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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.

SOTTER, v., n.1 Also sottar, and sottle in sense v., 1. (Ayr. 1825 Jam.; Rnf. 1837 Crawfurd MSS. XI. 328; Arg. 1930). [′sotər]

I. v. 1. intr. To boil, cook slowly, simmer, to bubble or sputter in cooking, (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 175; Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson; Dmf. 1925 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 39; Ork., ne., em.Sc.(a), wm., sm.Sc. 1971). Also fig. Also in Eng. dial. Rarely tr.Sc. 1799 A Butter'd Slice 5:
The lid being aff, the broth did smell, Whilk did to a' the world soon tell What was sae nicely sott'ring there.
Dmb. 1817 J. Walker Poems 97:
Put on the pat, an' let it sottle.
Ayr. 1832 J. McKillop Poems (1870) 53:
Tup-mutton sotter'd weel in pats.
Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales (1837) VI. 53:
Plunge him wi' his heels upmost into the hottest kettle o' boiling brimstone thou canst find, an' let him sotter there.
wm.Sc. 1837 Laird of Logan 277:
Janet kept the wee black tea-pot sottering by the side of the fire.
Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Miller i.:
The kail-pot, that stands sottering on the hearth.
wm.Sc. 1920 D. Mackenzie Pride o' Raploch 51:
Whan they sottered the hellicat warlock's banes.
ne.Sc. 1934 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 43:
When a' the wardle's sotterin' Like tatties in a pot.
Ags. 1946 Forfar Dispatch (2 May):
They were aye sotterin on my gas ring.

2. In gen.: to sputter, to crackle, to come bubbling out (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 175; Sc. 1880 Jam.); fig. to make a burbling noise as in sleeping.Ayr. 1834 Galt Liter. Life III. 51:
The blood was sottering out of his shoe mouth.
Edb. 1866 Mod. Sc. Poets (Edwards) IX. 70:
This wee burnie sae sottered an' sang.
Sc. 1892 Stevenson Catriona xi.:
While you were sottering and sleeping.
Sc. 1935 D. Rorie Lum Hat 29:
The deid leaves sotterin' under fit.

3. tr. To scorch, to burn, to roast (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 6, 431).Sc. 1819 Scots Mag. (July) 19:
The trees of the wood were blasted, and burnt, on which were stuck the sottered legs and thighs of the woman.

4. intr. To smart (of a burn), to be slightly scorched (Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson).

5. tr. To soak, to saturate (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 431; Bwk., Gall. 1971); intr., to soak, to wallow, also fig.Ayr. a.1855 Carrick Anthol. (Finlayson 1925) 109:
The bauld laird o' Chang, Tho' sair sottert in sin.
Gall. 1888 G. G. B. Sproat Rose o' Dalma Linn 168:
When the city o' Sodom was sottered in sin.
Kcb. a.1902 Gallovidian XV. 108:
Dinna sotter in Their waesome plicht wha happ and wyne wi' sin.

6. To work in a dirty unskilful manner, to nurse or handle in a disgusting manner (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 175; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1971); to idle, loaf or potter about (Gregor; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 267).Ags. 1887 A. D. Willock Rosetty Ends 116:
For four or five years a body may sotter aboot.
Bnff. 1937 E. S. Rae Light in the Window 22:
Sotterin pentin' picters and sichin sangs owre a piana.

7. tr. To fritter away, to waste. Nonce usage.Peb. 1931 J. Dickson Poems (1938) 8:
They drive our weans to schools in motors; Altho, in debt, the country sotters Some million dollars.

8. To abound, to swarm (Rxb. 1971). Cf. Eng. seethe in a sim. sense; fig. to bubble over.s.Sc. 1905 Border Mag. (April) 77:
The rosy-faced miller aye sotterm' wi' fun.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
The troots fair sotter't in the Dunk-puil.

9. To cluster closely, as of the spots in an eruptive disease, to break out, as a rash (Rxb. 1825 Jam., 1923 Watson W.-B.).

II. n. 1. The act of boiling slowly (Sc. 1825 Jam.).

2. The noise made by anything boiling, frying, bubbling up (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 175; Ags., Kcb. 1971).

3. A slight scorch or burn (Sc. 1880 Jam.).

4. A state of wetness (ne.Sc. 1971). Adj. sottery, soggy, marshy.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 175:
The fit-rig is jist in a sotter.
Abd. 1929 J. Milne Dreams o' Buchan 28:
The sott'ry moss is sic a soss Three times I near-han' lair't.

5. A mess, a muddle, a confused mass, chaos (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 175; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1971). Deriv. sotteril, sottrel, id. (Abd. 1914).Fif. 1864 St Andrews Gaz. (20 Feb.):
The floor lookit to be in a perfect sotter.
Abd. 1923 J. R. Imray Village Roupie 8:
Oh! ye gipsy! sic a sottar!
Abd. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 62:
Saw ye never sic a sotteril fin the styew begood te fa'.
Mry. 1961 Elgin Courant (6 Dec.):
Wi' a' this sotter on the roads.
Bnff. 1968 Banffshire Advert. (6 June) 8:
In the middle o' a sotter o' students fechtin' the bobbies.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 89:
"I canna see onything," she girned. "The tears are bladdin the glaiss. I canna dae it. Sorry." And she bedd there in the watter, greetin.
"Fit a sotter," quo Zeffirino.

6. The act of nursing over-protectively, fussing (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 175). Cf. Soss, n.1, 5.

7. The act of loafing about (Ib.)

8. A dirty, clumsy person (Ib.).

9. A considerable number, esp. of small creatures, a seething mass, a swarm (Rxb. 1825 Jam., 1923 Watson W.-B., Rxb. 1971).Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 7:
A creeper-kivvert cottage wui its gairdeen a perfect sotter o bonnie flooers.

10. A cluster, a group of pimples, scabs, etc., an eruption on the skin, a large festering sore (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 175, Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Also in n.Eng. dial. Deriv. sotterel, a disease covering the skin, in phr. in a sotterel, affected by a skin disease (Abd. 1910).Abd. 1921 T.S.D.C.:
Ye're airm's in a clean sotterel.

[A freq. form appar. to be associated with the ablaut form sod-, as in ȝesoden (Eng. sodden), pa.p. of O.E. sēoðan, to boil. Cf. n.Eng. dial. sodder, to boil, and the parallel form in s. Ger. dial. sottern, sotteln, in sense v., 1., deriv. of Ger. sieden, to boil.]

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"Sotter v., n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Dec 2023 <>



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