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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

GNAP, v., n., adj. Also gnape, gnep. Cf. Knap, v., n.3 [(g)nɑp, (g)nɛp (see P.L.D. §§ 66, 136)]

I. v. 1. To crunch, gnaw, bite (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis); to snap (at) (Cai. 1900 E.D.D.; ne.Sc. 1954); used of two horses nibbling at each other in a friendly way (Ork.5 1953). Obs. in Eng. since 16th c. Hence gnap hungry, extremely hungry.Mry. 1810 J. Cock Simple Strains 119:
[She] disna spare her cheese an' cakes To had our teeth a gnappin Fu' crump, nae night.
Abd. 1881 W. Paul Past & Present 48:
That dog . . . gashin' an' gnappin' there at the fleas.
Abd. 1925 A. Murison Rosehearty Rhymes 36:
I saw them [fairies] licht a fire o' sticks An' puff an' blaw, an' gnap.
ne.Sc. 1953 Abd. Wkly. Jnl. (20 Aug.):
I've heard . . . a farmer, sitting down to his mid-day meal, saying to his wife: “I'll gae ma maet a gey fleg this day, wumman, for I'm gnap hungry.”

Phrs.: (1) gnap-at-the-wa', oatcakes baked hard (Abd. 1954). Cf. (2); (2) gnap-(at)-the-ween (win'), “[oat-] cakes baked very thin; any kind of very light bread” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 67, -the-ween; Bnff. 1927) or food generally (ne.Sc. 1954); also applied fig. to anything unsubstantial or ephemeral, “such as position, fame, etc.” (Bnff.3 c.1920, -at-the-win'); (3) (in) gnap(p)in(g) earnest, (in) dead earnest; also gnap an' [sic] earnest (Abd. 1920 R. H. Calder Gleanings 14).(2) Abd. 1920 A. Robb MS.:
It was the shepherd that back a' the bannocks and he wisna a bad hand at it; he gae them plenty o' grip onywye. He spak o' makin twa bannocks oot o' the peck, so that wisna gnap at the win'.
Bnff.16 1954:
An old lady said of a thick “piece” given to a child: “Noo, that's nae gnap at the win'.”
(3) Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 84:
But she in gnapping earnest taks it a', The bargain was that she sud lat's awa'.
Abd. 1787 A. Shirrefs Jamie & Bess iii. i.:
It's gnapin' earnest, lass, I mak' you sear.
Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 144:
It's a' gnappin' earnest; a' body's in a hurry to wun through.

2. Fig. (1) With at: to taunt, to find fault with, snap at (Cai. 1900 E.D.D.).Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 67:
He's a nyatterin' bodie: he's eye gnappin' at something.

(2) tr. or with at: To speak mincingly or affectedly, to clip (words) in speaking, specif. of a Sc. speaker affecting English.Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 293:
But keep me frae your travel'd birds, Wha never ance dree'd Fortune's dirds, And only ken to gnap at words.
Ags. 1822 A. Balfour Farmers' Three Daughters I. 80:
They say she fetches on the bairns wonderfu'. To be sure she has nane o' your new-fashioned gnappin.
Bch. 1832 W. Scott Poems 125:
We maun hae new anes, smooth an' sleek, An' gnap at English when we speak, For that's genteel.
Ags. 1875 J. Watson Verse Samples 110:
Gnapin' fine English an' quotin' French plays.
Mry. 1889 T. L. Mason Rafford 1:
The common people of almost every parish, though they are sometimes forced to “gnep,” in the presence of the Queen's English, retain still, a fondness for “oor auld mither tongue.”
Bnff.2 1928:
She's been Sooth a gey feylie, an' ye niver hard sic gnepit wirds as she uses.
Mry.4 1931:
She was trying to talk her best “Glasgow” — gneppin, in fact.

II. n. 1. A snap with the teeth; a bite, a morsel (Abd.27 1954). Also fig.Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 63:
An' fan I saw their piece was but a gnap, I thought my sell of mending their mishap.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 67:
The nowt hinna a gnap o' streh to pit i' thir hehds.
Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 5:
We're jist at wir tay. Come awa'; ye'll get a gnap yet.

2. Fig. (1) A snap, a biting remark.Abd. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 83:
He eence tried a bit gnap at John in my hearin” bit aw'm thinkin' he got little cheenge oot o' him. †(2) In pl.: mincing, affected speech, sc. English.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 5:
Speak my ain leed, 'tis gueed auld Scots I mean, Your Southern gnaps, I count not worth a preen.
Mearns 1819 J. Burness Plays, etc. 297:
The niest time that ye rhyme do mak, Let it be Scottish strains; Your southlan gnaps I value not.

III. adj. Hungry, having a good appetite (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff., Add. 225; Bnff.2 1945).

[Onomat. in origin: cf. Knap. v., n.3, with similar meanings. O.Sc. has gnap, = v., 1. above, from 1501, Mid.Eng. 1303.]

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"Gnap v., n., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jun 2024 <>



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