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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

STEEK, n.2, v.2 Also steik, stic (Abd. 1893 G. MacDonald Heather and Snaw (1917) 164), stick (Sh. 1900 Shetland News (24 Feb.)). [stik; Sh., Abd. + stɪk]

I. n. 1. A stitch in sewing, or knitting (Sc.1808 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26. Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Uls. 1953 Traynor). Gen.Sc.; transf. a nickname for a tailor. For open-steek see Open, adj., 1. (7).Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 30:
For want of a steek a shoe may be tint.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 215:
Still making tight wi' tither steek, The tither hole, the tither eik.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Twa Dogs 56–8:
He draws a bonie, silken purse . . . whare thro' the steeks, The yellow letter'd Geordie keeks.
Sc. 1802 Scott Minstrelsy II. 12:
Every steek that they pat in, Sew'd to a silver bell.
Edb. 1827 M. & M. Corbett Odd Volume 258:
Back-steek, bane-steek, ranterfield, and dodgel-hem.
Edb. 1884 R. F. Hardy Glenairlie i. ix.:
“Tak' up that steek for me,” said ‘Auntie,' shoving a coarse grey stocking into Martha's hand.
Knr. 1891 H. Haliburton Sc. Fields 135:
He would rest content with the revenge of referring to him as a “nacket,” “steek,” “prick-the-loose.”
Per. 1908 Gsw. Ballad Club III. 125:
Swellin' oot my wee bit kyte, Till fit to burst the steeks.
Abd. 1929 Weekly Jnl. (17 Jan.) 6:
Foo mony o' them can wyve a loop or shoo a steek?
Rxb. 1933 Kelso Chron. (3 Nov.) 5:
Folk never saw him cleedin'-hale for a' his mither's steeks.

Phrs.: (1) clean steek, thoroughly, effectively; (2) to keep a steek in, to keep control over, to restrain; (3) to keep, ¶haud, steek(s) wi, to keep pace with, keep up with, compete with (Kcb., Dmf., Slk. 1971); (4) to let down a steek, to make a mistake, commit a fault, “slip up” (Sh. 1971); (5) to put in hard steeks at, to do (a thing) with energy or earnestness, to apply oneself vigorously to (Kcb. 1971); (6) to tak up a steek (in one's stocking), to amend a fault, retrieve a mistake, put to rights (Sh. 1971). Cf. (4).(1) Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxiv.:
My certie, if he didna dicht me up, clean steek, for my undutifu' behaviour.
Peb. 1899 J. Grosart Chronicles 128:
Wha could play cleaner steek Than Jock, wi' either drag or cleek.
(2) Edb. 1916 T. W. Paterson Wyse-Sayin's x. 19:
Sae the man wi' a pickle sense taks care to keep a steek in his crack.
(3) Hdg. 1796 R. Gall Poems (1819) 37:
Then wi' her hands her tongue kept steeks.
Ayr. 1862 J. Baxter The Kirn 68:
And I can plew and saw and maw, . . . A man or the auld deil himsel' Could ne'er keep steeks wi' me.
Kcb. 1927 Kcb. Advertiser (24 June):
They say it hauds steeks wi' — a Neighbourin' Toon!
(4) Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxxv.:
Naebody could make better wark than Glossin, when he didna let down a steek on purpose.
Sc. 1882 J. Brown Horae Subsecivae 107:
Yes, meddam, dis yer leddieship never let down a steek?
(5) Kcb. 1895 Crockett Moss-Haggs xxv.:
I was putting in hard steeks at the praying.
(6) Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie ii.:
She doesna ken, as ye say, that theeving's a sin; so I hope ye'll allow me to gie her an opportunity to tak up the steik in her stocking.
Sc. 1836 M. Scott Cruise of the Midge xi.:
When the steek in my father's purse, let down by my mother's propensities, was taken up.

2. The least article of clothing, a stitch. Gen.Sc.; a fragment of cloth or, more gen., of anything (Cld. 1880 Jam.; Peb. 1950).Fif. 1806 A. Douglas Poems 10:
He brags he'll tak baith hill an' howe, An' to the steeks us plunder.
Sc. 1824 S. Ferrier Inheritance I. v.:
I hae ne'er gotten a steek o' the guidman's dead claise ready.
Slk. 1827 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) ix.:
Without giving me leave to change a steek.
m.Lth. 1844 J. Ballantine Miller 89:
Ilka steek my ain winning. I have had to support myself.
Abd. 1868 W. Shelley Wayside Flowers 65:
No' a steek on but her sark.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders x.:
We could see the King's ship coming through the narrows . . . wi' every steek o' canvas set.
Per. 1895 I. Maclaren Briar Bush i.:
Tho' I haena a steek o' new claithes for four years.
Gsw. 1898 D. Willox Poems 208:
I see naething wrang wi' them putting on an extra steek.
Mry. 1927 E. B. Levack Lossiemouth 45:
She made frockies tae 'er quinies oot o' an aul' goon o' 'er ain, an' niver a new steek.
Sh. 1953 C. G. D. Sandison Sixareen iv.:
There would not be a dry “stick” on their bodies.
Ayr. 2000:
Ye don't hae a steek ti yer back.

3. A stitch of pain, a sharp pain, esp. in the side (Uls. 1953 Traynor; Ork., Mry., Ags., Slg., Fif., wm., sm. and s.Sc. 1971).Edb. 1897 W. Beatty Secretar xxiv.:
Having a steek in my side.
Kcd. 1934 L. G. Gibbon Grey Granite 132:
She'd gone to bed with a steek in her side.

4. A quick rate or pace (Ags. 1971). Cf. 1. Phrs. (5).Ags. 1889 Barrie W. in Thrums xxii.:
He gaed by at sic a steek.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) 147:
I never gaed at sic a steek a' my days.
Ags. 1912 A. Reid Forfar Worthies 86:
Aff I ran “at a fine steek.”

II. v. tr. and absol. To stitch, sew (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 268; Sh., n., m., s.Sc. 1971).Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 13:
In linen bouster-slip steekit up in style.
Lnk. 1865 J. Hamilton Poems 146:
Four bonnie lassies war needlin' an steekin'.
Ags. 1894 Arbroath Guide (4 Aug.) 3:
Steekin' on bits o' white lace on the breist.
Sh. 1901 Shetland News (9 Feb.):
I stickid dem [slippers] da streen.
Gsw. 1910 H. Maclaine My Frien' 42:
I'll steek twa-three buttons on my breeks.
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 21:
Wull ee steek this slittin oxter afore it geets ony woare?
Ags. 1953 Forfar Dispatch (31 Dec.):
Fin we wizna sitten and knitten we sat and steekit awa at this.

[O.Sc. steik, to stitch, 1502, prob. from the n. though attested earlier, from (Northern) O.E. stice, a stitch. See also note to Stick. v., and Steek, v.1]

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"Steek n.2, v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 3 Mar 2024 <>



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