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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

SWITHER, n.2, v.2 Also swid(d)er (Sh.).

I. n. A rushing movement, a swirl, a flurry (of rain or snow), a gust of wind (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh. 1972). Adj. swithery, full of driven snow.Jak.:
He guid by in a great swidder.
Abd. 1957 Bon-Accord (17 Jan.) 8:
The win' hed driven't it [snow] intae swithery nyeukies.
Sh. 1964 Nordern Lichts 56:
Dan a flann cam howlin doon an a swidder o snaw.

II. v. 1. To rush, swirl, move with haste and flurry (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh. 1972), to whizz.Slk. 1820 Hogg Winter Ev. Tales I. 240:
A swithering noise like that made by a black-cock on the wing.
Abd. 1845 W. Thom Rhymes 159:
As the storm would swither and swell.
Ags. 1894 A. Reid Sangs 79:
A darksome dell Whaur wud the switherin torrents fell.
Sc. 1935 W. Soutar Poems in Scots 13:
And saftly thru the lichted mirk The switherin' snaw cam doun.
Sh. 1953 Manson's Almanac 122:
The “flaans” that swidered in over the cliff edge.

2. tr. and intr.: appar. in 1933 quot., to swing about, to move from side to side, but the meaning is not certain and such a usage is otherwise unattested. Comb. swither-tree, the swingle-tree of a plough or the like (Ork. 1929 Marw.).Kcd. 1933 L. G. Gibbon Cloud Howe 127:
Dite had cornered Jim's pig at last, as it swithered its head he saw it set fine.

[There appears to be no immediate orig. but the word is prob. to be connected with Norw. dial. svidra, svid(d)a, to move about restlessly, to rush to and fro, Icel. sviðra, to swirl, as of snow, from which the Sh. meanings appear directly to derive, and ultimately with a root *swei-, to be in motion, which appears in swim, prob. also in sweep, Swirl.]

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"Swither n.2, v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 May 2024 <>



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