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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.

KITTIE, n.1 Also kitty, kitti (Sh.), and, in sense 4., keetie, kettie, kutyie; kittag, keetag (Cai.), kittick, -ock (Ork.). [Sc. ′kɪtɪ; Cai. + ′kitəg, Ork. + ′kɪtək]

1. A giddy, skittish young woman, gen. used in disparagement (Sc. 1808 Jam.; ne.Sc. 1960) and freq. denoting a woman of doubtful character (Bnff. 1893 W. Gregor Dunbar's Wks. (S.T.S.) III. 152; Sh., ne.Sc. 1960); more gen. of any woman, with contemptuous force.Mry. 1806 R. Jamieson Ballads I. 294:
And Bess was a braw thumpin kittie, For Habbie just feer for feer.
s.Sc. 1837 Wilson's Tales of the Borders IV. 34:
And kissed the skirling kitties with . . . a jolly and hearty spirit of free salutation.
Sc.(E) 1868 D. M. Ogilvy Willie Wabster 4:
Ilk kitty wi' her claik and din, Is naething but a clorty skin!
Bnff. 1872 W. M. Philip It 'll a' come Richt i.:
Was it not very likely that the young kitty would give her mistress the slip in London?
Ags. 1880 Montrose Characters II. 93:
Ye've nae doubt heard o' Water Bettie — A quiet and yet peculiar kittie.
Abd.13 1914:
He wis afa baddert wi' the moskitties bein aifter 'im. Weel, weel, says granny, I dinna winner at that for the kitties o' quines wis aye aifter 'im here.

2. A pet-name for a cow, a hen, a chicken. Hence comb. kitti-hen, a pet-name for a child (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh. 1960). But see Kitt, int.Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 306:
Kitty my Mailly, Kitty her mither, Kitty my Do, and Kitty Billswither . . . And thae war the names o' the auld man's kye.

3. The jack or white ball aimed at in the game of bowls (ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., Lth. 1960). Also kit, id.Gsw. 1898 D. Willox Poems 174:
Now, in throwing up the “Kitty”, Oor first player's quite a card, But in playing tae't he seldom Ever gangs within a yard.
em.Sc. 1926 H. Hendry Poems 98:
Kitty, that licht and lively quean, Wha links athort the bowling-green.

4. As a name of a bird: (1) the kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla (Bnff. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 206; Cai. 1887 Harvie-Brown & Buckley Fauna Cai. 228; Ork. 1891 Harvie-Brown & Buckley Fauna Ork. 234; ne.Sc., Ags., Fif. 1942). See 5. (10); (2) the wren, Nannus troglodytes (Rxb.2 1915). See 5. (13).(1) Bnff. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 I. 472:
Some people are fond of eating the young kitty's; but the shooting of them is a favourite diversion every year.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 157:
May the cocks and ketties fa' before thy cudgel.
Bnff. 1870 Banffshire Jnl. (25 Jan.) 6:
Four birds its winged glory The kitty with the snow white crest.
Fif. 1897 S. Tytler Witch-Wife xii.:
Have you lost the five-toed kitty you prized so high?
Sh. 1938 M. Powell 200,000 Feet on Foula viii.:
A few years ago Mill Loch had thousands of kitties all the summer.

5. In combs.: ‡(1) kitti(e)-cat, (a) a piece of wood or other material, driven about by the players' sticks in the game of Shintie (Rxb. 1825 Jam., 1923 Watson W.-B., Rxb. 1960); †(b) = hornie-holes s.v. Hornie (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Cf. also Cat, n.2 and Eng. dial. kit-cat, tip-cat; (2) kitty-facky, -faik, = 4. (1) (Cai. 1887 Harvie-Brown & Buckley Fauna Cai. 234, -facky; Cai., Rs. 1919 T.S.D.C., -faik). Cf. Faik, n.2; (3) kittie-hoggie, a shell-fish of the winkle variety (Fif. 1950); (4) kitty langlegs, the daddy-longlegs, crane fly (Sh. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 127); (5) kitty-murain [′kɛtəmə′re:n], the wren (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). See (13). The -mu- develops out of the disyllabic pronunciation, now obs., of wren as [-wə′ren]; (6) kitty-neddie, -needie, -needy, the common sandpiper, Tringa hypoleucos (Kcb. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 196; Abd. 1960); also used of the bird's call, the second element being prob. imit. The form -wedie is a misprint; (7) kitty-neetie, the dipper, Cinclus cinclus (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 94). Sic but cf. (6); (8) kittie-stick, a small rod for holding bobbins in unwinding yarn, a pirn-stick (Sc. 1887 Jam., Add.); (9) kittie-sweerie, a yarn-winder (Sh. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 125, 1866 Edm. Gl.). Cf. sweer-kitty, s.v. Sweer; (10) kitty-wake, -waik, -weak(e), -weeik, ketiwaik (Ork. 1701 J. Brand Descr. Ork. 32), cetywaick, †pl. kittiwax, = 4. (1) (Bnff. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 206). Gen.Sc. Now adopted as Eng. The second element is imit. of the bird's cry; (11) kitty-wedie, see (6); (12) kitty-white-hass, the whitethroat, Sylvia communis. See Hause; (13) kitty-wren, -wra(i)n, = 4. (2) (Slg. 1885 Trans. Slg. Nat. Hist. Soc. 61; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., -wrain; Lth., Dmf., Rxb. 1960). Also in Eng. dial.(1) (a) Slk. 1818 Sc. Journal (1848) 30:
Many a time have I seen my grave worthy father toss down the football, or the kitticat, to us and the servant lads, and sometimes take a hearty bout at these games himself.
(4) Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of Lairds xiv.:
A Kitty Langlegs dan'ling a bumbee.
(6) Bnff. 1876 S. Smiles Sc. Naturalist xii.:
The sandpiper screamed its kitty-needie.
ne.Sc. 1903 G. Sim Fauna of Dee 175–6:
Often have I visited out-of-the-way mountain tarns, to find no sign of life around its solitary shores except the “Kitty Needy.”
Abd. 1909 C. Murray Hamewith 17:
The kitty-neddies fae the haugh Gaed pipin' ower her head.
(10) Sc. 1705 J. Spreull Accompt. Current (1882) 62:
There is some Solon-Goose found at Elseed, and Kitty-waiks beyond Montross.
em.Sc. 1715 in J. Chamberlayne Present State Scot. 119:
Skarts, Dunters, Gulls, Scouts, and Kittiwax; the latter is about the Size of a Dove, and in July is preferr'd to a Partridge.
Sc. 1769 T. Pennant Tour 1771 45:
The Kittiwake, a species of gull, so called from its cry . . . sold at Edinburgh for twenty-pence apiece, and served up roasted a little before dinner.
Ork. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XV. 310:
Gulls, scarfs, kitty-weaks . . . abound.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary vii.:
Mony a kittiwake's and lungie's nest hae I harried up amang thae very black rocks.
Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 3:
The wild cries of the sea-mew and kittywake.
(11) Bnff. 1860 Zoologist XVIII. 6848:
The common sandpiper (or as we have it, “Kittie-wedie,” from its cry) is one of our summer birds; there is scarcely one of our streams but has its “kittie-wedies” in the season, and on the banks of which they breed.
(13) Sc. 1827 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 302:
Frae the bigness o' my nieve amaist, doun to that o' a kitty-wren's egg.
Ayr. 1892 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 177:
The sma' kittie wran has quattit her nest.

[Words of various origins have prob. run together here. For sense 1. and as a pet-name, cf. O.Sc. kittie, a wench, c.1500, kittok, id., c.1470, dim. forms of Kate, Katherine; but here and in the names of birds, there may have been some confusion with Cutty, adj., n., cf. also cuttoch, Cuddoch; in kitticat, there is no doubt association with kitty, kitten. The orig. of 3. is uncertain, but it is phs. an adaptation of the female name, cf. jack, id. O.Sc. has cattiwake, kittiwake, 1661.]

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"Kittie n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Apr 2024 <>



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