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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.

PECH, v., n., int. Also pe(c)gh, paich, paigh, paech (Sh. 1933 J. Gray Lowrie (1949) 13), peagh (Cai. 1872 M. McLennan Peasant Life 46); ¶paach; peech, peich. Also freq. forms pechle (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), paichle, paighle, peghle (Sc. 1833 Chambers's Jnl. (April) 73). [pɛç]

I. v. 1. (1) To breathe quickly and in a laboured way, to pant with exertion or the like, puff, gasp for breath (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 377). Gen.Sc. Occas. tr. as in 1867 quot. Hence vbl.n. pechin, -an (Gen.Sc.), pechlin, shortness of breath, the act of panting (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 122; Sc. 1880 Jam.), ppl.adjs. pech(l)in, paich(l)in, short-winded, asthmatic, breathless, pech(l)t, paich(l)ed, paighled, out of breath, exhausted (Ags. 1825 Jam.; Abd., Per. 1903 E.D.D.; Abd., em.Sc.(a), s.Sc. 1965). It is uncertain however whether this latter is the same word or rather a variant of Pauchle, v.1Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 187:
Fuffin and peghing he wa'd gang And crave their pardon.
Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Journal 27:
At last, wi' great peching an' granin, we gat it up with a pingle.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 92:
He peching on the cawsey lay, O' kicks and cuffs weel sair'd.
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xxiv.:
I hae been short-breathed ever since, and canna gang twenty yards without peghing like a miller's aiver.
Sc. 1832 Tait's Mag. (July) 424:
That cochlin, . . . pechling, pingin, plouterin, potherin, asthmatical rotten body, Borrowstoun.
Sc. 1867 N. Macleod Starling II. v.:
A cat nigh staned to death pechin' its life awa' in a hole.
Sc. 1870 Neil Philip ed. The Penguin Book of Scottish Folktales (1995) 3:
My auldest brither Sandy was a' but smoored in the meal ark hiding frae thae limmers. After they war gane, we pu'd him oot frae amang the meal, pechin' and greetin', and as white as ony corp.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Thrawn Janet (1907) 103:
Even the auld folk cuist the covers frae their beds an' lay pechin' for their breath.
Sh. 1893 Sinclair MS. 8:
Pør Rakki cam doon da gaet lunkin aeftir him jimpin an paachin wi blydness.
Gsw. 1902 J. J. Bell Wee MacGreegor vii.:
I'm no' wantin' to be photygraphed wi' a rid face an' pechin'.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 2:
Whan A tuik the kaik, an turnt keindih pechlt, A was rale glad ti caa cannie.
wm.Sc. 1934 T. Smellie Tea Pairty 27:
She's awfu bothered wi a pechan that keeps her back.
Sh. 1950 New Shetlander No. 20. 11:
“Ill-sonnce be anundir 'is karkeege, fur da gluff I got” pechd Tamar, sorting her hat.
Bnff. 1955 Banffshire Adv. (19 May):
They lookit lik' a team a' aul age pensioners, boo't an' wheezin', an' hipplin' an' paichin'.
wm.Sc. 1989 Anna Blair The Goose Girl of Eriska 17:
'He's chesty, y'ken ... confined abed w'it the now.' When Will next saw the lawyer, he was sorry to notice him peching about the course overburdened by the long bag he had slung on his shoulder.
ne.Sc. 1991 Ken Morrice in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 60:
Caiperin aboot we cast stanes
at it and an empty bottle.
Syne I splashed oot tae haul
it in, peching back fyte
and fleggit, rinnin tae fetch
bobby Duncan tae come and see a deid man.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 164:
His mother he spotted on the pavement outside Woolworths, bulging plastic bags of plunder in either hand. She got in, with much shoogling and peching.
em.Sc. 1992 Ian Rankin Strip Jack (1993) 182:
By the time he reached the second floor, he was peching and remembering exactly why he liked living in Patience's basement.
Sc. 1992 Scotsman 27 Jun 35:
The device of the bike, of Knox pechin' awa', curiously, worked on radio,...
Sh. 1994 Christine De Luca Voes & Sounds (1995) 10:
Waands owre da starn,
piltocks nyggin:
up dey'd come wi a bummel,
sheenin, spricklin,
dan prammed an pechin at wir fit.
Sh. 1995 Paul J. Ritch Mother Wave 25:
In dy panic ... du pechs, feyhts ta braethe wi every sprech.
Sc. 1999 Sunday Herald 8 Aug 22:
A peching Alan was straight on the mobile.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 166:
Jackie peched up to his door. 'Bloody hell, that'll keep you fit,' she said. He held the door open for her and she stauchered in.
wm.Sc. 2001 Robin Jenkins Childish Things 30:
As I peched up School Brae, I heard the happy shrieks of little girls.

Phr. and deriv.: (i) to hech(le) an pech(le), to pant and grunt with exertion or distress (Slk. 1825 Jam.). See Hech; ¶(ii) pecher, n., breath, “wind,” energy. But this is prob. Eng. slang pecker, one's spirits, hope, conformed to pech.(i) Per. 1766 A. Nicol Poems 124:
Heching and peching, Because I hae nae pith.
Abd. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 8:
Nae ferlie, though it pierc't my saul, I pegh't, I hegh't, syne cry'd, Waul! waul!
(ii) Sc. 1924 Scots Mag. (May) 119:
The tussle wi' the MacDonalds 'll tak the pecher oot o' them.

(2) by extension: to go or work so as to pant or gasp with the exertion (ne. and wm.Sc., Kcb. 1965). Cf. Peughle.Ayr. 1786 Burns To W. Chalmers' Sweetheart i.:
My Pegasus I'm got astride, And up Parnassus pechin.
Lth. 1851 M. Oliphant Merkland III. vi.:
The plea, that Robert Ferguson and you have been peghling at so long.
Bwk. 1863 A. Steel Poems 53:
Except like D —, that ace o' fellows, Noo pechin' at the devil's bellows.
Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick x.:
I thocht he was in the auld hech-how, aye pechin through Chronicles.
m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 47:
I claucht him [a fish] in baith airms and peehed ashore.
ne.Sc. 1929 Abd. Press & Jnl. (18 Sept.):
I'd redder darg for little o't, nor pech for bigger pay.
Sc. 1949 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 206:
When we had peched at length to the top of the glen and stood on a vast heathery plateau, the light was going rapidly.

2. To cough in a subdued, asthmatic way (Ayr. 1965). Hence pecher, a weak, wheezing cough; pechin, “a fit of short, faint coughing” (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.).ne.Sc. 1950 W. Kemp Cornkisters 19:
Tam chokit on a tattie, turned the colour o' a ghost; Syne he got a pecher and an extraordinar' hoast.

3. To expel the breath audibly in a long slow stream, to give a single deep expiration, sigh, groan; fig., with for: to pant or sigh for, desire ardently.Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 184:
Thraw his nose, and brize and pegh O'er the contents o' sma' ale quegh.
Wgt. 1804 R. Couper Poems II. 75:
Though aye he grained and pecht.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 81:
Seeks out his mither, pechs an' gie's a glowr, Tells her he's fell'd, an' syne again fa's o'er.
Ags. 1885 Mod. Sc. Poets (Edwards) VIII. 191:
Sae dinna stech, and grane and pech.
Fif. 1895 S. Tytler Kincaid's Widow x.:
Brocht up by a psalm-singing, peching, groaning Whig minister.
Edb. 1915 T. W. Paterson Auld Saws 80:
The lads that pech for knowledge.
Bnff. 1920 Banffshire Jnl. (14 Dec.):
Pechs sair for sax, boos at it eence again.

II. n. 1. (1) A laboured breath, a pant, gasp (Sc. 1808 Jam.); one's breath or wind. Gen.Sc. Phr. out or short o' pech, out of breath from exertion, panting, puffing, gasping for breath.Sc. 1824 Blackwood's Mag. (July) 89:
Don't . . . conclude your draught with a pech like a paviour.
Sc. 1836 M. Scott T. Cringle's Log vii.:
A loud pech, like that of a paviour when he brings down his rammer.
Ayr. 1879 J. White Jottings 47:
Hearing the old man's severe and continued pech-pech.
Ags. 1892 A. Reid Howetoon vi.:
I'm terrible short o' pech the nicht forby.
sm.Sc. c.1896 W. G. Tarbet In Oor Kailyard 60:
Ma pech wid likely gae oot.
Gsw. 1908 Gsw. Ballad Club III. 182:
They come rinnin', the bairns, out o' pech.
Abd. 1920 G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 21:
We danced as lang's the fiddle scraicht, without a pech or tire.
Sh. 1926 J. Gray Lowrie (1949) 13:
Bit never a paech oot o' her [an old car].
Gsw. 1947 H. W. Pryde 1st Bk. McFlannels i.:
His pechs broke out afresh as he tried, with his free hand, to smack the leg that was now “all pins and needles.”
Gsw. 1969 George Friel Grace and Miss Partridge (1999) 214:
'That sorted them,' she said with a chuckling pech on the way upstairs.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 23:
Fur three oors, they melled thegither, ae swyte, ae pech, ae rift. Syne, wi a scunnerin dunt, the plane plummeted doon like a shot pertrick.
Dundee 2000 Matthew Fitt But n Ben A-Go-Go 84:
Paolo paused tae regulate the pech in his voice.

(2) by extension: an effort, a sustained attempt, a tremendous struggle. Hence phrs. a sair pech, a prolonged and weary effort, an exhausting struggle. Gen.Sc.; to get over anything with a pech, to accomplish something by dint of great effort (Cai. 1903 E.D.D.; ne.Sc., Ags., Wgt. 1965).Sc. 1947 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 142:
It is a “sair pech,” and resolves itself into a hand-and-foot climb towards the top.
Ayr. 1999:
It's a sair pech to gain the high grund.

2. An asthmatic wheeze, a breathless cough (ne. and m.Sc. 1965). Hence pechie. adj., short-winded, asthmatic, wheezy (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.). Gen.(exc. I.)Sc.Abd. 1853 W. Cadenhead Flights 161:
Wi' mony an asthma'd pech an' blaw.
Kcd. 1934 L. G. Gibbon Grey Granite 140:
There's more old folk than me in their time been ta'en with a bit of a paich.

3. A single long audible expiration, a sigh, variously expressing weariness, relief, satisfaction, etc. (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc.Ayr. 1803 A. Boswell Poet. Wks. (1871) 195:
Let feckless chiels, like crucket weans, Gae blaw their thumbs wi' pechs and granes.
Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches xcvi.:
It was houzle after houzle [of snuff] for about two minutes, with a corresponding thankful pech to each.
Fif. 1884 S. Tytler St. Mungo's City I. i.:
If she had so much as given a pech or sech after his breath was out, the property would have been hers.
Ags. 1888 Barrie Auld Licht Idylls iii.:
Loud above . . . the laboured “pechs” of the listeners, rose the preacher's voice.
Abd. 1923 R. L. Cassie Heid or Hert xiii.:
Plumpin' doon i' the saft cheir anent George wi' a pech o' relief.
Kcd. 1933 L. G. Gibbon Cloud Howe (1937) 116:
He . . . gave a great paich and rubbed at his middle.

III. int. An exclamation caused by a single forcible expulsion of the breath through the lips, betokening effort, weariness, despair, scorn, etc., or, less freq., satisfaction and pleasure, “poof!” “puff!” Cf. Peugh.Sc. 1834 M. Scott T. Cringle's Log xii.:
We pulled, and they pulled, and the water roared, and the men strained their muscles and sinews to cracking; and all was splash, splash, and whiz, whiz, and pech, pech, about us.
Sc. 1895 F. A. Steel Rowans v.:
Pech! Mistress Cameron, but yon's gude whiskey!

[O.Sc. pech, n., c.1500, v., 1572. Also in n.Eng. dial. as peff, peck. Onomat.]

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"Pech v., n., interj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 28 Sep 2022 <>



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