Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SPUNKIE, n. Also spunk(e)y. [′spʌŋki]

1. ‡(1) A will-o'-the-wisp, Ignis fatuus (s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl.; Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ayr. 1923 Wilson Dial. Burns 18; ne., em.Sc.(a) 1971), freq. personified and used without the article as prop. n. Also attrib. and in phr. and combs. spunkie of wild-fire, id., Auld Spunkie, Spunkie-clootie (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.), the Devil, Satan. See Clootie, n.2 Sc. 1727 P. Walker Remark. Passages 94:
Willies with the Wisps or Spunkies of Wildfire, seen mostly in boguish myrish ground, in louring, foulsom, unwholsom weather.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 236:
Many a good boat has Spunkie drownd.
Ayr. 1793 Burns Letters (Ferguson) No. 561:
The Devil that, my grannie (an old woman indeed!) often told me, rode on Will o' wisp, or, in her more classic phrase, Spunkie.
Rnf. 1807 R. Tannahill Poems (1900) 219:
I lookit owre the spunkie howe.
Sc. 1816 Scott B. Dwarf ii.:
The ordinary resort of kelpies, spunkies, and other demons.
Rnf. 1830 A. Picken Dominie's Legacy II. 177:
Hoot, man, ye're fou! Ye see double; it's only spunkie.
Edb. 1851 A. MacLagan Sketches 253:
Spunkie lichts may lead puir wichts Through bogs an' droonin' ditches.
Edb. 1872 J. Smith Jenny Blair 38:
Wad it be Auld Spunkie, think ye?
Fif. 1873 J. Wood Ceres Races 6:
The news like spunkey flees.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Thrawn Janet:
Whiles he saw spunkies in the room.
Per. 1898 C. Spence Poems 139:
The spunkie-haunted bog, Where sank the shepherd and his dog.
Abd. 1904 W. A. G. Farquhar Fyvie Lintie 108:
By kirk or market, wood or glen, Fient ane's been scared by Spunkie.
Dmf. 1917 J. L. Waugh Cute McCheyne 32:
I gaed through the darkest, dunkest bit o' Shinnel Glen as croose as a spunkie.
Per.4 1950:
I saw spunkies as I was comin by the haugh.
Sc. 1966 Scotland's Mag. (Jan.) 9:
A charm against all injuries from spunkies.

(2) Sea phosphorescence (Fif. c.1890 Gregor MSS.; Nai. 1904 E.D.D.); wild-fire, sheet lightning (Ork. 1971).

2. In extended use: the reflection of light on a wall from a mirror, the surface of a pail of water, etc. (Lnk. 1900).

3. (1) A spirited, game, dashing fellow, a smart, lively young person (Sc. 1808 Jam.; ne., m.Sc. 1971). Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 148:
An' frae his [Cupid's] bow, the shafts, fu' snack, Pierc'd monie a spunkie's liver.
Ayr. 1821 Galt Annals x.:
She was such a spirit in her way, that the folks called her Spunkie.
Sc. 1897 L. Keith Bonnie Lady iii.:
If yon spunkie of a Captain should dare put an affront on you.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters xvii.:
Logan thought him a hardy young spunkie.
Sc. 1944 Scots Mag. (March) 475:
Where are you goin' ye spunkie?

(2) A fiery irascible person, one who is likely to flare up at the least provocation (Ayr. 1825 Jam.). Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie lviii.:
The earl has of late grown a perfect spunky, and flies off at the head like a bottle of champagne.
Sc. 1897 L. Keith Bonnie Lady v.:
Nothing, indeed, but crabbit words, or worse, from Mrs. Minto, who was a very spunkie of passion.

4. Whisky, spirits. Ayr. 1786 Burns To J. Kennedy iii.:
Gie me just a true good fellow, . . . And spunkie ance to mak us mellow.

[Deriv. of Spunk, q.v.]

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"Spunkie n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 28 Nov 2021 <>



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