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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

CAT, n.1 Used in Sc. to indicate Felis domesticus, with the common extensions. The following combs. and phrases are peculiar to Sc. The form kat is also found in the combs.

I. Plant-names:

1. Cat-gut, thread fucus, or sea-laces, Chorda filum (Ork. 1825 Jam.2; 1866 Edm. Gl.; 1929 Marw., kat-gut, cat-); 2. cat-heather, a species of heath (see quots.). The usage seems to vary according to the district, our Abd. correspondents (for Deeside) applying it to the Erica tetralix or cinerea and Ags.2 to the Calluna vulgaris (1938); 3. cat-hep, the burnet rose, Rosa spinosissima (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 73). Cf. Eng. hip, hep, the fruit of the wild rose, cat-haw, hawthorn berry; 4. cat-in-clover, see 15; 5. catlock, “the sheathed cotton-grass, Eriophorum” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); given for Cum. only in E.D.D.; 6. cat-moss, “a spongy kind of peat comprised of tough fibres of moss, etc.” (ne.Rxb. Ib. s.v. kett); 7. cats-an'-kitlins, “the inflorescence of the hazel, [pussy] willow, or other amentiferous tree” (Rxb. Ib.; also Lnk.3 1938); cf. Eng. catkins; 8. cat's claw(s), “kidney vetch, Anthyllis vulneraria” (Mry. 1916 T.S.D.C. II.; 1935 Burgess Flora of Mry., -claws); 9. cat's-een, the germander speedwell, Veronica chamædrys (Slg. 1886 B. and H. 93; Lnk.3, Kcb.9 1938; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); 10. cat's-lug, bear's-ear, Auricula ursi (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; 1886 B. and H. 93; 1923 Watson W.-B.); 11. cat's lugs, the cotton-grass, Eriophorum vaginatum (Rnf. a.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) C. 78); 12. cat's milk, the sun-spurge, Euphorbia helioscopia (Ib.); 13. catspaws, “ladies' fingers” (Sh. 1913–1914 J. M. Hutcheson W.-L.); 14. cat(s)-tail(s), the cotton-grass, Eriophorum vaginatum (Abd.2, Abd.9 1938; Mearns 1825 Jam.2, cats-tails; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., cat-tail); 15. catten-clover, cat-in-clover, bird's-foot trefoil, Lotus corniculatus (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.2; 1886 B. and H. 94); 16. cat-whins, -whuns, the needle furze, Genista anglica (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 128, -whuns; 1905 E.D.D. Suppl., -whins).1. Ork. 1806 P. Neill Tour through . . . Ork. and Sh. 29:
There is still another sea-weed called catgut (fucus filum) which here grows to an uncommon length, often thirty or forty feet.
2. Abd. 1825 Jam.2:
Cat-heather, a finer species of heath, low and slender, growing more in separate upright stalks than the common heath, and flowering only at the top.
Abd. 1886 B. and H. 92:
Cat-heather. More than one kind of heath seems to be so called in Scotland. In the Memoir of Dr Guthrie . . . Calluna vulgaris, Salisb., is intended, but the description in Jamieson points to Erica cinerea, L., or possibly E. Tetralix, L. Both of these are so called in Aberdeensh.
14. Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 10:
The cat-tails whiten through the verdant bog.
Kcb. 1815 J. Gerrond Poems 69:
Cat-tails bloom poor folks repose on Spring upo' the mossy flow.

II. Bird and fish names:

1. Cataface, kataface, catyface, the Ork. name for an owl (Ork. 1877 List of Bird Names in Sc. Naturalist (per Abd.16), cataface; 1907 Old-Lore Misc., Ork., Sh., etc. I. iv. 120); “the short-eared owl, Asio accipitrinus” (Ork. 1929 Marw., kataface); 2. catawhissie, id.; 3. cat gull, the herring gull, Larus argentatus (Kcb. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 207); 4. catmar, the catfish, Anarrhichas lupus (Cai. 1972 D. Omand Cai. Book 244) [Gael. cat-mhara]; 5. catogle, see Katogle.2. Ork. 1907 J. T. S. Leask in Old-Lore Misc., Ork., Sh., etc. I. ii. 61:
Bit id waas suerly aisy tae hide dere dan for da heather waas sae lang, min, the corbies laid amang id, an' jeust hapes a' catawhissies.
3. Kcb. 1878 R. Service in Zoologist 428:
These birds [cat gulls] are detested by the keepers, and have probably earned their name and character by their cat-like depredations amongst the newly-hatched young birds and eggs on the moors.

III. Phrases and combs., with meanings not found in St.Eng.: 1. atween you an' me an' the cat, between ourselves (Bnff.2 1938); †2. cat-hole, “a sort of niche in the wall of a barn, in which keys and other necessaries are deposited in the inside” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2); †3. cat-in-barrel, a barbarous game formerly played at Kelso once a year; 4. cat-kindness, cupboard love (Bnff.2, Abd.22, Lnk.3 1938); “selfishness” (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 128); 5. cat's carriage, a seat formed by two persons crossing hands (Abd.22, Fif.1 1938; Lth. 1825 Jam.2); see also king's cushion s.v. King; 6. cats-crammacks, -krammeks, see Krammek; 7. cat's face, a round of six scones baked in one piece, each forming a segment of a rosette-shaped whole (Kcd., em.Sc. (a), 1975), a similarly-shaped bun; 8. cat's fur, expression of dismissiveness; 9. cats-hair, (1) “the down that covers unfledged birds” (Fif. 1825 Jam.2); “the down on the face of boys, before the beard grows” (Sc. Ib.; Ags.17 1938); (2) “the thin hair that often grows on the bodies of persons in bad health” (Fif. 1825 Jam.2); (3) “the clouds called cirrus and cirrostratus” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff.; Bnff.2, Abd.9 1938); †10. cat-siller, “the mica of mineralogists” (Sc. 1808 Jam.); cf. Sheep(s)-silver; 11. cat's lick, a hasty, superficial wash; also attrib. Gen.Sc.; 12. cat-spang, = Catloup. See Spang, n.2; 13. cat's soukins, long, straggly wisps of hair, elf-locks (Abd. 1948). See Souk, v.; †14. cat's-stairs, “a plaything for children made of thread, small cord, or tape, which is so disposed by the hands as to fall down like steps of a stair” (Dmf., Gall. 1825 Jam.2); †15. cat-steps, “the projections of the stones in the slanting part of a gable” (Rxb. Ib.; 1923 Watson W.-B., obs.); cf. craw-step s.v. Craw, n.1, IV. D. (19); †16. cat-stran', “a very small stream” (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 128); see also Strand; 17. cat-wa, katwaa, katty-wa', “a stone wall which divides a tenant's house into two apartments” (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., cat-wa; 1914 Angus Gl., katwaa); “internal wall in a house, a cross wall built up to level of side walls, but not running up to ridge” (Ork. 1929 Marw., katty-wa'); 18. cat-wittit, -witted, -wutted, -wuttit, (1) “harebrained, unsettled” (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Cai.7, Abd.22, Edb.1, Arg.1, Kcb.1 1938); (2) “of a savage humour” (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 128, catwutted); “short-tempered” (Kcb. 1794–1868 Curriehill); “small-minded, spiteful” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., -wuttit); 19. to flay the cat, “to turn a kind of somersault” (Cai.7 1938); 20. to meet the cat in the mornin, to suffer a set-back, to have a piece of bad luck (Bnff.2, Abd.9, Abd.22 1938); 21. to whip the cat, see Whip.1. Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 75:
Atween you an' me an' the cat . . . we maunna say muckle aboot it tae the Dominie himsel'.
2. Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 145:
He has left the Key in the Cat hole [he has run away from his creditors].
3. Rxb. 1789 “E. Lazarus” Kelso 89–90:
Cat-in-barrel. The cat is put into a barrel partly stuffed with soot, and then hung up between two high poles upon a cross-beam; . . . the barrel, after many a frantic blow, being broken, the . . . spectators . . . terminate her life and misery by barbarous cruelty.
7. Gsw. 1991 Anna Blair More Tea at Miss Cranston's 131:
Another specialty was what we called Cat's Faces, a sort of cookie in stuck-together sections with sugar on the top.
8. Edb. 1994:
'What fir?' 'Cat's fur!'
wm.Sc. 1974 Roddy McMillan The Bevellers 25:
NORRIE Whit should ah talk aboot her fur? ROUGER Cat's fur! Ye ever seen it oan a fuckin dug?
11. Abd.(D) 1920 G. P. Dunbar Guff o' Peat Reek 25:
When his mither hedna time, He gie'd his face a cat's-lick dicht.
12. Rnf. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 75:
Within three cat-spangs of auld Herdie's seat.
15. Rxb. 1833 Mrs Hall Sc. Borderer (1874) 15:
He [a tame crow] sought refuge on the top of his master's house, and, sidling up the cat-steps, disappeared with his prize.
16. Gall. 1822 R. Trotter Lowran Castle 94:
They, in form and size, resembled those [mills] made of rushes by the school-boy, and placed in the cat-stran' by the village school.
18. (1) Arg. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days iii.:
Oh, the cat-witted scamp, that Molyneux, — if I had him here!
Ags. 1883 J. Kennedy Sc. and American Poems (1899) 113:
Lang Peter was an unco loun, A queer catwittit creature.
(2) wm.Sc. [1835–1837] Laird of Logan (1868) 299:
A backbiter or cat-witted creature, that spends his time in picking out and railing against the faults and frailties of others.
sm.Sc. 1988 W. A. D. and D. Riach A Galloway Glossary :
cat-wuttit irritable, quick-tempered ... [Kcb.] 'never pleased, never at peace'.
20. ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore of N.-E. Scot. 124:
“To meet the cat in the mornin” is a proverbial expression addressed to one who has returned from an unsuccessful mission, or met with a piece of bad fortune during the day.

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"Cat n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 May 2024 <>



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