, a flake, a thin sheet or layer (Kcb.4 1900). Hence skleffer-thin; sklifferie, sklefferie, of rock, etc.; separated into laminae or flakes, schistose (Lnk. 1825 Jam.). Cf. sclaffery s.v. Sclaff, n., 4. Kcb. a.1902 Gallovidian (1913) 109:
Wha's shillin maist-like skliffer-thin shall be Wi' meal ootcome, nae bygane day did see.
Gsw. 1948:
Russian tea has a skliff o' lemon in it.
wm.Sc. 1964 Scotsman (14 Dec.) 8:
In the red flush before darkening, with a scliff of moon heralding frost.

(2) Used contemptuously of a large mouth (Abd., Lnk. 1921 T.S.D.C., a skluff o a mou).

III. adj. Of the feet: flat, splay. Cf. I. 1. s.Sc. c.1830 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1916) 56:
A person who had scloof-feet (that is, plain-soled) or ringlet-eyed (cat-eyed) or long lipit (projecting thick lips), or from the Elleree or seer; they being reckoned all unlucky.

IV. adv. With a dull heavy sound, plump!; also in reduplic. form scliff-sclaff, in reference to the gait or tread, flat-footedly. Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 161:
He geed sklouff through the wet closs. He fell sklouff on's back.
Gsw. 1873 A. G. Murdoch Lilts 43:
When, scliff-sclaff, up the wooden stair The factor's foot was heard ascendin'.
Edb. 1965 J. K. Annand Sing it Aince 16:
Tammie Norie o' the Bass . . . Gangin scliff-sclaff ower the sea.

[Orig. chiefly onomat., with influence from skiff, Skleff, Sclaff, scuff, etc. Skluff, sklouff, skloof, imply a slower or duller movement or sound.]

Skliff v., n., adj., adv.

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"Skliff v., n., adj., adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Apr 2021 <>



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