Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SKUNE, n., v. Also skuin, skuan, sküin, sküan, skön(e), sk(y)oan. Most freq. in dim. forms skunee, skunie, -y, skünie, sköni(e), sköna. [skøn(i)]

I. n. Sh. sea-taboo name for a knife (Sh. 1825 Jam., 1908 Jak. (1928), 1914 Angus Gl.), now also in gen., though jocular, use (Sh. 1970). Sh. 1836  Gentleman's Mag. II. 591:
[He] klikkit da skúnee oot o' mee haand.
Sh. 1889  Chambers's Jnl. (26 Oct.) 675:
This was, never, when at sea, to call a thing on land by its right name. . . A knife was a “skyoan”.
Sh. 1899  J. Spence Folk-Lore 111:
The fisherman, on coming to the point of crossing, took out his skön or tullie (sea knife), and made a scratch on the ground in the form of a cross.
Sh. 1953  New Shetlander No. 35. 13:
One snaed the pilticks with the skoan.

II. v. To cut up (fish-bait) (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)). Deriv. skunie, id. Sh. 1866  Edm. Gl.:
Skunie-bait: to open the shellfish, and take out the bait with a small blunt knife.

[Gen. derived from Gael. sgian, a knife, but the vowel-change is unexplained. Cf. Skean.]

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"Skune n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 May 2019 <>



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