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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 but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SLACK, n.2 Also slak; ¶slacht; slake; and Sh. forms slackie, -y, slakki, and, by confusion with Slag, n.2, sl(j)aag (Sh. 1904 E.D.D., 1914 Angus Gl.). [slɑk; Sh. ′slɑke]

1. A hollow or declivity, esp. between hills, a saddle in a hill-ridge, a defile, dell, pass (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 193, slak; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Sh. (slakki), n. Sc., Peb., Bwk., s.Sc. 1970). Freq. in place-names in ne. Scot., Per., w.Lth., Kcb. (Corse o' Slakes), Dmf., Rxb., etc. Comb. hill-slack, id. Also in deriv. form slacking.Bnff. 1719 W. Cramond Ann. Cullen 79:
The common moss or Chamar Slack.
Sc. 1723 W. MacFarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 57:
A large solitary Den called St Ethernens Slack.
Dmf. 1758 A. Steel Annan (1933) 98:
The Slacking or Hollow Ground mentioned in the said proposal.
Sc. 1774 Survey Assynt (S.H.S.) 37:
South of the Infields in a Slack betwixt two Hills.
Rxb. 1802 J. Leyden Lord Soulis xix.:
Red Ringan sped, and the spearmen led, Up Goranberry slack.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxiii.:
I see some folk coming through the slack yonder.
Crm. 1835 H. Miller Scenes 94:
A marshy hollow, known as Wallace-Slack.
Dmf. 1841 S. Hawkins Poems V. 23:
When I met you on yon hill-slack.
Fif. 1867 St Andrews Gaz. (19 Oct.):
Descending by the Hare Slacht — too steep for any but juveniles.
Abd. 1875 A. Smith New Hist. Abd. II. 690:
Southward by the slack of the hill.
m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 21:
Afore ye think to cross the lea, And mount the slack.
Sh. 1949 P. Jamieson Letters 213:
Snaa fanns lay in a slacky near a burn.
Ayr. 2000:
Dune slacks. [depressions and hollows in sand dunes]

2. Hence fig. by extension: (1) an opening or gap between clouds (Rxb. 1824 J. Telfer Border Ballads 69); (2) in phrs. (i) slack o' the hass, “the narrowest part of the throat” (Lth. 1808 Jam.), the gullet; (ii) slack o' the ribs, the narrowest part of a horse's back at the base of the ribs, the loins.(2) (ii) s.Sc. 1897 E. Hamilton Outlaws xxix.:
Passing the bridle round his chest and the slack of the horse's ribs.

3. A low-lying waterlogged depression in the ground, a marsh, morass (Rxb. 1825 Jam., 1923 Watson W.-B., Rxb. 1970). Also in n.Eng. dial. and place-names. Cf. Slag, n.2Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxv.:
A deep morass, termed in that country a slack.
s.Sc. 1897 E. Hamilton Outlaws xxviii.:
The yellow slack that feeds the Blackburn.

4. A gap, hole in gen. (Sh. 1970).Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 44:
‘Da, I can wirk it oot wi' Alljibra.' Says I, ‘Jibra doo anidder kishiefoo inta dis slackie, so as I git him biggid aff.'

[O.Sc. slak = 1., 1375, slack, a hollow in sand, 1570, O.N. slakki, a depression in a hillside. The I.Sc. forms are directly from Norw. slakke, a little hollow. Some of the place-names may have been altered from an orig. Gael. sloc(hd), id.]

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"Slack n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Mar 2023 <>



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