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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

DAB, DAUB, v.1, n.1

I. v.

1. Of birds: to peck (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); also fig.; hence extended to persons and things (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 157); to pierce slightly, to stab. Also in Nhb. dial. (E.D.D.). Now chiefly Sc. (N.E.D.). Ppl.adj. dabbit, wounded, pierced. Known to Bnff.2, Abd.9, Ags.2, Fif.10, Edb.1, Arg.1, Lnk.3, Kcb.10 1939.Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Pop. Ballads I. 87:
The thorn that dabs I'll cut it down, Though fair the rose may be.
Hdg. 1902 J. Lumsden Toorle, etc. 258:
Sick, at last — ay, deidly dabbit, By the Gallic Vulture's beak!
Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 43:
Weel daubit, Robin! there's some mair, Beath groats an' barley, dinna spare.
Lnk. 1893 J. Crawford Sc. Verses 51:
They tauld their story free aff luif, Nae dabbin' then like craws.

2. To aim (at) (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); hence, to hit a marble in the game of marbles (Per., Fif., Lth. Wilson); “to cast a peerie spinning into a ring, with a view to knocking out others” (Ags.17 1939). Cf. II. 4 and 5.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
What bool wull A dab at?
e.Dmf.2 1917:
A'll dab a steean at ee.

3. To push, shove smartly (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.2 1939).Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 35:
He dabbit the loon's nose amo' the dubs.
Dab yer hehd doon.

II. n.

1. A peck. Also used fig.Ayr. a.1822 A. Boswell Poet. Wks. (1871) 12:
A lawyer neist, wi' bletherin' gab, Wha speeches wove like ony wab, In ilk ane's corn aye took a dab, And a' for a fee.

2. A blow or slap. Known to Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.2 1939. Also in Eng. dial.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 256:
Many a time have I gotten a wipe with a Towel; but never a Daub with a Dish Clout before — Spoken by saucy Girls, when one jeers them with an unworthy Sweetheart.

3. “A snatch or clutch” (Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.).

4. A children's game, played with tops. “A ring, 18″ to 24″ in diameter was drawn on the hard ground, and a peerie, or usually a stock (a peerie without a metal point) was ‘staked' in it by each player. The game was to dislodge stocks within the ring by projecting, or dabbing, spinning peeries against them. This was done by the players in turn, and a skilful dab might drive out one or more stocks, but if the spinning peerie came to rest within the ring, another stock or peerie had to be deposited. Thus the last dabber had an advantage” (Ags.17 1940). Also called dabbin-oot (Clc. c.1890 (per Fif.13)).

5. A throw in the above game.Ags.17 1939:
I've a peerie, I've a string, Henmaist dab at the peerie ring.

III. Phrs.: 1. dab at the hole, “a game of marbles” (Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.); 2. Dab-at-the-steel, potatoes and salt. The potatoes are in their jackets and are eaten straight from the pot, the salt being on a stool round which the company sits (Abd.4 1931); 3. tatties an' dab, “potatoes eaten with some greasy relish into which they are dipped or ‘dabbed'” (Ayr. 1900 E.D.D.); known to Bnff.2, Abd.9, Ags.17, Fif.10 1939; 4. to be a' o' ae hen's dab, to be all of the same kind; 5. to dab at the dud, “to do linen embroidery” (Dwn. 1931 “Gawney Kateys” in North. Whig (2 Dec.) 5/7); 6. to let (say) dab, to disclose (information) (Cai.7, Cai.8 (say or let dab), Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.17, Fif.10, Kcb.10 1939; Bnff., Fif., Edb., Gsw., Ayr., Dmf., Rxb. 2002). Gen. used with neg. = not to say a word; cf. to let bug, id., s.v. Bug. n.2; 7. to neither dab nor peck wi' someone, to have no dealings with someone; 8. to play dab, to make a poke or prod.3. Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 281:
Naething cam wrang to his disgeester frae tatties an' dab to a cogue fu' o' brose.
4. Dmb. 1844 W. Cross Disruption (1846) xxxvii.:
I jalouse they're a' o' ae hen's dab.
6. Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 164:
Naebody kens, an' I'll no' let dab.
wm.Sc. 1954 Robin Jenkins The Thistle and the Grail (1994) 237:
"... The less she kens the happier she'll be. No woman has the right to ken all a man's business. ... Never let dab to Mysie. Tell her when you're baith eighty. ..."
wm.Sc. 1989 Anna Blair The Goose Girl of Eriska 171:
Not until Betsy was but a memory in those parts and past caring, did any of her loyal crew ever let dab that, after that, the lean tanned Norwegian timber merchant travelled regularly on the Clitus, that he talked and laughed and dined with her ...
7. m.Sc. 1926 “O. Douglas” Proper Place xx.:
Ay, thae folk next door ca' theirsels Labour, but efter the way the wumman washed ma stair, I'll naither dab nor peck wi' them!
8. Gsw. 1902 J. J. Bell Wee Macgreegor ii.:
She jist laucht til him, an' played dab at his e'e wi' the leg o' her auld jumpin' jake.

[O.Sc. dawb, to dab with (the beak), 1560 (D.O.S.T.); Mid.Eng. dabbe, a stroke or slap, dabben, to slap or strike (Stratmann); cf. Mid.Du. dabben, to dig, undermine, pierce (Kilian).]

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"Dab v.1, n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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