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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.

NIFFER, v., n. Also neifer (Ags. 1896 Barrie Sentimental Tommy xxxi.), neiffar (Sc. 1825 Jam.), neef(f)er, neefor (Ags. 1868 G. Webster Strathbrachan I. ix.), neiver (Fif. 1902 D. S. Meldrum Conquest of Charlotte ii. i.). [′nɪfər; Ags., Fif. ′nif-]

I. v. 1. tr. and absol. To exchange, barter, trade (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Agric. Ayr. 693; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Sh., ne., e. and wm.Sc. 1964); to exchange objects hidden or partly hidden in the closed hand (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 194). Vbl.n. nifferin(g), the act of bartering (Sc. 1827 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) H. 36), or of exchanging objects held in the fist (Ags. 1964).Bnff. 1719 W. Cramond Ch. Bellie (1896) 30:
Exchanging and niffering their bodie cloaths as coat, plaid, vest.
Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 204:
Poets Lays and Lovers meeting, Meeting kind to niffer Kisses.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxiii.:
I could take my aith to that sneeshing-mull amang a thousand — I carried it for mony a year, till I niffered it for this tin ane wi' auld George Glen.
Slk. 1820 Hogg Tales (1874) 107:
I'll nowther borey nor lenne, Swap nor niffer wi' nae bodye.
Sc. c.1826 Child Horn in Child Ballads No. 17 C. x.:
If this be true you tell to me, You must niffer clothes with me.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) iv.:
The thrums were a perquisite of my own, which I niffered with the gundy-wife for Gibraltar rock.
Sc. 1862 A. Hislop Proverbs 134:
He's fond o' barter that niffers wi' Auld Nick.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) vi.:
I wudna neefer't for a brass band.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 39:
He has niffer'd his sark wi' the bogle, His breeks, coat an' bunnet forby.
Abd. 1961 People's Jnl. (28 Jan.):
She niffert some o' her fish for hame-made cheese an' butter fae the farmers' wives.

Derivs. ¶nifferer, a changer, nifferment, exchange, barter.s.Sc. 1856 H. S. Riddell St. Matthew xvi. 26, xxi. 12:
What sall ane man gie in nifferment for his saul? . . . He owerthrew the tables o' the moneye-nifferers.

2. intr. To haggle, bargain, deal, have business transactions with (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh., Abd., Per., Arg. 1964), “freq. in a holeand-corner manner” (Per. 1964). Vbl.n. nifferin, dealings. Also in n.Yks. dial.Kcd. 1699 Black Bk. Kcd. (1843) 112:
He had niffered with his brother for a steer.
Sc. 1754 Session Papers, Rae v. Stevenson (24 Jan.) 7:
He intended that Day to have niffered with the Defender.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxxiii.:
We sat niffering about some brandy that I said I wanted, till he came in.
Ayr. 1891 H. Johnstone Kilmallie I. 155:
Meiklemyre has been drinking and niffering on the Sabbath.
Lth. 1920 A. Dodds Songs 3:
He'd haggle and niffer when buyin' his cattle.
Bnff. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 15:
A' nifferin atween you an' me is at an eyan.
Per.4 1950:
He's aye nifferin in aboot the smiddy; A dunno what he's efter.

II. n. An exchange, barter (Edb. 1788 J. Macaulay Poems 131; Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh., ne., e. and wm.Sc. 1964). Phrs.: in a niffer, in the scales, at stake or hazard; niffer for niffer, one thing for another, a barter system.Ayr. 1787 Burns To the Unco Guid iii.:
Ye see your state wi' theirs compared, And shudder at the niffer.
Sc. c.1800 Kitchie Boy in Child Ballads No. 252 C. xxiv.:
“'Nor woud I make the niffer,” he says, “For a' the gowd that is in Spain.”
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xviii.:
He put his life in a niffer, to break the prison to let me out.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel xxxi.:
Deil a bodle is to be had, save on the auld terms of giff-gaff. It is just niffer for niffer.
Abd. 1879 G. Macdonald Sir Gibbie xliv.:
Gien bein' a minister gies the freedom o' puir fowk's hooses, it oucht in the niffer to gie him the freedom o' his.
Lnk. 1887 A. Wardrop Mid-Cauther Fair 158:
What could they gie as a niffer?
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) x.:
When we made a niffer o' onything, we wisna feenished till we touched oor heids an' oor tae caps an' something made o' wid.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood ix.:
As keen at a niffer as a Musselburgh wabster.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 66:
' ... Wi the citizens' drouth and capacity for liquor, it didna tak lang for the Cooncil tae realise I'd made them a guid niffer. ... '

[O.Sc. newfar, n., 1529, niffer, v., exchange, go in exchange, 1612, prob. a freq. form from Nieve, sc. to pass from grasp to grasp.]

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"Niffer v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Sep 2022 <>



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