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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

ONTAK, n., v. Also -tack. [′ontɑk]

I. n. 1. The taking on or assumption of a task or responsibility, a big job (Sh., Abd., Ags. 1964).Abd. 1942:
A ferm o that size is a gey ontak for a young chiel nooadays.

2. An attack or onset of pain (Sh. 1964), of snow, bad weather or the like (Id.).

3. A fuss, palaver, to-do, a state of excitement; airs and affectations (Sh. 1964).Sh. 1900 Shetland News (4–11 Aug.):
Fader kens 'at less dress an' ontak could a düne her. . . . Sibbie is in dat an a ontack aboot da supper.
Sh. 1962 New Shetlander No. 61. 16:
An of coorse dey wir a fludder an a ontakk readin an passin hit [telegram] frae haand ta haand.

4. A discussion, conversation.Abd. 1964:
I had an ontak wi 'im the streen.

II. v. 1. Vbl.n. ontakin(g), ontakken (1) taking on, start, (the beginning of) an undertaking, assumption (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., Sh. 1964); (2) enlisting, being taken on as a soldier; (3) great excitement or anxiety, a rush (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1964): Cf. 3.(1) Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 297:
Sweet in the on taking, but soure in the off putting. Spoken of Debt for the most part, but apply'd to Sin, sensual Pleasure, and the like.
(2) Sc. 1710 Fountainhall Decisions II. 593:
He opponed the testificates of his ontaking, and his forlough. The Lords ordained him to be set at liberty.

2. Ppl.adj. ontakin, buying or taking on credit, hence reckless, rash, somewhat untrustworthy in business dealings. Hence ontaker, an irresponsible or untrustworthy person, esp. one who runs up debt.Cld. 1880 Jam.:
He's an ontakin body; he's aye ontakin; dinna trust him.
Ags. 1914 I. Bell Country Clash 30:
I maun be at the beck an' ca' o' ilka ontaker an' wastrel.

[On-, pref.1, + Tak. O.Sc. ontakeing, enlisting, 1668.]

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



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