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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

NEVER, adv. Also niver (Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch Bk. 40; Mry. 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. 68; Uls. 1897 A. M'Ilroy Lint in the Bell ii.), nivver (Abd. 1930 D. Campbell Kirsty's Surprise 6), nivir (Rxb. 1714 J. J. Vernon Hawick 113, Sh. 1918 T. Manson Peat Comm. I. 126, Lnk. 1926 W. Queen We're a' Coortin 36), nivvir (Bnff. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 27), nuver (Lth. 1870 J. Lauder Warblings 101); and reduced or syncopated forms (now mainly liter.) ne'er, neir (Sc. 1724 Ramsay Ever Green II. 17), near (Clc. 1852 G. P. Boyd Misc. Poems 25), naer (Dmb. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo 40), nair (Abd. 1924 L. Coutts Caul' Nor'-East 18), nar (Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xii.), noor (Cai. 1891 D. Stephen Gleanings 20, 1928 John o' Groat Jnl. (10 Feb.), Cai. 1964). [′nɛvər, ′nɪv-; ner, Cai. nur]

1. Combs. and Phrs.: ¶(1) ne'er-devawl, n.phr., someone or something that goes on unceasingly. See Deval, and cf. (3), of which this may be an arbitrary variant; (2) ne'er-do-gude, -good, = (3) (Sc. 1825 Jam.); (3) ne'er-do-weel, -dae-, -deu-, a good-for-nothing, a worthless person, a rake, debauchee (Dmf. 1806 Scots Mag. (March) 206; Lth. 1849 M. Oliphant M. Maitland xiii.; ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 21). Also in reduced form neerdie (Ags., Fif. 1964), and attrib. or adj. = worthless, reprobate, dissolute. Orig. Sc. and n.Eng. dial., now in gen. Eng. colloq. usage; (4) neerless, ¶neverbetheless, nevertheless (Sc. 1818 Sawers; Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 26); (5) nevermas(s) (Sc. 1825 R. Armstrong Gael. Dict. 337), -mis (Sc. 1935 Sc. N. & Q. (May) 68), neversmas, a time that never comes, never (Sc. 1882 C. Mackay Poetry and Humour Sc. Lang. 214; Lth. 1925 C. P. Slater Marget Pow 63). Obs. in Eng. from 17th c.; ¶(6) ne'er-rest, a restless fidgetty person; (7) never to be heard tell o', unheard of, unprecedented, incredible.(1) Rnf. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 116:
He couldna wauk, he durstna crawl But shiver'd like a ne'er-devawl.
(2) Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley xxx.:
D'ye hear what the . . . young gentleman says, ye drunken ne'er-do-good?
Sc. 1820 Blackwood's Mag. (May) 163:
Back came the same reckless neer-do-gude . . . to make a like attempt on our laird's roosts of far capons.
(3) Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 63:
Some ha'e a hantla fauts, ye're only a ne'er dowell.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 90:
Heh, Sirs! what cairds and tinklers come, An' neer-do-weel horse-coupers.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xviii.:
If there isna our auld ne'er-do-weel deevil's buckie o' a mither.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xxxviii.:
Some of the ne'er-do-weel . . . clerks . . . were seen gaffawing and haverelling with Jeanie.
m.Sc. 1870 J. Nicholson Idylls 116:
Hae they, like him grown ne'er-do-weels?
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Stickit Minister 83:
They came upon the parish ne'er-do-weel.
Ork. 1956 C. M. Costie Benjie's Bodle 93:
A' that waited me wis a dreary life on me faither's ferm, wae Peggy mairried tae yin ne'er-deu-weel.
(5) Edb. 1720 A. Pennecuik Helicon 99:
They prorogu'd to — Nevermass.
Sh. 1894 J. M. E. Saxby Camsterie Nacket 11:
If I was ta lave it [cup of tea] tae him, it wad stand untouched till neversmas.
Ayr. 1927 J. Carruthers A Man Beset i. i.:
And ye wadna tell onybody? Nevermas?
Abd.4 1929:
At nevermas fin the cock lays.
(6) Cai. 1872 M. M'Lennan Peasant Life 29:
Sit down, ye ne'er-rest!
(7) Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of Lairds xii.:
The manifest indiscretion o' Dr. Lounlans' never-to-be-heard-tell-o' connexion.

2. As an emphatic negative: not at all, under no circumstances (Kcb. 1964).Sc. 1707 Edb. Courant (16 Oct.):
The price of each chapin bottle is fivepence, the bottle never required [= not returnable].
Cai. 1903 E.D.D.:
Never to ken, not to know.

Phrs. never a —, nivver — (Abd. 1927 T. McWilliam The Fireside 25), ne'er-, neery-(Sc. 1953 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 143), noor-, near o', absolutely no, no — whatever, not a (blessed), used expletively as a strong negative. Now mainly dial. in Eng. Sometimes preceded by the def. art. Also used with interjectional force in phrs. ne(v)er a bit, really?, isn't that amazing? (ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1964). See Bit, n.1; noor a wheest, not a word!Abd. 1768 A. Ross Poems (S.T.S.) 153:
The never a rag we'll be seeking o't.
Ayr. 1790 Burns Tam o' Shanter 15–16:
Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses, For honest men and bonnie lasses.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality i.:
They are ne'er a hair better than them.
Slk. 1824 Hogg Justified Sinner (1874) 482:
The ne'er o' that I did, or may my shakal bane ne'er turn another key.
Gsw. 1868 J. Young Poems 12:
Sic a ghaistlin' o' a yaud The ne'er o' me had seen till then.
w.Sc. 1880 Jam.:
The near o' ane o' them did it.
Abd. 1926 Abd. Univ. Rev. (March) 116:
An' never a mony ootsiders cam' t' see hiz.
Cai. 1929 John o' Groat Jnl. (1 March):
Noor a wheesht, but A heer'd 'at . . . Davie bade them be thankful hid wisna 'e St. Ola they wir on.
Ayr. 1952 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 312:
Nivver a bow t' the mistress, nivver a touch o's hat.
Gsw. 1985 Anna Blair Tea at Miss Cranston's 14:
... never-a-one of the rememberers but drew a sigh at the recollection of Sunday bests.
Sc. 2003 Scotsman 15 Oct 16:
Not funny at all was the crofter I knew with a big, quiet bull that had been "never a bit of bother" for more than three years - until the morning it took him by surprise at feeding time in the field, pounding several parts of him to pulp before he managed to crawl under a fence and lie in a puddle for an hour before being found and taken into intensive care just in time.

3. Hence used imprecatively = Deil, II., III., in phrs.: (1) ne'er be in me, Devil take me! (Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley lviii.); (2) ne'er-be-licket, Devil a thing, not a trace, nothing at all (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Cf. Be-licket; (3) ne'er may care, the Devil may care! (Ags. 1964).(1) Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xvii.:
Ne'er be in me, if they are na killing every ane o' the wounded and prisoners!
(2) Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary ix.:
Ne'er-be-licket could they find that was to their purpose.
(3) Per. 1802 S. Kerr Poems 3:
It's no' weel tellt, but ne'er may care, It's nae less true.

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"Never adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Apr 2024 <>



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