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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

KNIFE, n. Also kneeff (Sc. a.1714 Earls Crm. (Fraser 1876) II. 495), tneif (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 194), t'nife (Ags. 1888 Barrie Auld Licht Idylls (1902) 226). Pl. unvoiced form knifes (Gall. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 321). Sc. usages. [Sc. (k)nəif, Ags., e.Per. tnəif]

Sc. form of Eng. knives. (knifes Sh., Cai., Ags., Edb., Arg., Ayr., Rxb. 2000s). Edb. 1994 Douglas McKenzie in James Roberston A Tongue in Yer Heid 9:
She spread a clean newspaper on the table an pit oot the knifes and forks, dancin between the livin-room an the kitchen, gien a wee jouk o her legs as she passed the kitchen door.

Sc. usages:

1. Dim. knif(f)ie, knif(e)y, a boys' game in which each player tries to stick an open knife into the ground by sliding or tossing it from different parts of the arms and body (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. s.v. peggie, n.2). Also attrib. Gen.Sc.m.Sc. 1901 Sc. Antiquary XVI. 49:
“Bonnety” and “Knify,” for instance, are the “Hatty” and “Knifey” which in the old days the Edinburgh Academy once knew so well.
Gsw. 1914 F. Niven Justice of the Peace ii. iv.:
Spanish sailors playing “knifey” on the deck.
Ags. 1934 G. M. Martin Dundee Worthies 179:
“Knifie” . . . [was] played with a knife with open blade on any grass plot . . . It began with each player qualifying by stabbing his knife in the ground; then front “handie” and back “handie” as the name implies, the knife has to be dropped into the ground from the palm or back of hand. “Pointie” by gripping the tip of the blade and making the knife turn over and land in the ground. “Two pointie” by a double somersault, and “Pitch” by stabbing the knife in the ground and hitting it with the palm of the hand make it travel and find an upright position some distance away.
Bnff. 1951 Banffshire Advert. (16 Aug.):
I eest tae be the best knifey player in the toonie squeel.
Cai. 1952 John o' Groat Lit. Soc.:
“Kniffie” was a game needing dexterity in finger play.
Edb. 1955 Edb. Evening News (4 Jan.):
A favourite boy's game which has now died out. It was known as “knifey.”

2. Phrs. and Comb.: †(1) black knife, a small dirk (Per. 1825 Jam.), a translation of Gael. sgian dubh. See Skean; (2) knifes an' forks, bird's-foot trefoil, Lotus corniculatus (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Lth. 1960). Also in Eng. dial., applied to Herb Robert, the common club-moss; (3) knife box, in weaving, a frame composed of horizontal bars for raising the upright needles used in pattern weaving (Ayr. 1951).

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"Knife n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Jun 2024 <>



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