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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.

SKIN, n., v. Also skean (Sh. 1836 Gentleman's Mag. II. 592), sken (Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 103), skane (Sh. 1881 Contemp. Review XL. 403). Sc. usages. [skɪn; Sh. sken]

I. n. 1. As in Eng. Sc. phrs. and combs.: (1) at the skin, to the skin, i.e. soaked through, completely drenched (Sh., Abd. 1970); (2) skin and bane, completely, absolutely. A confusion of Eng. skin and bone with (3); (3) skin and birn, id. See Birn, n.2, 2.; (4) skin-bare, bare, naked (‡Sh. 1970); (5) skin-bow(e), a buoy made of calf- or sheep-skin; a Shetland reel, apparently so called as being typical and native compared with the Scottish reels, like the skin buoy as compared with the later imported glass or wooden floats. For the form see Bow, n.5; †(6) skin-claes, waterproof clothing, oilskins (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.); (7) skin-fell, = (12) (Sh. 1814 Irvine MSS.); (8) skin, flesh and bane, see quot.; (9) skin-flype, to skin, flay. See Flype, v.1; (10) skin-for-skin, so close as to be touching; (11) skinfu, what is contained in the skin, the whole person, in phr. a skinfu o sair banes, one's condition after a severe thrashing. Cf. sarkfu s.v. Sark, n., 4. (2); ‡(12) skinjup, a kind of jerkin or pullover made of tanned calf- or sheep-skin formerly worn by fishermen and sailors (Sh. 1970); (13) skin-meet, skin-tight, close-fitting. See Meet, adj.; (14) skin-naked, quite naked (Sh. 1970); (15) skin-reevach, a piece of hide tied round the head of the spear or plunger in the pump of a small fishing-boat to act as a valve (Cai. 1970).(1) Sh. 1897 Shetland News (4 Dec.):
Come in ta da fire, man. Ye're shurely at da skin.
(2) ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 12:
She [a cow] sank into the muckle pot, . . . He lost her skin an' bane.
(4) Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 23:
The bits o' weans wha us'd to rin On skin-bare soles, thro' thick and thin.
(5) Sh. 1952 J. Hunter Taen wi da Trow 107:
Dir fiddlers both an aft ye'll hear Dem at da spring, or aald skinbowe.
(6) Sh. 1901 Shetland News (17 Aug.):
Why hed ye no your skin claes wi' you?
(8) Arg.2 1931:
In choosing sides at Rounders and deciding which side should go in first the following ritual was observed: A boy from each side was selected: No. 1 threw the bat to No. 2, who caught it. The two then clasped hand above hand alternately and whoever got the final grip had the first pick for sides and his side also went in first. Sometimes, however, there was just sufficient of the top of the bat left for the apparent loser to grip it with the points of the first finger and thumb. If he called out in time Skin, flesh an' bane, his opponent had to draw back his thumb and first finger so as to yield a fuller grip. There was then the cry “The best o' wance” by the gripper or “The best o' thrice” by his opponent — whichever could get his call in first — and the bat, held precariously at the top by finger and thumb, had to be swung round the head without falling — once or thrice as the case might be. If it fell the opponent won first pick and first innings. “Nae skin flesh an' bane” shouted quickly out meant no concession of drawn-back thumb and first finger.
(10) Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 61:
Gears or props set up so close as to be touching each other are said to be skin for skin.
(11) Kcb. 1885 A. J. Armstrong Friend and Foe xxxiv.:
I'll put ye in the water wi' sic a skinfu' o' sair banes as 'll keep ye at the bottom when ye get there.
(12) Sh. 1892 G. Stewart Tales 243:
Da first day I hed on this skinjup.
(13) Slk. 1897 D. W. Purdie Poems 85:
Here clever chiels in skin-meet breeks.
(14) Fif. 1864 St Andrews Gazette (3 Sept.):
She doesn't appear to have had the least shade of clothing, sitting at the window “skin naked.”

2. A contemptuous term for a person, a mean or objectionable fellow.Sc. 1825 Jam.:
Ye're naething but a nasty skin.

3. A robbery, theft, what has been stolen; a petty swindle or fraud; any small private gain made on the side (m.Sc. 1970). Sc. slang. Cf. Eng. skin, a purse, to swindle, in flash or cant usage.Gsw. 1858 “Shadow” Midnight Scenes 111:
“Many a good skin”, or robbery.
Rnf. 1935 L. Kerr Woman of Glenshiels i.:
All the girls who worked told their mothers their wages were a shilling or two less than they actually were. It was a recognised “skin,” and the mothers, though they had done exactly the same trick, were easily fooled.
Ayr. 2000:
You've had a skin. That's no all the money.
Edb. 2004:
When ma faither did a homer he aye took a bit skin - never telt ma mither aw he got.

4. A particle or grain, a small quantity of any granulated substance. For absence of prep. in quot. see O, prep., 1. (5).Sc. 1825 Jam.:
A skin corn, a skin of sand, a skin salt.

II. v. 1. As in Eng. Vbl.n. skinnin, a small amount, a piece of petty economy or profit (ne.Sc., em.Sc.(a), Kcb., Rxb. 1970). Phrs. skin-the-cat, a somersault over the horizontal bar in gymnastics (Cai. 1970); skin-the-cuddy, a variety of leap-frog (see quot.) (Abd. 1938 Press and Jnl. (26 March) 6; ne.Sc., Lth., wm.Sc. 1970). See also Silly; skinny-flint [ < skin-the-flint], a skinflint, miser (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); skin-the-goatie, = skin the cuddy (Kcd. 1898 A. B. Gomme Trad. Games II. 199).Abd. 1882 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 122:
For the sake o' a skinnin' mair.
Abd. 1926 Buchan Observer (23 April):
In “skin the cuddy” a lad would stand with his back against a wall, while three or four others, who formed the body of the “cuddy”, ranged themselves in front of, and facing him, with their bodies bent downwards from the hips. The game was for another lad to take a race and mount the “cuddy”, trying to get as far forward as be able to snatch the cap from the upright boy's head. This was easier said than done; as soon as he was mounted the “cuddy” suffered from severe internal convulsions; its body heaved, twisted and bucked so violently that the daring equestrian was usually unhorsed long ere he reached his goal.

2. To pare off the surface layer of soil or vegetation (n. and em.Sc., Ayr. 1970). Also in U.S. Phr. skinned land, land from which a covering of peat has been taken off.Hebr. 1929 A. A. Macgregor Summer Days 27:
A certain amount of grain is raised yearly on his “lazy-beds” and strips of “skinned-lands”.
Fif. 1939 St Andrews Cit. (11 Feb.) 4:
We had to skin and trench the last four furrows, then fill them in ready for the seed.

3. Ppl.adj. skinnt, -ed. Comb. weel-skinnt, having a healthy clear skin (Sh. 1970); also fig., having a smooth surface appearance, superficially attractive.Gall. 1810 S. Smith Agric. Gall. 89:
It is, doubtless, desireable to have a dyke smooth on the outside to prevent the cattle from rubbing against it . . .; with the workmen it is always a capital object; and if they can only make their work well skinned, they give themselves no concern about its firmness and durability.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick ii.:
It's a weel skinnt crater, ony gait. Neen o' yer shargers.

4. Phr.: to skin (the schule), to play truant from school (Ork. 1950).

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"Skin n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 Jun 2024 <>



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