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A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)

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First published 1963 (DOST Vol. III).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Knak, n. Also: knack, nack. [ME. (Chaucer, Wyclif) and e.m.E. knakke, knak, knack:Origin obscure, but conceivably the same as ME. and e.m.E. kna(c)k a sharp blow or noise, rap, snap, crack, of echoic origin, also Du. knak, LG. knack(e, Norw. knak (and also Gael. cnac).]Sense 1 b confined to Sc.

1. A (verbal) joke or jest. b. Espec., a mocking or derisive jest, a mock; also, a gibe or taunt.(1) a1500 Henr. Fab. 997.
‘The court is callit, and ȝe ar contumax.’ ‘Let be, Lowrence,’ quod scho, ‘ȝour courtlie knax’
Ib. 1059.
As thay wer carpand in this cace with knakis And all the court in merines and gam
1513 Doug. 907/21.
This volume … Quharthrow I haue wrocht myself syk dispyte, Perpetualy be chydit with ilk knak … and mokkyt behynd mybak
1535 Stewart 31435. c1550 Rolland Ct. Venus iv. 386.
Pointand thair hand with mony skorne & knak
(2) a1500 Henr. Fab. 143 (B).
This cok … Makand at science bot a knak [v. rr. mok] and skorne
a1568 Blyth Bann. MS. 113 a/18.
Than will thay mak at him a knak That maist of his gud hais

2. A clever or amusing device, a trick. 1617 Misc. Abbotsf. C. 311.
He could haue taught ȝow ane hundrethe fyne knakis to entertayne ane king, schowis and pageantrie, and puppett playis
1658 R. Moray Lett. fol. 218.
Methinks you talk as if you had done a nack in holding me in hot water
1685 Lauder Observes 195.
Argile was very witty in knacks … he was so conceitty he had neir 20 severall pockets … in his coat and breeches [etc.]

3. a. concr. A toy, trinket, knick-knack. 1688 Wemyss Chart. 256.
Item, the furnitur, knacks, and a few small picturs of her clositt

b. fig. A trifle, trifling matter, triviality. 1668-9 J. Fraser Lawfulness of Separation (1744) 42.
Here is a fine knack at last, and pretty busked notion indeed
1666-74 Fraser Polichron. 402.
Such a chatter there was of remonstrances and protestations and such like knacks amongst these crumms of the kirk

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"Knak n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Apr 2024 <>



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