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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.

SLAIK, v., n. Also slake, sleak, erron. slack; slaich, slaigh; slyaach, sllauch (Gregor); sklack, sklaich; and deriv. slaicher (Per.). “Sllauch indicates a greater digust than slaich” (Gregor). [slek; ne.Sc. + sleç, sklek, †sljɑ:x. See K, letter, 8. and P.L.D. § 141. 1.]

I. v. 1. tr. or absol. (1) To lick, smear with the tongue, to beslobber (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Ags., Per., wm.Sc., Wgt. 1970), to make a licking or lapping movement with the tongue. Also fig. of the tide, a mist. etc.Sc. 1729 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) III. 114:
Out of my Sight, vile Wretch, whose Tongue Is daily slacking [sic] throw the Dung.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 5:
Adders rough, and gruesome horrid gluey tongues did slake and feed.
Ayr. 1846 Ballads Ayr. (Paterson) I. 112:
He louped up an' sleak'd her cheek.
Per. 1878 R. Ford Hamespun Lays 51:
You began tae clean An' slaik it wi' yer tongue at e'en.
em.Sc. 1930 Glasgow Herald (4 Feb.) 8:
An' thro' the mists aye slaikin roon' As nicht cam' doon.
Fif. 1931 Gsw. Herald (14 Feb.):
We jist had the auld feather ba', an' ye canna blame folk for takin' advantage o' a ba' that wis pairfectly easy tae mak' an' that didna jist exactly turn intil a slaikit bap at the first drap o' rain.
Fif. 1964 R. Bonnar Stewartie 1. ii.:
They lay, down there right on the shore where they were slaiked by every tide.

(2) Esp. of a pet animal: to lick (dishes) surreptitiously, to purloin and eat (tit-bits), to consume (food) on the sly (Sc. 1808 Jam.); “to hang about or lounge like a dog that is content to feed on offals” (Sc. 1825 Jam.), to scrounge; to eat soft or liquid food in a dirty, slobbering way, also intr. with at (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 166–7).Rnf. 1806 R. Tannahill Poems (1900) 87:
Tae slake about a great man's kitchen, An, like a spaniel, lick his dishes.
Rnf. 1941 R. Skimming Lays 19:
She was nae brood o' thievish cats, That rin and slake 'mang bowls and pats.
Fif. c.1850 Peattie MS:
A lazy slaikin beggar.

(3) By extension, also intr. with about, at: to kiss, caress, fondle in an excessively sentimental way (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ayr. 1970); to make much of in a fulsome, amorous manner, to fawn on, act obsequiously towards (Ags. 1970).Rnf. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 211:
John believ'd himself aboon, While he slaik't an slaber'd at her.
Gall. 1889 Bards Gall. (Harper) 239:
He'll slaik her and straik her.
Fif. 1926 I. Farquhar Pickletillie 222:
They ocht to run for't instead o' slaikin' an' smoodgin' there.
Ayr. 1930:
He's aye slaiking aboot her.

2. (1) To besmear, bedaub, streak (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 167; Ork., Bnff., Ags., Per. (slaicher), Slg., Fif., Lnl., Ayr., sm. and s.Sc. 1970); to wipe in a messy way, “to scrub or wipe up in a slatternly manner” (Cld. 1880 Jam.); to sleek the hair (Ayr., Gall. 1970). Derivs. slaiker, -ie, “one who bedaubs” (Sc. 1825 Jam.), a messy, untidy person.Sc. 1783 Johnie Scot in Child Ballads No. 99 A. x.:
An whan he came to the green grass growan, He slaikid his shoone an ran.
Sc. 1808 E. Hamilton Cottagers viii.:
Slaked and blacket a' owre wi' dirt.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 391:
Their heids wus slakit up wi hair oil.
Abd. 1905 W. Watson Auld Lang Syne 210:
To go with a pailful of sowens, and with a whitewashing brush sklaich the doors and windows of a dwelling house.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xxvii.:
It [hair]'s a' sklaikit ower wi grey an' marlt wi' fite like a spurgie.
ne.Sc. 1967 Scotland's Mag. (March) 25:
Sklacking sowens, i.e. sowens that were used like whitewash. This was a Hogmanay ploy.

(2) To smear on, apply thickly.Per. 1970:
Slaik on mair paint. He believes in slaikin on the hair-oil.
Ayr. 2000:
Yer hair's slaikit doun.

3. With out, up: to spit (phlegm), to hawk noisily (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 166–7, slaich, sllauch).

II. n. 1. (1) A lick with the tongue, a slobbering lick or kiss (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.; em.Sc., Lnk., Kcb., s.Sc. 1970); transf. a light touch, a stroking, tap, pat, knock, a gentle blow (Rnf., Ayr. 1825 Jam.). A gob slake, a smack on the jaw. See Gob.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 396:
I'll give you a gob slake.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 37:
Frae my father monie a slaik she gat.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie v.:
He gied you but a gentle slaik wi's paw.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Entail xxvi.:
What were ye the waur o' a bit slaik o' a kiss?

†(2) A dirty slobbering way of eating (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 166–7).

†(3) A spit, expectoration, splutter of phlegm (Gregor).

2. The act of daubing or smearing; anything soft, wet or messy which has been smeared or daubed on, a streak, “lick” (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Per. 1948, slaicher; Ags., Per., wm.Sc. 1970); slime (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 166). Hence fig. a small quantity, a dab, pinch, modicum. Adj. slaichie, slauchie, slyaachie, slaky, slimy (Gregor), slobbery, also fig. slanderous, of the tongue.Rxb. 1805 A. Scott Poems 145:
Soupling slakes of oil.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xvii.:
Maybe a touch o' a blackit cork, or a slake o' paint.
Ayr. 1833 Galt Stories of Study II. 168:
He had a slake of the Tory about him.
Ayr. 1836 Galt in Tait's Mag. (June) 389:
To get a slaik of college lair.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxxiv.:
I redd my hair, an' gave it a slake o' ulzie.
Kcd. 1869 Stonehaven Jnl. (30 Sept.) 3:
Deil speed them wi' their slauchy tongues.
ne.Sc. 1874 D. Macgregor The Scald 20:
A' the maist loathsome an' slaky things.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) 58:
“So it is,” says Sandy, takin' a slaik o't [tar] aff wi his fingers.
Kcb. 1897 T. Murray Poems 19:
A slake o' treacle or o' syrup.
Sc. 1924 Sc. Recitations (Harley) 126:
She wi' a teaspoon took a slaik o't.
Abd.14 1928:
Bere meal pottage is some slyaachie.

3. A careless or slatternly wash, a hasty clean or wipe; a dirty, messy way of working (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 166–7; Ags., Per., w. and sm.Sc. 1970).Cld. 1880 Jam.:
She jist gied the floor a slaik. Oh! She's deed lazy!
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters xii.:
As if he got a bit idle slaik now and than, and never a good rub.

4. transf.: (1) A person who eats or drinks excessively, a glutton, drunkard, “soak” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Per., Slg., Lnk., Rxb. 1970); (2) “a low mean sneaking fellow” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.).

[O.Sc. slaik, to beslobber by kissing, 1535, O.N. sleikja, to lick. In some of the meanings of the n., phs. confused with Slake.]

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



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