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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

PIRR, n.2, v. Also †pirrhe.

I. n. 1. A gentle breath of wind, a light breeze (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 175, 1914 Angus Gl.; Sh., ne.Sc. 1966); a ripple on water (Sh. 1966). Dim. pirrie, id. Found in Eng. dial. in form pirrie, perry. Also fig.Fif. 1831 Fife Herald (18 Aug.):
And were they [corn fields] to be visited with a pirr of wind, . . . the result would be seriously felt.
Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 115:
As da pirr o memry, blaain, Frae mi een da skub aa clears.
Fif. 1894 J. Geddie Fringes of Fife 134:
To sigh . . . in vain for a “pirrhe” of wind.
Sh. 1918 T. Manson Peat Comm. 45:
A gentle “pirr” of wind to keep the heat from becoming oppressive.
Abd. 1954 Buchan Observer (23 Nov.):
A gey pirrie o' win' an flans o' shooers skilpin roon wir lugs at 'e plooin.
Sh. 1994 Laureen Johnson in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 169:
I raise an lookit oot da window. Dey wir a pirr o wind apo da voe, makkin a shadow on da sea.

2. A sudden access of activity, specif. (1) a burst of energy, a vigorous onslaught (on a task, etc.). Hence pirrie, -y, of persons: given to sudden bursts of activity, unpredictable, unsteady, unreliable (Sh. 1966).Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 127:
He gangs till's wark wee a pirr.
Sh. 1924 T. Manson Peat Comm. 178:
Dis man is ower muckle laek da nor-wast wind — he's too pirrie . . . wan time strong an da next time nearly awey.

(2) a harassed, over-excited state of mind, a flurry, panic, rage (I. and ne.Sc. 1966).Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 127:
When one is in a pirr about things which do not go well.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 127:
The gueedewife geed intil an unco pirr fin the laird cam t' see 'ir.

(3) a fit of temper, a sudden rage, a “fizz”, a fit of pique (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 127; Mry. 1925; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; I. and ne.Sc., Bwk., s.Sc. 1966); a fretful, irritable person (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 142). Adj. pirrie, -y, quick-tempered, touchy, easily annoyed (Rxb. a.1838 Ib., 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bwk., Rxb. 1966); prim, precise (Bwk. 1825 Jam.); hence pirrie-tempered, id. (Watson), pirriness, irascibility, touchiness (Ib.).Bwk. 1880 T. Watts Woodland Echoes 100:
An' troth! she was a pirrie quean.
Bnff. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (29 May) 5:
I tell ye fat it is, I canna unnerstan' fock gettin' intill a pirr o' that kin'.
Mry. 1931 J. Geddie Characters 166:
Moggie picked it up and in a “pirr,” threw it back again.
Ork. 1956 C. M. Costie Benjie's Bodle 94:
There steud Peggy in as proper a pirr as iver I saa her in, cheust dancan wae maderam.

II. v. 1. Of a liquid; to ripple; “to flow with force in a small stream, to stream” (Cld. 1880 Jam.; Sh., Uls. 1966); of persons, animals, vehicles, etc.: to bowl or whirr along. Hence pirrie and reduced form pirr, adj., having a springy, tripping gait, spanking along (Bwk. 1825 Jam.); gaily dressed, trim, well turned-out (Ib.).Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 383:
Blood is said to pirr from the wound made by a lancet. . . . A girl is said to look pirr when gaily dressed.
Dmf. 1850 J. W. Carlyle in L. & E. Hanson Necessary Evil (1952) 404:
The little snaffle of a messin called Nero commonly goes with me, runs snuffling into every hole, or pirrs about at my side like a little glassy rat.
Dmf. 1852 J. W. Carlyle Letters (Bliss 1949) 231:
I started myself, in a little gig, with a brisk little horse, and silent driver. Nothing could be more pleasant than so pirring thro' quiet roads.
Sc. 1935 W. Soutar Poems in Scots 33:
A' the seepin' sap, like bluid, Pirr'd saftly frae the cankert wud.

2. Of a breeze: to blow gently (Sh. 1966). Ppl.adj. pirrin(g); fresh, blowing lightly.Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 62:
Careerin' on the pirrin' breeze, A greedy gled.
Sh. 1901 T. P. Ollason Mareel 58:
He'll be pirrin' up a grain by an' bye, an' he's nae time o' nicht geen yet.

3. To tremble with anger, to be in a fearful temper, to “fizz” with rage (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Sh. 1966).Ork. 1956 C. M. Costie Benjie's Bodle 159:
He cam' back cheust pirran . . . and flang them [books] at first een an' than anither.

[O.Sc. pirhe, 1600, of wind. Onomat. Cf. Birr.]

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"Pirr n.2, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Apr 2024 <>



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