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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

O, prep. Also oa. Gen.Sc. reduced or unstressed form of Eng. of, on. The assimilation in form has led to confusion and transference of usage between Of and On which can be recognised when the full forms are used and which is dealt with under the articles Of, On. There is a somewhat similar confusion occas. with the reduced form i of In, A. 5., q.v. and cf. (6) (iv). For other unstressed forms of o, see A, prep.2, A, prep.3 and the coalesced form with the article Ee, 'E. [o, and unstressed ə]

1. = Of. (1) As in Eng.Edb. 1720 A. Pennecuik Helicon 3:
Jenny scours off, and wants her Gown o' Green.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 21:
But heary, what do ye think o't?
Ayr. 1786 Burns To a Mouse vii.:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men.
Sc. 1819 Scott L. Montrose iv.:
That were the warst o't.
Ags. 1899 Barrie W. in Thrums v.:
The origin o' cock-fightin' gangs back to the time o' the Greek wars.
Sh. 1914 Angus Gl. 97:
Dat at I was tellin dee o.
Rxb. 1924 Hawick Express (1 Feb.) 3:
Oor ain local trade's on th' way o' improvement.
wm.Sc. 1928 J. Corrie Last Day 54:
Where are ye going to at this time o' a Sunday morning.

(2) Used periphrastically with a pers. pron. in place of the more usual poss. pron., and gen. conveying a dim. effect, as of affectionate tenderness or of scorn (s.Sc. 1873 D.S.C.S. 192; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 86; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Ayr., Kcb. 1964); hence in refl. pron. the sell o' m, — ye, etc., himself, yourself, etc. (ne.Sc., Per. 1964). See also It, pers. pron., 4.Sc. 17.. Merry Muses (1959) 62:
Wap and row, wap and row Wap and row the feetie o't.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian ix.:
I ken nae friend he has in the world that's been sae like a father to him as the sell o' ye.
Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 3:
The rape about the neck o' them.
Ayr. 1870 J. Hunter Life Studies 189:
I wad hae thrawn the neck o' him.
Rnf. 1889 Ellis E.E.P. V. 747:
The sel' o't, the heid o' her, the banes o' m.
Abd. 1898 Wkly. Free Press (25 June):
I never was a gweed gar me trew a' the days o' me.
Knr. 1925 H. Haliburton Horace 101:
Then wash'd owre seas upon a spar, Wi' seaweeds roun' the head o'm.
wm.Sc. 1928 J. Corrie Last Day 65:
The English o' her! — it wad hae knocked ye doon.
Kcd. 1958 Mearns Leader (17 Oct.):
Jist haud the kyard tongue o' ye.

(3) Used elliptically governing a pl. pers. pron. = some (of), a number or quantity (of), a few, with reference to something previously mentioned (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 86; Sh., Bnff., Abd., Kcb. 1964). Cf. othem upothem s.v. Ithem-Tithem. The pron. is occas. omitted.Cld. 1825 Jam.:
O' them faucht, o' them fled.
Dmf. 1864–5 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 56:
The word of is used for some, e.g., “there were o' them”, for “there were some.”
Abd. 1882 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 62:
I've hed o' my nain, man, ta'en hame to the faul'.
Ayr.4 1928:
Have ye ony taties tae sell? No, but Whitesmuir has o.
Sh.12 1951:
If someone said, “Der a lok o fok wi Rayburn cookers noo,” a reply might be, “You see o dem in Waas”, or even “Der o' dem in Waas.”
Abd. 1964:
There are o's that kens better.

(4) Used in designations of tenant farmers, preceded by a christian name and governing the name of the farm (I.Sc. 1964). Cf. Of and In, prep., B. 2., which latter is the correct formal usage in Sc. See 1929 quot., though the explanation of o there given is unlikely.Ayr. 1790 Burns Tam o' Shanter 224:
Remember Tam o' Shanter's meare.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxvi.:
The lairds and farmers have the names of their places that they live at - as for example, Tam o' Todshaw, Will o' the Flat, Hobbie o' Sorbietrees.
Sh. 1836 Gentleman's Mag. II. 589:
I mett Tammie o' Skae . . . abun Trullia watter, rydin apo Peter o' Hundegird's blessit hoarse.
Ork. 1929 Marw. s.v. A:
As O.N. á passes reg. in Ork. and Shet. into ō, it is practically certain that “o” in the general modern usage John o' Breck, Willie o' Skaill, etc., is the O.N. á rather than the Scots o' — a contraction of “of”.
Sh. 1955 New Shetlander No. 41. 8:
Da English laads wer geen an' be me side stöd nane idder dan Sammie Tamson, Geordie o' Setter.

(5) Freq. omitted (i) after nouns denoting a small quantity, as Bit, Curn, Grain, n.1, Piece, Pickle, Wheen, etc. See also under these articles.Kcb. 1703 W. Mackenzie Hist. Gall. I. App. 44:
Jean M'Murrie . . . sought a piece bread to a lass that she had with her.
Sc. 1758 Session Papers, Yuill v. Yuill (29 Nov.) 2:
When he had gathered a penny money by his hard labour.
Per. 1895 I. Maclaren Auld Lang Syne 69:
There's a wheen fine fat cattle and some gude young horses.
Sc. 1896 Stevenson W. Hermiston i.:
Tak' it awa', and bring me a piece bread.
Abd.31 1959:
Gie's a bittie toffee. I'll tak a drap milk redder nor a sup tay.

(ii) rarely in names of rivers, in phr. Water (of). See also Water.Sc. 1746 Lyon in Mourning (S.H.S.) I. 99:
He [the Prince] was that day in one of the hutts on the other side of the Water Kiaig a short mile from Cluns.

(6) In usages, where Eng. employs a different prep. or governing phr.: (i) as regards, in connection with, about, as far as concerns. See also It, 3.Edb. 1796 A. Steel Twa Cuckolds 10:
An', when o' fraise she was na mist, He set her down upo' the kist.
Rnf. 1807 R. Tannahill Poems (1900) 15:
I'm grown sae fat, I'm like tae burst my claise! Nae wonner o't! I'm just noo at my prime.
Kcb. 1816 W. Nicholson Tales 8:
Wha winna be content wi' this Is ill to please o' warldly bliss.
Dmb. 1844 W. Cross Disruption ix.:
As it's gloamin' he wad ne'er ken the difference o' us.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Underwoods 103:
It's just a place to warstle through As Job confessed o't.
Abd. 1918 C. Murray Sough o' War 21:
But when the guidman loot a wird aboot war. She fairly got on to the girnin' o't.

Phr.: Gud ken o me, as far as I am concerned, God knows!Sh. 1964:
Güd ken o me as I ken no = God knows for I don't.

(ii) for; on account of, in return for, at the price of; freq. after compar. = in consequence of. Gen. (exc. I.) Sc. See also Better, Waur.Fif. 1737 Gentleman's Mag. (May) 282:
Gif it be wirth one ting it cane bi dir o' tipens.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xlv.:
But ye'll no be the waur o' something to eat, I trow.
Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xxvii.:
It's as muckle as your life's worth — that wad be dear o' little siller.
Ags. 1824 Literary Olio (24 Jan.) 29:
Odd, lassies, we maun hae some o' ye buckled to auld Laird Anderson; he's lang been wud o' a wife.
Slg. c.1830 J. Love Antiq. Notes (1908) I. 187:
They are just as guid beasts o' their age as e'er gaed afore their ain tails.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums 53:
Fleyed o' their vera life to gang doon the auld wood in the gloamin'.
e.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 158:
There never was a great measure o' reform cairrit yet, withoot somebody bein nane the better o't.
Per. 1896 I. Maclaren K. Carnegie 352:
He wudna be the waur o' a doctor.
Abd. 1961:
This sheen's gettin a bit the waur o the wear.

(iii) from. Also in Eng. (mainly n.) dial. To gaither o, to infer from, to speculate from the appearance of (Abd. 1964); o the auld, from of old, from old times (Ags. 1964).Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Tales 11:
My mither o' him dreads ay skaith.
Slk. 1828 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) viii.:
Ah! let us alane o' her!
Dmf. 1836 A. Cunningham Lord Roldan III. ix.:
Just as if I didna ken him o' the auld.
Slk. 1874 Border Treasury (25 July) 8:
I dinna ken yet whether I'se kill [an ox] mysel' or take a side o' my feyther.
Kcd. 1893 Stonehaven Jnl. (2 Feb.) 2:
I didna ken ye or geather o' ye. I micht a kent yer wird.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. s.v. mense:
Her faimily hae muckle mense o' her.
Sh. 1964:
He taks dat o' his midder.

(iv) in, in respect of, in the matter of. Gen.Sc. Arch. or liter. in Eng.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 10:
A Tinklar was never a Town-taker, A Taylor was never a hardy Man, Nor yet a Webster leal o' his Trade.
Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xxvi.:
It's a queer thing o' me, gentlemen.
Gall. c.1870 Scottish Studies II. ii. 210:
MacLeish's ae dochter though blin o' an e'e.
Abd. 1893 G. Macdonald Songs 67:
Whan the gowd cock crew, Janet cam back — Her face was gray o' ble.

(v) to, before (an hour), in telling the time (I. and ne.Sc., ‡Ags., Kcb. 1964).I.Sc. 1903 E.D.D.:
It is common to say “5 minutes o' ten” for 5 minutes to ten.
Abd. 1961:
Twa meenits o a quarter o fower, i.e. 3.43.

(vi) with, to the accompaniment of (the elements), in consequence or as a result of. Gen.Sc.w.Sc. 1825 Jam.:
It's layin' on o' snaw.
Slk. 1829 Hogg Tales (1874) 201:
For, d'ye ken, the poor wee lassie's greetin' o' hunger.
wm.Sc. 1888 Anon. Archie Macnab 33:
Rinnin' in the direction o' the boat, his face pourin' o' sweat.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
It's poorin' o' rain. A'm poorin' o' sweet. It's on o' rain, snaw, etc.
Cai. 1961 “Castlegreen” Tatties an' Herreen' 41:
Losh, Mrs Mansan, id's spittan' o' rain.
Sc. 1964:
Stairvin o' caul(d); smorin o the caul(d).

2. = On. (1) (i) as in Eng. (Sc. 1887 Jam.).Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 82:
Behind the door, a calour heather bed Flat o' the floor, of stanes an' fail was made.
Sc. 1794 Tam Thrum Look before ye Loup 17:
Without a glimpse o' sunshine to cheer them o' their journey.
Ayr. 1847 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 233:
Rin owre o' that side.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb iv.:
I daursay ye thocht ye hed me o' the steel o' repentance on Sunday.
Bch. 1930 Abd. Univ. Review (March) 103:
It wiz very different than o' the hairst rig by fat it is noo.

(ii) used of a state, condition or action before a vbl.n., now obsol. or obs. in Eng. where it is often treated as a pref. in the forms on-, a-.Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxviii.:
“No, sir; . . .” quoth the little elf, burstin' oot o' laughin'.
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 7:
Thay've begun o' howkin up the fields an settin taatihs in thum.

(iii) This usage is esp. freq. after certain adjs., as Late, Lang, Dreich, Slaw. See further under these words and Of, 2. (3). Gen.Sc.Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail xci.:
Like the chariot-wheels o' Pharoah, sae dreigh o' drawing.
Abd. 1880 W. Robbie Yonderton 19:
If he thocht there wis onything a-gaen he widna be lang o' pittin in an appearance.
Lth. 1895 A. S. Swan Gates of Eden v.:
Ye wadna be lang o' tirin' o'd onyway.
w.Dmf. 1915 J. L. Waugh Betty Grier 98:
Next mornin' he was dreich o' risin'.
Mry. 1939 J. M. Dallas Toakburn 88:
I am aye late o' getting hame whan ye come doon for coal.

(2) Corresp. to different preps. in Eng.: (i) about, concerning, esp. after verbs of remembering. See Mind, v. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1921 G. Woden The Money's The Thing 20:
I mind once, when I was a bairn, o' going to the Sabbath School trip.

(ii) at, in respect of, esp. with certain adjs. implying proficiency (Abd. 1964). Obsol. in Eng.Rnf. 1835 D. Webster Rhymes 44:
She's as gude o' the dingin as he's o' the driving.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xii.:
Sandy disna profess to be claer o' the Laitin 'imsel.
Ayr. 1883 W. Aitken Lays 119:
Weel pack'd wi' knowledge, and guid o' the gab.

(iii) during, in the course of (ne.Sc., Lth. 1964).Per. c.1800 Lady Nairne Songs (1908) 97:
At dusk o the gloamin.
Ags. 1820 Montrose Chron. (13 Oct.) 384:
It's far owr o' the night before he comes in.
Bch. 1932 Abd. Univ. Review (March) 101:
That kin' o' lads is aye warst o' the nicht.

3. For o in combs. with other preps. used adv., see Aff, 4., In O, on o s.v. On, prep., adv., 2. (6), Out O.

[O.Sc. o, of, 1364, on, 1423.]

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



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