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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.

SNIRT, v., n. Also deriv. snirtle (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 172; Sc. 1887 Jam.). [′snɪrt(əl)]

I. v. 1. To snigger, to make a noise through the nose when attempting to stifle laughter, to sneer (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Gall. 1904 E.D.D.; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Sh., Slg., Lth., sm.Sc., Rxb. 1971). Also in Eng. dial. Phrs.: to snirt(le) (with)in one's sleeve, to snigger surreptitiously; to snirt out a-laughing, to burst out into laughter, after having unsuccessfully tried to stifle it (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 196). Used exclam. in 1826 quot.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 95:
Now let her snirt and fyke her fill.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Jolly Beggars Recit. vi.:
Tho' his little heart did grieve . . . He feign'd to snirtle in his sleeve.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 112:
The Dominie . . . fain wad fa' a laughing; He snirtles wi' his neb and snirks.
Dmf. 1826 A. Cunningham Paul Jones I. vii.:
Tee hee, quo' ane, and snirt, quo' anither.
Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales (1876) 282:
Blushing and snirting, and bits o' made coughs, as if to keep down a thorough guffaw.
Rnf. 1876 J. Nicholson Kilwuddie 38:
The young were snirtin' in their sleeves.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 26:
Her aul' worl' cracks and stories aften mak me snirtle and laugh to mysel'.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 124:
His naisty, smudgin, snirtin way.
Lnk. 1910 C. Fraser Glengonnar 49:
The ither twal fairly snirted oot when he was tell't that his nose was like the sharp en' o' a pennyworth o' cheese.
Rxb. 1958 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. 25:
You heard of riftin', bowkin'; snirtin' and snorkin'.

2. intr. To snort, to breathe sharply and jerkily through the nose (Lth., Dmf., Rxb. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Also in Eng. dial.; tr. to eject through the nose, to sneeze out.Slk. 1801 Hogg Sc. Pastorals 22:
When weazels snirtit frae the dykes.
Kcb. 1897 A. J. Armstrong R. Rankine 12:
Rub the nap aff his breeks, as he snirted and rubbed.
Ags. 1930 A. Kennedy Orra Boughs xx.:
He snirtled in an ecstasy of disgust.
Ags. 1933 W. Muir Mrs. Ritchie v.:
Mary, still choking, snirted tea over the table.
em.Sc. 1988 James Robertson in Joy Hendry Chapman 52 71:
'Come the keek o day, an the first bummer gaed aff - loud eneuch, ye'd hae thocht, tae wauken the deid. But it didna steir our man - na, na, he juist snochert an snirtit an keepit on sleepin. ... '
Fif. 1991 Tom Hubbard in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 142:
That snirtled doun my neb at the fowk I'd 'save',
That racked my lug ti some haveril i the howff:

II. n. 1. A snigger, a suppressed laugh (Rxb. 1825 Jam., 1923 Watson W.-B.; Slg., Lth., sm.Sc., Rxb. 1971). Also in n.Eng. dial.Ags. 1834 A. Smart Rhymes 28:
The grin of pale-faced envy, and the mere Sardonic ‘snirtle', one can well despise.
Kcb. 1897 A. J. Armstrong R. Rankine 23:
Geordie replied wi' a snirt that made Leezie a thousan' times waur.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters vi.:
Snirt, a continuous gurgle in the throat and nose.

2. A snort (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 2:
They gang by ye wi' sic a huff, An' pridefu' caper, snirt an' snuff.
Sc. 1825 R. Chambers Illust. Waverley 18:
The twangs, soughs, wheezes, coughs, snirtles, and bleatings, peculiar to the various parish ministers twenty miles round.
Rnf. 1876 J. Nicholson Kilwuddie 70:
Sally, wha'd mair sense a hantle Than her maister, gied a snirt.

3. An insignificant diminutive person, esp. a child (Cld. 1825 Jam.), an impudent youngster, an upstart (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Lth., Rxb. 1971).Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 152:
A siller't snirt makes quickest sail To Hymen's port.

[Imit. Cf. Eng. snort and Snort, n.2, 3.]

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"Snirt v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Sep 2023 <>



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