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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

WHATTEN, adj., pron. Also what(e)n, what an, quhaten, whitten, whuten; palatalised form whatsin [ < -kyin]; and with enclitic indef. art. what(e)na, whitna, watna, sometimes followed by pl.n. For n. Sc. forms see Fat, pron., 11., and for Rs. forms see Atna. [ʍɑtn(ə), ʍǫtn(ə)]

I. adj. 1. Used interrog.: what kind of, what sort of (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Ork. 1929 Marw., whatsin; Rxb. 1942 Zai; I., m. and s.Sc. 1974). Also in n.Eng. dial.Sc. 1755 Scots Mag. (March) 136:
His master asks him, “What'n a morning is it?” He answers, “It's a fair morning.”
Ags. 1793 “Tam Thrum” Look before ye Loup 10:
Whaten a hilly-ballow's this amang ye?
Sc. 1826 in Child Ballads (1956) V. 164:
O whaten a man is Hazelgreen? I pray thee tell to me.
Edb. 1887 R. F. Hardy T. Telfer's Shadow 84:
What do you think it matters in the sight of Heaven what'n a tune ye sing?
Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.:
Bairns, whatn a wark is dis at ye're makkin?
Arg. 1914 J. M. Hay Gillespie i. v.:
“Can you an' me no' mak' a bargain? it's a chance.” “Whatna bargain?” Gillespie asked softly.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood ix.:
Whatna gifts will we bring to the altar in the coming day of sacrifice?
Uls. 1953 Traynor:
What'n cap's it ye're wearin' the day?
ne.Sc. 1979 Alexander Scott in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 70:
Sair heid frae here,
sair hert frae outbye thonder
- but whilk will stang
wi the shairper stob,
and whatten a stound
will laist the langer?
Abd. 1994 Herald (20 Jun) 13:
"Oh aye," he told us with pride. "They'd heard about me oot there. What an offers I got. ..."

2. More gen. = Eng. what, relat. and interrog. (wm.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Per., Ayr. 1915–23 Wilson; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Ork., Cai., m. and s.Sc. 1974). Phr. whatna way, how (Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders xxiii.). Cf. What, VI. 14.Sc. 1769 D. Herd Sc. Songs 242:
O quhaten a voyce is that? quoth the King.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxxix.:
I wish I had whaten books ye wanted.
Slk. 1820 Hogg Tales (1874) 175:
Whatten a gate o' riding is that?
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin viii.:
“Whaten an intimation?” quoth my faither.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xv.:
“Whatten kind of a thing?” says grandfaither.
Hdg. 1908 J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 25:
Whaten a shed? We have nae cairt-shed here.
Arg. 1917 A. W. Blue Quay Head Tryst 32:
“Whatna canoe, my dear?” axes Jean.
Ork. 1956 C. M. Costie Benjie's Bodle 189:
Whitten kindo labscouse is this, Jesso?
Ags. 1987 Raymond Vettese in Joy Hendry Chapman 50-1 54:
I fund a circle, as tho cleared
by some axe, but for whitna
purpose I couldna say, ...

3. = what, used exclam. (I.Sc., Cai., Slg., Bwk., Lnk. 1974).Sc. 1769 D. Herd Sc. Songs 242:
Quhen he cam to the Queen's window, Quhaten a joyfou shute gae he.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xvi.:
Whaten an unearthly sight!
Knr. 1891 H. Haliburton Ochil Idylls 82:
Whatna lovely world we lost When boyhood's hour was o'er.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 39:
But efter they gat the siller, whuten beauties they turn't!
m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 54:
Wi' whatna joy we'll haud the ploo.
wm.Sc. 1937 W. Hutcheson Chota Chants 31:
O watna a cantrip for gaugers to thole.
Gsw. 1951 H. W. Pryde M. McFlannel's Romance 17:
Whitna pant we had one night imitatin' the sergeant-major.
Ork. 1956 C. M. Costie Benjie's Bodle 70:
“Whitten queer folk,” t'owt Herrid.

4. = Eng. which, of two or more (s.Sc. 1873 D.S.C.S. 193; Per., Ayr. 1915–23 Wilson; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; I.Sc., Cai., Per., Fif., Peb., Rxb. 1974).Ayr. 1785 Burns There was a Lad i.:
But what na day o' what na style, I doubt it's hardly worth the while To be sae nice wi' Robin.
Ayr. 1821 Galt Legatees ii.:
We should have told him what'na Norfolk Street we wanted.
Sc. 1834 G. R. Gleig Allan Breck II. xv.:
Whaten army, friend? There's mair nor ae army rampaging through the kintra now.
Edb. 1886 R. F. Hardy Katie iv.:
Whatten an hoor is't the meetin' gangs in the morn's nicht?
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 15:
A'm no sure whuten yin o' the twa's the original wey o't.
Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 79:
Whatna countryman are ye? What part of the country do you belong to?
Sc. 1925 H. McDiarmid Sangschaw 33:
Wha kens on whatna Bethlehems Earth twinkles like a star the nicht.
Rxb. 1942 R. Zai The Phonology of the Morebattle Dialect 144:
Whatna buke hae ee bought?

II. pron. What, what thing, used interrog. Rare. Whaten for, why. Cf. What, VI. 5.Sc. 1869 Chambers's Jnl. (27 Feb.) 134:
“Wisht! Wisht!” says he, “Whatna's yon?”
Hdg. 1903 J. Lumsden Toorle 266:
But whaten for, gif ony daur'd to speir, He drave them aff wi' little waste o' wind.

[O.Sc. quhaten, interrog. a.1500, quhattane, exclam. a.1568, reduced forms of O.Sc. quhat kin, 1420, Mid.Eng. whatkyn, what kind. Reduced forms are also found in Eng. dial.]

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"Whatten adj., pron.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 May 2024 <>



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