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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.

RATTON, n. Also ratten, -an; rottan, -on, -en, -in (Bnff. 1887 G. G. Green Gordonhaven 129); ¶wratten (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; dim. rottany. [′rɑtən; ne., em.Sc.(a) ′rotən.]

1. A rat (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai.). Gen.(exc. I.)Sc. Also attrib. Deriv. ¶rottanly, pertaining to a rat.Sc. 1702 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) I. 12:
In the midle of the sermon, a ratton came and sat doun on his Bible.
Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 43:
As Badrans can with cheeping Rottans play.
Sc. 1756 M. Calderwood Journey (M.C.) 130:
The poor dancer creept out of bed like a posioned rottan.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 231:
The candle wicks came ay into their cutties like sutter's lingles in the dish but some . . . stripped them thro' their teeth like ratton tails.
Ayr. 1796 Burns To Col. de Peyster iv.:
Then that curst carmagnole, Auld Satan, Watches, like baudrons by a rattan, Our sinfu' saul to get a claut on.
Sc. 1827 Scott Croftangry iv.:
But this unhappy lad . . . kenned that he was living like a ratten in a Dunlap cheese . . . I canna bide to think on't.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 189:
Her bonnet's a bamboozl'd, As flat as ony rattan trap.
Abd. 1891 T. Mair Arn and his Wife 10:
“It wes a rottany”, she said, “It wes a moose”, said John. She stirred hersel' an' set aboot Her usual mornin' wark, But never missed throughout it a' Her rottanly remark.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders v.:
A ratton's bite is poisonous!
Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. viii. 325:
A footh o' rattans playan digeedoo aboot da couplelegs i' the aisins.
Fif. 1939 St. Andrews Cit. (25 Jan.) 5:
Rattans scramblin' ower the ruif.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xxv.:
That's the rale Cyarndronach noo. . . . That taks a clacht o' yer tongue like a rottan trap.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 59:
Ayont the toon, in the bare cauld field,
a ribbit birrs up its lugs.
The moose scutters reechlin frae leafy bield.
Rattons sleenge alang icy ditches.
The reivin tod jouks the fairmyaird dugs.
Owre aa the houlet, wi muin-een, watches.
Abd. 1988 Jack Webster Another Grain of Truth (1989) 40:
We remembered the new arrival in the infant room, a farm boy who sat all day just gazing up at the ventilation grille in the ceiling. At the end of the day he affected an adult posture and asked the teacher, 'Are ye ill wi rottens?' which, translated into English, means 'Are you troubled with rats?'
ne.Sc. 1993 Ronald W. McDonald in A. L. Kennedy and Hamish Whyte New Writing Scotland 11: The Ghost of Liberace 70:
He grippit the rottan ahin the neck an his thoom presst doon. The rottan jist lay there fair fushionless
Arg. 1998 Angus Martin The Song of the Quern 57:
But cam a day her man wis snokin
roon the rocks an saw the twa:
'Ye're feedin a wee ratton, wumman -
where's yer sense at a?'
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 46:
Flang in the fearie chapel tae repent,
The hapless bairn bi rattens' teeth wis rent.

Sc. Combs.: (1) ratten fa', a rat-trap (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 404). See Fa, n.; (2) rattan-flitting, a moving of rats in a body from one place to another (w.Sc. 1825 Jam.); ¶(3) rattan-houkit, dug by a rat. See Howk, v.1; (4) ratton's-rest, a state of perpetual unrest and bustle (Rxb. 1825 Jam., 1923 Watson W.-B.); (5) ratton-stamp = (1) (Cld. 1880 Jam.); †(6) Red Rotten, in allusion to a custom in Montrose in the 18th c. in which stalls at a fair were allotted by a kind of jostling competition (see quot.).(1) Lth. 1801 J. Thomson Poems 6:
Two gude new carts as ane could drive Likewise a ratten fa'.
Edb. 1839 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xxvii.:
Div ye keep rotten-fa's about your premises?
(2) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 404:
Ratton-flitting, a flitting of rats. Sometimes these animals, for causes known to themselves, leave one haunt where they have fed well a long time, and go to another. . . . People do not like the rats to disappear thus on a sudden, as the thing is thought to portend nothing good.
(3) Dmf. 1820 J. Johnstone Poems (1857) 25:
Till through some, rattan-houkit hole The sooty waters 'swaging roll.
(4) Cai.9 1939:
A soon' sleep an' a rottan's rest!
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 18:
It's duist ratten's rest i this hoose, onyway, wui yeh mael efter another.
Abd.4 1929:
Rottin's rist an' futtrit's fykin (Off-hand saying when bidding goodnight).
(6) Ags. 1790 D. Morison Poems 12:
And on the causeway pushin' sair To birze out the Red Rotten. . . . Nae mair the Rotton's press'd.

2. Fig. Applied contemptuously to a person or as a playful term of endearment (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 145); used as an alternative for the (Town) Rat(t)s, see Ratt.Sc. 18th c. H. G. Graham Social Life (1899) I. 123:
The charge of order and the preservation of the lieges was committed to a small and effete band of city guards, consisting of 120 men all told. . . . They were sources of mirth rather than of safety. . . . nicknamed the “town rottens” (or “rats”).
Abd. 1786 Aberdeen Jnl. (18 Dec.):
John Sangster, commonly called the Rotten.
Abd. 1851 W. Anderson Rhymes 194:
A gae wily rotton was our Aunty Meg.
Mry. 1865 J. Horne Poems 62:
When ye declare ye canna gang To school, my rotton.
Sc. 1931 J. Lorimer Red Sergeant xviii.:
Dod, it's a gran' baar tae get a rise oot o' the sodgers, an' a better ane tae hae a batter at that naisty rottans frae the To'booth.

3. A small person “often with the idea of dark complexion and a profusion of hair” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 145); an undergrown, dwarfish animal (Ib.).

[O.Sc. ratone, rat, a.1400, ratton, fig. of a child, a.1585; O.Fr. raton, Lat. rato, a little rat. For 2. cf. Fr. raton, also as a term of affectionate address to a child.]

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"Ratton n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 28 May 2024 <>



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