Show Search Results Show Browse

Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology

Abbreviations Cite this entry

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

NIB, n. Also nibb (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)), and dim. forms nibbi (Jak.), nibbach (Abd. 1920 R. H. Calder Deeside Gleanings 5), nibbock, nibbeck (Jak.). See also Neb.

Sc. usages, chiefly n.Sc.:

1. The beak of a bird; the human nose; by metonymy, the whole face. Obs. in Eng. from 17th c. Deriv. nibsie, an impudent old woman (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 126). Ppl.adj. -nibbit as in big-nibbet, -it, lang-, having a large or long beak or nose, in fig. contexts.Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Shop Bill 33:
An' napkins, as good's in a' the land, to dight your nib.
Bnff. 1787 W. Taylor Poems 7:
I saw a waefu' ugly Bird Streek oot his nib to let a dird At stranger Me.
Edb. 1798 D. Crawford Poems 86:
I couldna fin' as meikle [snuff] out . . . As pit my grainin nib in trim.
Slk. 1823 Hogg Shepherd's Cal. (1874) 296:
He had a large lang nibbit staff in his hand.
Ags. 1833 J. S. Sands Poems 89:
Sic a nib, and sic an e'e, Upon a beast I ne'er did see.
Abd. 1890 W. Carnie Waifs 39:
For big nibbet words he'd blake Gentile or Jew.
Sc. 1897 Sc. N. & Q. (Ser. 1) XI. 47:
To the good auld man the good goose head, To the good auld wife the nibbiecot [nibbock o't].
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick iii.:
We'se awa an stap wir nib ootside 'e door again.
Abd. 1981 Christina Forbes Middleton The Dance in the Village 32:
He's ower six fit tall wi' a lantern jaw
An' a nib ye'd describe as Roman
Nae seener is ae drap dichtit awa
Than anither is hastily formin'.

Comb.: nib-thresh, of farmyard birds: to strip off the grain from a corn-stalk with their beaks.Abd. 1951 Buchan Observer (4 Sept.):
[To] make it harder for either geese or ducks plucking out the corn-stalks to “nib-thresh” and snap.

2. The point or tip of anything, specif. a protruding strip of land (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh. 1964). Also fig. = the point, crux, vital issue. Now mainly in technical contexts in Eng.Abd. 1777 R. Forbes Ulysses 38:
He shook the blade, an' wi' a wap Set the heft to the ground, The nib until his breast.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xlii.:
Clinkstyle's wastmost intoon shift rins in wi' a lang nib.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 86:
Wi' only the nibs o' ane's taes on a stap o' a shair.
Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928):
De nibb o' de elbog.
Sc. 1943 D. Cairns Autobiog. (1950) 207:
To me the “nib” of the Reformation is whether we are to receive God's mercy and love, or to earn them. Dim. nibble, a quill-pen point, the worn stump of a quill-pen.
Sc. 1809 T. Donaldson Poems 121:
My pen's just worn ay till a nibble, Wi' point as blunt as ony dibble.
Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 146:
Till blunt's a beetle grew my nibble.

3. A peck, nip, prod, poke; a short sharp bite.Slk. 1874 Border Treasury (21 Nov.) 210:
She gave it a nib with her thumb-nail.
Hdg. 1896 J. Lumsden Battle of Dunbar 13:
The younkers o' the stud meanwhile Mischievously the hours beguile, And tak slee nibs at neibor's necks.
Abd. 1901 A. Paterson Monquhitter 83:
A sharp nip at the back of the ear, termed a “sweet nib”, was the most severe corporal punishment I ever saw administered.

4. A small knob, projecting lump or knot (Sh. 1964). Cf. Neb, n.1, 3. Also in Eng. dial. Hence (1) nibblowy ( < dim. nibble), hillocky, covered with small mounds (Ork. 1929 Marw.); (2) nibsy, of a boy: stout, lumpy, vigorous-looking (Ib.).Sc. 1847 Jnl. Agric. (1849) 34–5:
Clays . . . which are full of nibs of hard clay, or of the rocks from which the clay has been formed. . . . When the clay contains knots, nibs, or beans, which the winter frost will break down.

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Nib n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 17 Apr 2024 <>



Hide Advanced Search

Browse SND: