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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

KILT, v.1, n.1 Also kelt, †quelt. [Sc. kɪlt, Abd. + kjɪlt]

I. v. 1. tr. (1) Gen. of a woman: to tuck up (the skirts) so as to leave the legs free (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 88); to roll up (the sleeves) (Sh. 1960). Also with up. Gen.Sc. Ppl.adj. kilted, -et, tucked up, rolled up.Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 158:
Few Coats she wore, and they were kilted.
Abd. 1746 W. Forbes Dominie Depos'd (1765) 35:
Kilting up her petticoats Above her hose.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Earnest Cry xvii.:
Her tartan petticoat she'll kilt.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxvi.:
As sune as the keel o' the coble touches the sand, . . . the wives maun kilt their coats and wade into the surf to tak' the fish ashore.
Sc. 1864 M. Oliphant Katie Stewart i.:
Janet has the skirt of her dress folded up and secured round her waist, kilted as she calls it.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (5 March):
She . . . kilted her sleeves abune her elbicks.
Dmf. 1925 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 13:
If the dress is too long we kilt the skirts of it.
Ork. 1956 C. M. Costie Benjie's Bodle 69:
Sheu hid on a queer strippid petticoat a' kilted aap aboot her.

Hence kilting, kiltine, (i) “the lap, or part of a woman's petticoat that is tucked up” (Sc. 1808 Jam.); a pleated frill on a petticoat (Kcd., Ags., Dmf. 1960); (ii) = n., 1. below; (iii) fig. of the clouds: see quot.(i) Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 300:
She has got a Kid in her Kilting. That is, she has got a Bastard about her.
(ii) Sc. 1752 J. Campbell Highl. Soc. 8:
Their native Dress (called Kiltine) is different from that of the Lowlands.
(iii) Abd. c.1890 Gregor MSS.:
When the sky “upsets” towards the north, i.e. when large masses of clouds of different hues rise towards the north, or according to an expression sometimes used, “Fan rawns is roastin (from the reddish hues in the clouds),” with the wind from the south, the wind for a time overcomes the clouds, but the saying is: — “There's warrin atween the north an the sooth, an' there'll be nae peace till the north get victory.” The wind goes to the north, and blows a breeze, it may be for a day or two. When the clouds form a large solid mass: — “a kiltin,” as some call it, the breeze is close at hand.

Phr.: high- or heich-kilted, — it, having the skirts well tucked up; hence fig. immodest, indecent (Sc. 1882 C. Mackay Poetry and Humour Sc. Lang. 159; Fif.10 1941).Sc. 1792 Burns's Wks. (Douglas) VI. 413:
High kilted was she, the coat aboon her knee.
Sc. 1809 Scott in Quarterly Rev. (Feb.) 22:
In one or two passages [of the Jolly Beggars] the muse has trespassed slightly upon decorum, where, in the language of Scottish song, High kilted was she As she gaed ower the lea.
Dmf. 1810 R. H. Cromek Remains 13:
Tho' she may gang a wee thing high kilted at times.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter v.:
Carried home, in compassion by some high-kilted fishwife.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 281:
His conversation, . . . though aye stopping short of skulduddery itsel', was whyles, still and on, of a gey heich-kiltit kind.
Abd. 1914 J. Leatham Daavit 63:
Aw'm thinkin' the dance wasna freely sae high-kiltit as it is wi' Maudie.
Sc. 1915 W. Walker Peter Buchan 168:
This collection of the ribald, high-kilted, northern and other muse.

†(2) To raise, lift up or suspend anything quickly (Ags. 1808 Jam.); fig. to hang. Vbl.n. kilting, hanging. Cf. Eng. tuck, truss up.Mry. 1810 J. Cock Simple Strains 69:
Many ane she's kiltet up Syne set them fairly on their doup.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. vi.:
They gie another sort o' help to puir folk than just dinging down a saxpence in the brod on the Sabbath, and kilting and scourging and drumming them a' the sax days o' the week besides.
Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xxiii.:
It wad be sair news to the auld wife . . . that . . . I had kilted you up in a tow.
Sc. 1828 Scott Journal (1890) II. 127:
Our ancestors brought the country to order by kilting thieves and banditti with strings.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin ix.:
Kiltin' up yer lang souple teelyour shanks, as if the very deil were in ye!
Edb. 1926 Broughton Mag. (Summer) 7:
Juist eneuch raip to kilt themsel's.

Comb.: †kilt-rack, a device for raising the rack of a mill (Ags. 1808 Jam.). See Rack.

2. intr. (1) To put on a kilt. Cf. n. 1.Sc. 1741 Sc. Hist. Review II. 303:
The Serjant took hold of him [a private] and desired him at his peril to kilt.

(2) To hasten, to go quickly, expeditiously, as if with the clothes kilted.Sc. 1816 Scott B. Dwarf xviii.:
He's a clever fallow, indeed! maun kilt awa wi' ae bonny lass in the morning, and another at night.
Per. 1894 I. Maclaren Brier Bush 150:
Kiltin' up the braes as hardy as a hielan' sheltie.

II. n. A part of the modern male Highland dress, consisting of a skirt made of tartan cloth, hung from the waist and reaching to the knee, plain in front but thickly pleated at the back. It appears to have originated sometime in the late 17th c. or in the earlier part of the 18th c. from cutting the belted plaid across at the waist so as to make a separate garment. It was orig. called the little kilt or Filibeg, q.v. It is incorrect Sc. usage to use the pl. kilts as a sing.Sc. c.1730 E. Burt Letters (1815) II. 168:
Those . . . who travel on foot . . . vary it [the trowze] into the quelt.
Sc. 1746 Lyon in Mourning (S.H.S.) II. 99:
He was then in kilt with very indifferent plaid.
Sc. 1771 T. Pennant Tour 1769 163:
The fillebeg, i.e. little plaid, also called kelt, is a sort of short petticoat reaching only to the knees, and is a modern substitute for the lower part of the plaid.
Abd. 1778 Aberdeen Jnl. (23 Feb.):
Had on when he went away a Blue short Coat and little Kilt.
Sc. 1831 J. Logan Sc. Gael (1876) I. 241:
All regular tartans are made, so that, in the fold of the kilt and plaid, which are formed — what is called quilted, or box plaiting, a particular stripe shall appear.
Sc. 1854 H. Miller Schools vi.:
The kilt had been assumed for but a few weeks.
w.Dmf. 1899 Country Schoolmaster (Wallace) 336:
The Highland costume . . . was perfected in the plaid and the kilt, otherwise known as the philibeg.
Sc. 1956 Weekly Scotsman (9 May):
Engravings and carved heraldic stones such as those in Nisbet's plates and the stone dated 1692 at Skene House, have been the means of preserving contemporary details of Highland costume, and confounding the much-canvassed statement that the philabeg, or little kilt, was invented by Captain Rawlinson about 1728.

Hence 1. kilted, adj., dressed in a kilt (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Gen.Sc.; 2. kilter, n., a man wearing the kilt, a soldier in a Highland regiment (Ags., Fif. 1960); a kiltmaker (Per. 1960); 3. kiltie, (1) n., = 2. Gen.Sc.; one who wears “a very short dress” (Cld. 1880 Jam.); (2) adj., derog. Scottish. 1. Bnff. 1882 W. M. Philip K. MacIntosh's Scholars 66:
The kiltet mannie puttin' a cigar in his mou.
Sc. 1952 L. B. Oatts Proud Heritage 247:
The Lord Provost protested to the War Office that the citizens wanted a “Highland” regiment! In other words, “Highland” and “kilted” had come to mean the same thing.
3. (1) Sc. 1842 D. Vedder Poems 112:
In double quick time did the kilties career;. . . The weavers an' hecklers, they scamper'd like deer.
Rnf. 1856 Vagabond Songs (Ford 1904) 225:
The kilties gaed to help the Turks, Wi' a' their pistols, guns, and dirks.
Sc. 1909 R. M. Fergusson Silver Shoe-buckle 27:
I noticed after a wee that Rob Roy and a lot o' his kilties was prowling aboot.
Lth. 1918 A. Dodds Lothian Land 71:
He jined a kilty regiment, An' sailed across the sea.
wm.Sc. 1932 J. Corrie A Man o' War 6:
He was in the Kilties; his kilt was fair riddled wi' bullets at Mons.
Ags. 1953 Forfar Dispatch (22 Jan.):
It [skean-dhu]'s a kind o' dirk that kilties wear in their stockins.
Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 29:
"Aw the bonny kilties, dyin in the mud."
Gsw. 1998 Herald 16 Jun 4:
Better to be a drunken, jovial kiltie than a sober hooligan anglais.

Phr.: kiltie, (kiltie) cauldbumkilty cauld bum, disparaging term for someone wearing a kilt (Bnff., Ags., Edb., Ayr., Rxb. 2000s).wm.Sc. 1979 Robin Jenkins Fergus Lamont 10:
As he passed he gave Rab a kick in the backside to stop him chanting 'Kiltie Cauldbum'.
Gsw. 1980 Christine Marion Fraser Blue Above the Chimneys (1985) 63:
At a safe distance I turned and yelled, 'Ya! Kilty cauld bum, big banana feet! Tickles a' the lassies and fa-arts in his seat!'
Sc. 1993 Herald 21 Aug 12:
Tartan Shorts, like Movie Makars incidentally, is the sort of dud title one expects from our resident culture providers - no names, no pack drill - but why those who dwell in Victoria Crescent and Queen Margaret Drive assume we are all kiltie caul bums and talk like Hugh MacDiarmid's bairns, except that they don't speak like that, is beyond me.
Sc. 1993 Scotland on Sunday 17 Oct :
It's a Glasgow expression. Anybody in a kilt in Glasgow, it was either 'Kiltie kiltie cauld bum', or you'd say 'Hey Donald where's your troosers?"'
(2) Gsw. 1990 Alan Spence The Magic Flute (1991) 144:
'Nothing wrong wi the song. It's aw that kiltie stuff. Pure crap so it is. Andy Stewart by fuck. The hoochter choochter bit. White fucking Heather Club. Heedrum fucking hodrum. Make you puke so it would.'
Sc. 1991 Sunday Times 18 Aug :
Demarco himself was rejoicing with Oliver Barratt, secretary of the Cockburn Association, over the recent news that the Italian government has acquired the building for conversion into a cultural institute, ''so it is not going to become a sauna, a casino or a kiltie knick-knack shop''.
Sc. 1997 Scotsman 30 Sep 13:
His dad, Denis, sold horribly expensive jeans for a living back when Andy was a lad, and now the mum and dad have a good-going business in Perth selling kilts and kiltie stuff.
Sc. 1998 Herald 2 Jul 15:
The capital is as usual full of tourists asking each other the way to the next item in their Welcome to Edinburgh leaflet, buying kiltie dogs and thistle brooches.
Sc. 1999 Scotsman 26 Aug 14:
If Martin Scorsese wanted to re-make Brigadoon in Princes Street Gardens, only this time really overdoing the kiltie kitsch, Carlaw couldn't stop him.
Sc. 2001 Scotsman 10 Dec 9:
Instead, they're being big enough to admit to their past mistakes in a compilation of kiltie kitsch and tartan tat. This show is called How To Make A Hogmanay Show ...

Phr.: help my kilt!, good gracious! (Bnff., Ags., Edb., Dmb., Rxb. 2000s). Edb. 1938 Fred Urquhart Time Will Knit (1988) 64:
"... Thirty shillings! Help my kilt, it wasn't worth it."

[O.Sc. kilt, to tuck up, from 1513, to hang, 1697, North Mid.Eng. kilt, to gird, a.1340. The n. is not found in O.Sc. ‡Norw., Dan. kilte, to tuck up the clothes round the body, O.N. kelta, kjalta, id., kilting, fold, lap of a garment.]

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"Kilt v.1, n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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