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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

GAB, n.1, v. Also †gabb. Dim. gab(b)ie.

I. n. 1. Common in Eng. dial. and colloq. use.

(1) Talk, speech, conversation; manner of speech. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1788 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 558:
Fair fa' ye, honest rhyming Rab, For a' your dainty, weel-turn'd gab.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 180:
But Gouks hae a gab an' a gate o' their ain.
Sc. 1861 E. B. Ramsay Reminisc. (2nd Series) iv.:
A parishioner in an Ayrshire village meeting his pastor, who had just returned after a considerable absence . . . added . . . “I'm unco yuckie to hear a blaud o' yer gab.”
Hdg. 1885 J. Lumsden Rhymes and Sk. 52:
An' learn'd gab ambiguous, their grand results to sum.
Bnff. 1896 A. Cumming Tales of the North 96:
I kent by her gab she belanged to Portsoy.

(2) More specif.: light, entertaining talk, tittle-tattle; impudent chatter, “cheek” (Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 151). Gen.Sc. Rarely in pl.Ags. 1776 C. Keith Farmer's Ha' xxv.:
The chapman lad wi' gab sae free, Comes in, and mixes i' the glee.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Halloween iii.:
Some unco blate, an' some wi' gabs, Gar lasses hearts gang startin Whyles fast at night.
Sc. 1849 A. Bell Melodies of Scotland 4:
Then wha sae fu' o' sangs and gabbs As hearty Duncan Davison?
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 58:
It's aiblins true, and, perchance no, that honest-minded Rab Was owre free-handed wi' the ring and rattle o' his gab.
Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.:
Gie us none of your gab.
Sh. 1897 Shet. News (6 Oct.):
Hing him i' da barn, an' less o' dy gab.
Edb. 1897 P. H. Hunter J. Armiger's Revenge xi.:
He's a muckle smashin chiel, ye ken, wi' plenty o' gab, an' sings like a mavis.
Abd. 1909 G. Greig Mains's Wooin' 35:
He his plenty o' gab fin he's sittin' in's ain bit choppie, cain' tackets intil an auld beet.

2. (1) The mouth. Gen.Sc. Also, by metonymy, the tongue. Also in Eng. dial. and slang use. Cf. Gob, n.1 Comb.: gabie-cog, a wooden drinking-cup. See Cog, n.1Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 133:
Your Herrings, Sir, came hale and feer . . . Right mony Gabs wi' them shall gang About Auld Reeky's Ingle.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 30:
Her head lay back, an' her syde chafts sat out, An' o'er her gab hang down a sneevling snout.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Jolly Beggars Recit. 1. ii.:
While she held up her greedy gab Just like an aumous dish.
Edb. 1811 H. Macneill Bygane Times 39:
And now we're in this story mood, I'se gie ye mine, altho' nae dab At telling things wi' a glib gab.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man I. iv.:
Ye'll draw an Englishman by the gab easier than drive him wi' an airn gaud.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 95:
Ae gapin' gab did utter true; Great lies gush'd frae anither mou'.
Sc. 1847 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 188:
An' 'twere na for your lang beard, Oh I wad kiss your gabbie, O!
Bnff. 1852 A. Harper Solitary Hours 75:
Ye sonsie looms erst made o' logs — Caups, gockies, bassies, Gabie-cogs.
Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.:
All gab and guts like a young crow.
Dmf. 1910 R. Quin Borderland 78:
O, a canty bit hoose is the Hole-i'-the-Wa'; When our gabs are let loose at the Hole-i'-the-Wa'!
Lnk. 1921 G. Blake Mother 33:
I'm the man to put the stopper on your bletherin' gab.

(2) Palate, taste. Also ¶gabbet, id.Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shepherd i. i.:
Bannocks, and a Shave of Cheese, Will make a Breakfast that . . . Might please the daintiest Gabs.
Abd. 1748 R. Forbes Ajax 9:
An' now these darts that weerded were To tak' the town o' Troy, To get meat for his gabb, he must Against the birds employ.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 54:
For now our Gentles gabbs are grown sae nice, At thee they toot, an' never speer my [whisky's] price.
Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 154:
For quiet rest lang'd wearie shanks, An' gabs for gustie chear.
Bnff. 1856 J. Collie Poems 65:
They'd tell you that their German gabs Were made for better cheer.
Rnf. 1870 J. Nicholson Idylls 127:
We hae scones an' oat-cakes, a braw kebbuck o' cheese, Wi' ither sweet stuffries our gabbies to please.
Sc. 1874 A. Hislop Sc. Anecdotes 212:
Ham, Eggs, an' Red Herrings for wairsh tasted gabbets.

(3) Hence gabbit, -et, in comb. (a) with a qualifying word = -mouthed (Rxb. 1942 Zai), e.g. †auld-gabbet, sagacious, see Auld, adj., 9. (8), and cf. auld-mou'd s.v. 9. (19), fine (nice)-gabbit, fastidious, fussy about food (Ags.18, Fif. 1953), sham-gabbit, having the lower jaw projecting (Slg.3 1945); (b) gabbed milk, milk “passed through the mouth” (Mry. 1867 Jam.).Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 71:
Wi' whilk we drumly grow, and crabbit, Dowr, capernoited, thrawin gabbit.
m.Lth. 1786 G. Robertson Har'st Rig (1794) cxi.:
And now some sleekit-gabbit wife Declares, she never liket strife.
Dmf. 1805 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 700:
L—d safe us, Tam, what's a the fyke, Impatient shuttle gabbit loon.
Rnf. 1808 R. Tannahill Poems (1876) 350:
How daur you trow that I am fou, Ye flounder-gabbit gipsy!
Ayr. 1823 Galt R. Gilhaize I. iii.:
That auld shavling-gabbit hielander.
Gsw. 1863 J. Young Ingle Nook 107:
The nicest gabbet micht hae dined At ony hour, e'en aff the flair.

¶(4) The crop (of a bird), fig. the stomach (of man). Cf. Gebbie.Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 214:
He found some ducks sweeming . . . he kills one of them and rips her up, but found none of it [money] in her guts or gabbie.
Ags. 1813 Montrose Review (30 July) 240:
Wattie aye gat's gabbie fou.

(5) A fork in a tree, or between a branch and a shoot (Rnf. a.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) G. 1.).

3. Also dims. gab(b)i(e), gabbock. A loquacious speaker; a tattler, chatterbox (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 58, gabbie; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), gabi; Mry., Bnff., Abd., Ags., Fif., Ayr. 1953; gab Sh., Ork., Bnff., Abd., Ags., Fif., Edb., Gsw., Ayr., Dmf., Rxb. 2000s). The form gabbie may also be the adj. used substantivally.Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie lxxii.:
It's no impossible that some o' the gabs o' the House will agitate the question.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 12:
Crail town was up wi' gashin' gabs.
Arg. 1841 T. Agnew Poet. Wks. 104:
A town-bred gabbie, fu' o' pride, He aye was by his master's side.
Ags. 1899 W. L. Watson Sir Sergeant xiv.:
I am thinkin' it will be a gey race o' gabs, an' the greatest liar in front.
Abd. 1931 D. Campbell Uncle Andie 6:
Wheesht! ye gabbock, an' tell's o' the wark ye left ahin.
Gsw. 1987 James Kelman Greyhound for Breakfast (1988) 11:
One of them's quiet. That suits me. The other yin's a gab. I'm no that bothered.

4. Phrs. & Combs.: (1) gab-gash, petulant or pert chatter (Cld. 1880 Jam.); voluble talk (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Inv.1 1953); (2) gab-nash, (a) petulant chattering (Rxb. 1825 Jam.; 1923 Watson W.-B.; 1942 Zai); (b) a pert or voluble chatterer (Watson, Zai); †(3) gab-shot, adj., having the lower jaw projecting beyond the upper one (Sh. 1900 E.D.D. s.v. geb-); cf. g(j)ep-shot s.v. Gep; †(4) gab-snash, = (2) (b); (5) gab-stick, a (wooden) spoon (Teviot., Lth. 1825 Jam.; Rxb.4 1945); also in Lin. dial.; †(6) gab-tree, the jaw; †(7) to be (weel, etc.) shod o' (i') the gab, to have the “gift o' the gab”; †(8) to dight one's gab, to shut one's mouth, to hold one's tongue, be silent. For dight see Dit with which it has been confused; (9) to gust one's gab, see Gust, n.1, v.1; (10) to ha(u)d one's gab, = (8); Gen.Sc.: (11) to set up one's gab, to speak out boldly or impertinently, to give free expression to one's feelings or opinions, to assert oneself in speech (Cai., Abd., Ags., Slg., Fif., Dmf., Rxb. 1953): also in n.Eng. dial. (-gob); (12) to steek one's gab, = (8) (Abd.2, Rxb.4 1945); used with double meaning in Slg. quot.; (13) to thraw one's gab, to grimace, “make a face”, as an expression of discontent or annoyance (Mry., Abd. 1953); †(14) to wheesht one's gab, = (8).(4) Sc. 1813 The Scotchman 105:
I miss't him sadly about the fireside for a gude while for it was a nackie gabsnash o a thing an had sae muckle cleck that the tongue o't neer lay.
(5) Ags. 1948 J. C. Rodger Mary Ann 42:
If ye luit a bladie fa', that meent a man wiz comin' t'ee hoose; gin ye drappit a gab-stick, it meent a wumman-body.
(6) Sc. 1728 in Ramsay Poems II. 108:
Sae gash thy Gab-trees gang, The Carlines live for ever in thy Sang.
(7) Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 23:
I ne'er was sair shod o' the gab mysel', An nae grite dab at telling o' a tale.
Abd. 1903 W. Watson Auld Lang Syne 114:
Being “weel shod i' the gab” . . . she would be “layin' aff” about everyone and everything connected with the district.
(8) Abd. 1777 R. Forbes Ulysses' Answer in Sc. Poems 34:
Then dight your gab, lad; bark nae mair At Diomede an' me.
Sc. 1820 Scott Abbot xiv.:
And now, my mates . . . once again dight your gabs and be hushed.
(10) Edb. 1839 W. McDowall Poems 34:
Puff'd up, conceited, senseless blab, Wha kens na whan to haud his gab, Or whan to speak.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 113:
Th'u hed nae main tae haud thee gab.
Sc. 1913 H. P. Cameron Imit. Christ iii. vi.:
Haud yer gab an' be quate. I'se no hear ye onie langer.
Sh. 1914 Angus Gl. 48:
Had 'ee gab.
Ork. 1929 Old-Lore Misc. IX. ii. 76:
Humph! sheu so'od a' hadden 'er gab.
(11) Sc. 1818 S. E. Ferrier Marriage (1819) II. xi.:
Paurents war paurents then — bairnes dardna set up their gabs afore them than as they du noo.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 74:
Jock o' the Scales . . . had now gotten gear enough amang his fingers to mak him set up his gab with the best of them.
(12) Ayr. 1787 Burns Ordination ix.:
Now Robertson harangue nae mair, But steek your gab for ever.
Mry. 1810 J. Cock Simple Strains 136:
His menseless gab was fairly steeket.
Edb. 1839 W. McDowall Poems 87:
And wi' her prayers her secrets blab, Withouten dread; 'Twere better she had steek'd her gab, Wi' steel an' thread.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 164:
An' aye I dreamed he [trout] would steek his gab On the hook o' my danglin' line.
(13) Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems II. 66:
This Sentence vex'd the Envoy Rottan sair; He threw his Gab, and girn'd; but durst nae mair.
m.Sc. a.1846 A. Rodger Poems (1897) 133:
And at his mither thraws his gab, Gin she but bid him rise.
(14) Sc. 1897 C. M. Campbell Deilie Jock iv.:
Wheesht your gab . . . if ye dinna want me to throttle ye!

II. v. To speak, talk, esp. to talk idly or loquaciously, to chatter (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)); Gen.Sc.; to talk impertinently (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 217; Cld. 1880 Jam.). With again: to give an impertinent reply when reprimanded (Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 254); with up (with direct or indirect obj.): to talk ingratiatingly (to someone); with ower: to say repeatedly. Also ppl.adj. gabbin. Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 187:
To see his Snowt, to hear him play, And gab sae gash.
Sc. 1769 in D. Herd Sc. Songs 338:
Nae daffin, nae gabbin, but sighing and sabbing, Ilk ane lifts her leglin and hies her away.
Ags. 1774 C. Keith in Weekly Mag. (30 Dec.) 15:
In daffin and in gabbin keen An hour they pass.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Author's Earnest Cry x.:
But could I like Montgomeries fight, Or gab like Boswell.
Per. 1835 R. Nicoll Poems 11:
He's a gabbin' bit birkie, the Auld Beggar Man.
Dmf. 1844 J. W. Carlyle Letters (1883) I. 293:
[He] came in to tea and sat there gabbing till ten o'clock.
Sc. 1849 A. Bell Melodies of Scot. 45:
There's wee bit Johnnie scarce can speak, . . . And yet ye'll hear him gabbin' ow'r That daddy is come hame.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 224:
Gab 'im up, an' ye'll get fat ye wint fae 'im.
Sc. 1868 G. Webster Strathbrachan II. iv.:
She seems to be gabbin up to you, Mr Siclike.
Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. viii. 320:
He gabs aneuch aboot a road tae Rackwick 'at lies somewhaar nar the ald Man o' Hoy, 'at wadna be o' ony eus till onybody.
Abd. 1920 C. Murray Country Places 22:
She gabbit in German, but whaur was the need? In Buchan braid Scots comes a hantle mair speed.
Abd. 1981 Jack Webster A Grain of Truth (1988) 120:
Still there was no acknowledgement and when the man had finally departed, one farmer turned to the other and summed up the creature with unmistakable disgust: 'A gabbin' vratch!'
Sc. 1991 T. S. Law in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 34:
This was a sairlik jobe tae tak,
an gif the chiel was no sae swack
o mynd as caw gy caunnilie,
but gabbit gyan coorselik, say,
he'd finnd the waefou news as ill

Hence 1. gabber, a ready or chatty talker (Bnff.2, Abd.2 1945; Mry., Ags., Rxb. 1953); “one who is loquacious and rather impudent in conversation” (n.Sc., Cld. 1825 Jam.); ¶2. gabbin-chat, “a tell-tale; an enfant terrible” (Abd. 1905 E.D.D. Suppl.); 3. gabbit, -et, -ed, adj., loquacious, talkative, tattling (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, gabbed; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), gabet; Kcb.10, Rxb.4 1953); impudent, impertinent.1. Bch. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 136:
Drouthie fu' aft the gabber spits, Wi' scaddit heart.
Sc. 1848 H. Miller Impressions Eng. iii.:
Their aptest pupils prove but the loquacious gabbers of their respective workshops.
3. n.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
A gabbit chit, a child that has much chat.
Ags. 1816 Montrose Courier (19 Jan.) 4:
That gabbet chiel, ycleped Macniel, Did wantonly abuse thee.
Gall. c.1870 in Bards of Gall. (ed. Harper 1889) 22:
“Mony thanks,” said the wifie, sae gabbit an' sma'.
Ags. 1873 T. Watson Poems, etc. 36:
Even gabbit Johnnie Howie had not a word to say.

[Not in O.Sc. Of uncertain origin: prob. onomat., cf. Gabber, Eng. gabble, Mid.Eng. gabben, to chatter. Sense 2. of the n. may be a separate word and a variant of earlier gob (see Gob, n.1, v.1).]

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