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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HANDLESS, adj. Also hanless, haunless. Of persons: fumbling, incapable of doing anything skilfully with the hands, awkward, clumsy, incompetent, inefficient, slow (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1934 Mid-Uls. Mail (1 Dec.)), “having no proper sense of how work should be done” (Abd.7 1925).

Hence handlessness. Gen.Sc. Obs. in Eng.Sc. 1756 M. Calderwood Journey (M.C.) 218:
He is so handless-like, that he cannot be a body of any sort of busness.
Sc. 1818 S. E. Ferrier Marriage I. xxx.:
I hope, Mary, you will take care and not get into the daddlin', handless ways of the Englishwomen.
Lth. 1856 M. Oliphant Lilliesleaf xlvii.:
The mother but a weakly, handless body, sorely held down by so many little things.
Bnff. 1880 J. F. S. Gordon Chrons. Keith 75:
Hundreds of times we have tasted Beef Tea . . . cooked by handless Dawdles, which an Irish pig would disgorge.
Lnk. 1895 W. C. Fraser Whaups of Durley 173:
Ane an' a' were puir feckless han'less creatur's, their fingers were a' thooms.
Dmb. 1931 A. J. Cronin Hatter's Castle ii. xii.:
She had not been lazy then, nor had they called her handless!
m.Sc. 1950 O. Douglas Farewell to Priorsford 220:
“That handless cratur,” said Jessie, “she canna work.”
Sc. 1956 Bulletin (11 July) 2:
He's still surprised at the handlessness of some men.
sm.Sc. 1979 Alan Temperley Tales of Galloway (1986) 148:
His name was Samuel Hannay, which had a dignified, south-western ring about it, but everyone called him 'Handless Sammy'. He was a labourer - when he was in work. There was nothing bad about him exactly, his mind just wandered.
Abd. 1980 Edith Bishop For You I Remember 38:
At that time in the theatre, a 'general' was often given the low comedy part, usually appearing gawky and handless, with her hair straggly and a smudge of black-lead on her face, making stupid remarks and doing stupid things.
Gsw. 1988 Michael Munro The Patter Another Blast 6:
baw-hair A pubic hair, regarded as the very narrowest of fine measures: 'Whit haunless bampot drapped that hammer? That wis a baw-hair aff stovin in ma skull!'
Sc. 1991 Glasgow Herald 2 Mar :
Our request for information on the provenance of the phrase chantie-wrassler has produced a small but learned correspondence. G. Rennie of Cardross believes it refers to a person who is haunless, even worse than somebody who couldnae run a menawdge.
Dundee 1996 Matthew Fitt Pure Radge 8:
the fuhl-back's skinned
the defence is left haunless
juist the keeper
ainlie the keeper
Sc. 1999 Herald 16 Sep 21:
Frances McMahon recalls one particularly haunless individual who, despite his best efforts, was constantly making a mess.

[Hand, n. + adj. suff. -less; O.Sc. handless, a.1568, without hands.]

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"Handless adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 13 Apr 2024 <>



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