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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

ON, prep., adv., v. Also oan, †one (Sc. a.1818 Dougall Quin in Child Ballads No. 294 A. i). For the reduced form o see O, prep., 2.

Sc. form of Eng. on (oan Ork., Abd., Ags., Edb., Gsw., Ayr., Dmf., Rxb. 2000s). Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 1:
Mussolini oan the right-wing.
em.Sc.(b) 1991 Athole Cameron in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 53:
We get claes oan whirlies
fleein busy lizzies
Gsw. 1991 Maud Devine in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 123:
ma cairn
stane oan stane
aye cheyngin aye growin
Gsw. 1997 Ian Pattison in Susie Maguire and David Jackson Young Hoots! 1:
And the worst o' it is, ye can see the buggers, see them sittin' there. Sittin' there oan the telly in their dinner-jackets.
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 62:
Oan the hill they caa Mullwharchar,
doun in bonny Gallowa,
it is there we'll aa forgether,
it is there we'll staun or fa.

Sc. usages. [on, ɔn]

I. prep. 1. With verbs of calling, crying, shouting, knocking, etc., where Eng. gen. uses to: to summon or attract the attention of by calling, etc. Gen.Sc. See the various verbs.Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Ballads I. 133:
O sister dear, come to the door, Your cow is lowin on you.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 307:
Laggie! Laggie! is the call on geese.
Abd. 1836 J. Grant Tales 68:
Sae he cries on's ploughmen, wha sleepit i' the stable laft nae far aff.
Fif. 1866 St. Andrews Gazette (14 July):
On coming to the toll he knocked on the tollman to open it.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped xxviii.:
I cried and waved on Mr Rankeillor.
Lnk. 1957 Scotsman (28 Sept.) 5:
We heard George moan and shouted on him to run out.

2. In other usages where Eng. employs a different prep.: (1) about, concerning. Also with certain verbs, Condescend, Forget (n.Sc., Fif. 1975), Grain, Greet, Lee, v.1, Mind, Remember, Tell, Think, q.v. Abd. 1832 W. Scott Poems 22:
Sair does he work, an' thrash, an' carry stanes, Ye'd hear him grenen' on his weary banes.
Abd. 1923 Swatches o' Hamespun 16:
Aw fair forgot on him.
Ags. 1947 Forfar Dispatch (10 April):
She's still greetin on her sair back. She says it gae tnack.

(2) at, near, beside, by.Sc. 1745 S.C. Misc. (1841) 365:
At three a'clock, I saw 150 men, countrey men, come in here from the south, with French officers on their heads.
Sc. 1811 Edb. Annual Reg. lxxiii.:
Don't sit on the door. In the draught of.

(3) supported by, by means of, with. Phr.: to go on a stick, to walk with the help of a stick (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl. s.v. go). Gen.Sc.

(4) = for, per; in anticipation of. Also with verbs as Wait, Weary.Sc. 1801 Edb. Weekly Jnl. (16 Dec.) 394:
Two suits of well-manufactured Diaper Table Linen, the napkins woven in a reed of 1000 on ell. . . . Two suits of well-manufactured Diaper Table Linen, the napkins woven in a reed of 900 on ell.
Ork., Cai., ne., em.Sc. (a) 1964:
There is no hurry on a reply.

(5) in (Sc. 1881 A. Mackie Scotticisms 16; I. and ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1964). On the nicht, at night(s) (Abd. 1964); on the paper(s), in the newspaper(s) (Ags. 1900). See O, prep., 2. (2) (iii).Sc. 1762 Boswell London Jnl. (1950) 82:
I feel a surprising change to the better on myself since I came to London.
Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 93:
The Scotch can see no incongruity in meeting a person on the street, . . . whereas the English meet a person in the street.
Abd. 1845 P. Still Cottar's Sunday 184:
Ye're threescore an' three, and ye're blin' on an e'e.
Crm. a.1832 H. Miller Scenes and Leg. (1857) 300:
She had to leave her mother on the care of a neighbour.
Sc. 1846 W. Tennant Muckomachy 6:
On Lunnan or on Emburgh street.
Abd. 1879 in A. F. Murison Memoirs (1935) 212:
She never was feared on the night.
Sc. 1929 R. Masson Use of Eng. 42, 48:
I will likely know a great difference on her . . . By “difference on her” a Scottish person understands a difference in appearance, but an English person would not use the phrase. Say “she is much changed in looks,” — “in manner.”

(6) of. Obs. or dial. in Eng. See O, prep., Of, prep. 4. (3).s.Sc. 1793 T. Scott Poems 359:
And his sark tail too, a part on't, Scorn'd within his breeks to stay.
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Poems 143:
The dool-string I shou'd soon get rid on, An' dance an' sing!
Sc. 1824 Scott St. Ronan's W. viii.:
Take it all to yoursell, Captain, and meikle ye are likely to make on't.
Per. 1883 R. Cleland Inchbracken iii.:
What was yon . . . 'at he took sae muckle tent on?
s.Sc. 1894 J. Cunningham Broomieburn 98. 108:
He wasna aware on't . . . I dinna believe a word on't.
m.Sc. 1994 J. E. MacInnes in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 15:
... an the belt buckle slicin intae ma spare tyre an the sunlight splinterin aff his lashes while the een oan him smiled at me.

(7) to. See also Mairry, Wink.Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 208:
My sister Sara is married on sleeky Willie the wylie weaver.
Sc. 1827 Cruel Brother in Child Ballads No. 11 B. xxiv.:
What will ye leave to your sister Anne? My gude lord, to be wedded on.
Per. 1883 R. Cleland Inchbracken ix.:
It cam a' back on me, when I seen Tibbie greetin'.
Sth. 1897 E. W. B. Nicholson Golspie 80:
Screaming, and calling to them to go and see what the witch had done on her.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 4:
Aroon the time o her brither's waddin, auld Attie hissel hid merriet again, on the keeper's widda frae the Lochside.
Ayr. 1999:
To do something on someone (to do something to someone as to cause the huff).

(8) with.Gall. 1706 Session Bk. Minnigaff (1939) 195:
A lamb marked on his marke following his neighbours ewe.

3. Phrs.: (1) on ane, -een, in the same state or mood as one is usually in, even-tempered (Abd. 1964, -een); (2) on fit, afoot (Ork., Ags., Kcb. 1964). Now rare or obs. in Eng. See also Fit, n.1, II. 12.; (3) on haste, soon, in the near future, speedily. Obs. in Eng.; (4) on life, alive, living. See Life, n., 1. (1); (5) on oneself, on one's own account, independent(ly) (Uls. 1953 Traynor; ne.Sc., Lth., Slk. 1964). Also on for himsel, id. (Kcb., Rxb. 1964); (6) to tak (a hill) on (oneself), to mount a hill, to tak da wye on (oneself), to rush forward (Sh. 1964).(1) Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 120:
He's aye on-ane; nivver oot o' humour.
(2) Kcb. 1913 A. Anderson Later Poems 228:
“Aweel” her neebor said “I'll pit The landlord up to what's on fit.”
(3) Inv. 1716 Scots Mag. (June 1888) 26:
He was kept prisoner in England because of his being taken among the rebels at Preston, and was not to be expected on haste if ever.
(4) Sc. 1768 Widows of Hammermen of Canongate (29 Sept.) 11:
A certificate of their being still on life, and unmarried.
Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Ballads I. 57:
The dearest youth on life to me.
(5) Ags. 1888 Barrie Auld Licht Idylls ii.:
The fishmonger had lately started on himself and was doing well.
ne.Sc., Ags. 1964:
He used tae be wi the Commercial Company but he's been on himsel for a fyle back.
(6) Mry. 1927 E. B. Levack Lossiemouth 20:
Ye ken yon dykie at the ither side o' the Loch, far we rest oor creels afore we tak' the hill o' Spynie on's?

4. Used (chiefly with a personal pronoun) to indicate a person experiencing a particular physical or mental state. Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 152:
But now a drouth was on him and a longing for company, and he drove to the village.

II. adv.

Sc. form of Eng. on.wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 7:
Flipote! you're staunin' in a dwamm like a big daft dug!
Get a move oan or Ah'll gie you a skelp ...
Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 1:
Hitler waitin tae come oan.

Sc. usages:

1. Used idiomatically with various verbs, as lat on, mak on, pit on, tak on, etc., for which see these articles.

2. In combs. with preps. and adv.: (1) on about, with ellipse of v., occupied in talking about, harping on. Gen.Sc.; = (5) Sh. 1964 (2) on alang, = (3) (Sh. 1964); (3) on-by, along. See By, 1. (5); (4) on efter, = (5) (Sh. 1964); (5) on for, keen on, in favour of, eager for, taken up with (ne., em., wm.Sc., Kcb. 1964). Also in n.Eng. dial.; (6) on o(n), on upo(n), on(n) a(n), on ov, of rest or motion: (on) to, upon, one (n.Sc., em.Sc. (a) 1964). See also O, prep.; (7) on ower, = (6) (Sh. 1964); (8) oantae, on tae, on till, (i) on (to), upon, with verbs of placing, fixing, etc. (Cai. 1903 E.D.D.). Gen.Sc.; (ii) approaching, getting on for (I. and n. Sc., Kcb., Uls. 1964); (9) on wi, -way, -wui = (5) (ne., m. and s.Sc. 1964).(1) Rxb. 1916 Kelso Chron. (24 March) 3:
He was on aboot wa's that had ears.
Rnf. 1935 L. Kerr Woman of Glenshiels 110:
He goes to meetings and he's always on about employers and the working class.
(3) Sc. 1894 Stevenson Catriona xxii.:
Come on-by with the rest of us here to Rotterdam.
(5) Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sketches 76:
Arty wis maistly aye mair on fur fun dan earnest.
Fif. 1894 A. S. Robertson Provost 30:
Hoosomever, he's mair on for pansies, though he had a braw calceolaria last 'ear.
Uls. 1901 Northern Whig:
The wife . . . was on fo' me helping with the churn.
Rxb. 1918 Kelso Chron. (29 March) 4:
She'll hev naething adae wi' me. She's on for the tyler.
Abd. 1958 Huntly Express (21 Feb.):
We wis gyan tae see the deems at the manse. I'm some on for the cook.
Uls. 2000s:
They're going on holiday to Spain but I'm no on for it.
Edb. 2004:
Ah'm no on for gaun tae the theatre the nicht.
(6) Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 144:
Syne on on a rock wi't, an' it taks a low.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 10:
Ay after that they scorned me that I wad be married on a you.
Sc. 18th c. Merry Muses (1959) 145:
He's on o' a three-fitted stool.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 182:
To spend yer siller on a siccan trash.
Sc. 1924 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 441:
“Upon” and “on” were sometimes furnished with a similar tail. “Ono” or “onna” did duty for “on to,” or upon, as in “hing that pat onna tha swye”, “set yersel onan a cheer.”
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 2:
A clappeet masel doon a meenint on ov a foggie bank.
Ags. 1945 Forfar Dispatch (14 June):
Mary Ann, that's aye sae guid at poorin cauld watter ona me.
(8) (i) Sc. 1827 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 38:
I never can help carryin ontil the stage my knowledge o' an actor's preevat character.
Kcb. 1895 Crockett Moss-Hags xxxii.:
A jaw ontill him like Johan's whale.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 19:
An' added awcres near a score Ontill the fairm.
Fif. 1958:
A model of Rabbie Burns wi everything ontae him — i.e. with full detail of clothes, etc.
Slg. 1991 Janet Paisley in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 127:
ah slid oantae the flair - an jist lay there.
(ii) Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie xiii.:
I was weel on to three years with John Gledd, the messenger.
Abd. 1879 G. Macdonald Sir Gibbie xxvi.:
I s' jist trail him aff o' the door, an' a bit on to the fire.
Abd. 1961:
It's comin ontae sax months sin I saw him.
(9) Slk. 1899 C. M. Thomson Drummeldale 78:
Eben . . . says, “Let the lassie lairn to dance if she likes; it'll dae her nae ill.” But I'm no on wi't ava.
Dwn. 1931 Northern Whig (2 Dec.) 5:
I'm no on way ye (not friends).
Ags. 1948 J. C. Rodger Mary Ann 5:
She wiz that on wi' hersel' she didna seem tae notice.

III. v., arising from ellipse of verb of putting or placing: to put or set on. Rare.Ags. 1960 Forfar Dispatch (28 Jan.):
I ons w'ee porridge pot.

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"On prep., adv., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 28 May 2024 <>



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