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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PICK, v.1, n.1 Also peck, peek; ¶puck. Pa.p. pickit, -et. Sc. usages:

I. v. 1. As in Eng. Sc. combs. and phrs.: (1) pick-dirt, the Arctic skua, Stercorarius parasiticus (Ayr. 1929 J. Paton and O. Pike Birds Ayr. 201), from the notion that it fed on the excreta of other birds. Cf. the Latin name; (2) pick-faut, n., a querulous dissatisfied person, a fault-finder, in quot. used as a nick-name; (3) picking-master, the foreman in charge of the Pickers, q.v. in a cotton or weaving mill; (4) pick-thank, peck-, (i) n., one who curries favour by discreditable means, a flatterer, sycophant, sneak, a tale-bearer (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 381). Of Sc. orig., now dial. in Eng. Also attrib.; (ii) adj. or attrib. in more recent usage: ungrateful, unappreciative (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 125; ne.Sc. 1965). Also pickthankfu, pig-, id., in 1936 quot. = thankless, unrewarding. See also Pike, v.; (5) pick-tooth, -teeth, n., (i) a tooth-pick (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 63); (ii) fig., a violent, head-on wind, a howling gale which blows into one's face; (6) phr. to pick up (sc. mud), of an animal, esp. a horse at the plough: to become caked with mud (Lth. 1965).(2) Arg. 1841 T. Agnew Poet. Wks. 90:
Why should we flee, Though auld pick-faut should come an' glimmer Wi' ilka e'e?
(3) Sc. 1801 Edb. Weekly Jnl. (29 April) 133:
James M'Kie, picking-master in the cotton-mill of Newton Douglas.
(4) (i) Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis:
Pick-thank, a Flatterer, he that curries favour with another by secret informations, sometimes groundless, and often by exaggerating small miscarriages, or misconstructing other people's actions.
Sc. 1737 Session Papers, Petition Earl of Breadalbane (22 Feb.) 19:
Pickthanks and Parasites, who fix themselves upon noble Persons.
Sc. 1826 Scott Journal (1950) 154:
Unless some pickthank intervene to insinuate certain irritating suspicions.
Abd. 1882 W. Forsyth Writings 15:
An' sall the win' that bears oor name . . . Blaw strainger pick-thanks here to shame An ancient honourable toon?
(ii) Slg. 1903 W. Chrystal Kippen 95:
I'll gar ye chauner there, ye pigthankfu', guid-for-naething sumph.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 69:
Fat's awin' me they ne'er did inquire; But oor pickthank days weer deen.
Sc. 1936 J. G. Horne Flooer o' Ling 65:
This Lunnon Scot, Whase pickthank lot It is to redd up Scotia's past.
Abd. 1956 J. Murray Rural Rhymes 41:
Ye're jist a peck thank senseless hizzy.
(5) (i) Fif. 1812 W. Tennant Anster Fair vi. xxxii.:
Guest and hostess backward leaning all, Their picktooths now were plying, saturate.
(ii) Sc. a.1737 Major Fraser's MS. (Fergusson 1889) II. 52:
The wind turned a pick-teeth, so that they were forced to drop anker.
(6) Fif. 1896 G. Setoun R. Urquhart ii.:
She's been pickin' up as she gaed: her belly-band's buried in clerts.

2. To steal petty objects, to pilfer, filch. Obs. in Eng. in 16th c. Hence picker, a petty thief, picking, pilfering, petty theft. The form pickering, found only in the Rnf. Judicial Records, is a back-formation from the next; pickery, Sc. Law: petty thieving (Sc. 1808 Jam., 1838 W. Bell Dict. Law Scot. 737). See also pykerie s.v. Pike.Rnf. 1700 W. Hector Judiciat Rec. (1876–8) I. 187, II. 99:
Kerr confessed to several pickerins and small thefts . . . [1709] the foresaid acts of peckering and thieving.
Bte. 1701 Rothesay T.C. Rec. (1935) II. 539:
Being suspect of several little pickeryes and misdemanours.
Sc. 1712 Chrons. Atholl & Tullibardine Families II. 136:
Our people do use such as ar gripped picking verie smartly.
Sc. 1741 D. Hume Punishment of Crimes (1797) II. 350:
One horse or black cattle stolen within or without doors or any number of sheep above six, shall be construed to be a theft and not pickery.
Bwk. 1749 R. Romanes Lauder (1903) 140:
In case I be convicted of any such pilfering, picking, or stealing.
Sc. 1773 Erskine Institute iv. iv. § 59:
The stealing of trifles — which in our law-language is styled pickery — has never been punished, by the usage of Scotland, but with imprisonment, scourging, or other corporal punishment.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel Intro. xxxi.:
These unhappy pickers and stealers.
Ayr. 1824 A. Crawford Tales Grandmother 276:
See if ye can mak' ony han' o' this loon o' a callant, anent this said pickary.
Arg. 1901 N. Munro Doom Castle xiii.:
Rape, arson . . . pickery, murder, or high treason.

3. To cross-question or pump (a person), “pick someone's brain.” (Ork., ne.Sc., Ags., Slk. 1965).Abd. 1934 D. Scott Stories 72:
Ye ha'e picket me plenty, bit I daurna speir onything at you.

4. With up, at, etc.: to understand, comprehend, “catch one's drift” (I. and n.Sc., Per. 1965). Phrs. to pick at (a thing), to understand or apprehend (something) (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); to pick one up, to get a person's meaning, follow his line of argument (Abd., wm.Sc. 1965).Mry. 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. viii.:
“He's a heap waurer tae mak' oot than the minister on a Sawbath.” “Ye cudna pick 'im up either, cud ye?”

5. As in Eng., to eat in small quantities; to peck, of a bird. Ppl.adj. picket, -it, meagre, scraggy, shrunken; mean, niggardly (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 125); vbl.n. pickin(g), picken, a mouthful of food, a frugal meal (m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 241). Gen.Sc. For freq. form see Pickle, v.2 Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 358:
I think it unco poor and picket, And far frae bonny.
Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie ix.:
Ilka birdie round thee cowers, . . . While wi'an open hand thou showers Them walth o' pickens.
Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 189:
Nest an' pickin' bare.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 125:
The dainner wiz a meeserable, pickit concern.
Bnff. 1872 W. Philip It 'ill a' come Richt 73:
I dinna ken fu you manage to live on the pickin' you tak.
Lnk. 1885 J. Hamilton Poems 122:
Amang my ain she'll pick an' mell.
Abd. 1928 J. Baxter A' Ae 'Oo' 27:
Hungry howes in pickit neck.

Combs. and phrs.: (1) pick-the-craw, the game of Pee-Coo, q.v. (Ags. 1965); (2) pick-the-paddock, n., a jocular term for a Frenchman. See Puddock; (3) to pick an' dab, (i) with at: to attack, criticise, act in a hostile and aggressive way towards (a person); (ii) with wi': to associate with on friendly terms, consort with to the extent of eating together. Cf. II. 2.; (4) to pick one's fingers, to annoy, harass, worry one, cause one difficulty or embarrassment (Ayr. 1825 Jam.); (5) to pick one's lane, to be self-supporting, independent, able to fend for oneself (Lth., w.Sc. 1825 Jam.).(2) Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 11:
I'll learn ye that, Monshur Pick-the-paddock.
(3) (i) Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xxiii.:
The rising generation began to pick and dab at him.
(ii) Sc. 1834 A. Picken Black Watch I. xiv.:
It's a shame to provoke the brave young chield, when ye see he'll neither pick nor dab wi' you, as the henwife said to the cadger.
wm.Sc. 1854 Laird of Logan 556:
“Hae ye ony objections to dine with me to-day?” . . . “Glad to pick and dab wi' ye at ony time.”
(4) Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 125:
It 'ill pick's fingers till 'im, afore he big an' plinish his new hoose.
(5) Lnk. 1884 J. Nicholson W. Waugh 40:
The chiel had been sae used to pick his lane, His thanks the form o' words had seldom ta'en.
Fif. 1898 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxvii.:
It had long been my intention to tak the young man into pairtnership wi' me as sune as he was of legal age, an' able to pick his lane.

6. To make trim and neat, dress or preen, deck out. Gen. as ppl.adj. pickit, peekit, dressed up, smartly turned out, titivated (Ayr. 1965, peekit). Obs. in Eng.Fif. 1952:
A Fife farmer, addressing the corpse of his wife who had expressed a wish to be buried some distance away, is reported to have said “Aye, ye're a'peekit oot for Largo, but ye're only gaun tae Forgan.”

7. In Weaving: to remove with a needle or scissors any loose, protruding or faulty threads in a piece of cloth, to burl.Sc. 1753 P. Lindsay Interest Scot. 109:
We understand the picking of Cloth, and the thickning of it at the Mill, pretty well; but we are not so adroit at the tasselling it on the dubbing Boards.

II. n. 1. As in colloq. Eng., one's unrestricted choice, that which is chosen, a choice article; common in phrs. pick an'pink, — wale (Sh., Bnff., Abd. 1965).Ayr. a.1789 Burns Ronalds of Bennals viii.:
If I should detail the pick and the wale O' lasses that live here awa, man.
Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 44:
To purchase goods at Lon'on town, Where he wad get his pick an' wale.
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 91, 110:
Not far frae this same stream, o' streams The very pick an' wale. . . . Duncan Deans o' Deeside tailyours Was the vera pick an' pink.
Sh. 1901 T. P. Ollason Mareel 85:
Seemon düne up i' da picks o' his sister Osla's wardrobe.

2. That which is pecked up, a pecking; something to eat, an edible morsel, a meal, food, one's keep. Also dim. pickie, id.; one who “picks” at his food, a poor eater (wm.Sc., Rxb. 1965). Cf. Pike, v., 2. (2). Phr. pick an dab, a light meal, snack, specif. one of potatoes dipped in salt (Cld. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1953 Traynor). Cf. I. 5. (3). To hae neitherpick nor dab wi, to have nothing to do with, be on bad terms with (Traynor).Ayr. 1721 Carskey Jnl. (Mackay 1955) 64:
Ane tydy Kow pertaining to Mc O Drain for quhich he is to pay three mrks Scots May next that is for her puck [sic].
Dmb. 1817 J. Walker Poems 102:
Cheepin' things, they couldna weather't For faut a pick, an no' bein feather'd.
Ayr. 1817 D. McKillop Poems 107:
It [whisky] fills them fu' o' merry gab . . . Till they've forgot their pick an' daub At crowdie batter.
Knr. 1832 L. Barclay Poems 171:
What though the Dominie's head wore a horn, He liked his pick, and the Monk had corn.
Ayr. 1834 Galt Lit. Life III. 8:
I would get . . . my pick for taking care of the cows.
Sc. 1836 Chambers's Jnl. (5 March) 41:
We'll awa ower and get a bit pick o' dinner.
m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 266:
Ye're a' gie like ae swine's pick.
Sc. 1863 Whistle Binkie (1890) II. 75:
Saw ye chuckie wi' her chickies, Scraping for them dainty pickies.
w.Lth. 1882 Mod. Sc. Poets (Edwards) IV. 189:
We'll ne'er miss his dud nor his wee pick o' feedin,.
Uls. 1900 T. Given Poems 154:
We can fadge [sic] for oor pick 'mang the hens at the door.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 7:
Oh, it's aye the Place of Honour, the tap o' the table for
The man who eats mair than ony other six were able for.
It's, "Noo, here's a tasty pick, dinna let the plate pass you."

3. By extension: a small quantity, a little, a trace, scrap (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 125). Gen.Sc. Dim. pickie, id. Hence adv. phr. a pick, to some extent, a little, at all (Abd. 1965).Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 125:
There hizna a pick o' meal's-corn gehn our's craig this three days. There's nae a pick o' clay on's sheen.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 31:
Nae pick o' hate nor spite.
Lnk. 1929 Scots Observer (31 Oct.) 14:
Scarce a pick o' flesh on his banes.
Bch. 1930:
She may shew a pick, but try her te wyve!
Sc. 1935 Sc. N. & Q. (Ser. 3) X I II. 23:
The horse i' th' stable stamp, nicher an' kick; Th' horseman's wird's eesless — nae pith in't a pick.
Gsw. 1958 C. Hanley Dancing in the Streets 123:
Ah went roon tae Agnes's an' there wisnae a pick on her — he's been drinking the money again an' she was hauf-sterved.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 128:
" ... It's the colour of steepin' oats and there's no' a pick on his bones neither. ... "
Ayr. 1999:
She juist took wee picks. She taen a wee bit pick. There's no a pick on him.

Phr. to hae a pick(ie) (o) say, — (¶chairge), to have a certain amount of authority, to wield some responsibility, to be in a position of influence, specif. of a farm servant or the like who has gained some promotion. Hence attrib. in comb. pickie-say (-sae) hat, the tweed hat with a narrow round brim, worn as a badge of authority by a foreman or gaffer on a farm (ne.Sc. 1965).Abd. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 89:
It's Sandy masqueradin' in daddy's pickie-say.
Bch. 1934 Abd. Press & Jnl. (27 Dec.):
When, say a farm servant got promoted to be foreman and grieve, his former mates would say, “Noo he's cocking his lugs since he got a picky say”, meaning . . . that he had got a bit of control over his fellow servants. . . . “Oh, aye, he is noo gotten a picky say with the cook,” meaning that a bit flirtation was going on.
Abd. 1949 Buchan Observer (4 Oct.):
Either “himsel',” or his grieve, or foreman “wi a picky o' say.”
Abd. 1959 Huntly Express (29 May):
The expression “a pickie o' chairge” meant that James had a certain amount of responsibility in carrying on the work.
ne.Sc. 1964 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 268:
He was a tearing brute Rab Imray that was the grieve . . . He wore a pickiesae hat.

4. Deriv. pickie, -y, adj. (1) small, petty, paltry, insignificant (Ork. 1887 Jam.). Comb. pickie laird, a small landowner. Cf. peerie laird s.v. Peerie, bonnet laird s.v. Bonnet.Ork. 1832 D. Vedder Orcadian Sk. 14:
A class of men yclept petty, ro pickie lairds; each ploughing his own fields and reaping his own crops.
Ork. 1903 E.D.D.:
Often used in place of and also along with the word “peerie”, e.g. “a peerie pickie stane.” I think I have heard it used specifically of a field, a brae, or knoll and the like.

(2) full of small holes, ragged and tattered, sc. as if having been picked or pecked by a hen. Cf. v. 5.Abd. 1951 Buchan Observer (11 Dec.):
The wife's sittin' mennin' wi' Mary oor quine, . . . A net that's gey picky an' greedy for twine.

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"Pick v.1, n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 3 Jun 2023 <>



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