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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SAFT, adj., adv., n. Also sauft. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. soft. See P.L.D. § 54. Hence derivs. saftly, saftness. [sɑft]

I. adj.

Sc. form:wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 12:
Oh quite the philosopher! Well that's me told.
A solomon! A dominie! you're no' saft -
A peety that a' body but yirsel' is daft.
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 18:
Fyles ye myurr-myurr to me ma leen,
Yer quaverin myowies thin an smaa,
Sae saft they're scarce a soun' avaa.
Ye're couthy in yer fraisin teen.
m.Sc. 1997 Liz Niven Past Presents 11:
Seein the saft white wool
She'd pickt up the needles
An stertit tae knit
m.Sc. 1998 Lillias Forbes Turning a Fresh Eye 7:
An happit fast wi ye, as weel, yer lug's first sang,
The plash o' Esk an Ewes - saft watry tongues tae lip
The crannies o yer mind, baain lambs in bairnie-clouts
Trummlin at their ain bleat or a cushat's cry.
Arg. 1998 Angus Martin The Song of the Quern 55:
A bleezard oot aff Bennan,
lan nae langer seen;
the Firth a swirl o saftness
lik blossom o the gean.

Sc. usages:

1. In regard to weather: mild, not frosty, in a state of thaw (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Gen.Sc.wm.Sc. 1835 Laird of Logan 181:
Should it happen to be saft weather at the time, it'll be impossible for me to leave my garden.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 147:
We've hid a lang sair time o't, bit it's a gueedeness, it's saft the day.
sm.Sc. 1923 R. W. MacKenna Bracken and Thistledown 89:
If the ice still held, Ezra would put a gingerly toe upon it by ejaculating “She's a wee saft”.

2. Wet, rainy, damp (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Edb. 1880 Trans. Philological Soc. 112; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson). Gen.Sc.Sc. 1812 J. Sinclair Systems Husb. Scot. i. Add. 11:
If they [slugs] be attacked when on the surface of the ground, where they are every soft morning in search of food.
Sc. 1824 Scott St Ronan's W. xv.:
“A drizzling morning, good madam.” “A fine saft morning for the crap, sir.”
Slg. 1862 D. Taylor Poems 73:
[We] arrived just in time for escapin' saft weather.
Ags. 1888 Barrie Auld Licht Idylls 18:
No one will admit the Scotch mist. It “looks saft”.
Fif. 1896 G. Setoun R. Urquhart ii.:
She has a sair fecht wi' thae broun-keddies i' saft weather.
Arg. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days xix.:
A nesty saft day, wi' a smirr o' rain.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 150:
“Saft a wee!” says I; “I'm draiglet an' I'm drookit.”
s.Sc. 1937 Border Mag. (Sept.) 141:
We said, “It's soft like”, meaning that it was actually raining.

3. Of cloth: of a loose, soft and pliable texture. Cf. Hard, I. 6.Edb. 1819 Edb. Ev. Courant (11 Oct.) 3:
Hard and soft Tartans, of the various Clans, by the yard or in Cloaks, Mantles, Plaids, &c.

4. Combs.: (1) soft air, stagnant air, a badly-ventilated atmosphere in a coal-mine (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 62); (2) saft biscuit, a kind of plain floury bun or roll with an indentation in the centre (Sc. 1929 F. M. McNeill Sc. Kitchen 182; Ork., n.Sc., Ags., Per. 1969). Freq. in reduced dim. form Saftie, q.v.; (3) soft cake, oatcake baked but not roasted and hence soft in texture, prepared as a specialty for Christmas and New Year; (4) saft dud, a inept, slow-witted, sheepish sort of person. Also in n.Eng. dial. See Dud; (5) saft-eened, sentimental, easily moved to tears. Cf. Eng. soft-eyed; (6) saft-fisted, of an occupation: refined, unmanly, effeminate; (7) saft-hand, a feeble or inexpert person; (8) saft-horn, a novice, inexperienced person, a green-horn (Cai. 1946); (9) soft mark, saft mark, a person easily imposed upon, a soft touch; (10) saft side, in phrs. on or up one's saft side, into one's good graces or favour, to hae a saft side tae, to have a special liking for, to be well disposed to (Sc. 1904 E.D.D.). Gen.Sc. Also in n.Eng. dial.; (11) saft-skinned, easily offended, touchy, thin-skinned (Cld. 1882 Jam.). Also in n.Eng. dial.; (12) soft soles, used as an epithet of a soft effeminate man, sc. a “tenderfoot”; (13) saft tabaka, cut tobacco. Cf. III. 3.; (14) saft-veal, a simple-minded person, a ninny, mooncalf; (15) saft win', flattery.(2) Abd. 1868 Bk. Glenbuchat (S.C.) 163:
1 doz. Soft biscuits . . . . . . . . 6d.
(3) ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 157:
Bread of various kinds, “bannocks”, “soor cakes”, “cream cakes”, “facet cakes”, “soft cakes”, was stored up.
(4) m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 171:
He's a saft dud, yon; he has nae grup o' the politics ava.
(5) Dmf. 1820 Blackwood's Mag. (July) 384:
Take this saft e'ened young stripling with you, to cheer your loneliness.
(6) Edb. 1900 E. H. Strain Elmslie's Drag-net 6:
It [painting]'s weel eneuch for a diversion, though a wee lassie-like an' saft-fisted.
(7) Slk. 1818 Hogg Wool-Gatherer (1874) 63:
His master was a real saft hand at the fishing.
(8) Ayr. 1836 Galt in Tait's Mag. (June) 391:
Ye may think that to say so is rather more like a saft-horn than ye believe I am.
(9)ne.Sc. 1958 Jessie Kesson The White Bird Passes (1987) 10:
"O.K." Gertie became resigned to the inevitable. "Be a soft mark if you like. I'm away for my supper. ..."
Ags. 1990s:
Saft Mark: n. person easily imposed upon.
Edb. 1991:
You're a right soft mark when it comes to that wee boy.
Sc. 1998 Edinburgh Evening News (16 May) 11:
So how on earth, with more than a little warning, has the city council managed to get itself stuck between a rock and a hard-faced, go-getting group of contractors out for a fast buck and well able to spot a soft mark when they see one?
Sc. 1999 Herald (26 Jan) 18:
The period of Peter's headship was very much a time of change. He was one of the first in residential care to ban corporal punishment, yet he was no "soft mark".
Sc. 2000 Herald (26 Jun) 19:
"What use is a sooker coo wi nae milk? Get her down to the cull and collect your £300," he would say and wonder how his daughter would finance her old age with such a soft mark for a husband.
Sc. 2004 Evening Times (10 Apr) 28:
When the draw was made for the quarter-finals, every other team wanted Caley, thinking they were the soft mark. But Motherwell found otherwise to their cost.
(10) Abd. 1922 Wkly. Free Press (7 Jan.) 1:
Aw aye thocht ye hid a saft side t' me, Jeanie.
Abd.1 1929:
He wis a mealy-mou't customer an' aye lookit tae get up a body's saft side.
(12) Slk. 1824 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) xii.:
“What was the bridegroom like?” “A soft-soles — milk-and-water”.
(13) Sh. 1897 Shetland News (18 Dec.):
A pritty colour'd cash, spleetin' fou o' saft tabaka.
(14) Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 201:
Clever ye, lassock, an' no staun an' gape there in my face like a muckle saft-veal!
(15) Rnf. 1895 J. Nicholson Kilwuddie 131:
In our lugs saft win' they blaw.

II. adv. In a peaceable quiet state. Phr. to sit soft, to live on peaceful terms (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 20:
Thay canna sit soft; they're aye natterin an fechtin.

III. n. 1. A thaw; rain, moisture (Ags., Per., Lnk., Ayr. 1969). See I. 1. and 2.Lnk. 1895 W. Stewart Lilts 33, 83:
Oho, boys, oho, for a day at the ice, When auld, snell Daddy Frost hauds a' saft in his vice . . . As slateless laft lets in the saft.

2. Ale, as opposed to whisky (Sc. 1904 E.D.D.). Cf. Hard, II. 4.Lnk. 1890 J. Coghill Poems 128:
Ne'er a sup o' saft or hard to drink But ginger, lemonade, an' sic-like trash.

3. Cut tobacco. Cf. I. 4. (12).Sh. 1900 Shetland News (14 April):
Will you take a fill of soft, Magnus? You always smoke twist, I think.

[O.Sc. saft, soft, 1596.]

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"Saft adj., adv., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 May 2024 <>



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