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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SNECK, n.1, v.1, adv. Also sni(c)k, snake, snaik, snek(k); misprint sneek (Per. 1879 P. R. Drummond Bygone Days 425; Ags. 1914 I. Bell Country Clash 32). [snɛk]

I. n. 1. A latch, a catch, a lever or small bolt which moves the catch of a door, (rarely) of a window, gun, etc. (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 267). Gen.Sc. Also in Eng. dial. Dims.: sneckie, id. (Ags. 1927 V. Jacob Northern Lights 9); snickle, the feather below the countersink on a bolt, which fits into a groove and prevents the bolt from turning (Rnf. 1970); the hook on the grassnail of a scythe. See Snackle. Deriv. sneckless, having no latch. Phrs.: aff the sneck, of a door or window: unlatched, with the catch left off, (up)on the sneck, latched but not locked. Gen.Sc.; to draw, lift a sneck, to open a latch; fig. to insinuate oneself into an affair surreptitiously, to act in a crafty stealthy manner.Ags. 1700 Carmyllie Session Rec. MS. (27 Oct.):
A sneck and a band to the kirk door.
Sc. 1714 Hist. MSS. Comm. Report (Mar and Kellie MSS.) 503:
The Englis arms are mounted with brass, and most of them have square locks and snecks.
Sc. 1736 Crim. Trials Illustrative of “H. Midlothian” (1818) 42:
Which door he had secured before he went to bed by screwing down the sneck.
Sc. 1755 Scots Mag. (March) 136:
He is to lift the sneck, and go in.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To G. Hamilton iii.:
I ken he weel a snick can draw, When simple bodies let him.
Sc. 1824 Scott St Ronan's Well xxviii.:
I'se warrant it a twa-handed ghaist, and the door left on the sneck.
Edb. 1827 Justiciary Reports (1829) 174:
The front area door was just upon the sneck, and the key (which had been left in the lock) gone.
Sc. 1829 G. Robertson Recoll. 83:
The under sash, in its progress up or down, was regulated by a metal sneck.
Abd. 1865 R. Dinnie Birse 20:
Creels made of hazel, birch, or willow wands, with the bottoms hinged on one side and a sneck or catch on the other.
Fif. 1871 W. Adamson Aberbrothock xxiii.:
Now, Louis, the door is open, an' we'll go doon. We'll leave it aff the sneck.
Sc. 1881 W. Jolly Burns at Mossgiel 21:
The door was opened by a string on the outside, hanging through a hole in the wood, which lifted the "sneck" or latch.
Ags. 1884 Arbroath Guide (19 April) 4:
Baith lockless and sneckless, the door has ae hinge.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xv.:
The door was on the sneck that day, and me and my faither gaed straucht in.
Kcb. 1897 Crockett Lads' Love iv.:
Leave the lang window o' the ben room off the sneck.
Ork. 1909 Old-Lore Misc. II. i. 30:
Click geid de snake, an in cam de ministar.
Sh. 1916 J. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr (Aagust 6):
Trouble sön lifts da snekk o da pör man's door.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 13:
A lifteet the sneck an gaed oot again.
Gsw. 1947 H. W. Pryde 1st Bk. McFlannels 13:
Leave the door aff the sneck!
Abd. 1966 Huntly Express (28 Oct.):
She heard the click of the hooked sneck into the staple on the doorpost.
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 29:
Whit ist that greets outby the nicht,
that fakes tae fin the sneck?
It's juist the wind, my bonnie lass,
gaen speiran i the daurk.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 132:
The byre door was not locked but it took him a few moments to fumble for the sneck and lift it.
m.Sc. 1994 Mary McCabe Everwinding Times 193:
Oh joy! A pair of scissors! It took her five minutes to force back the rusty old sneck.

Combs.: (1) sneck-draw, a crafty, deceitful person, a rogue. Cf. phr. to draw the sneck above. More commonly as agent n. sneck-drawer, id. (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Kcb. 1900; Abd. 1909; Bnff. 1930); vbl.n., ppl.adj. sneck-drawin(g), guile, craftiness, artful, wily; (2) sneck-fastening, a latch; (3) sneck-lifter, a travelling merchant, a packman or pedlar (Ayr. 1970); (4) sneck-pin, a latch-pin (Sc. 1880 Jam.); (5) sneck-trap, a spring trap for vermin.(1) Ayr. 1785 Burns To the Deil xvi.:
Ye auld, snick-drawing dog! Ye cam to Paradise incog.
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xiii.:
That auld clavering sneck-drawer wad gar ye trow the moon is made of green cheese.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Entail xxxix.:
Ye hae had that auld sneck-drawer, Keelevin, wi' you?
Fif. 1862 St Andrews Gazette (22 Aug.):
I houp that Garibaldi, that Italian Willie Wallace, wull be able to play the sneck-drawn [sic] dog a fell plisky yet.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxiii.:
Vera like Dawvid's sneck-drawin'.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped xvi.:
There's many a lying sneck-draw sits close in kirk.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders xxxi.:
I ken the Maxwell lads, and I ken the hill sneckdraws.
Arg. 1912 N. Munro Ayr. Idylls (1935) 307:
There's a lot o' sneck-drawers about Dumfries to clype a' my political indiscretions.
Sc. 1913 H. P. Cameron Imit. Christ III. xxvi.:
Latna Clootie an' his sneck-drawin' owrethraw me.
(2) Sc. 1844 H. Stephens Bk. Farm I. 204:
10 Pairs of crooks and bands for feeding-holes. 10 Sneck-fastenings for ditto.
(5) Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch ix.:
Sticking twofold like a rotten in a snecktrap.

2. In various tech. usages: (1) in weaving, see quot.; (2) in lace-making: a catch to hold the jacquard cylinder steady while the selection of threads is made (Ayr. 1970); (3) the cog of a ratchet-wheel with which a pawl engages (Dmb. 1920).(1) Sc. 1844 P. Chalmers Dunfermline 364:
Upon the cloth, immediately before the workman, are temples, or more properly stretchers, two and sometimes three thin flat pieces of wood, which stretch out the web, taking hold of it at both the selvages by little teeth, and are fastened together in the middle by cords and a moveable pin or sneck.

3. (1) In masonry, in pl.: small stones packed into the spaces between the larger stones in a rubble wall (ne.Sc. 1970). Combs.: sneck-harl, to roughcast the small locking stones in a rubble-wall (Ib.); sneck-pin, to pack snecks into a wall (n.Sc. 1880 Jam.). Cf. Pin, n.1, 8.; sneck-point, to point snecks with lime.Abd. 1791 Craig Castle Estate MSS.:
The Walls whether of Stone and Lime, or of Stone and Mortar, Sneck pinned with Lime.
Abd. 1845 Leslie of Warthill MSS.:
All the outside snecks are pointed up with good sharp water sand.
Abd. 1874 Hatton Estate MSS.:
The back wall shall have the lime properly ripped out in Spring and sneck pointed with Port Elfins Scotch lime.
Abd. 1933 C. Murray in Abd. Press & Jnl. (16 March):
The fire hoose an' steadin' sneck harled an' hale.

(2) In dry-stone walling: a part of a dry-stone wall built of large stones extending through the whole width of the wall (see quot.) (Rxb. 1970).Gall. 1810 S. Smith Agric. Gall. 86:
Snecks or hudds, i.e. spaces built single at short intervals: a very useful contrivance: for if any accident happen to a part of the dyke, these snecks prevent the evil from spreading far.
Fif. 1958 St Andrews Cit. (26 July):
The snecks, the caps, The header bands.

4. A nip, as when the fingers are caught in a door (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Cf. v., 2.

5. In pl.: Points on a hutch-railway (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 62; Lth. 1960). Comb. sneck-shifter, a pointsman (Sc. 1927 Dict. Occupational Terms (H.M.S.O.) 54).

6. Transf. in pl.: snakes, the call for truce in a game (Abd. 1959 I. and P. Opie Lore and Language 153). Cf. keys s.v. Key.

II. v. 1. tr. (1) To latch, to fasten up by means of a latch or the like (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1923–26 Wilson). Gen.Sc.; to make (a catch) fast. Also in Eng. dial. Hence combs. sneckin pin, a latch-pin, a catch; snecker-doun, a man's cloth cap with a stud-fastener on the peak (Gsw. 1970).Knr. 1741 Session Papers, Stedman v. Stedman (14 Oct.) 12:
The Door was drawn to, but not lock'd nor sneck'd.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 44:
Sae out she slips, an' snecks the door behind.
Slk. 1810 Hogg Tales (1874) 186:
I sneckit the door ahint me.
Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems I. 5:
I never sneckt an amrie door, Tam never steal'd tho' he was poor.
Mry. 1865 W. Tester Poems 107:
Ca tee the door, Sammy, an' snaik it.
Uls. 1879 W. G. Lyttle Readings 66:
The young lady went oot an' sneckit the daur efter her.
Fif. 1894 J. W. McLaren Tibbie and Tam 127:
The door o' the machine hadna been richt sneck't.
Gsw. 1898 D. Willox Poems 104:
Your faither's jist gane oot an' sniket the door on himsel'.
Gall. 1900 R. Muir Mystery Muncraig iv.:
Sneck the door and sit doon.
Arg. 1914 N. Munro New Road xxii.:
When I will see a bad man greeting, I will aye be snecking up my sporran.
Edb. 1915 T. W. Paterson Auld Saws 14:
Haudin the basket an' sneckin pin.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 117:
We'll steek the door, an' sneck the snibs.
m.Sc. 1950 O. Douglas Farewell to Priorsford 105:
Sneck the door, the wind's snell.
Arg. 1987 Naomi Mitchison in Joy Hendry Chapman 50-1 4:
Pull in your belt and snick the buckle,
What's six years when you're twenty two?
em.Sc. 1991 James Robertson in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 172:
An nou in bourgeois land we sneck our windaes
Ticht an close agin the stour an dirdum.

(2) fig.: to shut (one's mouth), hold (one's tongue) (Ags. 1970). Imper. phr. sneck up, shut up! (Ayr. 1970).Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 22:
The youngsters noo they rowle the reest, their moos they winna sneck.
wm.Sc. 1944 J. Bridie Mr Bolfry iii.:
You are at complete liberty to continue or to sneck up.
Ags. 1952 Forfar Dispatch (12 April):
We'd the rummel-gumption tae keep wir traps sneckit.

2. To lock up or in, to catch (something) in a door, to jam or squeeze between two objects (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; w. and sm.Sc., Slk. 1970). Cf. n., 4.Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxix:
The secrets of grit folk. . . . Keep them hard and fast snecked up.
Wgt. 1877 G. Fraser Wigtown 61:
“Snecking” her in, and making off.
Lth. 1914 C. P. Slater Marget Pow (1925) 103:
He's coat was snecked in too, and we baith had to stand up afore we could get our clothes eckstrickated.
Abd. 1920 C. Murray Country Places 3:
Sneckit there in his dask.
e.Lth. 1924 I. Adair Glowerower 60:
Peace-giving it was to sit in these boxlike pews, snecked in with a wooden snib.
w.Sc. 1934 “Uncle Tom” Mrs. Goudie's Tea-Pairty 35:
He micht sneck his tongue wi' a jew'sharp.
Gsw. 1947 H. W. Pryde 1st Bk. McFlannels ii.:
Ah've snecked ma fing-er!
Ayr. 2000:
A sneckit me finger in the door.

3. To switch or turn off (an electric appliance) (Sh., ne. and em.Sc.(a) 1970).Abd. 1930 D. Campbell Kirsty's Surprise 52:
Sneck it aff, Peter. I canna thole that pom-pommin' ava.
Abd. 1932 D. Campbell Bamboozled 8:
Gin ye dinna sneck aff yer microphone.

4. intr., of a door: to close on a latch, to shut (n.Sc., Per., wm.Sc., Kcb., Slk. 1970). Also in Eng. dial.Bnff. 1867 Banffshire Jnl. (29 Jan.) 2:
He pulled the door, and it sneckit so firm that he couldna open it.
Ags. 1891 Barrie Little Minister iv.:
Though he pulled to the door as he left the manse, he had passed the currant bushes before it snecked.
Rnf. 1935 L. Kerr Woman of Glenshiels 294:
The door closed but didn't sneck.

5. tr. To close or fill up (a crevice) in a rubble wall by filling the spaces between the large stones with tightly-packed smaller ones or by filling up the interstices or joints between the stones with lime (Sc. 1808 Jam.; ne.Sc. 1970). Ppl.adj. sneckit (Abd. 1931). Vbl.n. snecking. Combs.: back-snecked, of a wall: masoned on the inner side of the wall; snecked harling, “roughcast showing the faces of occasional walling-stones built proud” (Sc. 1952 Builder (20 June) 943); snecked pointing, “flushing up the joints in walling leaving the faces of the larger stones clear” (Ib.); snecked rubble, see quot.Abd. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 II. 534:
Within these five years, a very few of them [farm-houses] snecked or harled with lime.
Kcd. 1853–5 Trans. Highl. Soc. 35:
The whole [wall] to be particularly snecked on the outside, and back-snecked.
Abd. 1863 Hatton Estate MSS.:
The walls in general much in need of being snecked up and new harled.
Sc. 1871 Villa & Cottage Archit. Gl.:
Snecked rubble: uncoursed rubble, in which the stones are used as they occur, the interstices between the larger stones being filled with smaller pieces. When this is done with great nicety, and so as to preserve perfectly the horizontal and vertical bond by the complete interlacing of the amorphous stones, the operation is termed snecking, and the work is called snecked rubble.

6. To make (a woman) pregnant (Cai. 1971).

III. adv. With a snap or click.Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems 45:
Ane grip't the bait, the fa' play'd sneck.
Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems I. 67:
The bait was gript, sneck gaed the fa'!

[O.Sc. snek, a bolt, latch, c.1460, North. Mid.Eng. snekk, a latch. Of doubtful orig. but prob. related to Snack, n.1, Sneck, v.3, q.v., Eng. snatch, a grab, †a door-latch. Cf. also the semantic development of catch.]

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"Sneck n.1, v.1, adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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