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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.

SNIFTER, v., n. Also sniffter, snifther (Uls.); snufter; sniffer. [′snɪftər]

I. v. 1. (1) intr. To sniff, in gen. (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, s.v. snokis, 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.); to snivel, snuffle, with a nose cold (Sc. 1808 Jam.), or through tears, to blubber; to snort, snore (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 173). Gen.Sc. Also in Eng. dial.; to show contempt, be supercilious.Sc. 1719 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 127:
Gin I can snifter thro' Mundungus.
Rnf. a.1794 A. Wilson Poems (1876) II. 41, 319:
Nae sniftering' dog had he . . . Or else some sniftering, snivelling, ill-clad loon, Wha wadna hae the heart a cat to droon.
Sc. 1823 W. Tennant Card. Beaton 89:
Now i' their beds, snifterin', snocherin', an' sleepin' like taps.
Slk. 1835 Hogg Tales (1874) 554:
I was obliged to . . . snifter like a whipped boy.
Gsw. 1863 J. Young Ingle Nook 92:
The nasty, clatty, fiery stuff, It gart me snifter, hotch, an' puff.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xvi.:
The worthy goodwife . . . told her to “wash her face, an' nae mair o' that snifterin.”
Ags. 1879 J. Guthrie Poems 18:
The smell o' girse the kye noo snifter up.
Fif. 1882 J. Simson Inverkeithing 17:
I was “snifftering” (snuffing up when there is nothing to snuff up).
Ayr. 1889 H. Johnston Glenbuckie 69:
Dinna sit there sniftering, as if ye had ony doubts aboot me.
Ags. 1914 J. Bell Country Clash 74:
Popularity's no' to be sniftered at.
Kcd. 1932 L. G. Gibbon Sunset Song 132:
They saw she wasn't sniftering or weeping.
Abd. 1941 C. Gavin Black Milestone xiii.:
I'm nae for Mary and Fanny snifterin' here onywey.

(2) tr. To utter (words) in a whining, snuffling tone.Sc. 1884 W. Grant Christ our Hope xx.:
Sniftering out his words with the quaintest, queerest accent.

2. Of wind: to blow in strong gusts, to blast (Sh. 1971), vbl.n. snifteran, exposure to the blast (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 173); of steam, vapour, etc.: to billow out, escape in clouds.Kcd. 1932 L. G. Gibbon Sunset Song 19:
When he was real drunk and the fairlies came sniftering out of the whisky bottles at him.
Sh. 1952 J. Hunter Taen wi da Trow 189:
Dey aa noo rin wi reebs o steam Snifterin in guffs fae each behint.

II. n. 1. A sniff, a noisy inhalation through the nostrils (Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Uls. 1953 Traynor), indicative of a cold or of some emotion, grief, surprise, disdain or suppressed laughter, a snivel, whimper, snigger, etc. Gen.Sc.; a snort (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 173).Slk. 1828 Hogg Poems (1874) 309:
The palfrey dash'd o'er the bounding wave, With snifter and with stenne.
Dmb. 1844 W. Cross Disruption iii.:
A kind of smothered laugh, such as is in our expressive vernacular is called a snifter.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxxv.:
I had need o' a snifter o' caller air.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1899) 144:
He took a look round at me an' gae a kind o' a snufter.
Hdg. 1908 J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 168:
We scour'd the lift wi' scarce a sniffer.
Bnff. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (29 May) 5:
The snifters and ohs came spasmodically and very audibly.
Uls. 1929 M. Mulcaghey Ballymulcaghey 92:
If ye cud give a wee snifter of a cry.

2. A cold in the head with a running nose, a catarrh, most freq. in pl. with def. art., a severe cold, a stuffed nose (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. c.1840 W. Lutton Montiaghisms (1924); Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen.Sc.; also a disease of poultry and other animals with sim. symptoms. Dim. sniftery.Sc. 1826 Edb. Corporation Pack of Hounds MS. 15:
Catarrhall affections of the head and snifters prevail.
Sc. 1837 J. W. Carlyle Letters (Froude 1883) I. 71:
The blessedness of having a head clear of snifters.
Sc. 1844 H. Stephens Bk. Farm II. 260:
The snifters, that is, a discharge of matter from the nose, which causes a noise in the nose like stifled breathing [in fowls].
Edb. 1872 J. Smith Jenny Blair 19:
The tane de'ed wi' the rickets, an' the tither wi' the snifters.
Abd. 1929 Weekly Journal (21 Feb.) 6:
A bit sniftery o' a caul'.

Comb.  snifter-dichter, A handkerchief.Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall The Bonsai Grower 48:
Aa roon her, fowk snochered and pyochered an hoastit inno their snifter-dichters. Her ain braith, in the cauld kirk, wis like the wee plufferts o rikk frae a stemm kettle.
Edb. 2005:
Ma ma hated washin snifter dichters.

3. A strong blast, gust, flurry, as of driving wind, rain, sleet, etc., esp. thought of as buffeting the face (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Per. 1904 E.D.D.; Uls. 1953 Traynor Gl.; I. and ne.Sc., Ags., Lth. 1971). Also in n.Eng. dial.; in 1741 quot., a blast of gunfire. Cf. nizzer, nizzin, s.v. Niz.Sc. 1741 Caled. Mercury (20 Jan.):
Though the Spaniards fired several great and small shot, yet the bold young Fellows, despising the Spanish snifters, boarded and took the Brigantine.
Abd. 1778 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 39:
Wi' weet an' wind sae tyte into my teeth. . . . I manna ilka day be coming here To get sick snifters [1768, sniflers].
Edb. 1828 M. & M. Corbett Tales & Leg. III. 56:
Your father will get a sair snifter coming by the Whistling Cleugh.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 173:
He got a gey snifter gain' our the muir.
Slk. 1875 Border Treasury (10 April) 418:
I gat sic a snifter! I was clean blindit wi' drift.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 52:
He began tae grue ap a brave snifter o' wind.
wm.Sc. 1934 K. R. Archer Jock Tamson's Bairns 45:
An' a snifter o' the snows, Whan ye face the autumn breeze.

4. A violent purging of the bowels (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.).

5. Fig. A check, a shock, a reverse, a rebuff, a snub, a quarrel (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. c.1840 W. Lutton Montiaghisms (1924); Abd. 1917; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai, Rxb. 1971). Also in Eng. dial.Rxb. 1806 J. Hogg Poems 112:
But, Monseer, ye'd better no come here awa, Lest ye meet with a snifter ye'll no like ava.
s.Sc. 1847 H. S. Riddell Poems 246:
We gae them a snifter, an roun' aye for roun' We' the axe o' King Bruce, and the Sword o' Rob Roy.

[Mid.Eng. snyfter, to snuffle, a freq. form of *snift, of imit. orig. Cf. Dan. †snifte, Swed. snyfta. The form Snift above however appears much later and is therefore presumably a new back-formation and not a survival.]

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"Snifter v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 May 2024 <>



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