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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX).

SWANK, adj., n., v.2

I. adj. 1. Of persons or animals: lithe, agile, fleet and strong (Sc. 1808 Jam.; em.Sc. (a), Lnk., Slk. 1972); smart, well-set-up, esp. of a young man (wm.Sc. 1887 Jam.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 269).Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 183:
Blyther fallows . . . Mair hardy, souple, steeve, an swank.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To his Auld Mare iii.:
A filly buirdly, steeve, an' swank.
Sc. 1823 A. Sutherland Macrimmon IV. iii.:
I raid hame on his swank sound beast.
Ags. 1869 R. Leighton Poems 334:
Now are we fresh and swank as eels.
Kcb. 1885 J. S. McCulloch Poems 12:
The heralds sped ower muir an' dale Wi' swank an souple sten.
Arg. 1896 N. Munro Lost Pibroch 52:
There they were, the pick of swank fellows on the road.
Lnl. 1910 J. White Eppie Gray 13:
The auld gudeman, wha ance was swank, An' could hae lapt a hedge or plank.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 12:
The leesh, swank-leike fallih ('at A'd been followin eis lead).

2. Thin, lean, lank (Sc. 1808 Jam.); having a hollow appearance. Comb. swank-backed, of lambs: having a weak, sagging back (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein).

3. Soft and pliable, supple (Ayr. 1972).wm.Sc. 1920 Scottish Farmer (17 April):
Nice and swank [butter], and fine flavour.

4. Deriv. swankie, -y, (1) adj. (i) of persons: = 1. above (Cai., Ags., Fif., w.Lth. 1972). Comb. swankie-like, active-looking; (ii) of things: pliant, soft, easily bent or moulded; (2) n., a limber, strapping young fellow (em.Sc. (a), w.Lth., wm.Sc., Wgt. 1972); rarely of an animal; transf. a long-shafted sickle. Cf. whanky, id., s.v. Whang, v., 2.(1) (i) Lnk. 1838 J. Struthers Poet. Tales 78:
Aye try to please my swankie joker.
Ayr. 1840 J. Ramsay Poems 87:
Groups o' swankie kintra chiels.
Ags. 1856 W. Grant Poet. Pieces 23:
Swankie lads an' hopefu' jades.
Bnff. 1888 Sc. N. & Q. (Ser. 1) II. 29:
Buchan for nowt, milk and meal, Weel faur'd lass and swanky chiel.
Arg. 1896 N. Munro Lost Pibroch 105:
He might have been a swanky lad in his day.
Edb. 1897 W. Beatty Secretar xv:
I was a swankie-like blade.
em.Sc. 1926 H. Hendry Poems 86:
Heth! but ye've growed a buirdly cheil, A swanky chap.
(ii) Lnl. 1881 H. Shanks Musings 355:
Wi' lang swanky cowes on the loch's icy flooring.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters xxi.:
Unco decent breeks they were, lang and swankie like a ploughman.
Fif. 1936:
Swanky dough is the right kind of dough for making girdle-scones.
(2) Sc. 1718 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 68:
While the young Swankies on the Green Took round a merry Tirle.
Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Journal 26:
Twa three swankies riding at the hand-gallop.
s.Sc. 1801 Review Eng. Studies (New Ser.) XIV. 64:
The only word I ever altered from the original instead of “Swankies are jeering” “Youths now are jeering.” My father said swankies was a modern word and not a good one. [Jane Elliot of Minto on The Flowers o' the Forest].
Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery xvi.:
A young swankie who shoots venison well.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 307:
I saw gran swankies o' nowt on't, feeding on rough claver fiels.
Slk. 1827 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) vii.:
What's that young swankie of a lawyer wanting?
Kcd. 1858 J. and W. Clark Leisure Musings (1894) 40:
While ither swankies tak' the road.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums 111:
Ane o' the swankies bure Mally awa, my second luve, frae my grup.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 371:
A great ploy for the young swankies tae rin a' athort the country at nicht spluntin.

II. n. A sturdy active fellow (Cai. 1972), phs. rather a back-formation from swankie in 4. (2) above; a tall thin lad (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.). Cf. I. 2.Abd. 1739 Caled. Mag. (Sept. 1788) 500:
His Cousin was a bierly Swank, A stier young man heght Robb.

III. v. Also in deriv. form swanker. To be supple (Sc. 1904 E.D.D.). Most freq. in ppl.adj. swankin, ¶swankerin, (1) active, agile, strapping, athletic (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.); (2) large or fine of its kind; of a blow: hard, severe, thumping.(1) Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xxiv.:
When I was a swanking young chield and could hae blawn the trumpet wi' ony body.
Edb. 1866 J. Smith Merry Bridal 2:
Whaur swankin' birkies, daft wi' glee, Hae met in mony a score.
Ags. 1921 D. H. Edwards Fisher Folks 219:
Twa swankerin' chiels an' gaucie.
(2) Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 197:
We had rigged an' reekit out a prime swanking wherry.
Lnk. 1886 A. G. Murdoch Readings 128:
I wad hae poothert the birkie's pow wi' some swankin' blows.

[O.Sc. swanky, swanking, a stout fellow, c.1500, Mid. Du. swanc, supple, pliant, slender, cf. Ger. schwank, id.]

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"Swank adj., n., v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Sep 2022 <>



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