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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

KNAVE, n. Also ¶kanave. [(k)ne:v]

Sc. usages:

1. A boy, a lad; specif. a servant-boy, a menial. Obs. in Eng. since 17th c. Liter.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 95:
Early Master, soon Knave. When a Youth is too soon his own Master, he will squander his Patrimony, and so must turn Servant.

Combs.: †(1) knave-bairn, a male child (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.); (2) knave-kuith, a coalfish or young saithe in the third year of its growth (Ork. 1929 Marw.); †(3) kanave's fang, see Fang; (4) knave's piece, id. (see quot.).(1) Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxii.:
Wha could tell whether the bony knave-bairn may not come back to claim his ain.
Dmf. 1822 A. Cunningham Trad. Tales (1874) 354:
The cummer drink's hot, and the knave bairn is expected at Laird Lawrie's to-night.
(4) Rnf. c.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) K 37:
Knave's piece: — the beginning whang or slice of a cheese, the outside shave of a laif, the angular neuk or corner of a farl of bread, which is sometimes reikit a wee on the girdle in turning the farl.

2. Specif.: a miller's servant, gen. employed in carrying the sacks of corn and meal, an undermiller. For comb. knave's lock, = knaveship below, see Lock.Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 150:
Our Mill Knaves that lift the Laiding.
Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate xi.:
With auld Edie Netherstane, the miller at Grindleburn, and wi' his very knave too.
Ork. 1841 Trans. Highl. Soc. 132:
The knave is the person who superintends the mill, but not the proper miller, as the tenants themselves must grind their corn, which is all kiln-dried at the tenant's home-stead.

Hence †knav(e)ship, -schip, naveship (Dmf. 1794 B. Johnston Agric. Dmf. 89), kneeship (Sc. 1808 Jam.), in Sc. Law: a small proportion of the grain ground at a mill under the system of Thirlage, which was the perquisite of the undermiller or miller's servant. Also attrib. Cf. Bannock, n., 2., Gowpen, n., 3., Lock.Abd. 1699 A. Watt Kintore (1865) 42:
About fourtie years ago, the deponent came to the milne of Kintore, and served under Geo. Catto, his brother, at said milne, and gathered up the lick; and his brother gathered the knaveship.
Gsw. 1703 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 366:
With the milne of Provand . . . sequells and knaveship thereof.
Sc. 1738 Morison Decisions 16017:
The dimensions of the cap or dish by which a miller receives his multures or knaveship, being local, and depending on custom.
Ags. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 IX. 43:
The whole parish of Pert is under thirlage to the mill of Pert, some paying 1/25 , and others 1/21 multure, besides knaveship, etc.
Inv. 1808 J. Robertson Agric. Inv. 337:
Besides one peck and a half of meal out of every sixteen pecks of shilling, which is emphatically called the miller's Knaveship.
Sc. 1872 Trans. Highl. Soc. 296:
The proportion paid to the privileged miller as multure and knaveship varied considerably.

3. In dim. form knavi(e), a fisherman's taboo-name for a cod (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)). Cf. knave-kuith under 1.

[O.Sc. knave, a servant, 1375, an assistant in a mill, 1628, knafe barne, a male child, a.1400, cnaueschipe, a.1350, knaschip, 1539.]

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"Knave n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jul 2024 <>



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