Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SLACK, adj., n.1, v.1 Sc. usages:

I. adj. 1. Of money: scarce, not plentiful, not duly repaid (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.); of persons: short of money, hard-up (Ags., Slg., Fif., w.Lth., Lnk. 1970). Abd. 1790  A. Shirrefs Poems Gl.:
Siller's slack, money is ill to raise.
Fif. 1951  :
Are ye ticht or slack?

2. Of a ewe: past breeding age, superannuated, about to be sold for meat as a Crock, q.v. (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Gall. 1903 E.D.D.). Cf. II. 3. Dmb. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 XVII. 260:
54 draft or slack ewes, at 6s. 6d.
Peb. 1802  C. Findlater Agric. Peb. 69:
The cast-off breeding ewes, when sold at Martinmas, are designed slack ewes.
Arg. 1845  Stat. Acc.2 VII. 113:
About 150 slack ewes are wintered on the low pasture, and sold, with their lambs, to the butchers in summer.
Sc. 1884  Crofters' Comm. Evidence I. 820:
Do they sell their slack ewes? — Yes; they send them away, principally to Glasgow.

3. Of places or buildings: untenanted, unfrequented, thinly occupied, not busy. Sc. 1808  Jam.:
The kirk was slack.
Rnf. 1827  W. Taylor Poems 38:
Since the house is slack, Stop yer cleaning, let's hae a crack.
Sc. 1834  Tait's Mag. I. 321:
There are plenty of empty or slack hotels in Edinburgh.

4. Of persons: untrustworthy, of loose moral character; slow to pay one's debts, financially unreliable (Sc. 1808 Jam.).

II. n. 1. A slackening, loosening. Gen.Sc. Abd. 1882  T. Mair John o' Arnha' 23:
Then for freedom o' his back, He gae his gallawses a slack.

2. A loose part or end of anything, a flap; anything slack or loose (Sh., Cai. 1970). Dim. slackie, “a kind of sling used by schoolboys”, a catapult (Fif., Lth. 1825 Jam.), but the evidence for this is not clearly stated. Sh. 1892  J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 10:
Seemun I yoks bi da slack o da lug.

3. A ewe which has passed the age for breeding and is about to be fattened for slaughter, a Crock, a reduced form of slack ewe, see I. 2. above. Slk. 1819  Hogg Tales (1874) 141:
Slacks will be sleek, a hogg for the howking.

III. v. 1. intr. To slacken off, become less tense or active, to grow flaccid (Sh., Cai., Ags., Kcb. 1970); to cease work, knock off, prob. fig. from slackening the traces of a work-horse. Edb. 1773  Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 143:
How maun their weyms wi' sairest hunger slack.
Lth. 1825  Jam.:
A tumour is said to slack.
Dmf. 1831  R. Shennan Tales 37:
When business had begun to slack.
Abd. 1969  Huntly Express (10 Jan.) 3:
“Aye, laddie, ye've gotten slackit” was a common greeting to a man who had finished work for the day.

2. tr. To reduce (a debt) by a repayment. Abd. 1969  Huntly Express (10 Jan.) 3:
“That'll slack it a bittie”, in reference to a big instalment towards paying off a debt.

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"Slack adj., n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2019 <>



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