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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WANT, v., n. Also wunt, wint (ne.Sc.), went (Sc. 1752 Lyon in Mourning (S.H.S.) III. 128), waint (Sh. 1766 Session Papers, Torrie v. Stewart (13 July) Deposition 16; Lth. 1799 J. Adams Pronunc. Eng. Lang. 152); p.p. also waanted. [wɑnt, wɪnt, wʌnt]

I. v.1. Sc. forms of Eng. want.m.Sc. 1994 Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay Forever Yours, Marie-Lou 6:
That's because it's how you've waanted it tae be...If ye'd try tae go oot mair...
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 7:
"Gin ye wint tae ken fit yer friens are up tae, rowe me ower the playgrun in their airt an heist me up again fin they gyang awa."

2. intr. used absol. To be lacking or deficient, to fail or give out. Obs. or arch. in Eng. Cf. II. 1. (2).Ayr. 1925 Econ. Geol. Ayr. Coalfields II. 36:
The coal either ‘wants' or is completely destroyed by whin, at Irvine Burgh Colliery.

3. tr. To lack, be without, not to have, to be free from. Gen.Sc. Rare in Eng.Sc. 1745 D. Nicholas Intercepted Post (1956) 40:
If I missed you I wanted my best friend.
Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 15:
Though the plague raged in London, we wanted it in Scotland.
Bnff. 1876 S. Smiles Sc. Naturalist 384:
I did not want the will, but I wanted the means.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 34:
The man of coorse had tae gie in an turn Papist, or want her.
Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 148:
As lang's fowk's born bar'fit, he [cobbler] wunna wint a job.
Abd. 1970:
The joug was aa chippit and wantit the hanle.
sm.Sc. 1979 Alan Temperley Tales of Galloway (1986) 223:
Forty feet above the gateway of Threave Castle projected a stone traditionally known as the 'gallows-knob'. It was Douglas's boast that for fifty years it had 'never wanted a tassel' - perpetual reminder to friend and foe alike of his power.
Per. 1990 Betsy Whyte Red Rowans and Wild Honey (1991) 74:
'Well, I doubt you will want it,' I answered, 'except you fetch it yourself.'
'Come, come, wee woman,' Mother put in. 'You have had plenty of scouth all day. Fetch the water for your sister.'
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 50:
Growe up at the day nursery,
Mappit oot wi statistics,
Wintin feelins an finnins,
Ettin sweeties wi their toys,
Spikkin tae the video.

Ppl.adj. wantin, not having, without (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Per., Ayr. 1915–23 Wilson; Uls. 1953 Traynor). Gen.Sc.; (1) with simple n. or pron. as obj.; (2) in phr. to dae wantin, to do without; (3) = Eng. without governing a gerundive or vbl.n. phr.(1) Wgt. c.1710 G. Fraser Lowland Lore (1880) 47:
To William Jones, wanting an arm . . . 6s.
Abd. 1716 Abd. Burgh Records (1872) 359:
The said four cannons, with ther carriadges wanting wheells.
Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 188:
Chiels that sing Hap, Stap and howp, Wantin the B — s.
Cai. 1767 Session Papers, Earl of Caithness v. Ratter Proof 9:
Broynach came running away wanting his breeches.
Ayr. 1793 Burns Thine am I ii.:
What is life when wanting Love?
Slk. 1817 Hogg Tales (1874) 150:
Ye might as weel think to keep an ale-vat working wantin' barm.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Treasure Isl. viii.:
It was the tallow-faced man, wanting two fingers.
Gsw. 1904 H. Foulis Erchie xi.:
Hoo are they gettin' on in Gleska wantin' Erchie MacPherson?
Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 83:
A man wantin a leg.
Abd. 1969 Huntly Express (24 Jan.) 2:
Ye canna gae awa' wintin' br'akfast.
(2) Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb x., xliv.:
It cudna be deen wuntin cud it? . . . We maun jist a' leern to ken that the wardle can dee wuntin's.
Ags. 1905 E.D.D.:
They no can do wanting it.
Gall. 1933 Gallov. Annual 87:
I ha'e worn this jaiket near twenty year an' I canna dae wantin't.
(3) Abd. 1898 J. R. Imray Sandy Todd 64:
Tae pit on ony claes I like fin I gang frae hame, wantin' you or ony ither ane interferin'.
Abd. 1922 A. R. Birnie Jock McAndrew 6:
If that's the set o' ye aw'll gang oot wintin pittin.
Abd. 1958 People's Jnl. (29 March):
Never a day gangs by wintin's haein' a shooer o' sma saga or siftit sugar.

4. intr. or absol. To be in want (Sh., Cai., Ags., Ayr. 1973). Obs. in Eng. since 17th c.Ayr. 1786 Burns Dedic. G. Hamilton 28:
He downa see a poor man want.
Per. 1835 J. Monteath Dunblane Trad. 76:
“I've plenty o' siller.” “And I dinna want.”
Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 68:
Decent weel-to-do fouk wadna look near her hoose to see whether she had or wantit.
Ayr. 1885 R. Lawson Maybole 58:
I'm a puir man, and can neither work nor want.

5. To do or go without, to manage without, to dispense with, to be able to spare, usu. with neg. (Uls. 1953 Traynor; I., n.Sc., Ags., Per. 1973). Now only dial. in Eng.Mry. 1723 W. Cramond Ch. Alves (1900) 73:
She was a poor woman and might ill want the sheep.
Ayr. 1789 Burns Epigram on Grose 6:
I'll want 'im, ere I take such a damnable load.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxxii.:
My father wad hae wanted mony a thing ere I had wanted that schuling.
Dmf. 1828 Carlyle Letters (Norton) I. 139:
All is derangement about Templand, Jane cannot be wanted there.
Clc. 1831 Perthshire Adv. (14 April):
I can take it, and I can want it, there's nae necessity, surely, for gettin' fu'.
Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.:
We can't want the pony the day.
Mry. 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. 69:
A canna be wantin' ma knockie.
Lth. 1914 C. P. Slater Marget Pow 112:
He's no habitted to do wantin' Miss Jean.
Abd. 1970:
Nae eese o' haein' an' wuntin' baith. You ought to take the use of what you have and let the morrow take care of itself.

6. Specif.: to be without a wife or husband, to be unmarried. Freq. in deriv. wanter, ¶wantar (Ayr. 1827 J. Paterson Ballads (1847) 83), a bachelor, widower, spinster, widow (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 462; Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson; Arg. 1936 L. McInnes S. Kintyre 16; Ork. 1973). Also in n.Eng. and U.S. dial. Also attrib.Sc. 1723 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 131:
Then, ilka Wanter, wale a Wife.
Sc. 1749 Charmer I. 311:
Many words are needless, Kitty, You do want, and so do I.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxviii.:
Dinna sneeze at Joe, if he should be for drawing up wi' you . . . he's a handy boy, and a wanter.
Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of Lairds xx.:
It would not become women in our position to be visiting a wanting man.
Lnk. a.1832 W. Watt Poems (1860) 243:
'Tween married dads and wanter lads.
Bnff. 1856 J. Collie Poems 112:
But, mither, what am I to do? Am I to dee a wanter?
Rxb. 1870 J. Thomson Doric Lays 83:
Ere a towmond had gane, I was ance mair a wanter.
Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Sketches 107:
Meg at thirty was a wanter.
Kcb. 1911 G. M. Gordon Auld Clay Biggin' 169:
Gin ye're a wanter, dinna tak up hoosekeepin' wi' her.

7. As in Eng., to wish, desire: with adv. or adv. phr., with ellipsis of verb of motion, to wish to go in, out, etc. (Uls. 1953 Traynor). Gen.Sc., also in U.S.Kcd. 1844 W. Jamie Muse 85–86:
A sturdy chap o'ercome wi' cauld . . . Cam to the door and wanted in.
Lth. 1853 W. Wilson Ailieford II. vii.:
I want in to my own office.
Fif. 1870 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 105:
The queen didna like the king's dochter, and she wanted her away.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Treasure Island xxix.:
Why did they want out?
Sh. 1896 Trans. Edb. Naturalists' Club 166:
Like the kittiwake, it “wants away” when autumn brings the yearning and the dream which calls every bird of passage to depart.
m.Sc. 1911 H. Foulis Para Handy 154:
What are they wantin' to France for?
Arg. 1939 I. Malcolm Songs o' Clachan 28:
I'm wanting Home; to feel again the tang of burning heather.
Sc. 1965 Scotsman (15 Feb.) 6:
Britain's belated wooing and open confession that she wanted in to a community that had thrived unexpectedly were not the right approach.
Gsw. 1972 Glasgow Herald (26 Feb.):
The cat began to scratch the door, “It wants in, John,” my mother told my father.

8. To be simple, mentally defective, not “all there”, in ppl.adj. wantin (Gen.Sc.), and in various phrs. as to want a bit (Abd. 1929), to want a feather in the wing, to want a penny, -pence, something, i or o the shillin (see also Penny, n., 4. (44) and Shilling, 7.), to want a slice, to want a square of being round (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.), to want a sture o' the doit (see Stuir), to want a volume (Abd. 1928), id. Cf. II. 2.Dmb. 1844 W. Cross Disruption v.:
I just think by the kind o' way folk speaks to me that I'm considered maybe to want a penny o' the shilling.
Bnff. 1847 A. Cumming Tales 94:
He wants a feather in the wing (He's a little crazy).
Sh. 1897 Shetland News (30 Oct.):
Nane i' der sober sense wid gie Sic daft advice, Gude feth! an' dat wird soodna be, He wants a slice!
Rxb. 1917 Kelso Chronicle (5 Oct.) 4:
His character so simple that some of his neighbours even thought him “wanting”.

II. n. 1. A defect, a fault, a missing or defective part of something: (1) in gen.; (2) in coal-mining: an interruption in a seam of coal, a Nip, q.v. (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining 70; Ayr. 1932 Econ. Geol. Ayr. Coalfields IV. 158). Also in Eng. dial.; (3) in comb. want-wud, a piece missing from the edge of a plank as a result of the log having been squared too roughly (Fif. 1957). Also in Eng. dial. in simple form want. Cf. St. Eng. wane, id.; (4) a defective or damaged part of a fishing net or line (Kcd., Bwk. 1973); “the bend of a line when not cast in one stretch” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 209, went); (5) a loss, of one whose absence is keenly felt.(1) Sc. 1710 R. Wodrow Corresp. (1842) I. 118:
To cause take asunder the loose volume, and bind it up carefully, with clean paper in the wants.
(2) Sc. 1881 Trans. Mining Instit. Scot. 256:
When one remembers the conditions under which our coal strata were accumulated, it is not hard to see why “wants” should be so common.
Lnk. 1902 R. W. Dron Coal-Fields Scot. 112:
At many of the collieries “wants” occur in the seams, where the coal has been washed away by aqueous action at the time of its formation.
Lnk. 1920 Econ. Geol. Cent. Coalfield VII. 70:
The district contains one or two instances of “wants” in coal-seams, where they are near the surface, which are due to wash-outs along old buried river courses.
(4) Abd. 1881 J. W. Ritchie Geordie Tough's Squeel (1931) 5:
Splicin' lines an' beetin' wints.
Bwk. 1917 Kelso Chronicle (1 June):
The husband “beats the wants” (replaces lost hooks).
Bnff. 1959 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 108:
There is always some damage [to the fishing nets], sometimes a lot, depending on the nature of the “ground” fished. All this damage he calls his “wants.”
Kcd. 1970:
When the line had dried, it was redd and the wints placed on one side of the ruskie to be beeten and have sneeds repaired and missed heuks replaced.
(5) Abd. 1964 Press & Jnl. (14 Nov.):
He's a want ahin the coonter.

2. Mental deficiency, feeble-mindedness, weakness of intellect, chiefly in phr. to hae a want (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1953 Traynor). Gen.Sc.Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of Lairds vii.:
The whutch made her jeer me as if I had a want, and been daft likewyse.
Gsw. 1878 Justiciary Reports (1883) 71:
He was very steady. I thought there was a little want about him.
Abd. 1880 W. Robbie Glendornie ix.:
He was but a sharger thingie, an' had a wint.
Ags. 1894 F. Mackenzie Cruisie Sk. ii.:
Betty was the character of the Cruisie. All agreed that she had a want.
Arg. 1898 N. Munro J. Splendid xxvi.:
The man with the want, as usual, was at his tears.
Bnff. 1939 J. M. Caie Hills and Sea 15:
Hae ye a wint, Or a' your gumption tint?
Sc. 1946 Scots Mag. (March) 426:
Hughie was not daft. . . . The verdict we would give would be the delightful positive-negative, the giving of credit where credit is due, so dear to the Highland mind, even when the credit is only the possession of a lack: “Ach, Hughie! Indeed it's a want that he has!”
ne.Sc. 1979 Alexander Scott in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 70:
Our Scottish saunt
had a sair want
- got crucifeed,
he stuid on's heid.
Uls. 1993:
Poor thing, she has a want.
Uls. 1997 Bernard MacLaverty Grace Notes (1998) 30:
She used to eat the tar off the roads in summer. Everyone said there was a wee want in her.
Edb. 2005:
It's a shame that she had such a bonnie bairn but born wi a want.

3. A gap, open space (see quot.). Poss. an extension of 1. (2).Rnf. a.1810 R. Tannahill Poems (1876) 360:
Rab took up the want, dressed, in the mirk. Ed. note: want, the opening or passage on the east side of “Plunkin” [Orchard Street in Paisley] leading down to Cart.

4. Phrs.: (1) a dish o' want, nothing (to eat), no food (Abd. 1973); (2) nae want, used adv., a great deal, very much, exceedingly. Only in Sh.; (3) want o' wit, wantie wit, a fool, a numskull, silly ass (Fif. 1961, wantie-). Cf. Eng. want-wit, id.(1) Abd. 1912 A. R. Birnie Pig Charlie 12:
I'll just gie ye fat I like, and if ye're nae pleased ye can jist tak' a dish o' wint for a change.
(2) Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 28:
A'm riven me sheeks nae want da nicht.
Sh. 1967 New Shetlander No. 83. 37:
Folk toiled nae want ta bigg Maeshowe.
(3) Fif. 1950:
Ye great slabberin want o' wit.

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"Want v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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