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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.

GANFER, n. Also ganfir, gamfer, gaenfore; gonfer(t) (Marw.), -for.

1. A ghost, apparition (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., ganfir; Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 151; Ork. 1929 Marw.; ‡Sh. 1954); “an apparition of a living person in a place where he is not corporeally present; supposed to be a portent of the person's death” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.).Ork. 1774 G. Low Tour (1879) 8:
There are many other particulars of this kind of folly still remaining among the more ignorant vulgar as . . . deaths by death-lights . . . or by Ghosts, here called Ganfers.
Sh. 1822 S. Hibbert Descr. Shet. 548:
“Ganfers” or ghosts are . . . very commonly seen, particularly by the sagacious shelty.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 162:
A person likely to die was said to be fey, and a gaenfore or feyness was a prelude of death.
Ork. 1912 Old-Lore Misc. V. ii. 70:
Atween dem baith he saw his son coman' . . . Hid was his gonfer, for when he met dem dere was juist de twa weeman.

2. (1) An atmospheric sign or phenomenon; a portent; drizzle or mist foretelling a snowstorm. (2) “any supernatural phenomenon” (Ork. 1929 Marw.).(1) Ib.:
A “sun-gaa” or a “broch aboot the moon” is regarded as a gamfer betokening bad weather; in winter, a cold, foggy drizzle is regarded sometimes as a “gamfer for snaa.”
Ork.1 1929:
This wather's like a ganfir afore sna.
Ork. 1957 Ronald Miller ed. The Third Statistical Account of Scotland: The county of Orkney (1985) 129:
In the winter time, if it gets suddenly calm, and if there is a slight drizzle, weather prophets say that it is a 'ganfer' for snow, and a snowstorm is expected in the immediate future.
Ork. 1995 Orcadian 5 Jan 14:
In my childhood, my father referred to just such a quiet mist as a "gamfer for snow." ... I had come across "ganfer;" only once, in a terrifying ghost story in a Peace's Almanack. I knew it meant "ghost;" ... Is that mist, then, the ghost of snow, like a coming event casting its shadow before?
(2) Ork. 1929 Marw.:
He'll be seean gamfers this night afore he wins home.

3. Fig. “An unwieldy, uncouth person” (Sh. 1900 E.D.D.).

[Norw. gjenferd, an apparition, a ghost, from *gagn (gegn)-ferð, a returning, meeting, haunting by ghosts.]

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"Ganfer n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Jun 2022 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/ganfer>

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