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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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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.

SLABBER, v., n. Also slaber. [′slɑbər]

I. v. 1. tr. (1) To wet with saliva, dribble on, beslobber; to stain (one's clothes, etc.) with saliva or food when eating (Sc. 1808 Jam. s.v. Drable; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 167; Cai., m.Sc. 1970). Obs. in Eng. exc. dial. Hence to kiss in a sloppy manner, pay ardent court to (a woman), always in pejorative or belittling sense; also intr. with at, as in 1813 quot. Fig., to flatter obsequiously, fawn on.Sc. 1712 J. Arbuthnot John Bull iii. vi.:
He slabber'd me all over from Cheek to Cheek, with his great tongue.
Sc. 1753 Smollett Ct. Fathom (1784) 64:
He began to slabber his companions with a most bear-like affection.
Sc. 1764 Boswell Grand Tour, Germany, etc. (Pottle 1953) 298:
The minister slabbered the greasy, unwashen hands of a married woman.
Rnf. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 211:
John believ'd himself aboon, While he slaik't an slaber'd at her.
Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xxvii.:
A hadden tongue makes a slabbered mouth.
Sc. 1830 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) III. 89:
Slabberin and slimin the illustrious baronet.
Edb. 1895 J. Tweeddale Moff 180:
She's no fine that wud let the likes o' you slabber her.

(2) to wet with some messy semi-liquid substance, to bedaub (Rxb. 1942 Zai; m. and s.Sc. 1970), to put on (paint) in a careless manner (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel xvii.:
Stained with wine, and slabbered with tobacco juice.
Ayr. 1868 J. K. Hunter Artist's Life 94:
The creature [a painter] will dight, slabber, an' scart the surface.
Uls. 1931 Northern Whig (28 Dec.) 14:
If a man soils his clothes with paint or mud he has “slabbered” himself.

2. intr. (1) to slaver, dribble, drool at the mouth; to eat or drink in a noisy, sloppy manner (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 167; n. and em.Sc., Ayr., Dmf. 1970).Sc. 1761 Magopico (1810) 7:
Not to throw stones, nor fight, nor slabber when they eat their porridge.
Kcd. 1871 Stonehaven Jnl. (18 May) 3:
Slabberin' amon' rhubarb, green peas, an' new 'taties.
Bnff. 1958 Banffshire Advert. (11 Sept.) 9:
Slabberin' an drappin' maet on yer claes?

(2) to make a snorting, bubbling sound with one's nose or mouth as in weeping or sleeping (Dmb., Ayr., Wgt. 1970). Also in Eng. dial.; to weep, sob, blubber (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); of a kettle: to bubble, throb, make a drumming sound in boiling (Ib.).Slk. 1820 Hogg Tales (1874) 239:
Slubberin' an' sleepin' a' the day in a heather bush.
Sc. 1825 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1863) I. 3:
The bloated kings . . . Shall slubber and snore.
Dmb. 1931 A. J. Cronin Hatter's Castle ii. ix.:
Take that, then, you slabbering lump.

(3) Of rain, hail, etc.: to fall heavily, splash down. Deriv. slabbery, -i, adj., of the weather: wet, rainy, soppy (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl.).Ayr. 1826 R. Hetrick Poems 20:
Hail and rain and slabbering sleet.

(4) to work in a careless, messy way or with some wet or messy substance (Kcb. 1970).Sc. 1831 Scott Journal (1890) II. 369:
I found Mr. MacDonald [a sculptor] slabbering away at the model.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders v.:
His work was only slabbering with paint.

(5) to talk drivel, to babble in an idle senseless way (Fif., wm.Sc. 1970).Fif. 1954:
What ye slabberin at?

II. n. 1. An act of salivating, a slavering. Hence (1) a disapproving or pejorative term for a kiss. Cf. 1. 1. (1).Edb. 1895 J. Tweeddale Moff 207:
Anent kissing . . . instead of their being sour slabbers they had mysteriously transformed themselves into sweet “cheepers”.

(2) a greedy or noisy mouthful, a suck, a lap, a slobber (Ags. 1970).Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin ii.:
A hearty slabber o' the buttersaps.
Abd. 1929 Sc. Readings (Paterson) 88:
Noo tak' a slabber at this sappy orange.

(3) freq. in pl.: senseless or foolish talk, idle chatter, drivel (Fif., wm. and sm.Sc. 1970). Rare and obs. in Eng.

(4) an idle chatterer, also in combs. slabber-gash (Cld. 1880 Jam.), -gaucie (Bnff. 1825 Id.). See Gash, n.3

2. Mud, mire, poached soil (Sc. 1887 Jam.; Abd., Kcd. 1970); a muddy mess, a quagmire. Deriv. slabbery, adj., of roads: waterlogged, muddy (Cld. 1880 Jam.; wm.Sc. 1970).  Also fig. m.Sc. 1994 Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay Forever Yours, Marie-Lou 25:
It's always your damned fault, always! Time and again ah've tried ma best tae git oor heids oot the slabber, and time and again we always fun oorsels sinkin further in ...

3. Anything liquid or messy; a puddle of food; “a sloppy sort of pudding or dish of stewed fruit” (Abd., Ags. 1921 T.S.D.C.; Abd., Ags., Per. 1970).Abd. 1950 Buchan Observer (22 April):
But oor wee coo bailie just maks his brose like a deuck's slabber.

4. A slovenly, slack-lipped person, a slobberer (Dmf. 1808 Jam.; em.Sc., Lnk., Gall. 1970).Dmf. a.1820 Border Mag. (Oct. 1896) 169:
Ye slowsterin' slink, 'e slack-lippit slabber.
Kcb. 1896 Crockett Cleg Kelly vii.:
What business is that o' yours, ye muckle slabber?
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters iv.:
Look at him there, the muckle slabber.
Ags. 1964 D. Phillips Hud Yer Tongue 57:
Slabber, another name for which used to be sluter — once freely applied by mothers to shambling, unkempt sons.

5. A bib, napkin (Fif. c.1850 R. Peattie MS.). Cf. obs. Eng. slabbering-bib, id.

[Obs. in Eng. exc. dial. since 18th c. Mid. Du. slabberen, to lap, slaver; Du. dial. slabber doek, a bib. Cf. Slab, v.2].

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"Slabber v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 May 2024 <>



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