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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1934 (SND Vol. I). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

AFF, adv., prep., adj. Also ¶auf (Ayr. 1817 D. McKillop Poems 9). [ɑf m.Sc.; af + ɑf I.Sc., n.Sc.] See also Off.

1. adv.

(1) Off; away; at or to a distance. Gen.Sc. (For the most part like off in St.Eng.)Sc. 1728 A. Ramsay Poems II. 81:
Just on the Wing — towards a Burn, A wee Piece aff his Looks did turn.
Sc. a.1733 Orpheus Caled., Leader Haughs ii.:
Then Flora Queen, with Mantle green, Casts aff her former Sorrow.
Sc. 1824 S. Ferrier Inheritance (1882) I. xviii.:
There's a barber's bairn twa doors aff that wad maybe be glad o' them.
Sc. [1825] J. Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 2:
My faithful Hector sitting like a very Christian by my side, glowring far aff into the glens after the sheep.
Sc. 1874 (publ.) G. Outram (d. 1856) Lyrics, Annuity viii.:
But aff her wits behuved to flit, An' leave her in fatuity!
Sh.(D) 1918 T. Manson Humours Peat Comm. I. 52:
Every wan kens his ain banks [of peats] a mile aff.
Abd.(D) 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xix.:
Some o' them [sc. hens] actually luiks as gin they hed been in Tod Lowrie's cluicks, an' wun awa' wi' the half o' their claes aff.
Ags.1 1931:
He bides fower doors aff.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Holy Fair xiv.:
An' aff the godly pour in thrangs.
Gall.(D) 1901 Trotter Gall. Gossip 3:
Aff gaed the Doctor, four weary miles an' nae milestanes.
m.Sc. 1991 William Neill in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 48:
King Sillersecks rade his gray meare
aff til the birkenshaw;
but birk and buss an bourtree thare
gied him nae bield ava.

(2) Sometimes added to verbs to form what is virtually a compound, the meaning of the verb, or of both verb and adv., being more or less altered by the combination. Gen.Sc. (So off in St.Eng.)Sc. 1728 A. Ramsay Poems II. 71:
And thank us ye're win aff sae cheap.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy Mannering xlv.:
Sae aff I set, and Wasp wi' me.
Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xxiii.:
I doubt ye wad hae come aff wi' the short measure.
Abd.(D) 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xl.:
The terriblest platoon gaes aff, garrin the vera road shak aneth oor feet.
Ib. xxvi.:
I canna pit aff time, fan I've buzness adee.
w.Dmf. 1912 A. Anderson Surfaceman's Later Poems 199:
Then took the lapstane on his lap, An' yerkit aff a pair o' shoon.
Abd. 1991 George Bruce in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 22:
He struck oot sooth. The lift gaed the wrang wey,
turned aff tae a side-road, syne intae a sma glen.
m.Sc. 1994 Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay Forever Yours, Marie-Lou 12:
Forget the toast, Marie-Louise, dinnae make any mair. Ah'll scrape the burnt bits aff!

(3) Ellipt. uses.

(a) As complement of pred. = gone off, or just going off. Gen.Sc.Sc. a.1827 Hynde Etin, Ballads ed. Child (1904) No. 41 b, ii.:
And she's aff to Mulberry wud, As fast as she could gae.
Sc. 1887 R. L. Stevenson Underwoods, Acad. Class. ix.:
“Lordsake! we're aff,” thinks I, “but whaur?”

(b) With ellipsis of come, gang, tak', etc., aff has the value of a verb. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1886 R. L. Stevenson Kidnapped iii.:
I'll aff and see the session-clerk.
em.Sc. (a) 1896 I. Maclaren Kate Carnegie (2nd ed.) 218:
Ye aff tae Iondon, an' the Lord aifter ye.
Knr. 1891 H. Haliburton Ochil Idylls 50:
You an' the sun can wheel aboot An' aff thegither.
Gall.(D) 1901 Trotter Gall. Gossip 117:
Weel, aul' Train yokit the gig, an aff his wa's tae Dalry.

(4) With words like weel, ill, waur, and in sentences introduced by hoo (foo): well off, how is he off? etc. Gen.Sc.n.Sc. 1930 Mry.2:
Foo are ye aff noo? Nae that ill ata, man.
Abd. 1863 G. Macdonald D. Elginbrod I. vi.:
The Maister himsel' said, the young man 'ill no be the waur aff in's ain learnin', that he impairts o't to them that hunger for't.

(5) To be aff wi' (a person or thing) = to have done with, to disengage oneself from, to break off one's connexion with.Sc. a.1733 Orpheus Caled., Lass with a Lump of Land i.:
I'm aff with Wit.
[Cf. Scott Bride of Lam. xxix.:
The end of the old song — It is best to be off wi' the old love, Before you be on wi' the new; and the phr. in relation to bargaining, aff an' on, and aff or on, q.v.]

(6) Of the ages of horses and cattle: aff after the number of years = less than one year past that age.Abd.2 1931:
Fat's the age o' yer horse? He's three aff [= over three but not yet four].
Edb. 1897 C. M. Campbell Deilie Jock 66:
The cornet's horse was jist five aff.
Ib. 69:
“Risin' sax.” “Sax aff, I think ye mean, gey weel aff.”
Wgt.1 1931:
Aff is still used by farmers in the sense you quote. The horse's age is spoken of as “twa ye'r 'l aff” or “twa aff,” meaning “over two but not three.” It seems that before a foal reaches the age of one year it is said to be “aff.”
[The foll. quot. in N.E.D., under Off (D. sb. 4), may point to the origin of this usage: 1829 [J. R. Best] Pers. and Lit. Mem. 257: To buy Lincolnshire hogs or offs, lambs taken off from their mothers.]

(7) Mentally unbalanced; insane.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D.Bnff. 215:
He wiz lang jummlet; bit he's aff athegeethir noo.
Abd. 1928 P. Grey Making of a King 31:
Ye're aff far eneuch a'ready — clean aff.

2. prep.

(1) Off; away from; often combined with frae. Gen.Sc.Sc. a.1769 Broomfield Hill, Ballads ed. Child (1904) No. 43 b, iii.:
She's pu'd the blooms aff the broom-bush.
Sc. 1815 Scott Antiquary xii.:
I daresay he would gar them keep hands aff me.
Sc. 1858 E. B. Ramsay Reminiscences (26th ed. N.D.) i. 25:
Weel, sir, gin yer freend will tak' a few feet aff the length o' his tiger, we'll see what can be dune about the breadth o' the skate.
Sc. 1923 Edb. Ev. News 29 March 7/3:
Pu' a bit heather frae aff the Pentlands.
Fif. 1894 A. S. Robertson Provost 19:
The wind is aff a dry airt.
Knr. 1891 H. Haliburton Ochil Idylls 106:
But the crap's aff the field, An' the corn-yard's fu'.
Edb. 1851 A. Maclagan Sketches from Nature 59:
Then took my hands in his, and said . . . “The passion's aff me noo.”
Ayr. 1785 (publ. 1808)Burns Third Ep. to J. Lapraik (Cromek, Reliques) ii.:
May Boreas never thresh your rigs, Nor kick your rickles aff their legs.
Ayr. c.1791 (publ. 1808) Burns Ye Flowery Banks (Cent. Ed.) v:
Wi' lightsome heart I pu'd a rose Frae aff its thorny tree.
Wgt. 1880 G. Fraser Lowland Lore 134:
He was “never aff the flure the haill nicht.”
Gall.(D) 1901 Trotter Gall. Gossip 59:
If you an me had a' the whuskey haes been drucken aff that table, naither the yin nor the ither wud be able tae say a word aboot it.
w.Dmf. 1890 J. Shaw A Gowk's Errand in the Bailie, Glasgow 23 Apr.:
Then he blew some stour aff the marble timepiece, and gloured at the twa big oil-paintings, magnified fra photos.
Uls.(D) 1879 W. G. Lyttle Readings by Robin 26:
“Keep a guid bit aff it,” sez I, “for I'm tell't it's a very dangerous pert.”
Dwn. 1912 F. E. S. Crichton The Precepts of Andy Saul (1913) 4:
If iver A catch ye here yer lone, A'll shoot the boots aff ye!

(2) Indicating origin (“in descent from”), source (e.g. of profit made), material used.Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xxv.:
I could show ye letters frae his father, that was the third aff Glenstrae.
Sc. [1826] J. Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 133:
A capital dish for a Sabbath dinner, elephant-head and trotters. How mony could dine aff't?
Ags.1 1931:
He peyed his rent aff his taties last 'ear.
Edb. 1900 E. H. Strain Elmslie's Drag-Net 11:
I made a gude penny aff that.
Per. 1996 Timothy Neat ed. The Summer Walkers: Travelling People and Pearl-Fishers in the Highlands of Scotland 191:
... he sang every nicht. Sae my faither sat there every nicht a' week - and that plooman never knew my faither learnt they twa sangs aff him.'

3. adj. = Eng. off, meaning farther, right (of the side of a horse, etc.). Gen.Sc.Fif. 1896 G. Setoun R. Urquhart ii. 24:
She has a bit dink i' the aff hent hoof.

4. Phrases.

(1) Aff an' on, (a) Intermittently. Gen.Sc. (cf. off and on in St.Eng.). (b) Chiefly as adj. = vacillating, in ref. to the concluding of a bargain or engagement; also applied to the bargain in such a case; hence, more gen., undecided, unsettled, changeable. Gen.Sc. (So occas. off and on in St.Eng.) (c) Of a sick person's health (or of an ordinary, slightly varying, condition of health): sometimes better, sometimes worse. Gen.Sc. (d) As a rule, for the most part. (e) By an extension of the nautical sense (cf. off and on in St.Eng.): now closer, now further away. (f) (See quot. below.) (g) Approximately. Also' aff an' on aboot. (2) Aff o', affa, off, away from, from (= aff, prep.). Gen.Sc. (3) Aff or on, one way or another (of coming to a decision or making a bargain); settled. Gen.Sc. Cf. Aff and on (b). See also Aff, 1 (5). For other phr. with aff, see Drink, Fang, Fit, Heid, Knot, Nail, Ordinar, Sneck, Stot, Turn.(1) (a) Abd.(D) 1916 G. Abel Wylins fae my Wallet 38:
I've been lauchin' aff an' on sin seen.
Lnl.1 1931:
“Is it poorin' rain?” “Na, jist aff an' on.”
Ayr.5 1931:
He keeps sober aff an' on.
Uls. c.1916 S. S. McCurry Ballads of Ballytumulty 76:
It had been snowin' aff an' on, But now the heavy clouds were gone.
(b) Sc. 1887 Jam.6:
[Under Off and on; aff an' on being given as an alternative form.] I'll hae na off-and-on bargain: settle't now.
Cai. (E.D.D.):
To be aff an' on wi'd. (In bargaining.)
em.Sc. (a) 1896 I. Maclaren Kate Carnegie 390:
It's been aff and on a' winter, an' the second veesit tae the Castle settled it.
Kcb.1 1931:
The folk aboot here are awfu' aff an' on. (Changeable or quarrelsome.)
(c) Sc. 1808 Jam.:
A sick person is . . . said to be aff and on as he was, when there is no discernible difference in his situation. [Thus qualified in Jam.2: “The phrase . . . appears to be more strictly applicable to a fluctuating state, as perhaps intimating that there is no permanent change, notwithstanding the occasional variations of the disease.”]
Sh.4 1931:
“Is da wife ony better?” “Na, juist aff an on”
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D.Bnff. 215:
Aff an' on, applied to the usual state of health; as, “Hae ye been keepin' braw weel sin a saw ye?” “Oo i, a canna complaine; juist aff an' on aboot the aul' ordinar.”
Ags. 1888 J. M. Barrie Auld Licht Idylls viii.:
“Hoo's a' wi' ye?” asked Sam'l. “We're juist aff an' on,” replied Eppie, cautiously.
Fif. 1896 G. Setoun R. Urquhart ii. 27:
I may say she's no waur, but nothing to brag about. She's just aff an' on; aye about her frail ordinar'.
(d) Abd.2 1931:
Aff an' on he's rale weel liket.
(e) Kcb. 1894 S. R. Crockett Raiders 158:
Whatever yin o' us finds the lass maun hing aff an' on till the ither comes.
(f) Sc. 1808 Jam.:
Those who lodge on the same floor are said to be aff and on.
Slg.3 1931:
They bide aff an' on wi' Sandy Tamson.
(g) Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
Aff and on about twenty — i.e. twenty or thereabout.
Abd.(D) 1875 W. Alexander Life among My Ain Folk 16:
Fat wud ye wauger but he's layin' by half a rent, aff an' on?
Bch. 1929 Abd.15:
It's aff an' on aboot seyvinteen (y)ear sin.
em.Sc. (a) 1896 I. Maclaren Kate Carnegie (2nd ed.) 220:
Drumsheugh . . . would have sworn that Dr Davidson was “aboot sax feet aff and on — maybe half an inch mair, standin' at his full hicht in the pulpit.”
(2) [In a prose passage, before 1700, af of = aff o': Abd. 1675 Rec. Burgh Aberd. (1872) 291: Notwithstanding of many former acts and proclamations of thair predicessors emitted for keeping cleine the streets of this brughe, and for removeing the middings and fulzie af of the same.]Sc. a.1805 Ballads ed. Child (1904) No. 277 d, vii.:
Aff o the weather [= wether] he took the skin, An rowt his bonny lady in.
Sc. 1887 R. L. Stevenson Underwoods, Mile an' a Bittock iv.:
A wind got up frae affa the sea.
Sh.(D) 1918 T. Manson Humours Peat Comm. I. 177:
Dat's annidder oor aff o ivery wan o dem.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D.Bnff. 215:
He leesht a kenna fou muckle o' Burns aff o's tung.
Bnff.2 1931:
Faar did yir beastie come aff o'? She cam' aff o' a little placie aside the moss.
The boatie gid doon aboot a hunner yairds aff o' the Knock Heid.
Northie's made a lot o' bawbees aff o's cowpin.
Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes II. xi.:
And it wad hae to come aff o' my tay or something ither 'at I wad ill miss.
Abd. 1909 G. Greig Mains's Wooin' 6:
He's swallowed the dictionar', min, an's tryin' to get 'er aff o's stammack.
Knr. 1925 J. L. Robertson Hor. in Homespun, etc. 226:
Haud aff o' John Tamson's toun!
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Stickit Minister 87:
I'm some dootsome that'll be the Skyreburn coming doon aff o' Cairnsmuir.
(3) [Older Sc. 1597 A. Montgomerie Cherry and Slae (1887 S.T.S.) l. 966:
Say sone now, have done now; Mak outher aff or on.]
Rnf. 1861 J. Barr Poems 170:
Sae I'll be aff or on wi' her, And that this very nicht.

5. Compounds with aff (aff-1, pref.) In addition to the following, there are many aff- compounds dealt with as main words, in their alphabetical order. (Compounds with off- will be found in their own place.) (For compounds formed with a different aff- (af-), a prefix of O.N. origin, see Aff2, pref.)

(1) Aff-brack, n. A schism; a schismatic body or party. [′ɑfbrɑk]Bnff. 1866 Gregor D.Bnff. 7:
The Free-kirk's an aff-brack fae the Aul' Kirk.

(2) Affcoupins, n. Upsettings, tumblings off. (See Coup, v.1) [′ɑfkʌupɪnz]Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie's Wallet (1875) i. 23:
Come awa, ye hap o' my thum, ye walking post-bag, ye paidling newspaper, and tell us a' the outgauns, incomings, dounpoorins, and affcoupins in the parish.

(3) †Aff-fend, v. To ward off.Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 176:
The faemen wham he fae'd And frae the yett aff-fendit.

(4) Aff-sklent, v. To turn aside. [ɑf′sklɛnt]Kcb. a.1902 J. Heughan Virgil's “Golden Age” in Scots, Gallovidian XV. (1913) 108:
To ilk decree That for the weal o' mortals furth is sent To ill stamp oot, and dreidsome waes aff-sklent.

(5) Affstan'in, adj. Holding aloof. [′ɑf′stɑnɪn]Kcb. 1893 S. R. Crockett Raiders (1894) xxxiii.:
But be aff-stan'in' an' contradictious, hot as the mustard.
Kcb.1 1931:
He was an affstan'in sort o' chap.

[Aff is of the same origin as the prep. of, O.E. of. In Mid.Sc. both of and off are used indifferently for prep. and adv. Aff begins to appear in 16th century literature (e.g. in Montgomerie, and in Leslie's History tr. by Dalrymple.) The form off, current to-day (along with aff) in m.Sc., and the common form in s.Sc., may have survived from Middle Sc., but is difficult to distinguish from imitations of St.Eng. off.]

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"Aff adv., prep., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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