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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PEEP, n.2, v.2 Also pepe (Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Proverbs Gl.).

I. n. 1. The sound made by small animals or birds, a cheep, chirrup, pipe, squeak (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis; Sc. 1808 Jam.; Mry. 1925). Gen.Sc.; fig. a whisper, the least mention or rumour. Phr. (no) to play peep, (not) to utter a sound, (not) to let out a cheep.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
“He darna play peep”, he dare not let his voice be heard.
e.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick iii.:
The verra weans dursna play peep till he was düne.
Cai. 1903 E.D.D.:
I noor heerd a peep o't.

2. A name given to certain birds which have a faint, weak cry, specif. the meadow pipit, Anthus pratensis (Ags. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 45), the rock pipit. Anthus obscurus. Cf. II. 1. (1).Bnff. 1859 Zoologist XVII. 6596:
Both these birds [Meadow Pipit and Rock Pipit] are known here only by the name of “peep.”

II. v. 1. To utter a shrill weak sound, as a small animal or bird, to cheep, squeak, chirrup (Sc. 1808 Jam.; n. and s.Sc., Uls. 1965). Also freq. form peeple, id. .Arch. or local in Eng. Hence peepag, a whistling reed made by boys out of green straw (Cai. 1903 E.D.D., ‡Cai. 1965); peeper, in comb. heather peeper, (1) the meadow pipit, Anthus pratensis (Bnff. 1859 Zoologist XVII. 6596, Bnff. 1965). Cf. I. 2.; (2) the common sandpiper, Tringoides hypoleucus (Abd. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 196; Per. 1965).Bch. 1930:
The young chuckens is peeple-peeplin, needin' oot o' their hoosie.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 16:
an' tho it maun be saired by ither words
gin they hinna the lear they're but dautit cage-birds
freed tae fend wi the sanshach craws
that ken the wun's airt afore it blaws;
thae winsome craturies peeplin a tune
'ill be an houlet's denner gey soon.
(1) Bch. 1930:
Yon littlins wis fessen up in a hoose amon the heddir, just like heddir-peepers.

2. To speak in a weak, whining voice, to complain querulously, “moan” (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1965). Also freq. form ¶pipple. Combs., phr. and derivs.: (1) peeper, n., a querulous, complaining person, a grumbler, whiner (Sc. 1880 Jam.); (2) peepie, adj., whining, self-pitying, lacrymose (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 123). Also reduplic. form peepie-weepie, (i) adj., discontented, peevish, fretful (Ags. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 172); (ii) n., a whining, tearful child (Sc. 1882 C. Mackay Poetry & Humour Sc. Lang. 242); †(3) peep-sma', n., a paltry, insignificant person, a cypher (Rxb. 1825 Jam.). Also phr. to peep sma', to keep oneself in the background, “pipe down”, “lie low” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 373:
You are not so poor as you peep.
Edb. 1786 Session Papers, Jardine v. De la Motte (27 Sept.) 12:
Mrs. Jardine did not speak with her usual tone of voice, but with a low peeping voice.
Sc. 1802 J. Leyden Remains (1819) 66:
Young Branxholm peeped, and puirly spake, “O sic a death is no for me!”
Fif. 1894 J. Menzies Our Town 136:
A peepin', white-faced, onweel looking craiter.
Abd. 1903 E.D.D.:
What are ye pipplin' and greetin' at?
(3) Sc. 1774 Weekly Mag. (27 Oct.) 159:
Every publication . . . by whomsoever related, whether from the pulpit, a peep-sma', or all other such like busy-bodies.
Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Miller vi.:
“I want nae awmous, ye peep sma',” said Maillie angrily.

[O.Sc. pepe, int., “cheep”, 1423, peip, n., 1470, the squeak of a young animal or bird, peip, v., 1501; Mid.Eng. pepen, c.1400, replacing earlier pipen. Imit. Cf. Fr. pipier, Du., L.Ger., Mod.Ger. piepen, Lat. pip(i)are, to cheep, chirp.]

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"Peep n.2, v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 2 Dec 2023 <>



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