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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.

KNEEF, adj. Also knief, kneif(f), knif(f), cnif (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 191); gnief (Bnff.1 1930); hnif(f), niff, hnjif, hnof, n(j)of(f) (I.Sc.). [knif, Bnff. + gnif, I.Sc. + (h)n(j)ɪf]

1. Mentally or physically alert, smart, agile, lively, cheerful, keen (Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems Gl.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork. 1929 Marw.; Sh., Ork., Cai., Abd., Ags. 1960); fit, in sound health and spirits (Abd. 1913; Cai.1 c.1920; Mry.1 1928; Abd., Per. 1947), “very often applied to persons as recovering their animation after severe illness” (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Also used adv.Abd. 1748 R. Forbes Ajax 11:
[He] twin'd us o' our kneefest men By death and by exile.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 66:
Little foukies, clad in green and blue! Kneefer and trigger never trade the dew.
Sc. 1829 R. Chambers Songs II. 395:
Jenny sat jouking like a mouse, But Jock was kneef as ony cock.
Ags. 1880 Brechin Advertiser (6 April):
She grew knief again and hale.
Sh. 1922 J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 18:
Sibbie wis queefin' aboot da butt flüir as kniff as a biggin' sparrow upo' da aisin' o' a hoos.
Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 65:
Their aged partners attempted all the freaks of the fantastic toe, all the while encouraging the ladies . . . by such remarks as, “Shack thee noo, Chirsee,” or “Thoo're foo niff yet, Betty.”
Abd. 1932 R. L. Cassie Scots Sangs 47:
The reek risin' sae kneef fae the kitchie lums.

Hence (1) kniefly, kneifly, adv., briskly, in a lively fashion; (2) kniffie, -y, adj., alert, nimble, agile (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., Sh. 1960).(1) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 162:
But she'll craw kniefly in his crap, Whan, wow! he canna flit her Frae hame that day.
Mry. 1804 R. Couper Poems II. 80:
And a' the tykes, and a' the town, Fu' kniefly guided he.
(2) Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sk. & Poems 43:
Her glorious eyes taking in every wiggle of his kniffy little person.

2. Intimate.Fif. 1825 Jam.:
O'er kneef suggests the idea of criminal intercourse.

3. Sharp of temper.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 97:
A wyte he wiz fell kneif wee me, though a wiz only seekin' ma ain.

[Orig. obscure. Phs. imit. Cf. Gnib.]

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"Kneef adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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