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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

FIRST-FIT, n., v.

I. n. 1. The first person (or sometimes animal) met on any journey or expedition, esp. the first person met on the way to church by a wedding or christening party (Cai.7, Abd.9, Slg.3 1942).Fif. 1719 D. Beveridge Culross (1885) II. 113:
The said Janet Morison, while going to churn her milk, used to go about her house, that she might be the first foot.
ne.Sc. 1874 W. Gregor Olden Time 115:
The person first met [by bridal procession] received a glass, with bread and cheese, and then turned and walked a short distance. Great attention was paid to the first fit. A man on horseback, or a horse drawing a cart . . . was deemed most lucky.
Sc. 1891 R. Ford Thistledown 251:
A young unmarried woman invariably carried the child to church. In her hand she took with her a slice of bread and cheese, wrapped up and fastened with a pin taken from the child's dress, and this she presented to the first male passer she met. This person constitutes the child's “first-foot.”

2. The first person to enter a house on New Year's morning, considered as the bringer of good (or bad) luck for the year. Gen.Sc.Edb. 1792 New Year's Morning 9:
Wha, think ye, wad be her first-fit?
Dmf. 1810 R. H. Cromek Remains 46:
Much care is taken that the persons who enter be what are called sonsie folk, for on the admission of the first-foot depends the prosperity or trouble of the year.
Sc. 1818 Sawers:
The first-fit generally carries with him a hot beverage, made of ale, spirits, eggs, cream, sugar, and biscuit, with some slices of curran bun to be eaten along with it, or perhaps some bread and cheese.
Edb. 1851 A. Maclagan Sketches 150:
Weel they ken the First-fit brings Them a' their fair'ns.
Kcb. 1877 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 236:
It was considered very unlucky to let a fair-complexioned buddy be your first-fit.
Per. 1881 R. Ford Hum. Sc. Readings 56:
He was a fair-hair'd, flet-fitted man, an' therefore, an unlucky first-fit.
Arg. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days ii.:
I will not let you in, for it is in my mind that you would not be a lucky first-foot.
Fif. 1914 County Folk-Lore VII. 146:
They had a' been sleepin' in ever since that dovey-heidit . . cratur had been their first-fit.
Kcd. 1932 “L. G. Gibbon” Sunset Song (1937) 124:
Happy New Year, I'm the first foot in, am I not?
Edb. 1993 Irvine Welsh Trainspotting (1994) 43:
More first foots arrived. The small flat was heaving. Stevie had never seen Franco, the Beggar, so at ease with himself.

II. v., tr. or absol. To be the first to visit a house in the New Year, usually to present a gift and to wish the inmates luck. Vbl.n. first-fittin. Gen.Sc.Edb. 1829 G. Wilson Sc. Laverock 183:
They meant to first-fit Jock M'Craw, An' tailor Tammy Horner.
Edb. 1852 Scotsman (3 Jan.):
There was still no doubt a good deal of first footing; and the practice was, as usual, initiated by the collection of a large crowd in the neighbourhood of the Tron Church, who raised an uproarious cheer as the clock announced the hour of twelve.
Ayr. 1864 A. McKay Hist. Kilmarnock 112:
Another custom that prevailed here to a great extent during the last century, but which is now almost abolished, was that of first-footing on tlhe morning of New-Year's day. As soon as the town-clock had numbered twelve, hundreds of persons of both sexes sallied forth from their domiciles to greet their friends and acquaintances, and treat them with intoxicating liquors.
Sc. 1886 Justiciary Reports (1885–6) 95:
My mother said we should go and first-foot my brother-in-law.
Gsw. 1910 H. Maclaine My Frien' 10:
I've heard the fit fa o' them that were hurryin' aff to first-fit.
Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 124:
The advent of New Year's Day was heralded by the young people going from house to house singing the New Year's Song. . . . First-footing, still in fashion, was accompanied witlh nettle-burning.
Mry. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 80:
I'll wad a croon it's Janet Broon Wha's foonert in first fittin.
Rxb. 1925 Kelso Chron. (9 Jan.):
We in Scotland used to know how to bring in the New Year with hilarity. But first-footing and “cake night” are not what they once were in the country.
w.Sc. 1952 Gsw. Herald (14 Jan.):
Older people in Ardnamurchan, Argyll, and the islands of Mull, Coll, and Tiree went first footing for the second time on Saturday when the old-style New Year's Day was celebrated.
Ags. 1952 Bulletin (11 Dec.) 10:
It is an old first-footing custom in Dundee to present to the house, as a luck bringer for the new year, a red herring suitably dressed with ribbons.
Rnf. 1993 History on your Doorstep, The Reminiscences of the Ferguslie Elderly Forum 36:
You went first footing. You always wanted someone dark to first foot you and they had to have a bit of coal and a bun, currant bun or shortbread.
Ork. 1995 Orcadian 5 Jan 10:
Then it was time to first foot the neighbours and there were plenty of them in the Ness housing schemes.
Edb. 2002:
Roond aboot ma bit folk still go first fittin.

Hence first-fitter, one who does this. Gen.Sc.Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 47:
But juist tak yer leisure till New-Year's-Day come, I'll sort our first-fitters wi' whisky an' rum.
Rs. 1944 C. M. Maclean Farewell to Tharrus 130:
The breaking of this [custom], of being his mother's first-footer, has, I imagine, given him a keen pang.

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"First-fit n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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