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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.

SHAK, v., n. Also schak, shakk (Sc. 1736 Scots Mag. (14 Aug. 1784)), shack (Kcd. 1819 J. Burness Plays 33; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 424; Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 86), shaak (Sh. 1901 T. P. Ollason Mareel 43), shauk, shawk-; sheak (Wgt. 1802 G. Fraser Lowland Lore (1880) 70); shekk-. Sc. forms of Eng. shake (Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxv.; Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 37; Dmf. 1920 J. L. Waugh Heroes 9).

A. Forms: Pr.t. as above. [ʃɑk, now chiefly I., n. and sm. Sc.; elsewhere ʃek]; pa.t. strong shuke, schuke (Sc. 1724 Ramsay Ever Green I. 212), sheuk (Ayr. 1785 Burns Jolly Beggars Recit. ii.; Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales (1837) II. 335; Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 28; e.Lth. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 71), shuik (Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 146; Sc. 1834 Tait's Mag. (Jan.) 441; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 270), shüick (Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 104). [ʃøk, ʃyk]; shuck (Ayr. 1816 A. Boswell Poet. Wks. (1871) 148); shuk (Per. c.1850 Harp Per. (Ford 1893) 183; Uls. 1876 W. G. Lyttle Readings 33; Ayr. 1923 Wilson D. Burns 184; Fif. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 264); ¶shock. [ʃ(j)ʌk]; weak shakit (Uls. 1878 W. G. Lyttle Readings 95; Rxb. 1942 Zai), shaket (Ayr. 1889 H. Johnston Glenbuckie 176; ‡Bwk. 1942 Wettstein), shaked (Sc. 1822 Blackwood's Mag. (Jan.) 33). [′ʃekɪt]; pa.ppl. strong shakken (Sh. 1899 Shetland News (2 Dec.); Kcd. 1929 J. B. Philip Weelum o' the Manse 26; Sh., Cai., ne.Sc., Wgt. 1970), shacken (Abd. 1884 D. Grant Keckleton 45; Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 95). [′ʃɑkən]; sheuken (Gsw. 1863 J. Young Ingle Nook 70; e.Lth. 1885 S. Mucklebackit Rural Rhymes 14), shuiken (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 270), shucken (Sc. 1830 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) III. 82; Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 56; Fif. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 264; Ayr. 1928; Fif., w.Lth., Lnk. 1970), shuckin (wm.Sc. 1888 Anon. Archie MacNab 8), shukken (Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms vi. 2). [‡′ʃøkən, ′ʃʌkən]; shaken (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein); shooken (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 484; Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xvi.; Kcb. 1897 T. Murray Frae the Heather 170; Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 264; wm.Sc. 1932 J. Corrie A Man o' War 5; s.Sc. 1970). [′ʃukən], reduced shuck (Fif. 1767 Session Papers, Hunter v. Robb (27 Jan.) 52; Ayr. 1923 Wilson D. Burns 184) [ʃʌk], shock (Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 83); shook (Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 187; Sc. 1818 S. Ferrier Marriage iii.; Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 19; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 489; Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xxiv.; Ayr. 1970). [ʃuk]; weak shakit (Rxb. 1942 Zai), shakkit (Kcd. 1969). [′ʃekɪt, ′ʃɑkɪt]

B. Usages: I. v. 1. As in Eng. Derivs. (1) shak(k)er, agent n., gen. in pl., (i) the moving racks in a threshing-mill (Arg. 1937; Ork., n.Sc., Per., Lth., Kcb. 1970); a riddle or sieve; (ii) the quaking grass, Briza media (Sc. 1887 Jam. s.v. Shekyls; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Lth., Kcb., Rxb. 1970). Also in Eng. dial, See also Siller; (iii) a fit of shaking or trembling, from disease or fear (I., n. and m.Sc. 1970); the staggers in sheep (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 270); a state of terror or intimidation (ne.Sc. 1970); (2) shakin, (i) vbl.n., specif. in herring-fishing: the act of pulling up some other boat's net and shaking the herring into one's own boat (Fif., Kcb. 1970); in pl., the herring which have to be shaken out of the net and so become damaged in the process, inferior herring (Abd. 1961 Buchan Observer (20 June) 6; Sh., n.Sc. 1970); anything that has been spilt by shaking, a small quantity, a grain, a last morsel or remnant. Phr. the shakkins o' the p(y)oke, ¶-pot, the last remains or manifestations of anything; fig. the last-born of a family (Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; ne.Sc., Ags. 1921 T.S.D.C.). Gen.Sc. Cf. Pock, n.2, 2. (10). The 1933 quot. is due to a misunderstanding; (ii) ppl.adj., in combs. shakin grass, = (1) (ii) above (Dmf. 1905 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 406); shakin-stane, the stone on which oats were threshed when long unbroken straw was required for making baskets, etc. (Ork.5 1951); (3) shakky, Sc. form of Eng. shaky.(1) (i) Sc. 1812 J. Sinclair Syst. Husb. Scot. I. 90:
An ingeniously-devised shaker . . . for clearing all the loose grain from among the straw.
Sc. 1831 J. Loudon Encycl. Agric. 438:
The shaker, that receives the straw from the threshing drum, and conveys it to the second shaker.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxv.:
There's a bit hole ahin the shaker'll haud you.
Dmf. 1906 J. Paterson Wamphray 61:
Exactly like shakers used by masons at the present day to riddle lime.
Abd. 1956 Huntly Express (25 May) 6:
Straw flew from the “shakkers” into the furthest corner of the “strae-ine”.
(iii) Gsw. 1889 A. G. Murdoch Readings II. 91:
Nearing the manse door Robin took a sudden fit of the shakers.
Gsw. 1904 H. Foulis Erchie xxvii.:
Them a' in the shakers in case ye'll no' think they're smert enough.
Inv. 1911 in Buchan Observer (10 April, 1962) 7:
Beel was sittin' in the win'ard gunnal in the shekkers.
Ork. 1931 J. Leask Peculiar People 133:
Dem 'at waas in, waarna i' ony hurry apinin', dey gaedna i' da shakkers.
Abd. 1956 J. Murray Rural Rhymes 41:
That put the shakkers on me.
(2) (i) Sh. 1898 Shetland News (17 Dec.):
Der no a coom o' soda ithin da habitation. No a shakkin.
Fif. 1912 D. Rorie Mining Folk 401:
Losh, wumman! this'll surely be the shakkins o' the poke noo!
Abd. 1920 G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 35:
It's bit the shakkin's o' his pyoke . . . It's jist the teuchat's storm.
Sc. 1933 N.B. Morrison Gowk Storm 9:
I was na the youngest but the shakings-of-the-pot.
Abd. 1993:
He wis eir tenth bairn, gey smaa, jist e shakins o e pyokie.
(ii) Ork. 1911 Old-Lore Misc. IV. ii. 80:
The straw left after this process was termed gloy, and the flag-stones in question were called the shacking-stanes.
(3)Abd. 1922 Abd. Weekly Press 7 Jan 3:
Th' nobeelity ken brawlie 'at they sit on a gey shakky seat eynoo, an, they'll gyang a gweed bit on th' Leeberal lines afore they britchen.
Bnff. 1940:
Grandad's gettin shakky in the han', an' drabbles his wasket [waist-coat] at ilka diet.
ne.Sc. 1979 Alastair Mackie in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 64:
And haar theeks the sea ...
I hae the sea's instability and showdin;
my centre is a swither, an unsiccar shakky foond.

Combs. and phrs.: (1) shak a fa, see 2. below; (2) shak-and-trumble, the quaking-grass, Briza media (Bnff. 1880 J. F. S. Gordon Chrons. Keith 284; ne.Sc., Ags. 1970). See II. 1. Adj. below; (3) shake-cole, one of the first small shocks of hay which are tossed and turned to dry in the sun before being built into a rick (Bnff. 1970); (4) shak-doun, shake down, any makeshift or temporary bed, orig. one made by strewing straw, heather, clothes or the like on the floor (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 173, 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc., later adopted by St. Eng.; (5) shak' duds, a ragged disreputable fellow. See Dud and cf. Eng. shaken-rag, id.; (6) shake-fork, (i) a pitch-fork. Also in Eng. dial.; (ii) in Heraldry: a charge on the shield shaped like the letter Y (see 1780 quot.). O.Sc. has shake-fork, id., 1680, and N.E.D. considers this usage to be of Sc. orig., but this is somewhat doubtful; (7) shake-rough, long and shaggy, of a fleece; (8) shake-wind, a strong blustery wind which shakes off the ripe ears of corn, an autumnal gale; (9) shak'- 'im-troose, the name of a reel-dance or its tune (Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 190, Sh. 1904 E.D.D.), appar. with a play on the name Shantrews, q.v.; (10) to shak aff o' (oneself), to take one's departure without ceremony and with relief, to make a welcome get-away (Sh. 1970). Cf. Eng. to shake the dust off one's feet; (11) to shak a fit, heels, shanks, etc. or refl., to dance (I., n. and em.Sc., Lnk., Kcb. 1970). See also Hoch, n., 4. (16); (12) to shak hands wi, to be on the verge of, very close to (Kcb. 1970); (13) to shak one's crap, to give vent to one's excitement or anger, to speak with reproof; (14) to shak one's feet, to shake or wipe mud or dust from one's shoes (Sh. 1970).(3) Mry. 1808 Farmer's Mag. (Sept.) 388:
Hay is a middling crop, but several fields lye in a very precarious state, being still in the shake cole.
(4) Sc. c.1730 E. Burt Letters (1815) I. 88:
The same blanket that serves them for a mantle by day, is made a part of their bedding at night, which is generally spread upon the floor: this I think they call a shakedown.
Sc. 1752 Session Papers, Forbes v. Grant (1 June) 6:
He would not go to his Bed himself, but lay in a Shake-down.
Sc. 1782 J. Howie Judgment and Justice 55:
For a bed she made him (what we call) a shake-down before a mow of peats.
Sc. 1829 Scott Guy M. Intro.:
The farmer lay down on a sort of shake-down, as the Scotch call it, or bed-clothes disposed upon some straw.
Abd. 1868 G. MacDonald R. Falconer xvi.:
We'll hae some place or ither to put him intil, gin it suld be only a shak'-doon upo' the flure.
Ags. 1914 I. Bell Country Clash 35:
“A shakedoon!” she echoed. “Aside a' your leather Dothie?”
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xxviii.:
There were no bedsteads but ‘shak-doons' of heather littered the floor.
(5) Abd. c.1860 Sc. N. and Q. (Ser. 2) III. 188:
In a rhyme popular in a Donside parish 40 years ago are the expressions: — “The shak' duds o' Lewis, the spleet o' Leatherick Inn.”
(6) (i) Abd. 1736 Abd. Estate (S.C.) 15:
2 Padles, 2 Shake forks and 2 Candlesticks to the Stables.
(ii) Sc. 1780 J. Edmondson Complete Body Heraldry Gl.:
Shake-fork, is in form like the Pall, but doth not touch the top of the shield, and is pointed at each end.
Sc. 1894 J. Macintosh Ayrshire Nights' Entertainments 286:
Over the doorway is a rather long window-like compartment, in which the shake-fork forms, as it were, the mullion.
(7) Slk. 1832 Trans. Highl. Soc. III. 297:
The fashionable breed with black faces, and shake-rough fleeces.
(8) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 83:
Shake-winds owr my rigs wi' pith had blawn.
Sc. 1784 A. Wight Present State Husbandry IV. 186:
I have not yet learnt whether these oats are not more liable to shake-winds.
Per. 1879 P. R. Drummond Bygone Days 233:
During the terrible shake-wind of 1815 he became frenzied.
(10) Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 60:
So I juist shaks aff o' me an' maks fur da neist door.
(11) Abd. c.1760 J. Skinner Amusements (1809) 57:
Nor ever try to shake a fit To th' Reel o' Tullochgorum?
Per. 1802 S. Kerr Poems 43:
“Come Bessy, ye maun shak your fit” And, “Andy, are ye ready yet?”
Rxb. 1821 A. Scott Poems 76:
That first night I shook a foot wi' Nell.
Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 83:
The yird I hae mony a time shock my shanks on'.
Kcb. 1882 G. Murray Sarah Rae 43:
And lads and lasses on the floor To music shake the fit.
Abd. 1884 D. Grant Lays 99:
Then to the barn a' repaired, Resolved to shak' their heels.
Ags. 1890 A. Lowson J. Guidfollow 52:
They're a' kecklin' tae shake their feet i' the ball-room.
Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 65:
Their aged partners attempted all the freaks of the fantastic toe, all the while encouraging the ladies . . . by such remarks as, “Shack thee noo, Chirsee”.
(12) Ags. a.1821 Sc. N. and Q. (June 1923) 86:
Blyth the piper grew, Tho, shakin, hands wi' ninety.
(13) Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 54:
To shak' his crap, and scauld you for the quean.
Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 3:
In St Stephen's Ha' these patriot chaps Shak, bauldly i' the Tories' teeth their craps.
(14) Kcd. 1844 W. Jamie Muse of Mearns 86:
Shake your feet and just sit down.

2. To wrestle, grapple (with an opponent) (Sc. 1880 Jam.), most freq, in phr. to shak a fa', to try a fall, have a wrestling bout or tussle (Sc. 1808 Jam.), hence shak-a-fa, -i'-, -o-fa, a wrestling match, a tussle (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 153; †Bnff., Abd. 1970). Deriv. shakker, a wrestler.Abd. 1742 R. Forbes Ajax. 9:
Upo' the lone, Wi' him to shak' a fa'.
Abd. 1778 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 18:
Aye shakin' fa's, and aft-times o' their back.
Bnff. 1818 Gentleman's Mag. (March) 257:
Turn'd o'er the page of antient classic lore; Or lap the burn, or wi' him shook a fa'.
Ags. 1875 Brechin Advert. (20 April) 4:
[He] looks as if he had taen aff his coat for a shak-i-fa' wi' the Society.
Abd. 1910 J. Grant Legends Mar 201, 245:
“Well, well, if it must be a shake o' fa', e' en let us have it out” . . . “Ye'll shak a fa' with Jock Meachgh there. ” . . . “Shakin' a fa's no fightin'.”
Bnff. 1949 Banffshire Jnl. (1 Nov.):
The crofter-darger knew nothing about skilful wrestling, barred and unbarred holds and all the rest of it — other than a plain “shakafa.”
Abd. 1959 Huntly Express (30 Oct.):
Sim was the heavier man of the two and in Glass was recognised as a famous “shakker”.

II. n. 1. As in Eng. Phrs. a shake of a hand, a moment, a trice; a shak o' the leg, a dance (Sh. 1970). Cf. I. 1. Combs. (11); a shake of the thumb, a shake of (another's) thumb, as a symbol of striking a bargain. Cf. handshake and to lick thoums s.v. Lick, v., 1. (16).Sh. 1758 Session Papers. Graham v. Tyrie (18 Jan.) 12:
He had no written Tack from the said George Irvine of the above whole Links, but only a Shake of the said George Irvine his Thumb for the Tack.
Lnk. 1816 G. Muir Minstrelsy 98:
In the shake of a hand I received my sight.
Sh. 1901 Shetland News (5 Oct.):
Ir dey ony wird o' a bit o' bridal, ‘at we could git a shack o' wir leg at?

Adj. shakie, -(k)y, shaakie, shaky, tottery (Abd. 1927 E. S. Rae Hansel frae Hame 51). Combs. shaky-pod, a nickname for a pot-bellied, podgy person (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). See Pud, n.1, 1.; shakie-treml(i)e, (1) adj., wobbly, insecure, unsteady, giddy (Kcd., Ags., Per. 1970); (2) n., gen. in pl., the quaking-grass, Briza media (Ags. 1886 B. and H. 425; ne.Sc., Ags. 1970).(1) Ags. 1894 Arbroath Guide (21 April) 3:
It's owre shaky-trem'le kind for me seekin to touch it.
Ags. 1894 I. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) 61:
It mak's me shaky-trimilly yet to think aboot it.
(2) Ags. c.1890 Scots Mag. (April 1960) 61:
A bunch of quaking grass (which we called “shakky trimlies”).
Ags. 1914 I. Bell Country Clash 14:
For a' his cockin' airs he's as touchy's a shaky trummlie.
Ags. 1950 People's Journal (6 May):
The ither floo'ers I was fond o' — aipple-ringie, fleechie-flechies, shakky-tremblies and Kirrie dumplins.

2. The act of shaking grain from the ear, esp. in wind or by premature cutting; the loss of corn so caused (I. and n.Sc. 1970). Also in Eng. dial.m.Lth. 1794 G. Robertson Har'st Rig (1801) 6:
A green shear is an ill shake.
Ayr. 1803 Farmer's Mag. (Aug.) 355:
The potato oats are coming very much into use. . . . Their liableness to shake is the only disadvantage to which they are exposed in this stormy climate.
Ags. 1811 J. Stirton Thrums (1896) 66:
The wind raised high and it made one of the greatest shaks of corn over the whole countries that ever was known.
Cai. 1929 John o' Groat Jnl. (11 Oct.):
A lost a good puckle wi' 'e shak'.

3. A twist, throw or movement in wrestling, a wrestling bout. Cf. I. 2. Adj. ¶shawkee.Slk. 1829 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) ii.:
I'll trust the auld Jacobite for another shake wi' him yet.
Per. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 X. 959:
Anciently, that hill was a small insignificant knoll, where the town's children amused themselves in wrestling. It was a bare sandy knoll, and it was graphically called by them “Shawkee Hill.”
Kcd. 1890 J. Kerr Reminiscences 47:
The twa had atween them a bit o' a shak'.

4. In bagpipe music, equivalent to, and now superseded by doubling 1.Sc. 2005:
The term shake was customarily used by my father, Malcolm Cannon (1902-88).

[For the short vowel form shak, which prob. derives from uninflected forms, O.E. scac(en), cf. Mak, Tak, Lat, v.]

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"Shak v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Apr 2024 <>



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