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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX).

SWARF, v., n.1 Also swarff, swaarf; swairf, swerf, swerve; swarve; swaif; swarth (Ags. 1808 Jam.). [swɑrf, †swerf]

I. v. 1. intr. To faint, to swoon (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ayr. 1923 Wilson Dial. Burns 188; Sh., ‡Kcb. 1972).Lnk. 1718 Minutes J.P.s. (S.H.S.) 227:
[They] struck him with heavy strokes until he swarfed.
Sc. 1765 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 580:
He had swarfed or fainted on the hill.
Ayr. 1789 Burns Battle Sherramuir iv.:
Mony a huntit poor red-coat For fear amaist did swarf.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxvii.:
I thought he wad hae swarv't a'thegither.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry 157:
A man, up at the Milton-dam, Swaif't, and fell down intill a dwam.
Slk. 1830 Hogg Fords of Callum (1874) 211:
The night is that muth an' breathless, I'm maist like to swairf.
Edb. 1886 R. F. Hardy Within a Mile v.:
I'm like to swerf at ilka stap!
Sh. 1899 Shetland News (30 Dec.):
I canna baer ta luik apo' bluid ony time, an' I nearly swaarf'd.
Kcb. 1900 Crockett Stickit Minister's Wooing 189:
Women with child swarfed with fear at their own door cheeks.
Abd.5 1931:
She'd swarfft awa in a dwaam.

2. tr. To cause to faint, make insensible, to stupefy.Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems I. 120:
A sight, had nearhaun swarf'd the callan.
Slk. 1818 Hogg Wool-Gatherer (1874) 70:
Sandy was amaist swarf'd, the cauld sweat brak on him.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 325:
The scene swarf'd him so, that he could not utter a word.
Sc. 1874 W. Allan Hamespun Lilts 119:
Thou know'st I toil frae morn to nicht, Whaur science swarfs poetic flicht.
Gall. 1947 A. McCormick Galloway 186:
He maun hae been swarfed wi' fear when he bided sae far awa.

II. n. A faint, a swoon, a fit of insensibility, a stupor (Ags. 1808 Jam., swarth; Sh. 1972).m.Sc. 1698 Fraser Papers (S.H.S.) 32:
My Lady fell in a Swerf.
Fif. 1704 App. to G. Sinclair Satan's Invisible World (1871) liv.:
After ane swerve or swoon he cried out.
Sc. 1742 J. Mill Diary (S.H.S.) 3:
I fell down suddenly by a swerf or stoppage of blood.
Dmf. 1847 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 223:
The goodwife fa's doon in a swerf behint the knockin'-stane.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xlix.:
He was feerious far gane in a swarf the tither day.
Abd. 1913 W. Fraser Jeremiah Jobb 14:
Mr Jobb 'ere frichtened her intae the awfa'est swarf iver ye saw.
Sh. 1918 T. Manson Peat Comm. 39:
Shu nearly fell doon in a swarf.

[O.Sc. swarff, a swoon, 1475, to faint, 1513, a variant of Eng. swerve, Mid.Eng. swerven, to turn to one side, to waver, E.M.E. to give way, totter. Cf. the cogn. O.N. svarfa, to upset, overturn.]

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"Swarf v., n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Sep 2022 <>



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