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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.

WIT, n., v. Also witt, †wytt; wut; ¶wat; ¶wot. Adj. witty, wutty (Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 155). Sc. usages. [wɪt; wʌt]

I. n. 1. Sanity, reason, one's senses (I., n.Sc., Ags., Per. 1974). Now only in pl. in Eng. Freq. in phrs. by or out o one's wit, out of one's senses.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 82:
The wife was wood, and out o' her wit.
Ags. 1822 A. Balfour Farmers' Three Daughters I. 257:
If I hadna somebody to speak to me, I wad gang out o' my wit.
Mry. 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. 62:
That weggybons o' loons 'at nearly fleggit me oot o' ma wut.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (26 March):
Ye're nearly pittin' me by me wit.
Ags. 1928 Scots Mag (July) 273:
Wi' what wut as wes left to him, he gliskit in at the winnock.
Abd. 1961 Huntly Express (15 Sept.) 2:
He cairries a muckle basket an' fyles he has a gun an' fowk says he hasna wit eneuch.

Hence witty, sane, rational, sensible (Ork. 1974). Also witty-like, id. Adv. witly, prudently, sensibly. Rare and obs. in Eng.Abd. p.1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 182:
Shame now wi, Dick's injunctions witly join'd Had pow'r to stem the ardor o' his mind.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 112:
Th'u'r, no' jeust fairly witty.
Ork. 1931 J. Leask Peculiar People 125:
Da wey da grun waas laid oot dan waas no witty-like, an' stootly fashus tae wirk forbye.

2. Intelligence, sagacity, cleverness, wisdom, good judgment, common sense. Gen.Sc. Adj. witty, intelligent, sagacious (Ork. 1974). Obs. exc. dial. in Eng.Sc. 1869 C. S. Graham Mystifications 74:
Feeling assured that he [the dog] had “ower muckle wut”.
s.Sc. 1871 H. S. Riddell Poet. Wks. II. 91:
I am blythe o' your wut, said the lad.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 69:
But Dyvor Tam, leave him alane, Has wut and genius o' his ain.
Wgt. 1880 G. Fraser Lowland Lore 155:
Bocht wat's the best o' a' wat.
Fif. 1894 J. Menzies Our Town 20:
Less siller or mair wit to guide it.
Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. 77:
Hid was ower weel seen hid wad never kame a grey head, for it was as witty as a' auld body.
Ags. 1921 V. Jacob Bonnie Joann 15:
Muckle cheenges an' little sense, A bawbee's wut an' a poond's pretence!
Ork. 1952 R. T. Johnston Stenwick Days (1984) 75:
"Whit on earth wur shae deuin'?" asked the mystified Armstrong Tait, "Kneelin' there, lukkin' in a hole o' watter. Geud secks, a'm affen thowt yin lass wurno ferly witty, an' noo a'm sheur o' id. An' whit wur yin shae wur sayin'? Id soonded like 'Hamhom Hepp'."
Kcd. 1971 W. Christie Paucae Micae 14:
Oh 'oman, 'oman, gather wit! Ye're nae a lassie noo.
Ork. 2000 Orcadian (11 May) 26:
Now that he has expanded His business Colin feels the Advertiser has become a drain on his time.
He said: "When I started the shop was not busy - now it's mental busy - it's just 'no witty.'

3. Knowledge, information ( Sc.. 1808 Jam.). Phrs. to get wit (ne., em.Sc. 1974), †hae wots, ¶tak wit (o), to learn, find out, become aware (of), give wit o, to inform about, tell of.Sc. 1769 David Herd Scots Songs 311:
The warld shall ne'er get wit
Sae merry as we ha'e been.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 65:
I'll lat you see me toom my cap w' glee, An' nane tak' wit what's been tweesh you An' me.
Slk. 1830 Hogg Tales (1874) 212:
If ye gat wit that onybody in the hale country were perishing.
wm.Sc. 1832 Laird of Logan (1854) 308:
Whenever he got wit of me, wide open flees the muckle door as if by magic.
Sc. 1833 in Child Ballads (1956) III. 393:
Let neither my father nor mother get wit This dog's death I'm to die.
s.Sc. 1836 Wilson'Tales of the Borders II. 22:
Sir John Ramsay havin' wots o' a private door got entrance thereby .
Lth. 1853 W. Wilson Ailieford II. xi.:
Wha gave you wit of that, or wha said my mind was changed?
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond Bawbee Bowden (1922) 31:
The Free minister got wit o'd.

4. Notice, cognisance, in phr. to tak wit, erron. used in quot. by confusion with tak wit above and lat wit s.v. II. 1.m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 273:
I skirl'd thro' the door to her, but she ne'er took wit she heard me.

II. v. 1. To know (as a fact). Obs. or arch. in Eng. See Wat, v.2Ayr. 1795 Burns O Lassie i.:
Are ye sleepin yet, Or are ye waukin, I wad wit?
Sc. 1802 Scott Minstrelsy II. 151:
She would not wytt where she would be the morn.
Lth. 1819 J. Thomson Poems 71:
But ignorant bodies like-o-me What wit we mair than what we see?

Phrs.: (1) in inf., to let (to) wit, to let (a person) know (a thing), to make known to, disclose, inform of (Sc. 1808 Jam.), to ‘let on' (ne.Sc., Ags., Slg., Kcb. 1974). See also Lat, v., 2.(18). Obs. exc. dial. in Eng.; (2) with imper. in †legal usage: let it be known that, take notice that. . . . Obs. in Eng.(1) Gall. 1735 Session Bk. Penninghame (1933) II. 245:
The said John being askd as to this said that the said Mary asked him about it but he did not let wit he heard her.
Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 146:
Our eild let's never wit.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie ciii.:
I dout ye're waur than ye let wit.
s.Sc. 1873 D.S.C.S. 247:
Dinna lat wut at a woman has been i' the barn.
(2) Sc. 1709 Compend of Securities 6:
Be it Kend to all Men . . . Therefore and in Corroboration of the said Clause of Relief wit ye me the said A. as Principal, to be bound and obliged, etc. . . .
Sc. 1752 J. Spottiswoode Stiles 77:
By compound Writs I understand all those wherein another Writ is narrated, which contains an Accumulation of divers Sorts of Securities, and which commonly begin with, ‘Be it known to all Men, &c.,' having a Narrative beginning with this Word, ‘Forasmuchas, &c.,' and a Subsumption in these Words, ‘And now seeing, &c.' with an Introduction thus, ‘Therefore wit ye me, &c.'
Sc. 1759 Nairne Peerage Evidence (1873) 65:
Where as my absence furth of Scotland makes it necessary that I appoint a factor . . . witt ye me to have nominated and appointed James Graham.

2. absol. To become aware, realise, be conscious. Pa.t. wittit, -ed. Obs. in Eng. Phr. to wit o anesel, id. Cf. Ken, v., 1.(c).Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 115:
As lang's the iron's het, ye sharply hit, For fear ye loss the heat afore ye witt.
Kcd. 1811 Rymour Club Misc. (1907) I. 29:
Ere ever they wittit the body was fou.
Ags. 1872 J. Kennedy Jock Craufurt 97:
A, at ance, ere ane could wit.
Gsw. 1873 A. G. Murdoch Lilts 70:
The leein' loon Had robb'd me ere I witted.
Abd.7 1925:
Or he wittet o' 'imsel he wis aff his feet.

3. To examine, check, try. Only in phr. to wit a duck, to feel a duck to see if it has an egg to lay (Ork. 1929 Marw.), prob. ad. Norw. vite, to (get to) know, to see if.

[The pr.t. wit derives from the infin. form O.E. witan, replacing the orig. pret.-pres. form Wat, v.2, q.v. The historic Sc. equivalent is Weet, v.2]

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"Wit n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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