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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

NATTER, v., n. Also nya(u)tter; n(j)at(te)r (Jak.); gnatter, ne(a)tter; nit(te)r-. See also Yatter. [′n(j)ɑtər, Ags. + ′nɛtər]

I. v. 1. To chatter, esp. in an irritating or nagging manner, to nag, grouse, keep grumbling peevishly (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 367; Dmf. (nyatter), Rxb. 1825 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 119; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen.Sc. Ppl.adj., vbl.n. nyatterin, complaining, grousing, given to aimless chattering, esp. when others are speaking (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 367; ne.Sc. 1963); peevish grumbling (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 119; ne.Sc. 1963); nyattered, spoken in a grumbling, nagging way (Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 37); nitteret, nit(t)ret, ill-natured, sulky-looking, crusty (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Cld. 1880 Jam.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork. 1929 Marw.). Also fig. Only dial. or colloq. in Eng.Abd. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 18:
My heart aft natters gaunt wi' spleen.
Sc. 1824 Scots Mag. (April) 478:
Ye're aye girn, girning, and fash, fashing, and spier, spiering, and gnatter, gnattering.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 5:
Oor forebears an ther Southron neebers . . . war everly natterin an fechtin.
Ags. 1930 A. Kennedy Orra Boughs ii.:
He did know what thoughts breenged through it [the brain], what shauchled, what ga'ed netter-netter-netter.
Abd. 1934 D. Scott Stories and Sk. 25:
He's an awfu' nyatterin' vratch files.
ne.Sc. 1950 W. Kemp Cornkisters 5:
If there's naethin' on earth tae grunt aboot, he'll neatter at the meen.
Kcd. 1957 Mearns Leader (20 Sept.):
Him an' his better half hae nyattered wi' ane an' ither mornin' neen, an' nicht a' the time!

Hence (g)natterie, n(y)at(te)rie, -y; nyatrach(y) (Mry.1 1925), nitterie (Jam.; Marw.), -y, peevish, crabbed, cantankerous, irascible, given to sharp caustic talk (Abd., Kcd. 1825 Jam.; Cld. 1880 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Ork. 1929 Marw.; I. and ne.Sc., Kcb., Rxb. 1963). Also in n.Eng. dial.; fig. nagging, tormenting; of soil: stony, poor (Abd.15 1928). Cf. Chattery, id.Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 163:
Whyles her gnattery tongue is a desperate fash to me.
Abd. 1904 W. A. G. Farquhar Fyvie Lintie 137:
Fashed wi' nyattery colic pain.
Bch. 1946 J. C. Milne Orra Loon 9:
Mains is nyattery nyattery and as crabbit as a wife.

2. To nibble into small pieces, esp. of a mouse (ne.Sc. 1963). Also in Eng. dial.

3. To work slowly and ineffectually, to potter; of a mill: to grind slowly and unevenly (Sh. 1963).Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928):
De mill is nat(te)rin. . . . Shø (de mill) is only nit(te)rin aboot.

4. To drizzle, esp. along with a high wind (Cai. 1903 E.D.D., nyatter; Ork. 1929 Marw., nitter). Hence nyatterie, drizzly, windy and showery (I.Sc. 1963).Sh.4 1931:
It's been a cowld nyatterie kind o a day.

II. n. 1. Grousing, nagging talk, aimless chatter (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 119; Kcb.11900; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)). Gen.Sc.Abd. 1933 J. H. Smythe Blethers 54:
Bit ailin' fouks' nyatter he tholed wi' gweed grace.

2. A crabbed, nagging person, a continual chatterer (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh.4 1931; Sh., ne., sm. and s.Sc. 1963). Hence natterel, id. (Fif. 1919 T.S.D.C.). Comb.: ¶natter-wurr, id. (Ib.).Abd.30 1958:
I canna stick 'er, she's sic an awfu nyatter.

[A freq. formation of imit. orig. Cf. Gnat, Nattle, and Norw. gnadre, grumble, growl, Sw. gnata, carp, nag, nibble, gnat, carping, nagging, nibbling, O.N. gnotra, to clatter, rattle. For v. 3. cf. also Norw. dial. gnitre, to work in a finicky way, to make something too small.]

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



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