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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HIRTCH, v., n. Also hirch, hirtsch. [hɪrtʃ]

I. v. 1. To shudder with cold (Sc. 1808 Jam., hirch), or fear.Abd. 1797 Aberdeen Mag. 350:
But o'er them a' was Tam o' Shanter's mare, We sometimes leugh, an' sometimes hirch'd wi' fear.

2. tr. and intr. To move jerkily, edge forward (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 78); to shrug the shoulders (Ags. 1902 E.D.D.). Ppl.adj. hirtchin, walking with a jerky, hobbling motion, limping. Adj. hirtchie, unsteady in gait (Ags. 1957).Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 78:
He wiz unco bauch at the first, bit he shortly hirtcht in by amo' the laive.
Ags. c.1870–1895 W. Lindsay Sair'd him Richt 9 in Caledonia: A Monthly Magazine 290:
There's young hirtchin Leezie ootbye at Auchlishie.

Hence hirtchin-hehrie, hirtschin hairy, a children's game (see quots.). This may have been the orig. name of the game, Harry Hurcheon, q.v.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 78:
A game among children, in which they sit on their hams, and jump round and round, striking their hands alternately before and behind, and crying out “Hirtchin-Heherie.” The same as Harie-Hutcheon.
Bnff. 1894 A. B. Gomme Trad. Games I. 215:
The players (boy or girl) cower down on their haunches, “sit doon curriehunkers,” and hop round and round the floor like a frog, clapping the hands first in front and then behind, and crying out, “Hirtschin Hairy.” It is sometimes called “Hairy Hirtschin.” In Lothian the players try to knock each other over by hustling against one another.

3. To approach in a sly ingratiating manner, to sidle (Abd.6 1913, hirch; Kcd., Ags. 1957).Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 78:
A kent the bodie wiz needin' something fae ma fae the wye he cam hirtchin' up t' ma.

II. n. A slight sideways push or jerky motion, a hitch (Mry. 1875 W. H. L. Tester Poems 20); a shrug of the shoulders (Ags. 1902 E.D.D., Ags. 1957).Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 77–8:
Ma birn 'll be aff o' ma back. Gi' ma a hirtch up wee't. . . . Gee yir chair a hirtch till a side an' lats in by t' the fire.
Ags. 1892 Brechin Advertiser (18 Oct.) 3:
They were twa drouthie carles, an' whiles needit a hirch hame.

Hence hirch-and-kick, a children's game (see quot.).Ags. 1902 E.D.D.:
Hirch-and-kick, a game formerly popular . . . so named because the competitor . . . had to toe the line and kick as high as he could without the aid of any impetus save that of a preliminary hirch or shrug of the shoulders.

[Orig. obscure. Cf. O.Sc. hurche, to crouch. Prob. orig. imitative as Hirsel, v.2, n.2, which has some similarities in meaning. For similar formations cf. Hotch, and Eng. hitch, of which Hirtch may be an intensive variant.]

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"Hirtch v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 7 Dec 2023 <>



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