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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SWAG, v.1, n. Also swaag (Sh.). [swɑg]

I. v. 1. To sway from side to side, to wag to and fro, to hang down heavily and lopsidedly, to sag (Lth. 1825 Jam.; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.); to flutter, as a bird's wing (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1908 Jak. (1928)); to go in a zig-zag manner. Also in n.Eng. dial.Edb. 1720 A. Pennecuik Helicon 174:
Her swaging Womb comes begging to the Shoar.
Bwk. 1809 R. Kerr Agric. Bwk. 188:
This greatly prevents the gates from swagging, or hanging downwards, and dragging on the ground.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Tales (1874) 632:
Another fish swagging up the river at full speed.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 307:
Apple trees I saw there, wi' apples hinging swagging on them.
Kcb. 1900 Crockett Stickit Minister's Wooing 243:
The man wi' the wame swaggin'.

2. To wander away, stray. Phs. a different word.Abd. 1885 J. Scorgie Flittin' Noo 37:
Awa' frae's fowk nae doot he's swaggit.

II. n. 1. (1) The act of swinging or swaying (Gall., Rxb. 1825 Jam.); a swinging to and fro, a swaying gait, a swagger, flounce (Kcb. 1972); a lopsided or leaning position, a tilt, also fig. an inclination or leaning in politics (Sc. 1825 Jam.).Abd. 1875 G. MacDonald Malcolm xxv.:
She was oot at the door wi' a swag o' her tail.
Ayr. 1883 W. Aitken Lays 125:
Auld Time frae his nag swung his lang willie wag Wi' a slow steady swag.
Lnk. 1884 T. McLachlan Thoughts 69:
Wha gaed past me wi' a swag.

(2) An extra-large sail on a sailing-boat used to give it more speed (Sh. 1972).

2. In dim. form swaggie: the game of see-saw (Rxb. 1825 Jam.).

3. (1) A bag or wallet, esp. one carried by a beggar or thief to hold his acquisitions. Also Australian Eng. Cf. Eng. slang swag, booty.Edb. 1720 A. Pennecuik Helicon 65:
A large leathren Swag to hold the Gelt.
Ayr. c.1850 Carrick Anthol. (Finlayson 1925) 265:
She'd beds for boys who carried swags.

(2) in Heriot's Hosp. slang: a kind of inner pocket made between the top of the trousers and their lining (see quot.).Edb. 1845 F. W. Bedford Hist. Heriot's Hosp. (1859) 346, 378:
Boyle gart me stuff my swags full of them. . . . A slit being made in the trousers, articles dropt into it found their way to the bottom of the pocket, which might thus be filled to the very waist.

4. A quantity of liquid or liquor, a long “pull” or draught (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh., Ork. 1972). Cf. Swack, n., 4. and Eng. swig, and so poss. a different word from the above.Lnk. 1805 G. McIndoe Poems 12:
What swags o' beer I've drunken.
Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. 97:
One sonsy dame of plethoric tendency, desiring the minister's services in cupping, asked him to “let a main swag rin.”

[Prob. of Scand. orig. Cf. Norw. dial. swag(g)a, to sway, swing, swerve, stagger, sag or bend under pressure, prob. ultim. cogn. with Swaw, sway and Swack, adj.]

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"Swag v.1, n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 26 Sep 2023 <>



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