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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.

BETTER, adv.

1. Quite recovered from illness. Also of childbirth; see 1996 quot. In St.Eng. it means that a person is improved in health.m.Lth. 1870 J. Lauder Warblings, etc. 41:
Oh! wae's my heart, I'm sair distress'd, I'll ne'er be better o' this pest.
Gsw. 1996:
Is she better yet? (has the baby been delivered).
Ayr. 1821 Galt Ann. Parish x.:
She got the better of it in the spring.
Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn. 7:
“He's not better, but he's not so bad as he was yesterday.” The moment a child is born, the mother is said to be better.
Uls. 1904 J. W. Byers in Victoria Coll. Mag. 12:
“He is better” . . . does not mean simply that the person has got the “turn” of the disease . . . but that he is quite recovered.

2. With renewed effort. The verb is repeated, sometimes preceded by nor. Gen.Sc. Now arch. or dial. in St.Eng. (N.E.D.).Sc. [1826] R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes (1870) 84:
It . . . ran, and better ran.
Sc. 1904 Lord Lovel in Ballads (ed. Child) 75 D. v.:
It's then he rade, and better rade, Untill he cam to the toun.
Bnff.2 1934:
I lookit an' better nor lookit the hale hoose, bit cud I fin' ma glesses!
Abd. 1893 G. Macdonald Sc. Songs and Ballads 94:
An' aye he sang, an' better he sang.
Ags. 1999 Courier 20 Jan :
A Pitcairngreen reader has followed up the item on Scots sayings with some others.
"A lady, describing an irritating cough, said she had a 'nesty tickly clocherin' hoast' and after a sleepless night said she had 'rowled an' tum'led an' better tum'led'."
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) i.:
So they waited on, and better waited on for the prowie's calfing.
Edb. 2003:
It snawed and better snawed until the car couldnae be moved.
Gall.(D) 1901 Trotter Gall. Gossip 4:
An' he speer't an' better speer't, whiles aboot folk yt wus leevin' an' whiles aboot folk yt wus deid.
Slk. 1914 Southern Reporter (17 Dec.) 9/1:
“What's the news, Sandy?” . . . “No muckle,” said Sandy the Post: “jist aye fechtin' an' better fechtin'.”

3. More (of number, quantity or time). Gen. used with nor or than, sometimes as. Better nor, better than are also common in Eng. dials. (See E.D.D.)Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
Better than a dozen, more than twelve.
I paid better than a shilling — i.e. more than a shilling.
Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.:
We gat better as a score.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto Tammas Bodkin (1868) xx.:
A man wha has been awin' me the price o' a suit o' claes for better nor a twalmonth.
Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn. 7:
He gave me better nor a dozen.

4. More (of distance); further on.Sc. 1826 Scott Journal (1890) I. 318:
Worked about five leaves, so I am quite up with my task-work and better.
Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928):
Tak' de table better in to dee!
Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.:
Had [hold] better wast.

Combs.: All the following combs. and phrs. are known to Bnff.2

(1) Better-faured, better-featured, better--(2) looking. Gen.Sc.Ags.(D) 1922 J. B. Salmond Bawbee Bowden xvi.:
A heartier, better-faured company never graced the Queen's chamber at Balmoral.
Dmf. 1920 J. L. Waugh Heroes in Homespun 110–111:
He was better-faured an' fresher-looking than you.

(2) Better-gates, in a better manner.Sc. 1893 R. L. Stevenson Catriona i.:
I would hae waired my siller better-gates than that.

(3) Better-like, “better-looking; looking better, more promising (in health, etc.)” (Abd.2, Abd.9, Abd.22, Ags.1, Slg.3 1934). Gen.Sc.Arg.2 1934:
That's a better-like job.

(4) Better-side (of), “more (than) or older (than)” (Abd.2, Abd.9, Abd.22 1934). Others take it to mean younger than as in quot.Bnff.2 1934:
He's nae a verra aul' man yet; he's on the better side o' sixty.

Phrases: (1) Better again, “still better” (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn. 7).

(2) Better to, “had better” (Sc. 1905 A.W. in E.D.D. Suppl.). Gen.Sc.Sc. 1932 (per Fif.1); Slg.3 1934; Arg.2 1934:
The phrase “I am better to” is known to me.
Ags. 1816 G. Beattie John o' Arnha' 30:
Sae better to you mind your eye!

(3) Better of, better for. Still in common use.Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Obs. Sc. Dial. 33:
He was much the better of (for) his journey to Bath.
Sc. 1787 J. Beattie Scoticisms 12:
He will be the better of a sleep.

(4) Mak' a better o', improve.Abd. 1868 G. MacDonald R. Falconer v.:
I can mak' better o't ony day.
Fif. 1894 J. W. M'Laren Tibbie and Tam 102:
Ye canna mak' a better o't noo' sae haud your tongue for onysake.

(5) Will better, Eng. had better. Still used gen. in Sc. The auxiliary v. wad, had is sometimes omitted in colloq. or slurred speech. Gen.Sc.Abd.(D) 1767 R. Forbes Jnl. from London, etc. (1869) 18:
I'll better gang to my bed as i'm bodden.
Abd. 1913 D. Scott Hum. Sc. Stories 76:
Ye better nae.
m.Lth. 1858 Dark Night xxv.:
Ye better gae ben the hoose.

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"Better adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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