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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

FLIT, v., n.1 Also †flitt, †flyt; flet (s.Sc. 1926 “H. M'Diarmid” Drunk Man 52). Sc. forms and usages.

I. v. Sc. forms: Pa.t. weak, flittit, flitit, Gen.Sc.; †strong, flait (Bch. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 70), flet (Abd. after 1768 A. Ross Fortunate Shep. MS. 140), flit (Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sk. and Poems 11). Pa.p. weak, flittit, Gen.Sc., flit; strong, †flytten.

Sc. usages:

1. tr. (1) In gen., to remove, transport from one place to another, to shift (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Abd.1 1929). Obsol. of the heart, to cause to start. Phr.: †flitting and foording, transport by land and sea, “freq. found in 17th and early 18th cent. leases” (Ork. 1929 Marw.), equivalent of arage and carriage. See also Fuird.Ork. 1706 in Marw. (1929) 44:
In a 1706 lease . . . which Pat Fea, Jr. . . . has from his father, Pat Fea, Sr., reserves for himself certain things — togetherwith “flitting and foording by the cottars and tenants.”
Ork. 1771 P. Fea MS. Diary (Sept.):
Had 2 men flitting out the South side of the Yard.
Edb. 1772 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 16:
Sometimes 'ere they flit their doup, They'll ablins a' their siller coup For liquor.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Auld Mare xviii.:
Wi' tentie care I'll flit thy tether, To some hain'd rig.
Dmf. 1797 Edb. Mag. (Dec.) 457:
Now furms are flittet an' bethankits said.
Abd. c.1800 Sc. N. & Q. (April 1933) 57:
Any one finding a herd asleep was warned to waken him gently “for fear o' flittin his hert.”
Dmb. 1846 W. Cross Disruption xxxvii.:
The trouble o' flitting a cartload o' roosty, dunckled clamjamphrey every time ye move.
Sh. 1888 Edmondston and Saxby Home of a Naturalist 184:
Lukin as deskit as if da Guy-kerls had been flitten pates apa him au neicht.
m.Sc. 1979 William J. Rae in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 80:
Aince mair he wis flittin a birn o worms tae a new hidey-hole.

Vbl.n. flittin, in comb. flittin kishie, a kishie used for carrying loads, esp. of peats.Sh. 1952 New Shetlander No. 31. 6:
He wid mak a muckle flittin kishie an kjerry dem ower ta Norrawa.

(2) Specif. Of one's household and belongings: to remove to another house. Gen.Sc. Also in n.Eng. dial. Also fig. Vbl.n. Flittin(g), q.v.Sc. 1700 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.):
Feb. 29: to Sir Wm. Cunningham's man John helped to flit our plenishing when the fyre was in Robiesones land . . £1. 9. 0.
Abd. 1749 Abd. Estate (S.C.) 90:
To George Lainge with a cart and two horses one yoking helping to flit Mathew King's furniture . . . . £0. 6. 0.
Sc. 1819 Scott Letters (Cent. ed.) V. 498:
Our kind neighbour Lauchie has departed or as Tom expresses it, has been fairly flytten out o' the warld.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xxxvi.:
To give the Tappit-hen notice . . . that she should flit her howff from our town.
Kcb. 1896 Crockett Grey Man ix.:
There are plenty stout Craufords here in Kyle that can flit them.
Arg. 1931 I. Burnett The Ravens 214:
“The auld wife was just in the deid-thraws,” said Colin; “could we flit her wi' the rattle in her throat?”

(3) Of tethered animals: to move to fresh grazing (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh.10, Abd.2, Fif.10 1945).Peb. 1793 R. D. C. Brown Carlop Green (1817) 120:
And here's great Joiner Gentleman, That, whan no' mending, plews, His crummie flits, and calfy feeds.
Ayr. 1816 A. Boswell Poet. Works (1871) 164:
A Sow upon your land I'll tether; . . . But deil a man o' Kyle shall flit her.
Dmf. 1822 Scots Mag. (July) 50:
Awa he gaed to flit the fauld.
Fif. 1870 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 105:
She cam to a pownie that was tethered, and the pownie said to her: “Flit me, flit me, my bonnie May, For I haena been flitted this seven year and a day.”
Abd. 1881 W. Paul Past and Present 43:
He told his people that he had just seen the evil one, . . . and that he was now tethered on the “heugh head.” A parishioner . . . went back next Sunday, as he said to one of his neighbours, “to see the deevil flitted.”
Sh. 1906 T. P. Ollason Spindrift 120:
Boy, maet da fools, luek ta da grice, Or flit da weary coo.
Ork. 1934 E. Linklater M. Merriman xxi.:
There he was flitting the calves with Rose.

2. intr. To alter position, shift; to depart (m.Lth.1 1952); to go hence, to die (Bnff.2 1943). Also used of plants, esp. corn, which grow to a certain height and then wilt (Abd.27 1947). Phr. flitting of the ice (see quot.).Sc. 1743 R. Maxwell Select Trans. 94:
In a short Time they [plants] decay and go away, which in this Country is called flitting.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxviii.:
[She] entreats to see your lordship before she dies, for . . . she canna flit in peace till she sees you.
Abd. 1835 Philosoph. Trans. Royal Soc. 331:
In frosty weather, . . . our rivers, filled, and so impeded, by ground-gru, as to be raised above their banks, are found returned into their natural channels, and there frozen over at the surface, but flowing over a clear bottom, in a space of time so short as to appear very wonderful. . . . The process is named by the country people, the flitting of the ice.
Gsw. 1873 A. G. Murdoch Doric Lyre 14:
An' it please the Lord, this nicht, I'd flit, an' e'en gang hame.
Abd. 1880 W. Robbie Glendornie i.:
They assured him, however, that she was not dead . . . but that “her hert had jist flittet wi' the fricht 'at she had gotten.”
Ags. 1889 A. D. Willock Rosetty Ends 79:
It was a dour job to get the pain to flit.
Sh. 1916 J. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr (Aapril 4):
Potiphar's wife is flit; bit shö's still livin.
Abd. 1920 C. Murray Country Places 5:
The langer we sit we're the sweirer to flit.

3. intr. To remove from one house to another, to change one's dwelling-place, esp. at a term. Gen.Sc. Vbl.n. Flittin(g), q.v.Abd. 1713 Fintray Court Bk. (S.C. Misc. 1935) 24–5:
Every tennent . . . whether he be to sit or flitt, shall labour no more but the two third parts of his burnt land and laigh land.
Mry. 1733 Lord Elchies' Letters (ed. MacWilliam) 86:
Wee flitted last week to our house in the Canongate.
Ayr. 1793 Burns Against Earl of Gall.:
Flit, Galloway, and find Some narrow, dirty, dungeon cave.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter xi.:
There was a summons from the grund-officer to come wi' the rent on a day preceese, or else Steenie behoved to flit.
Lnk. 1842 Children in Mines Report II. 364:
When a collier flits, i.e. changes his work, and goes to a new residence, the new master has “the fudling of him,” i.e. gives him whiskey.
Lnl. 1881 H. Shanks Musings 324:
Tae say you flit gin Martinmas! Oh, wha on earth could ha'e supposed it?
Dmf. 1899 Country Schoolmaster (ed. Wallace) 330:
The Geddeses had flitted, ye see, and this was a cut grander than whar they set up hoose-keepin'.
Dwn. 1913 F. E. S. Crichton Andy Saul 36:
A doubt the house can't ha' been healthy, but they're flitted out of it now.
Sc. 1928 G. Blake Paper Money 43:
“When will you be ready to flit?” he asked jocularly.
wm.Sc. 1991 Liz Lochhead Bagpipe Muzak 45:
We first flitted here, I thought we were going to be clomping about on the bare floorboards and sitting on orange boxes watching a wee black-and-white portable for ever.
Rnf. 1993 History on your Doorstep, The Reminiscences of the Ferguslie Elderly Forum 3:
It was men who worked in the town and were glaziers and so forth, and the big families all flitted to Logan Drive and Craiglea Drive.
m.Sc. 1994 Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay Forever Yours, Marie-Lou 9:
Ah've tellt ye God knows how many times, ye should flit fae here! But you're no waantin tae flit, ur ye?

Hence flitter, one who flits or is fond of flitting.Fif. 1842 Children in Mines Report II. 500:
Flitters [roving colliers] never cared for furniture, looking upon it as an incumbrance.
Edb. 1872 J. Smith Jenny Blair's Maunderings (1881) 30:
But that's seldom or never thocht o' by the great majority o' the flitters.
Rxb. 1917 Kelso Chron. (1 June):
The flitter looks forward to companionships — lads and lasses — a new employer.

II. n. A household removal. Gen.Sc., obsol. Dim. flittie, term time, when removals take place (Fif. 1951).Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Proverbs 73:
Better rue sit than rue flit. [from D. Ferguson Sc. Proverbs (1641)]
Ags. 1898 G. H. Rea Divot Dyke 61:
'Twas Flitty — Farfar in a baise Wi' country folk in Sunday claes.
Kcb.10 1943:
A Setterday flit is a short sit.
Arg. 2003:
Saturday flit, short sit.
Uls. 2003 Belfast Telegraph 19 May :
Dr Reid, who led a study of 200 patients in the hospital's surgical wards, said that 15% of patients who declined to check out on Saturday cited the old wives' tale - 'Saturday's Flit is a Short Sit' - as their reason.

III. Combs.: 1. flit-boat, a boat used for conveying passengers and goods between steamer and shore or for similar short-distance transport in the Shetland islands (Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sketches 85; Sh. 1952). The word is occas. also used in the Hebrides. Dim. flittie, id. (Sh. 1934 W. Moffat Shetland 95); †2. flit-fold, a portable sheep-fold (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.); 3. Flit Friday, the next Friday to the term-day at Whitsunday or esp. Martinmas, on which farm-servants changed their employment (‡Ags. 1975); 4. flitman, a man who works a flit-boat, a ferryman (Sh. 1952); 5. flit-ploo, a kind of carpenter's plane (Fif. 1957); 6. flit-tide, the tide at the flow (Ags., Fif. 1975).1. Sh. 1902 J. Burgess Sh. Folk 96:
When she came out of the steerage to go into the flit-boat, going ashore.
Highl. 1929 A. A. MacGregor Summer Days 101–2:
The term flit-boat is used to denote the type of small barge that is employed in translating the barrels of cured herrings from the landing-stages adjoining the curing stations to the cargo vessels.
Sh. 1933 Manson's Guide to Sh. 191:
Passengers and goods from the Earl are taken off by one of the big flit-boats (old sixerns).
Sh. 1952 New Shetlander No. 31. 14:
We dropped anchor at many places, and flit-boats came out to meet us.
2. Sc. 1743 R. Maxwell Select Trans. 154:
If he don't incline to house his Sheep in Summer, Flaiks, Flit-folds, or Hurdles, may be provided for laying them on the Summer-fallow.
3. Ags. 1822 Dundee Magazine I. 395:
All those, either in town or country, who have been on the streets of Dundee on a Flit-Friday.
Ags. 1883 J. M. Beatts Reminisc. 33:
On Flit Friday it would appear that persons residing in the country were uniformly treated with great indignity.
4. Sh. 1862 Shet. Advertiser (3 Nov.):
Doo'll no need ta shaa dee face among da flitmen agen.
Sh. 1906 T. P. Ollason Spindrift 56:
Her smok is comin' doon Mousa Soond, . . . da flitmen says shü'll be in athin a 'oor.

[O.Sc.flit, flyt, to transport, 1375, to depart, a.1400, to remove, intr., a.1500, tr., c.1575, to die, a.1586. O.N. flytja, to transport, migrate.]

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"Flit v., n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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