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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SICKER, adj., adv., v. Also sickar, sic(c)ar, siccer, sik(k)er; ¶sigger. [′sɪkər]

I. adj. 1. Safe, secure, free from danger, trouble or molestation (ne.Sc., Ags., Bwk., Ayr., Wgt. 1970). Adv. sickerly.Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate iv.:
He sall walk a mair siccar path, and be a dainty curate.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxxv.:
It'll be siccarer to gae [to the kirk], loon.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders xvii.:
I'm as great on the side o' the law as it's siccar to be in thae uncertain times.
s.Sc. 1897 E. Hamilton Outlaws iii.:
There's nae man in Liddesdale can sickerly lead a party at night thro' the Foulbogshiel.
m.Sc. 1998 Lillias Forbes Turning a Fresh Eye 7:
A' thae gowden lyrics, ye've made siccar, Chris
They'll aye be pairt o ye, ticht-yirdit in the moul.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 66:
' ... But then the miscreant tendency began tae stir themsels again, and the government was lookin aboot for a siccar place tae lodge the rebel ministers and keep them awa frae the lugs o the ignorant. ... '

2. Firm, stable, steady, fixed immoveably (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; I., ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Bwk., Ayr., Wgt., Uls. 1970). Also fig. Adv. sickerly, securely, firmly. Derivs. ¶oath-sicker, secured by an oath, binding, solemn; sicker-foot, one with a steady foot, a sure-footed person.m.Lth. 1711 J. Monro Letters (1722) 41:
The Ram is in the Thickets by the Horns, a sicker Grip indeed!
Ayr. 1785 Burns Death & Dr Hornbook v.:
Setting my staff wi' a' my skill, To keep me sicker.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 48:
Wi' sicker fit Truth treads triumphant.
Gsw. c.1800 in Harp. Per. (Ford 1893) 419:
What sorrow gars him haud it sae sickerlie?
Slg. 1806 G. Galloway Victorious Nelson 14:
So light a tether lasts through life oath sicker.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xiv.:
Bailie McLucre, who had again got himself most sickerly installed in the Guildry.
Dmf. 1836 A. Cunningham Lord Roldan I. iv.:
I never liked these solid sicker-foots, they make tremendous whamles whiles.
Abd. 1865 G. MacDonald Alec Forbes lxxi.:
A waur enemy nor Beauchamp has gotten a sickerer haud o' ye.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 77:
I'll be on mair sicker grun' afore lang.
Dmf. 1877 R. W. Thom Jock o' the Knowe 28:
Resolve is sickerest when it's placed On a foundation wrought.
Per. 1908 Glasgow Ballad Club III. 257:
For little threeds mak' siccar stitches.
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo 64:
Darlin's off hin' shae was a bit loose, so we had to stop at a smiddy to get it made siccar.
Abd.4 1929:
The langer a tree stan's the sickerer grow the reets o't.
Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall The Bonsai Grower 47:
The verra cassies thirsels war glaissed like Chinee porcelain, unchauncy tae staun on, gin ye war a pensioner or a littlin nae siccar on yer feet.

3. Firm on one's feet, in sound health; of health itself: sound.Abd. 1855 Banffshire Jnl. (9 Oct.) 4:
The bucket's the bicker that keeps a man sicker.
Wgt. 1885 G. Fraser Poems 40:
I hope that yer health is baith siccar and soun'.

4. Securely under control, held firm (Ags. 1970). Adv. sikerly.Sc. 1812 The Scotchman 60:
The weemen are, owther by natour, edocation, or custom, maist sikerly steekit.
Edb. 1856 J. Ballantine Poems 10:
Rogues aye gat aff for drops o' liquor. But callants aye were keepit sicker.
Bnff. 1891 A. Gordon Carglen 139:
Andrew stretchit his length on the grun', an' they had him siccar as a nail.

5. Of things: certain, sure, not liable to sudden change, failure or upset; dependable, trustworthy (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 107). Gen. (exc. I. and s.) Sc. Adv. sickerly, siccarlie, assuredly, indubitably. Deriv. sickerness, security, trustworthiness.Sc. c.1715 W. Macfarlane Geneal. Coll. (S.H.S.) II. 337:
This Charter is Dated at Air 15 December 1425 And for the Mare Sickerness the Seals of these Noble and Mighty Lords with Instance have procured to be hanging to their present Letters.
Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 122:
God keep my Tongue, for my Tail was never sicker.
Hdg. 1801 R. Gall Songs (1819) 135:
Whase love for their Country's sae sicker, Afore they forsake her they'll die.
Kcd. 1822 G. Menzies Poems (1854) 136:
Life's nae sicker station.
Dmf. 1822 A. Cunningham Tales II. 307:
When the interest will do thee good and when the security's sicker.
Per. 1837 R. Nicoll Poems (1843) 90:
Siccar bargains he could mak'.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 264:
The nit maun be withert ere sickerly sweet.
Abd. 1927 E. S. Rae Hansel Fae Hame 32:
My shanks they'll wyle the road nae mair, Wi' siccar skeel.
Sc. 1979 T. S. Law in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 82:
on a sgurr whaur the sea maks siccar the weatherin
o the rock, an ongaun lik the wheechin sky
o universes caad athorte the void.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 14:
the pain
o Freedom's no easy nor wantin doot
and whiles I dae nocht but staun aghast
at the thocht o't, feel the strength sypin oot
frae sickerness, as I dae this hauf-nicht
fu o gloamin unease, an' dootsum licht.
Sc. 1991 T. S. Law in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 32:
alang the stoorie desert pad,
and his scadda raxin slawlie and siccarlie,
cawed attoore the groo pad
ower a binsh o broon lavastane,
intil the thorn buss.
Fif. 1998 Tom Hubbard Isolde's Luve-Daith 6:
Yit there's a luve that siccarlie growes caulder
Gin it canna rax ayont its guairdit garth.

6. Of persons: reliable. staunch, loyal (ne.Sc., Bwk., Wgt. 1970); steady, sure, as a marksman, etc. Adv. sickerly, steadily, accurately.Abd. 1777 R. Forbes Ulysses 24:
He kens me sicker, leal, an' true.
Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Pop. Ballads I. 292:
Couthie, and pensie, and sicker.
Slk. 1810 Hogg Tales (1874) 245:
I would have aimed as sickerly as possible.
Per. 1890 Scots Mag. (Jan. 1956) 281:
Nane wi' Jock could draw a tricker, 'Mang the muirfowl he was siccar.
Hdg. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 270:
A sicker, an' a staunch an' stoure stickler for his lordship's politics.
Per. 1904 R. Ford Sc. Stories (Ser. 2) 49:
The dominie's a siccar freend o' mine.
Abd. 1961 Huntly Express (8 Sept.) 2:
He's siccarer than me an' a' ower he'll mak' a better job o't.

7. Of persons: prudent, cautious, esp. in business or financial matters, watchful over one's interests, wary (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ork., ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Ayr., Rxb. 1970), freq. implying stinginess (ne.Sc. 1970). Adv. sickerly. Comb. sicker-headed, id. Derivs. siccarness, prudence, caution; sikkerliness, niggardliness. Sc. 1705 Observator Dialogue between Country-Man & Landwart School-Master 4:
Some sicker Headed French Lads must be sent our to manage all the considerable Posts.
Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 65:
But sickerly I took good tent. That double Pawns, . . . Lay in my Hands.
Sc. 1733 Session Papers. Petition D. Dickson (9 March 1763) 19:
He was very sicker, and not inclined to part with his money.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 95:
Says Colen, for he was a sicker boy; “Neiper, I feer this is a kittle ploy.”
Lnk. 1807 Session Papers, Waddell v. Waddell (16 Feb. 1809) 109:
A man of good understanding, and rather what is called a sure, sicker man.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel xv.:
If you were a trifle ower sicker in your amusement, my lord, it canna be denied that it is the safest course to prevent farther endangerment of your somewhat dilapidated fortunes.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xliii.:
Mr. Peevie, one of the very sickerest of all the former sederunts, came to me next morning.
Sc. 1832 Chambers's Jnl. (April) 82:
“Oh, he's a sicker ane!” is a phrase used in Scotland in reference to that class of people who make excessively sure about every thing, and are in no manner of means to be imposed upon.
Ayr. 1834 Galt Liter. Life III. 122:
The heritors with their inherent sikkerliness, refused to pass it.
Per. 1881 D. MacAra Crieff 56:
The road inspector lived close by, and although occasionally of a jovial disposition, he was siccar.
Gsw. 1892 R. Alison Anecdotage Gsw. 172:
But Robin was a siccar chiel, and knew what he was about.
Rxb. 1921 Kelso Chronicle (1 April) 2:
He was cautious and siccar — he never got married.
Abd. 1923 J. R. Imray Village Roupie 23:
He buys aye at first han' wi' siccarness rare.
Abd. 1932 R. L. Cassie Sc. Sangs 46:
The craws flee siccarly awa' a puckle miles.

8. Not open to doubt, failure or error, certain, accurate, sure, exact, true; assured in one's ideas, opinionated (Sh., Abd. 1970).Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Ajax 5:
I wat my gentle bleed, . . . Right sickerly does plead.
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Tales 26:
Flattery's ay a sicker bait.
wm.Sc. 1837 Laird of Logan 125:
I determined to keep a sickar look out on his motions.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xviii.:
I markit doon a fyow particulars aifterhin, to be siccar wi' 't.
Edb. 1881 J. Smith Habbie and Madge 36:
I tell't him he didna need to be sae very siccar to ca' sae early.
Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables 74:
They thocht that she [a hare] was siccar for their bag.
Most freq. in phr. to mak siccar, to make sure or certain. Gen.Sc., freq. a reminiscence of the phrase traditionally said to have been used by Sir John Kirkpatrick to Robert the Bruce at the murder of the Red Comyn in 1306 (see 1824 quot. and Scott Tales of a Grandfather vii.), and adopted as the motto of the Kirkpatrick family since the 15th c.Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail xviii.:
In the hope and confidence that ye're able to mak something mair sicker.
Sc. 1824 G. Chalmers Caledonia III. 79:
Roger Kirkpatrick, who despatched John Cumin after Robert de Brus had given him “a perilous gash;” and from this deed took as his motto, “I'll mak sicker.”
Fif. 1881 C. Gulland Sc. Ballads 18:
Then I'll mak sicker and decide This royal rivalrie.
Abd. 1890 Mod. Sc. Poets (Edwards) XIII. 91:
They made sikker o' their prey.
Kcb. 1895 Crockett Moss-Hags xlii.:
I made siccar o' my silver spoon.
s.Sc. 1925 H. McDiarmid Sangschaw 9:
I wot he did God's will wha made Siccar o' Calvary.
Slk. 1964 Southern Reporter (16 April) 9:
If you have never been in Parliament in Scotland, mak' siccar, and go now.

9. Having the assurance or certainty of.Sc. 1719 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 133:
Sicker of thae Winter and Simmer.

10. Of a blow: hard and effective, severe, telling (Sh., Ork. 1970). Adv. sickerly, with severity, in no uncertain manner. Hence sickerness, severity (Id.).Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 214:
Crying very bitterly for dread of the auld plaister which he got very sickerly.
m.Lth. 1787 W. Taylor Poems 62:
[I] crost the door, an' hat the hallen A thump fu' sicker.
Sc. 1808 Jam.:
We often speak of a sicker straik, a stroke that does not miss, that comes with all the force intended.
Edb. 1866 J. Smith Merry Bridal 155:
I'll gie them a claught mair siccar an' stour.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 128:
The De'il deud ne'er a sinner doos' Sae siccerly.
Gsw. 1898 D. Willox Poems 180:
[Ye] stab at him, wi' siccar stoon, Richt through the heart.
Rxb. 1918 Kelso Chron. (25 Oct.) 2:
Then, Douglas on the eagled crest Drew ae fell siccar blow.

11. Harsh, rigorous, inclement, of weather (Ork. 1970), of a task, etc.; of persons: bad-tempered, crusty (Sh. 1970). Hence sikkerness, harshness, acerbity.Kcd. 1844 W. Jamie Muse 99:
The laws are sae very sicker.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 103:
Co' Robie, ap amang the creuks: Wi malesins fu' deep an' siccer.
e.Lth. 1888 J. Lumsden Sheep Head (1892) 85:
Sicker ills pursued the King.
Sh. 1897 Shetland News (15 May, 4 Dec.):
Dis I sed wi mair dan ordinar sikkerness. . . Da shooers is sae siccer 'at a body canna haud up der face.
Ork. 1968 M. A. Scott Island Saga 160:
I caun mak' a bite tae you — aun you'll need hid, for you hae a siccar spale afore you.

II. adv. 1. Securely, firmly, stably (Abd., Ags. 1970), lit. and fig. Combs. sicker set, firmly set or seated, established (Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Tales 8); sit sicker, see Sit.Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 32:
He rides sicker that ne'er fell.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 68:
A' ye wha canna stand sae sicker, Whan twice you've toom'd the big ars'd bicker.
Sc. 1826 Laird of Wariston in Child Ballads No. 194 B. vi.:
The nurice she knet the knot, And O she knet it sicker!
Dmf. 1830 R. Broun Mem. Curl. Mab. 23:
Nor can we see how this can properly be performed, unless the player stands sicker upon the ice.
Rnf. 1846 W. Finlay Poems 213:
He humbled kings, thae costly things, Wha thocht they on their stools sat sicker.
Ags. 1867 G. W. Donald Poems 154:
There's nae man sae sicker set But he may shift his stool.
Sc. 1875 Stevenson Letters (1924) II. 14:
Sae let us in the comin' days Stand sicker on our auncient ways.
Abd. 1882 G. MacDonald Castle Warlock xlix.:
Haud him the sickerer. He s' be ayont mischeef the morn!
Edb. 1915 T. W. Paterson Auld Saws 29:
Gie't a thocht, my bairns, an' siccar Grup the truth.
Abd. 1929 Abd. Weekly Jnl. (7 Feb.) 6:
They try tae fix ae fit siccar on the road fin awa it goes.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 70:
Siccar we lie, siccar we lie.
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 19:
To watch ye is a richt divert,
Ma een as by a lodesteen draan,
Siccar ye grip me, an I'm thraan
To turn to my ain thochts, to pairt
Fae you.

2. With assurance, confidently: prudently, shrewdly.Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie x.:
Thou patters wi' thy wee red feet Right bauld an' sickar.
Sc. 1920 D. Rorie Auld Doctor 13:
[He] ne'er abused himsel wi' liquor But took it canny-like an' siccar.
em.Sc.(a) 1991 Kate Armstrong in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 110:
Siccar the wather-man
ettlin tae shaw the springheid, warstles wi his isobars
an seeks tae trammel fer ae day the fricht o kennin
the yird's sclenter.

3. Accurately, on the mark, precisely, explicitly.Sc. 1745 S.C. Misc. (1841) 365:
I am sorry I guest so sicker.
Abd. 1759 F. Douglas Rural Love 12:
The antichristian aim'd sae sicker.
Sc. 1808 Jam.:
He speaks very sicker, he expresses himself in a precise and accurate manner including also, in some degree, the idea of determination.
Dmf. 1863 R. Quinn Heather Lintie 75:
I wadna steer my parritch bicker, Till by my name they'd ca' me siccar.

4. Of a blow or the like: severely, with force, in no uncertain manner, ‘hot and strong'. Cf. I. 1.Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 13:
An auld dog bites sicker.
Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Ajax 10:
If there be gods aboon, I'm sire He'll get them leel and sicker.

III. v. 1. To make firm and secure, to fix firmly (ne. Sc., Ags., Slg., Lth., Bwk., Dmb., Wgt. 1970).Abd. 1747 Powis Papers (S.C.) 290:
To Propping and Sickering the Roof.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 429:
The runt must be siccar'd in the den, so that the blade may have a snanging sound.
Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 60:
Her nainsel's sheltie's shoon was sicker'd.
Abd. 1882 T. Mair John o' Arnha' 19:
They saw the Provost tak' a rope And sicker up the door.

2. To restore one's strength after an illness.Sh. 1897 Shetland News (11 Sept.):
Is doo ony grain sigger'd be what doo wis da streen, Girzzie?

[O.Sc. sekyr, sic(k)er, etc., to assure, a.1400, stable, 1375, reliable, 1375, safe, 1393, certain, 1405, severe, of a blow, 1475, assured, 1552, held fast, 1560, prudent, 1662, sekernes, 1349, Mid.Eng. siker, in common use till 1500, O.E. sicor, safe, secure, Ger. sicher, Du. zeker, all ad. Lat. securus, secure.]

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"Sicker adj., adv., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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