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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

KEP, v., n.3 Also kepp; kyep (Sh. 1900 Shetland News (24 March)); keap, kaip, kaep, caep (Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 18), cape. [Sc. kɛp, kep; Sh. kjɛp]

I. v. 1. As a variant of Keep: to contain, restrain, watch over, guard, etc.Abd. 1748 Abd. Estate (S.C.) 74:
To making a stool for kepping the weights . . . 6s. 0d.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xvii.:
Ratcliffe, come here, and detain the woman — George, run and kepp the stile at the Duke's Walk.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped xiii.:
And even then we'll have the land to kep the wind off us.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums 100:
The Black Man would gie her power to . . . kep the butter frae gatherin' in the kirn.
Sc. 1904 R. Ford Vagab. Songs 120:
An' I'll get anither frae auld John Grey, For keppin' his sheep sae lang on the brae.

2. To catch (a falling object), gen. with the hands, or in a receptacle. Gen.Sc. Ppl.adj. keppit.Sc. 1699 J. Clark Memento Mori 11:
Playing with a piece Pear, and throwing it up to intercept or kepp it in his mouth.
Dmf. 1711 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. (1920–1) 126:
To the Officers for taking up pails to kep the rain in the Council house . . . . 1s. 6d.
Ags. 1719 Kirriemuir Court Bk. MS. (23 Sept.):
She saw James Dougall at the same time blooding at the mouth and capeing the blood in the end of his linnen nock that was about his craig.
Ayr. 1793 Burns Elegy on Captain M.H. xii.:
Ilk cowslip cup shall kep a tear.
Sc. c.1800 Young Hunting in Child Ballads No. 68 C. vi.:
He leant him owre his saddle-bow, To gie her a kiss sae sweet; She keppit him on a little pen-knife.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 129:
Amid the keppin' garment [blanket] saft His buik reboundit quick.
Bwk. 1831 Border Mag. 9:
What sud I dae but fa' a' my lang length out owre a tub o' keppit washin-water.
Edb. 1856 J. Ballantine Poems 31:
Ilka blade o' grass keps its ain drap o' dew.
Rxb. 1875 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. 33:
With jugs and bowls [they] kepped the liquor as it was flowing out [of the cask].
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 240:
I sees a great muckle white fool [bird] comin' laavin inonder me an' kaeps me upun her back.
Edb. 1931 E. Albert Herrin' Jennie i. iv.:
She produced . . . a big shining coin. “Kep!” said she and tossed it to Tiger. Tiger “kepped” and spat upon it lovingly.

Hence (1) kepper, (a) of persons: one who is good at catching (Uls. 1953 Traynor; Cai., Abd., Lth., Lnk. 1959); (b) of things: what is easy to catch (Lnl., Lnk., Ayr. 1959); (c) in pl., = Catchers, q.v. (Gsw. c.1880; Lnk., Kcb. 1941); (d) a landing-net for fish (Sh. 1959); (2) keppie, adj., alert in catching a thing before it reaches the ground (Gall. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 123); (3) keppie(s), n., = (1) (c) (Cai., Ags., Kcb. 1959). Cf. cap-ball s.v. Cap, v.4; (4) keppin-oot bowls, a game in which one person stood by a wall with a small bat. An ordinary small rubber ball was bowled to him, and he had to try to drive it in the air so that no one could catch it. The catcher became batsman in turn (Sh. 1959).(1) (a) Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo 20:
Mrs Tamson was the best kepper I ever kenned. Nocht gaed by her.
(b) Sc. 1954 Bulletin (12 April) 15:
The long hopeful goalward punts were “keppers” to a 'keeper of Martin's height and ability.
(c) Edb. 1957:
Girls playing at peevers: “Keppers! Ye cannie get keppers at fowrers.”

3. With up. Of the hair: to confine, to gather and hold by a band or the like, to bind (Lnk., Kcb. 1825 Jam.; Cai., Kcb. 1959). Hence kepping-kame, a large comb used by women to tuck up the hair on the back of the head (Lnk., Kcb. 1825 Jam.; Cai. 1959).Gall. 1810 R. H. Cromek Remains 6:
The Lord's Marie has kepped her locks Up wi' a gowden kame.
Cai. 1887 J. T. Calder Caithness 282:
The hair was secured by a large comb which extended from ear to ear, and was termed a “kepping comb.”
s.Sc. 1897 E. Hamilton Outlaws xi.:
I'll wad my gowd kepping-kame agane . . . a kiss.

4. To catch, suffer, incur (mischief or harm). Also fig.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 77:
Laying a' the wyte On you, if she kepp ony skaith.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 94:
But o' my claiths he took a swippert claught; Bade me nae fear, for 1 sud kep nae skaith.
w.Lth. 1889 F. Barnard Chirps 63:
But see his relicts kep nae skaith, then Ye'll mind the deid.

5. To stop, intercept, head off, check in pursuit, prevent, keep out, ward off (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Ayr.1 1910; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., n.Sc., Ags., Per., Lth., sm.Sc. 1959), “to seize a person in the game of tig” (Cai.7 1938), to direct the passage of (animals) (Ayr., Dmf., Uls. 1990s).Sc. 1724 Chrons. Atholl and Tullibardine Families II. 366:
The Mother in defence of her head lifted her hand to kep the stroak.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1898) ii.:
In trying to kep himself, he drove his head, like a battering ram, through a looking glass.
Gsw. 1837 Justiciary Reports (1838) 406:
He said they were coming forward to strike him, but he had “kepped” the stroke.
Abd. 1877 G. Macdonald M. of Lossie III. xiv.:
Gang efter 'im , laads, an' kep 'im an' keep 'im.
Fif. 1894 J. Menzies Our Town 184:
Maister Crichton, kep your puggie.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 298:
Set the chairs an things on them tae kep the cairts and keep them fae gettin oot again.
Lnk. 1919 G. Rae 'Tween Clyde and Tweed 16:
Though this thorn-hedge may bield us baith frae Rouper-Tam's gleg e'e It canna kep the clatter o' his tongue.
Rs. 1936 C. Macdonald Echoes of Glen 145:
He “kepped” and “clapped” and “checked” at a word from the master he [a dog] adored.

Hence †keppie, of a dog: quick at heading off an animal.Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 128:
If they war as keppie as catchie, they would make gude shepherd's dogs.

Phrs.: (1) kep bye!, a shepherd's order to a dog to head off sheep (Ayr. 1959); (2) to kep(p) again, to check, intercept, turn back, frustrate (Cai., Abd., sm.Sc. 1959). Cf. haud again s.v. Again; (3) to kep gushes, to dam with the feet the flow of water that runs down a street gutter (see quot.) (Rxb. 1959). Hence kep-a-gush, “a splay-footed person” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., Rxb. 1959).(2) Bnff. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 18:
Ye've honest men o' a' pairties tryin' te get that deen, bit they're keppit again bi thick-heids, selfish chumps an' discontentit girners.
Fif.10 1942:
Kep again, laddie, kep again, or the reid stirk'll be throw the slap i' the dyke.
(3) Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 13:
Keppin gushes was a favourite pastime amongst Hawick bairns, who dammed with their bare feet the water in the street “guitters”.

6. To meet, encounter (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 88; ne.Sc., Ags. 1959); of a train, bus, etc.: to connect with (another) (Kcd., Ags. 1959).Edb. 1772 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 83:
I was keppit wi' the heavy tale That sets ilk dowie sangster to bewail.
Abd. 1778 A. Ross Helenore 27:
At last whan she unto the height had won, What kaips her there, but the sweet morning sun.
m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 248:
She was keen to see me aboot something partickler, and couldna come a' the length, as she was waitin' tae kepp somebody.
Abd. 1883 W. Jolly J. Duncan 447:
Tell the Queen's men I'm ower waik to gae to kep them the nicht.
Lnk. 1885 J. Strathesk Blinkbonny 136:
I keppit him at my twal' hours gaun south.
Ags. 1923 V. Jacob Songs of Angus 37:
Tib, my auntie, she canna' spy Wha comes creepin' to kep wi' me.
Ags. 1954 Forfar Dispatch (21 Oct.):
We keppit the bus at the Volunteer Arms.

7. Gen. Phrs.: (1) kep-a-mister, a stop-gap (Gall. a.1868 Curriehill). Cf. beetmaster s.v. Beet, v.2, n.2, and Mister: (2) to kep a catch (Bwk. 1959), — slap, — strait (Ayr. c.1900; Lnk., Ayr., sm.Sc. 1959), — strecht (Rxb. 1919), — stress (Rnf. c.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) K. 13; Gsw. 1922 Gsw. Herald (15 April)), to bridge a gap, serve a turn, be useful in an emergency, do for the time being; (3) to kep kinches, see Kinch, n.2(2) Edb. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 81:
The taties kep an unco' slap When meal is dear.
Gsw. 1838 A. Rodger Poems and Songs 84:
To kep a strait that may come on ye When looked for least.
Ayr. 1882 J. Hyslop Dream of a Masque 133:
There's something, Eppy, tae kep a slap, An' I wish it were ten times mair.
Ags.19 1949:
That'll kep a strauch some day.
Rxb. 1951:
Dinna throw that oot — it'll dae tae kep a catch maybe.
Kcb. 1958:
When an article was very much worn but not thought bad enough for the rag bag the old folks said it would do for “kep-a-strait” meaning it could be worn occasionally in a fix.
s.Sc. 1979 Lavinia Derwent A Border Bairn (1986) 52:
'It'll kep a catch,' she would say, meaning it would do for the time being, and so it did.

II. n. 1. The act of catching, a catch, esp. with the hands (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; n.Sc., Slg., Lth., Bwk., Lnk., Kcb., Slk. 1959), the heading off or intercepting of animals (ne.Sc., Lnk. 1959).Abd.28 1948:
Wad ye gie's a kep wi' the nowt?

2. A contrivance for checking, stopping, or holding; a door-check (Sc. 1952 Builder (20 June) 942; Kcb. 1959), a catch for a latch, etc.; in pl.: moveable rests or supports for the cage at the top of a pit-shaft (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 40). Cf. Shuts. Also in n.Eng. dial. Dim. keppie, in pl. = Barley, keys! a truce in a game. Sc. 1703 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 316:
For sadles and makeing huis and hulster keps . . . £29. 3. 0.
Abd. 1742 Powis Papers (S.C.) 287:
To a Keap to Sneack . . . 1s. 6d.
e.Lth. 1849–51 Trans. Highl. Soc. 279:
All the inside doors, window shutters, keps, facings shelving, &c., of good American timber.
Bwk. 1879 Hist. Bwk. Nat. Club IX. 92:
In none of the doorways of the building, except the main entrance, is there any projection or “kepp” for a door.
Inv. 1959 I. and P. Opie Lore and Lang. Schoolchildren 151:
"I'm keppies", holding up both thumbs.

3. “A desired or looked-for chance, opportunity, etc.” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Lnk.11 1941), a windfall, a “catch”. Phr.: to look out for keps, to be on the watch for opportunities (Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 13).Rnf. 1790 A. Wilson Poems 88:
Poor Jute, she'd curse our ilka step, When she tauld owre her siller; But, faith! she got an honest kepp, Might ser't a decent Miller.

4. Reach or range (of vision).Edb. 1856 J. Ballantine Poems 94:
My minny is pawky, my minny is slee, She keeps me aye close 'neath the kep o' her ee.

5. A catch (of fish). Lth. 1852 M. Oliphant Adam Graeme III. iii.:
Willie Tamson that brought in his heavy brute o' a boat ower the nets, forbye garring us lose a day's kep.

[O.Sc. kep, to intercept, c.1510, to catch, 1492. A differentiated form of Keep, q.v., with the short vowel [ɛ] of the pa.t. and pa.p. kep(t) transferred to the pres. and inf., and in some cases lengthened to [e].]

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"Kep v., n.3". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jul 2024 <>



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