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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.

SMIRR, n.1, v. Also smir, smur(r); smirn (orig. from the vbl.n. smir(ri)n). Derivs. smurrach, smurack, -agh, smirrle. [smɪr, smʌr]

I. n. A fine rain, drizzle, smoke, haze, occas. also of sleet or snow (Ayr. 1808 Jam.), freq. in phr. a smirr o' rain. Gen. (exc. I.) Sc., also in Eng. dial. Dims. smurack, -agh, id., a summer shower (Kcd. 1825 Jam.), smirrle, id. (m.Sc. 1970).Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 156:
There was a fine pirl out frae the Wast, wi' a sma' smurr o' rain.
Ayr. 1866 Trans. Highl. Soc. 27:
Steady moderate showers or thick drizzling smirrs.
Kcb. 1896 Crockett Grey Man xiv.:
A smurr of rain began to fall.
Arg. 1896 N. Munro Lost Pibroch (1935) 23:
A thin smirr of warm rains fell on the glen like smoke.
Kcd. a.1914 Mearns Leader (23 June 1950):
Grey mist ayont Garvock, sma' smurr on the farran.
Cai. 1922 J. Horne Poems 52:
In smirr an' hail an' stoor.
wm.Sc. 1956 Daily Mail (12 May):
Winter was coming to Mull on the smirr from the sea.
Rxb. 1961 W. Landles Penny Numbers 4:
A smir o' rain was fa-in.
Abd. 1963 Huntly Express (1 Feb.) 8:
A smirr o' sleet an' sna'.
Per. 1965 Perthshire Adv. (14 Aug.) 14:
The trips up the burn in the soft smirr.
wm.Sc. 1965 Alan Sharp A Green Tree in Gedde (1985) 171:
When she got out it was starting to rain, a soft smirr. ... The rain spun down all around her, soundless, small as small, a mood of rain falling gently yet relentlessly, wetting everywhere.
Arg. 1973 Marion Campbell The Dark Twin (1998) 79:
He was crouched over a little fire of smoky twigs, holding his hands over it and staring through the smir.
Hebr 1988 Sorley Maclean in Joy Hendry Chapman 52 47:
In the soft smirr of rain.
And heavy on the slumber of the moorland
the hardship and poverty of the thousands
of crofters and the lowly of the lands,
my kin and my own people.
Gsw. 1995 Chris Dolan Poor Angels 1:
Not a sound, save the viola darkness and a smir of rain like a mother's hush.
Ork. 1995 Orcadian 30 Mar 14:
Alas, that wonderful day, the equinox, had a bleak grey west wind blowing through it, and a smirr of rain, ...
em.Sc. 1997 Ian Rankin Black & Blue (1999) 67:
The Scots language is especially rich in words to do with the weather: 'dreich' and 'smirr' are only two of them. ... Only it wasn't real rain, it was smirr, a fine spray-mist which drenched you before you knew it. It was blowing in from the west, moisture straight from the Atlantic Ocean. It was all Rebus needed first thing on a dreich Monday morning.
Sc. 1999 Scotsman 22 Jul 17:
The rain stayed off most of the time, but towards the end of the afternoon, the smirr closed in, and through this damp haze came the Tornado, initially a mutter of distant thunder, then a heart-stopping roar across the open strip in front of the viewing area, before it banked away, leaving the rivven sky crackling.
Dundee 2000 Ellie McDonald Pathfinder 11:
Ae day suin I'll lowse the knot
an fae the poke'll skail
a smirr o rain,
a seagull's peenge,
a lang-forgotten look o love.
Sc. 2004 Scotsman 30 Oct 20:
In the lounge of a small distillery a fling is in progress. As the visiting Lord Provost looks on, fiddlers and pipers are letting rip as a man in a kilt leaps into a frenetic step dance. Outside, the autumnal blaze of the wooded glen recedes into an all-permeating smirr.

II. v. 1. Of rain (or snow): to fall gently and softly in fine clouds, to drizzle (Rnf., Ayr. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1910 C. C. Russell People & Lang. 41). Gen.Sc. Also in Eng. dial. Vbl.n. smir(ri)n, a fine drizzle. Also ppl.adj. smirring. Mry. 1790 Aberdeen Mag. 31:
At play, 'mid the snaw, While youden-drift smurrachs alang.
Arg. 1898 N. Munro J. Splendid xxviii.:
Wherever rains are smirring.
Per. 1904 E.D.D.:
‘Had we rain last night?' ‘Ay, it began to smirn aboot 5 o'clock'. We had a bit smirn last night.
Ayr. 1912 G. Cunningham Verse 69:
It is smurrin' o' rain.
Sc. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 65:
An' sma reid bird, when the blash smurs by.
Abd. 1926 L. Coutts Lyrics 67:
Smirrin ice hid stoppt the mill.
wm.Sc. 1929 R. Crawford Quiet Fields 37:
Wee drummie feet o' rain wis smirrin' On leaf an' leaf ower a' the glen.
m.Sc. 1954 N. B. Morrison Following Wind xiii.:
A smirn of rain which wetted his windscreen.
wm.Sc. 1989 William McIlvanney Walking Wounded 29:
British Summer Time had officially begun but, if you didn't have a diary, you might not have noticed. The few people standing around in the Dean Park under a smirring rain didn't seem to be convinced.
Wgt. 1996:
It was smirring this morning.

2. Rarely tr.: to wet as with drizzle. Also fig. Dmb. 1931 A. J. Cronin Hatter's Castle iii. iv.:
A cold fine rain smirred the dripping panes.
m.Sc. 1995 A. L. Kennedy So I am Glad (1996) 39:
Everything I remember from that time is smirred with confusion and slightly out of order.

[Orig. uncertain. Poss. imit., with influence from Smore, n., Smuir, n., 2. (2).]

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"Smirr n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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