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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 but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SCUNNER, v., n. Also skunner, -ir, skuner, sconner, skonner, scouner; scunhur (Uls.), scunder (Rs.), -re, -dther (Uls.); schunner. [′skʌnər; Rs., Uls. ′skʌndər]

I. v. 1. absol. To get a feeling of aversion, disgust or loathing, to feel surfeited or nauseated (Uls. 1931 Northern Whig (27 Nov.)). Gen.Sc.Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 54:
Haff done, his Heart began to scunner.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To J. Smith xxii.:
Yill an' whisky gie to Cairds, Until they sconner.
Edb. c.1796 H. Macneill Poet. Works (1801) 47:
Sic qualms o' honour Whan sneaking rascals mak you sconner.
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xxxv.:
A taid may sit on her coffin the day, and she can never scunner when he croaks.
Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 140:
Be you strong of stomach, and, as the Shepherd would say, dinna scunner.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch Bk. 103:
Tae dive wi' dugged folk, I scunner.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xv.:
A holy smile that gart me scunner.
m.Sc. 1924 O. Douglas Pink Sugar xix.:
The knife gangs through it [margarine] so creeshy-like, it fair maks me scunner.

2. intr. with at or rarely with: to feel disgust for, to be sickened by, turn in aversion from, be bored or repelled by. Gen Sc., somewhat rare or obsol. Rarely in pass. constr. as in a.1779 quot.Sc. 1704 J. Fraser Lawfulness & Duty of Separation (1744) 80:
How Men scunner and ugg at their Meat, being conveyed to them thro' and in such Vessels.
Edb. a.1774 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 99:
But far frae thee the bailies dwell, Or they wud scunner at your knell.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 21:
It's no to be scunnert at.
Sc. 1844 Cockburn Circuit Journeys (1888) 220:
The modern chapel, though used every Sunday, would be scunnered at by any congregation of pigs.
Ayr. 1866 Trans. Highl. Soc. 73:
So long as we are so much dependent on “foreign” grass-seeds (or, trash, rather), so long will all wise farmers scunner at using them.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Stickit Minister 121:
He did mak' them scunner with the Law.
Arg. 1901 N. Munro Doom Castle xxiii.:
I would scunner at the very word.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood xix.:
There are times when I scunner at my native land.

3. intr. To shrink, to flinch, draw back, hestitate.Ayr. 1819 Kilmarnock Mirror 174:
Aul' John Knox didnae skunner to tell them their fauts starkly to their face.
Kcb. 1903 Crockett Banner of Blue xxx.:
They wadna scunner to pit Maister John to ony kind o' expense.

4. tr. To cause a feeling of repulsion, aversion or loathing in (a person), to disgust, nauseate, surfeit (Abd., s.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.). Gen.Sc. Followed by at or wi governing the indirect obj. (1) in a lit. sense:Sc. 1820 Blackwood's Mag. (Aug.) 513:
The scunnering smell o' an acre o' corses.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 376:
Dutch cheese, foo o' creesh, that I wis ance scunner't wi'.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 95:
They are as the puddock pies or the herrin' puddin's o' Mounseer himsel . . . fit to scunner ony decent man.
Per. 1894 I. Maclaren Brier Bush 201:
Gruel . . . and eneuch tae scunner ye wi' sugar.
Kcb. 1895 Crockett Moss Hags xxiii.:
It wad hae scunnered a soo!
Abd. 1928 N. Shepherd Quarry Wood iv.:
The smell of his body scunnered them.
Edb. 1930 Weekly Scotsman (8 March) 7:
Adam yae day, fairly scunnert wi' fruit, For a change o' his diet was wishin'.
wm.Sc. 1988 Robin Jenkins Just Duffy 105:
Shit in itself didn't scunner her: it was natural, like fallen leaves.

(2) in fig. usage, to make (one) bored, uninterested or antipathetic. Gen.Sc. Very freq. in ppl.adj. scunnert, scunnered, disgusted, bored, repelled, “fed up”. Comb. †Scunnert Fair (see 1938 quot.). Also ppl.adj. scunnering.Abd. 1844 W. Thom Poems 41:
Love heard, an' skunnert wi' the plot Swore grey the very moon.
Edb. 1866 J. Smith Merry Bridal 34:
But wonnert aye what scunnert me, At savoury Shorter Carritch.
Uls. 1886 W. G. Lyttle Sons of Sod vi.:
A'm jest skunnered wi' coortin', so a 'em!
Ags. 1891 Barrie Little Minister x.:
I was fair scunnered at Tammas the day.
Kcb. 1911 G. M. Gordon Auld Clay Biggin' 25:
He had hated the vera sicht o' weemen, as he said they fair scunner't him.
m.Sc. 1917 O. Douglas The Setons iv.:
He canna stand Tories by naething, they fair scunner him.
Slg. 1938 Daily Express (3 June):
Only 20 farm workers — a record low number — attended yesterday the Falkirk “Scunnert” Fair — so named because it is held after the annual feeing fair to enable workers who are dissatisfied with their wages and conditions to find alternative employment.
Sc. 1956 Scotsman (10 Jan.) 4:
As a result of the scunnering experience of the past few months, a further substantial decrease in acreage may be expected in 1956.
Gsw. 1987 James Kelman Greyhound for Breakfast (1988) 176:
Aw naw, naw, it's no that. I just get fucking scunnered with it.
I dont blame you. These last couple of weeks! No kidding ye Brian see last Thursday? I'm standing there, got a right few quid going onto the last favourite.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 78:
Whaun he deed we fund a hauf
feenisht paiket [of pan drops] on the bedside table.
That wad hae scunnert him, nae doot;
that, for him, wad be deein afore his time.
Sc. 1989 Scotsman (12 May) 14:
The overtime ban by drivers from BR's Southern Region has postponed the christening today of a locomotive with one of those scunnering names that trip off the tongue like an ingot of pig iron: The Institution of Mining Engineers
wm.Sc. 1991 James Russell Grant in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 57:
Fair scunnert tae the teeth the day ye saw yirsel there
Ye hae the luk ae Lazarus gaun moon-struck owr the day
Sc. 1992 Observer (14 Sept):
Milton, thow shuldst be living at this hour, ye'd be fair scunnered.
m.Sc. 1994 Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay Forever Yours, Marie-Lou 17:
He wis nae mair twisted than the rest ae us...he wis mebbe jist a bit mair scunnered ...
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 44:
Miss Hardie's class. 'Dance Around the World' wis her project. I thocht yon wad be gey scunnerin for the loons fin I saw the picters o ballerinas an Heilan dancers, Dutch clog dancers an Indian temple dancers.
m.Sc. 1997 Liz Niven Past Presents 18:
Scunnert they ur. Cannae say A blame them,
Of course ye want tae keep yer ain schuils,
Yer ain hospitals, yer railways. An watter - whit next?
A could fill a bucket on ma ain windae sill
It's wur watter.
Sc. 2000 Herald (7 Aug) 3:
Fish an visitors smell in three days, said Benjamin Franklin. However, he had not reckoned with bed and breakfast owners in Scotland.
The owners get scunnered if a British guest so much as plants his or her plates of meat on the welcome mat.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 16:
'So what have you been up to since I saw you last? It must be, what, six years? I mind you gave up on the PhD. Can't say I blame you, I was scunnered of History after one degree. Well, maybe not scunnered, just tired.'

(3) to bother, to take up (someone's) time or interest.Per. 1969:
I canna be scunnered wi = I have no time for, no patience with.

II. n. 1. A feeling of disgust, surfeit or nausea, loathing (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.). Gen.Sc. Occas. in pl. Phr. to tak a scunner (the scunners) at, to take a dislike to, distaste for, (1) lit. of the stomach or appetite:Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Jnl. from London 11:
It was enough to gi' a warsh-stamack'd body a scunner.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To a Haggis v.:
Or fricassee wad mak her spew Wi' perfect sconner.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxi.:
Like an auld dog that trails its useless ugsome carcass into some bush or bracken, no to gie living things a sconner wi' the sight o't when it's dead.
Ayr. 1848 J. Ramsay Woodnotes 105:
He'd eat a badger, tail an' a', Without a scunner!
Abd. 1895 G. Williams Scarbraes 25:
Ever afterwards that worthy woman had a scunner at mitey cheese.
Edb. 1995 J. Tweeddale Moff 103:
Unless thraitened wi' the shivers, drinks like tae gie me the scunners.
Uls. 1820 J. Logan Uls. in X-rays vi.:
Bad eggs gie onybody the skunner.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 20:
The clairty, creeshy look o'd wad heh gien a body the scunners.
Slg. 1935 W. D. Cocker Further Poems 32:
We tak' sic a scunner at plain brose an' brochan.

(2) in a fig. sense: repugnance, distaste, dislike, a loss of interest or enthusiasm (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Followed by ‡again(st), at, o, ‡tae, til, wi.Mry. 1806 J. Cock Simple Strains 15:
I'm wae she mingled praise wi' sconner.
Ayr. 1824 A. Crawford Tales Grandmother v.:
She had got a perfect scunner at the banks wi' the Douglas and Heron bubble.
Edb. 1849 G. Bell Wynds Edb. 5:
Horror-striken at first, the subject of a moral skunner.
Abd. 1882 G. MacDonald Castle Warlock xlix.:
It's the natur o' dougs to tak scunners. They see far ben.
Lth. 1883 M. Oliphant Ladies Lindores ii.:
A scunner is a sudden sickening and disgust with an object not necessarily disagreeable — a sort of fantastic prejudice, which there is no struggling against.
Gall. 1900 R. J. Muir Mystery Muncraig ii.:
He had never told his weakness to his brother, having had a ‘scunner' against doing so.
Uls. 1911 F. E. Crichton Soundless Tide 20:
He tuk some soort of a scunner til her, an' now he's just left her sittin'.
Ork. 1915 Old-Lore Misc. VIII. I. 44:
Sheu flitted hersel a' dat lent wi' fair scunner.
Sh. 1918 T. Manson Peat Comm. 142:
Shu'd tak a skuner ta da animal if shu kent what I'm paid fur her.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood i.:
You'll give our young brother a scunner of the place.
Ags. 1930 A. Kennedy Orra Boughs xxx.:
I come hame o' nichts wi' a scunner o' their littleness.
Rnf. 1935 L. Kerr Woman of Glenshiels xiii.:
It fair gies ye the scunner the way they all grumble.
Sc. 1964 Scotsman (12 Nov.) 5:
Many of them have taken a scunner at religion because they took a scunner at it at school.
Sc. 1988 Scotsman (15 May) 10:
To use a Scots word, for which there is no adequate synonym in the English language, most people in Scotland, whatever their basic politial affiliation, have developed a scunner of Mrs Thatcher.
ne.Sc. 1991 Alastair Mackie in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 68:
Spring that gies me a scunner, I've this
to say to ye; turnin some street corner
aa o a sudden I get stobbed thro wi the dirks
o your weird-like breerin.

(3) a shudder betokening physical or moral repugnance; a sudden shock.Fif. 1864 St. Andrews Gazette (20 Feb.):
A ‘scunner' had visibly passed over the frame of Farmer Briggs at these words.
Sc. 1881 Stevenson Works (1907) VI. 103:
There gaed a scunner through the flesh upon his banes.
Gall. 1901 Gallovidian III. 73:
What a scunner they got! the muckle flagstane wasna there.

2. A cause or object of loathing or aversion, a disgusting or tiresome business, a pest, nuisance: (1) of things or actions (Abd. 1825 Jam.). Gen.Sc.Mry. 1865 J. Horne Poems 24:
Faigs, borrowed money is a sconner.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxi.:
The impidence o' creatures is a perfect scunner.
Ags. 1878 J. S. Neish Reminisc. 115:
That ugly clout [a kilt] plapin' aboot yer legs was a perfect scunner.
Ayr. 1879 J. White Jottings 185:
Ribbons bricht in hue and gloss, A perfect skunner.
Lnk. 1926 W. Queen We're A' Coortin' 10:
It's a richt scunner walkin' up that long avenue tae the big hoose.
Gsw. 1947 H. W. Pryde 1st Bk. McFlannels i.:
Ah thocht the room floor was bad but this is a fair scunner.

(2) of persons: one who causes disgust or dislike from his appearance, habits or actions, a troublesome, tiresome or objectionable person, a plague (Abd. 1825 Jam.; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.). Gen.Sc.Gall. 1796 J. Lauderdale Poems 91:
Some poor waff detested scunner.
Sc. a.1838 in Jam. MSS. XII. 194:
That scunner is guid for naething but setting up to fley awa the craws frae the potatoes.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxxv.:
Her — a black ugly lookin' scunner.
Sh. 1906 T. P. Ollason Spindrift 124:
Howld dee awey, doo skunner 'at doo is.
Lnk. 1926 W. Queen We're A' Coortin 69:
Ye wee bowly-leggit scunner ye.
Fif. 1950 Scots Mag. (July) 263:
You iggerant, impident, shilpit, wee scunner!
Bnff. 1958 Banffshire Jnl. (1 April):
A fraisie, meally-mou'd, twa-faced scunner o' a lad.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 7:
You should see her son, if you think she's fond!
He is daft aboot the schunner, it's beyond
Rhyme, it's beyond reason or any sense at a'.
m.Sc. 1986 Colin Mackay The Song of the Forest 116:
"I love this little acre God has given us, and I love every one of the damned cantankerous scunners who lives on it. And it is because I love it all that I am greeting."
Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 16:
Sure, there's fights closer tae hame in there? A coupla they scunners up it the broo could dae wi a good doin, ah'm tellin ye.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web v:
A dearie in Scots is ayewis somebody weel-loued. It's nae, it niver cud be, a creepie-crawlie scunner sprauchlin in frae anither culture, tae crush aneth the sole o yer buit.
Sc. 1999 Herald (18 Oct) 13:
The average GDP for the whole of Scotland is 98 or two points below the average for Europe. The average for Greater London is 140 or nearly half as much again. Yet they blamed the Scots for the plight of the poor in London who live in the midst of such fabulous wealth. Scunners, that's the word that springs to mind, right scunners.

(3) Derivs.: (i) scunneration, scunnerashun, an object of dislike or disgust, an offensive sight (Sh., Abd., Ags., Per., Kcb. 1969); (ii) scunnerfu, disgusting, nauseating, objectionable (ne., m. and s.Sc. 1969); (iii) scunnerguts, a disgusting sight or object, a horrible appearance; (iv) scun(n)erous, -is, = (ii); (v) scunnersome, id. Gen.(exc. I.) Sc. Also adv.(i) Sh. 1899 Shetland News (28 Oct.):
Yon twisted matash is dat pitten on laek, 'at it's juist a scunnerashun.
Sc. 1994 Herald (16 Jul) 7:
People need work, whether it's delivering coal, tapping on a computer terminal, or weeding the garden. Only the most introspective among us can contemplate our navels for any length of time without a degree of scunneration setting in.
Dundee 2000 Ellie McDonald Pathfinder 10:
The road's aye thrang wi fowk
but whaur I staun
is a scunneration tae me,
Sc. 2000 Herald (19 Feb) 29:
My favourite anecdote of James [VI & I] and his scunneration with smoking concerns the occasion when he actually demanded that one of his courtiers light up.
Sc. 2003 Scotsman (3 May) 8:
SNP shallow thinkers/strategists will now spend many a happy hour in Deacon Brodie's thinking up the killer question, oblivious to the wider picture and uncaring about the electorate's scunneration with such esoteric indulgence.
(ii) Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xix.:
Isna't a rael scunnerfu' thing to see the like o' Maister Tawse colleagin' wi' sic company?
Sc. 1894 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 466:
He was juist scunnerfu' wi' pride.
Bnff. 1918 J. Mitchell Bydand 6:
It's scunnerfu' the things they say.
Abd. 1956 People's Jnl. (24 March):
Sic a scunnerfu' week o' win' an' stooer 'is his been.
(iii) Ayr. 1868 J. K. Hunter Artist's Life 91:
What a scunnerguts o' a face the Englishman put on him.
(iv) Sh. 1879 Shetland Times (10 May):
Bein' hooted by a scunneris Scotsman.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 105:
I care no' for his scunerous tong'.
(v) Ags. 1863 Brechin Advert. (6 Oct.) 2:
It had sic a dreadfu' and scunnersome look.
Lnk. 1880 Clydesdale Readings 213:
Exaggerated tae a degree that renders them perfeckly scunnersome an' abominable.
Sc. 1913 H. P. Cameron Imit. Christ i. vii.:
What pleesures man is aften scunnersome tae God.
Arg.1 1935:
Wuz her hoose clean? Clean! It wuz scunnersome clean.
Sc. 1951 Scots Mag. (May) 89:
[Herod] cam by a scunnersome end himsel'.
Edb. 1964 Weekly Scotsman (9 July) 19:
A scunnersome nyaff.
Sc. 1989 Scotsman (20 Mar) 14:
The sight of the Labour leader acting as a poodle to get the Tory Government out of a mess, and the Labour chairman of the education committee relying on Tory votes to expel Scottish members, while condoning the presence of English Tories, is, to put it mildly, scunnersome.
m.Sc. 1990 Douglas Lipton in Hamish Whyte and Janice Galloway New Writing Scotland 8: The Day I Met the Queen Mother 71:
Kelpie See tryin' tae gallop awa wi' yin o' they muckle virgins oan my back an' me wi' webbed hoofs an' aw - it's pure scunnersome, pal
Sc. 1991 Scotsman (26 Oct) 2:
Scunnersome though the heid-nippin atween Glasgow and Edinburgh may be, Tom, my fear is that with the Scottish media and its markets increasingly concentrated along the Forth and Clyde axis,...
Gsw. 1992 Jeff Torrington Swing Hammer Swing! (1993) 227:
What with pools panel experts inventing imaginary soccer results and Scottish disc-jockeys with transatlantic twangs to their verbal gibberish pretending to be demolishing - ach, why go on? Scunnersome, that was the very word for it - scunnersome.
Sc. 1995 Scotland on Sunday (18 Jun) 15:
A man still cannot get away with dependency culture, unless for serious physical reasons. That many able-bodied women still expect such rights is scunnersome.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 14:
"My mither, unlike yours, wis a scunnersome craitur an 'twad hae bin better gin I'd niver met her!"
em.Sc. 1999 James Robertson The Day O Judgement 17:
An likewise open ivery hert
Sae awbody can see an ken
Each scunnersome an gastrous thing
Scowkin an lurkin ben.

[Orig. uncertain. O.Sc. skunnyr, skowner, to shrink back, flinch, 1375, skoner, to feel sick or disgusted, 1420, scunner, a disgust, 1500. Poss. a freq. form of *scun, a north. form of Eng. shun, but evidence for this is wanting. Relationships with the earlier Mid.Eng. scurn, to flinch, and phs. Eng. scorn are even more problematical.]

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"Scunner v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 3 Dec 2022 <>



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