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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

ERGH, ERF(E), adj., v., adv., n. Also e(a)rch, -gh, e(a)rth; †eirch, a(i)rgh, -ch, and rare or obs. forms arc (s.Sc. 1835–40 J. M. Wilson (ed.) Tales of the Borders IV. 46); auch (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 8); arrow. [ɛrx, erx, ɑrx ne.Sc., Abd. + erf]

I. adj.

1. Timorous (n.Sc. 1808 Jam., ergh; Bnff.2 (arch), Abd.7 (arch), Abd.9 (erch) 1943); frightened, slightly alarmed, anxious (Bnff.9 c.1927).Abd. 1787 A. Shirrefs Jamie and Bess Act IV. Sc. i. 59:
Weel ha'd ye sae, for I was erch to tell A circumstance, which, 'mang the rest, befell.
Ayr. 1790 J. Fisher Poems 68:
Erch lest the gentle fouk should hap To hear or see.
Lnk. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 165:
As erch a water-tyke as e'er Peept o'er a stern.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xlvi.:
I've been seekin' 'im this file, an' was growin' rael eargh aboot 'im . . . there's sae mony mishanters 't we hear o' happenin' wi' the like o' 'im 't's kent to be fae the kwintra.
Bch. 1929 P. Giles in Abd. Univ. Review (March) 128:
Bit foo sid A be erf at Jock A'den? A dinna eyven ken fa Jock A'den wiz, onless ye mean Aul' Thrummie 'imsel.

Hence erfsome, nervous, timid.Abd. 1845 in P. Still Cottar's Sunday 173:
Tho' whyles I ettle at the trade, Wi' erfsome fear an' trembling.

2. Hesitant, reluctant (Sc. 1808 Jam., ergh; Lth., Fif. Ib., erf; Sh.10 1950, obsol.); “reserved, distant in manner” (Lth. 1808 Jam., erf; Abd. 1813 D. Anderson Poems 116, arrow).Abd. 1778 J. Beattie Address viii. in A. Ross Helenore:
In kittle times, when faes are yarring, We're no thought ergh.
Abd. 1898 E.D.D.:
Ye're ergh to file your fingers.

3. “Parsimonious, niggardly, reluctant to part with one's property” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2).

4. Scanty, insufficient (Sc.(E) 1913 H. P. Cameron Imit. Christ iii. xi., argh); exhausted, physically or in resources (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 67, Ayr. c.1900, erth), penniless (Peb. Id. X. 82, erf) . Lth., Rxb. 1825 Jam.2:
Ye hae na made the line of that side o' the road straight, it juts out there, and here it is ergh.
Rxb. Ib. XII. 63:
An earth crap, a poor crop.

5. Half-boiled (Sc. 1818 Sawers Dict. Sc. Lang.).

II. adv. Barely, scarcely, insufficiently.Lth. 1825 Jam.2:
I canna eat that meat; it's ergh boiled. . . . That meat's airch dune, i.e. it is not dressed, (whether boiled or roasted), sufficiently.
Rxb. Ib.:
What time is it? It's erfe twal o'clock.

III. v. To be timid, afraid; to feel reluctant; to hesitate. Vbl.n. erghing, fear, timidity (Sc. 1808 Jam.); ppl.adj. erfin, reluctant (Fif. 1957).Sc. 1722 Ramsay Three Bonnets 9:
Ye seem to have a loving Flame For me, and hate your native Hame; That gars me ergh to trust ye meikle, For fear you shou'd prove fause and fikle.
Slk. 1820 Hogg Winter Ev. Tales II. 41:
I airghit at keuillying withe her in that thrawart paughty moode.

IV. n. Doubt, apprehension, fear, timidity (Sc. 1808 Jam., ergh; Abd.6 1913, arch; ‡Sh.10 1950).Bch. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 133:
Hary, gin ye wad grant us maut, Right free o' erf on knaps to shaw't; Then lat the times be ne'er sae saut, We'll a' agree.

Hence erghness, archness, n., id. (Bnff.2 1943, archness). The form arfness is found in Yks. dial.Ags. 1879 Forfar Poets (Fenton) 117:
Their mithers ne'er had ony eirch, Wi' it their drouth to slochan.
Abd. 1898 E.D.D.:
An erghness creeps over me in going through a churchyard by night.

[O.Sc. has argh, arch, adj. and v., from c.1420, erch, v., 1584, arghnes, c.1420; O.Nhb. arȝ, cowardly, O.E. arȝian, to be slothful, lose heart; O.N. argr, cowardly.]

Ergh adj., v., adv., n.

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"Ergh adj., v., adv., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 May 2024 <>



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