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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SHORT, adj., adv., n., v. Also shoart. Sc. usages:

I. adj.

Sc. form of Eng. short.Gsw. 1994 Herald (6 Jun) 6:
"Emma," ah sez to the lass, "d'ye no think the kilt yer werrin' is maybe a touch shoart?" She replied smertly an' all. "Ah grew a bit this year" she says. Ah hope she werrs it nixt year an a'.
m.Sc. 1998 Ian Cameron The Jimmy Shand Story 25:
It was nothing for them tae leave the route a'thegither tae flee doon a side road for a shoart cut tae beat the ither buses. An the last buses!
Edb. 2005:
That skirt's way too shoart.

1. Comp. shorter, in phr. the Shorter Catechism, in the Presbyterian churches, the shorter or more condensed of two catechisms prepared by the Westminster Assembly of 1643 and approved by the General Assembly in 1648 for use in instructing church members on the basic articles of the Christian faith according to Calvinist teaching. It remained for long a text book in Scottish schools. See also Proof.Sc. 1718 Shorter Catechism Title:
The Shorter Catechism, agreed upon by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, with the Assistance of Commissioners from the Church of Scotland, and approved Anno 1648, by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, to be a Directory for Catechising such as are of weaker Capacity.
Abd. 1831 Aberdeen Mag. 245:
I was accordingly furnished with a Shorter Catechism.
Rxb. a.1860 J. Younger Autobiog. (1881) 5:
Here came to be committed to memory “The Shorter Catechism” of our Church of Scotland, at the rate of a question or two a day.
Sc. 1888 J. Rankin Handbk. Ch. Scot. 193:
Those books that have ever since served as our standards of doctrine and government — the Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and the Directory of Public Worship. By far the most influential of these has been the most unpretending — the Shorter Catechism — which substantially in its doctrinal part follows the school of St Augustin.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Stickit Minister iii.:
He wrote what he thocht himsel', an' didna juist water doon the Shorter's Quastions.
Per. 1897 R. M. Fergusson Village Poet 62:
Do ye no' think the Shorter Catechism an awfu' hard, stilted production?
Sc. 1965 Scotsman (21 Sept.) 6:
The Shorter Catechism is listed in the Constitution among the documents which are not binding on the Church but are directed to be held in honour only.

2. Of sheep: relatively short in the body, applied to the black-face breed as compared with the Cheviot or others. See also Lang, adj., 6. (49).Sc. 1778 A. Wight Present State Husbandry I. 395:
Through all Scotland, sheep are only of two different kinds, termed the short and the long.
Dmf. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIII. 569:
The sheep in the highest farms are of the black-faced kind, called short sheep.
Slk. 1823 Blackwood's Mag. (Feb.) 179:
The short ewe (as she is commonly denominated) would not leave her lamb.
s.Sc. 1869 J. Morton Cycl. Agric. I. 451:
In its general figure, the Cheviot is longer than the heath sheep; from which circumstances, and the different character of their fleeces, have arisen the distinctive appellations of “long” and “short sheep.”

3. In fig. usage, as in Eng., of manner: tart, testy, curt and brusque in speech (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Also adv., as in phr. to speak short (Id.). Phrs.: in(til) or on (a) short trot, short in the trot (ne.Sc. 1970), — in the pile (Kcb. 1970), in a bad temper, curt and uncivil in speech.Sc. 1711 J. Kirkwood Hist. 27 Gods Lnl. 52:
I know that you are a short Man.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 60:
Ye're unko short, my lass, to be so lang.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Entail xcv.:
I maun be short wi' you, for talking to me o' amicable arrangements.
Wgt. 1877 G. Fraser Sketches 275:
He was very “short in the pile,” and his temper was sorely put to the test.
Sc. c.1925 R. Thomas Sandie McWhustler's Waddin' 17:
He was beginnin' tae get a bit crabbit; deed, it wadna hae taen muckle mair tae hae pitten'm intill an unco short-trot.
Abd.15 1929:
He's on unco short trot the day.
Abd. 1959 People's Jnl. (1 Aug.):
The weemin fowk cu'd har'ly be fau'tit for being geylies short i' the trot fyles.

4. Short of time, hurried, rushed.Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 62:
O Saunders, but ye be short, will ye no stay till my muther come back?

5. Combs. and phr.: (1) shortbread, a cake made of flour, butter and sugar (and freq. other flavouring), baked crisp and short in texture, fashioned flat and round for cutting into triangular portions, sometimes also finger-shaped, and often patterned with holes, pittings or scallopings (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Also in reduced form shortie, -y (Kcd. 1880 Jam.); ¶(2) short breeks Davie, a jocular name for a gill-stoup or drinking vessel, partly from its squat shape, possibly also with a pun on colloq. short for neat spirits; (3) short butter, butter which is soft and crumbly, as the result of being churned too hot (ne.Sc., Wgt. 1970); (4) short-cairt, a short-bodied farm-cart with fixed shafts, as opposed to the lang-cairt s.v. Lang, adj., 6. (8) (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); ‡(5) short coal, coal with wide joints or cleavages in the seam, jointy coal (Fif. 1945); (6) shortcome, a deficiency, shortage (Sh., ne.Sc., em.Sc(a), wm.Sc., Wgt. 1970); a fault in character or conduct, a failure to achieve the highest moral excellence (Id.); (7) shortcoming, vbl.n., = (6). Orig. Sc., prob. from Romans iii. 23, but now in St. Eng., after Carlyle; also as ppl.adj., defective, deficient; (8) short game, in golf: the playing of short strokes when approaching the hole and putting. Gen.Sc.; (9) short-goun, -gown, shor'goon, shorgun [′ʃorgən], a kind of long loose blouse, made of strong cloth, and worn by women at domestic tasks “sometimes with long, and sometimes with short sleeves” (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 270; em.Sc.(a), Peb., wm.Sc. 1970), a Cartoush, q.v.; †(10) shorthand, at shorthand, at short notice, without due intimation; (11) short-heeled field-lark, the tree-pipit, Anthus trivialis (Sc. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 46). The short-heeled lark is the skylark, Alauda arvensis (Ib. 92); (12) short-hought, -houghd, with short thighs, with stocky legs; (13) short hour, an early hour (of the morning), sc. one indicated by only a few strokes on the clock. Found later in Eng. but poss. adopted from Burns. Cf. Sma, adj., 1.; (14) shortin [ < ane] , a familiar form of address to a child; (15) short-kale, chopped up or mashed cabbage as a dish (Cai. 1904 E.D.D.); (16) short land, land cultivated by the spade (see quot.); (17) short leet, see Leet, n.2; (18) short light, a flat short-stemmed candlestick (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 174); (19) short road, a shortcut; (20) short rood, a measure equal to six Ells or 223 imperial inches. The rood varied in length in various places and according to the object measured but was gen. between 7 and 8 imperial yards; (21) short-set, small and stockily-built (I., n. and em.Sc.(a), wm.Sc. 1970); (22) short-spoon, a short-headed golf-club with a concave face used gen. to lift a ball out of the rough (see quots.); (23) short-stunt, v., to cut off (an animal's horns) at the stump. Used fig. in quot.; (24) short-tail, a fishermen's taboo name for a rabbit (Fif. 1970); ¶(25) the short side of day, the dawn, the early morning.(1) Ayr. 1714 Arch. & Hist. Coll. Ayr. & Wgt. (1880) II. 188:
5 pecks and three forpets of flower in short-bread, sugar-bread, and plumcakes.
Sc. 1746 Lyon in Mourning (S.H.S.) II. 169:
To 2 kaiks short bread . . . 4s 6d.
Sc. 1792 “Juvenis Scoticus” Melpomene 46:
Farls o' shortbread, cake and bun.
Ayr. 1821 Galt Annals xlvi.:
My people were wont to go to great lengths at their burials, and dealt round short-bread and sugar biscuit.
Sc. 1849 M. Oliphant M. Maitland xiii.:
No that shortbread is commonly set upon a breakfast-table except just on the New Year morning, for the bairns.
Per. 1878 R. Ford Hame-Spun Lays 13:
Syne ilka ane maun pree the bun, The gouda, an' the shorty.
Fif. 1886 A. Laing Lindores 382:
The custom of taking a bit of shortbread, or other kind of cake, along with, and sometimes pinned up in the dress of a child conveyed to church for baptism, still prevails in Newburgh.
Abd. 1891 Bon-Accord (3 Jan.) 16:
Shortbread. Made from the Choicest Butter and Pure Cane Sugar — Plain, Ornamented.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) 116:
A great muckle shortie in a braw box.
Ayr. 1896 J. Lamb Ann. Ayr. Parish 152:
Up to the incumbency of Rev. W. Vassie (a.1834), shortbread was used in the dispensation of the Lord's Supper, a practice which still prevails in some parishes — e.g. Inch in Wigtonshire.
ne.Sc. 1929 J. M. McPherson Prim. Beliefs 121:
As she [bride] approached the threshold, she was met by her mother and one or two of her relatives, carrying a napkin with pieces of shortbread or oatmeal cake, the infar cake, which was thrown over her head.
Sc. 1994 Daily Record (7 Nov) 16:
Inside a Scottish gift shop, groaning with tartan and trinkets, we were offered a wee piece of shortie on the house from the boss.
Sc. 1995 Scotland on Sunday (24 Dec) 22:
In the Highland League it's about shortbread. The town of Huntly may have been put on the map by some rather nice shortie, but, over the piece. it was a namesake of their bitterest rival, Andy Paterson, who made the Christie Park men crumble.
Sc. 1998 Scotsman (1 Jan) 13:
Comic relief and a dram of Crabbie's A GUID new year to ane and a, and mony may ye etc ... hae another bit o black bun or shortie? Sorry, tried a little alternative reading yesterday and very good The Broons annual was too.
Sc. 1999 Edinburgh Evening News (7 Apr) 17:
As a member of a growing band of armourers and weapon-makers in the Capital, she's proud tourists are just as likely to be flying back home with one of her swords as a bottle of whisky or a tin of shortie.
Sc. 2003 Aberdeen Evening Express (16 Sep) 18:
Shoppers in this part of the world have always known that local shortbread company, Dean's of Huntly, make first class shortie. Now, the rest of the country knows it too, as more than 50 Somerfield stores now sell Dean's shortbread products.
(2) Peb. 1838 W. Welsh Poems 99:
But short breeks Davie wrought sae fell, set a the house asteer.
(6) Per. 1799 Atholl MSS:
As the shortcome was not great, I did not venture to sell any more.
Cai. 1863 St Andrews Gazette (5 Sept.):
The shortcome [of herrings] over Scotland at this date cannot be estimated at less than 60,000 barrels.
Abd. 1900 C. Murray Hamewith 22:
To reckon up his shortcomes, slips, an' sins.
(7) Sc. 1801 Farmer's Mag. (Nov.) 441:
A short-coming of the proprietor's rent.
Sc. 1837 Carlyle Fr. Revol. III. vi. vi.:
He sounded the note of Jacobinism, to hide past shortcomings.
Sc. 1889 R. Brydall Art in Scotland 246:
His works are carefully finished and drawn, but rather shortcoming in colour.
(8) Sc. 1858 Chambers's Jnl. (4 Sept.) 157:
The ‘short game' — coming into play when the ball lies from a hundred to one hundred and fifty yards from the hole.
Sc. 1866 Golfer's Year Book (Smith) 82:
On the putting greens the grass was so crisp as to render the short game a matter of hap hazard.
Sc. 1887 Golfing (Chambers) 16:
Many a far, and even sure driver through the green has been beaten by the indifferent swiper, but deadly short-game player.
(9) Sc. 1750 Caled. Mercury (25 Jan.):
A stripped Mankie short Gown.
Sc. 1764 Caled. Mercury (22 Sept.) 463:
[She] wears a whitish worsted damask gown, a dark stamped linen short-gown above the other.
Sc. 1815 Scott Waverley viii.:
Their thin short-gowns and single petticoats, bare arms, legs, and feet.
Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 77:
My wunshy coat, an' my chack aipron, an' my strippit shor'goon.
Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 45:
A white short-gown open at the bosom.
Fif. 1879 E. Henderson Dunfermline 461:
The women wore plain gowns and short gowns, plaids and wrappers.
Gsw. 1904 H. Foulis Erchie xlv.:
The big yin's face was as red as her shortgoon.
Arg.1 1937:
The country lasses used tae come tae toon on a Fair Day or the Sabbath wi bare airms an' droggat short goons.
Gsw. 1991 Anna Blair More Tea at Miss Cranston's 86:
And I always mind when she worked wi' the cows she wore what was call a 'shorgun'. It came to just below the waist and th'was wide petticoats under that, and a sacking apron.
(10) Sc. a.1712 Fountainhall Decisions (1761) II. 491:
Where a debtor comes short-hand to his creditor.
Sc. 1743 Kames Decisions (1766) 63:
Selling some houses which belonged to his pupil at short hand.
(12) Sc. 1716 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 70:
A short Hought Man, but fou o' Pride.
Sc. 1817 Scott Letters (Cent. Ed.) IV. 371:
A stupid, pudding-headed, short-houghd bothering body.
(13) Ayr. 1785 Burns Death & Dr Hornbook xxxi.:
The auld kirk-hammer strak the bell Some wee short hour ayont the twal.
Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 172:
[He] reels hame, 'mang the short hours o' mornin.
Sc. 1837 Carlyle Fr. Revolution I. ii. i.:
The short hours of night.
(14) Rs. 1921 T.S.D.C. IV.:
At's thoo sayin', shortin?
(15) Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 177:
Cabbage entered largely into the winter. dietary, in such preparations as lang kale, short kale, and tartanpurry.
(16) w.Sc. 1773 Johnson Journey 180:
Farms are distinguished into long land and short land. Long land is that which affords room for a plough, and short land is turned up by the spade.
(19)Edb. 1994:
I'll take the short road hame.
(20) Mry. 1728 Lord Elchies Letters (MacWilliam) 38:
The short rood of six elns long.
(21) Ayr. 1897 H. Ochiltree Out of Her Shroud xxii.:
Short-set little men.
(22) Fif. 1857 H. B. Farnie Golfer's Manual 18:
The short spoon is used for those beautiful and difficult strokes on to the putting green over a hazard.
Sc. 1887 Golfing (Chambers) 16:
The Short-spoon is used for playing either good-lying or bad-lying balls when within a hundred yards or so of the hole.
(23) Rxb. 1821 A. Scott Poems 143:
Her Arms to Europe vouch relief, And short-stunt Bonnie's horns B' the head this day.
(25) Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xxi.:
At the short side of day when the cocks crow.

II. adv. 1. In a brief space of time from now, looking backwards or forwards, soon, recently; for a short while. Hence shortlin(s), shortly (Gen.Sc.), id.Sc. 1724 Ramsay Ever-Green I. 137:
But schort the Storm wald let him stay.
Cai. 1774 Weekly Mag. (13 Oct.) 79:
I never heard till shortly of house-burners.
Abd. 1777 R. Forbes Ulysses 17:
Tho' she had clad him like a lass, . . . I shortly kent the proty lad.
Abd. 1789 Aberdeen Mag. 29:
We lik'd them gaily shortlins syne.
Dwn. 1844 R. Huddleston Poems 13:
The nights get crabbit, dark an' bleak, The days but doncy shortlin' peep.
Sc. 1871 J. S. Blackie Four Phases 14:
Socrates after saying a prayer to the sun, shortly retired.
Rnf. 1877 J. Neilson Poems 48:
Wee Sandy MacMurray, wha's faither's short deid.
Ayr. a.1878 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage (1892) 184:
A lang Scots mile was shortlin's past.

2. Phrs.: (1) short ago, a short time ago (Cai. 1960 Edb. John o' Groat Liter. Soc. 6; I. and n.Sc., Ags., Per. 1970; Ork., Cai., Edb. 2000s); (2) short and lang, in brief, summarily (Uls. 1953 Traynor; wm.Sc., Wgt. 1970); (3) short or lang, sooner or later; (4) short syne, short sin' syne (freq. written as one word), a short time ago, recently (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh., Abd., Per., Fif., wm.Sc. 1970). See Syne; (5) to keep short by the head, to keep (one) short of money, curb (one's) spending, “a metaphor borrowed from the short rein or halter given to an unruly animal” (Sc. 1825 Jam.).(2) Sc. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 51:
My advice is, short and lang, Tak' your disjeunes afore you gang.
(3) Ags. 1790 D. Morison Poems 158:
I kend it would be needed short or lang.
(4) Sc. 11728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 38:
Short syne there was a wretched Miser.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 73:
Then Bydby says; “Shortsyn unto our glen, Seeking a hership came yon unko men.”
Edb. 1789 A. Steele Shepherd's Wedding 9:
But shortsinsyne I sent my man to tell.
Ags. 1824 Literary Olio (20 Mar.) 81:
Ye canna surely hae forgotten what they did short syne in Demerary.
m.Sc. 1838 A. Rodger Poems 298:
She promis'd shortsyne she would soon be my ain.
Dmb. 1868 J. Salmon Gowodean 70:
Sae short sin' syne, found stickin' in the fen.
Abd. 1882 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 214:
Little did I or yer peer fader think shortsyne that ye was to be hame to be a burden till's.
(5) Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality iv.:
If he canna pay the lawing himsel, as I ken he's keepit unco short by the head.

III. n. 1. A short approaching stroke, in golf.Sc. 1842 G. F. Carnegie Golfiana 14:
When driving ceases, may we still be able To play the shorts, putt, and be comfortable!

2. A short time, an instant, a jiffy (Abd. 1970).Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 34:
Syn, in a short, my blust'rin' blade appears.
Abd. 1949:
Ye'll get ben in a short.

3. In pl.: the refuse of flax tow after carding (Abd. 1825 Jam.), or of hay, straw, from threshing, etc. (Rxb. Ib., ‡1923 Watson W.-B.; Kcb. 1970). Also in Eng. dial. in somewhat similar usage.Ags. 1797 Encycl. Britannica VI. 175:
A large machine for spinning shorts or backens into candlewicks.
Ags. 1831 Fife Herald (24 March):
6 lb Shorts, Mill spun 2s. 11d, 3s. 1d.

4. Phr. the short and lang (o't), = Eng. ‘the long and the short of it' (Sc. 1904 E.D.D.; ne.Sc., Ags. 1970).m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 253:
The short an' the lang was this.
Ags. 1887 A. D. Willock Rosetty Ends 35:
The short an' the lang o' it is that she was a din-raisin' harridan.

IV. v. 1. To amuse, divert, to make the time seem short for (Rnf., Cld. 1825 Jam.). Obs. in Eng. since 16th c.

2. To annoy, offend, make short-tempered or huffy. Cf. I. 3.Dmf. 1835 Carlyle Letters (Norton 1888) II. 328:
You are shorted because I have not written.

[O.Sc. short-bread, 1597, schort gowne, 1473.]

Short adj., adv., n., v.

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