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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

WITTER, n.2, v.2 Also wutter; wither, widder; whutter. [′wɪtər; Sh. ′wɪdər]

I. n. 1. The barb of a fish-hook, fishing-spear, gaff or similar implement (s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl.; Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ork. 1958, wither; I. and n. Sc. 1974). Also in n.Eng. dial.Sc. 1792 Archaeologia Scotica I. 392:
The [flint] arrow head was formed with two witters.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxvi.:
He deserved his paiks for't — to put out the light when the fish was on ane's witters!
Slk. 1817 Blackwood's Mag. (April) 34:
The witters o' the twa leisters were fankit in ane anither.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 100:
Best baited heuks bit hide a wither.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 467:
He sherpen't up the whutters o' the leister wi a bit sklate.
Sc. 1939 Scotsman (25 Feb.) 17:
The leister, a five-pronged “graip” with a barb or witter to each prong.
Kcb.10 1945:
There are four kinds of barbs or wutters on a leister, one on either side of the centre prong and one on the inside of each of the outside prongs.

Phr.: over the witter, firmly secured, hooked (Gall. 1905 E.D.D.).

2. Fig. in pl.: the teeth. Phrs.: (1) in spite o' one's witters, in spite of one's teeth, despite all one can do; (2) to be in (o'), flee in (someone's) witters, to start a quarrel with, to fly at (someone) in rage (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 211), to set (folk) in ither's witters, to set people at one another's throats, to cause to quarrel.(1) Abd. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 72:
Ye'll get a laird o' lan' I'll wad In spite o' a' their witters.
(2) Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Journal 29:
They wou'd hae flown in ither's witters in a hand-clap.
Abd. 1832 W. Scott Poems 139:
The very thing that raised the splutter, An' set them a' in ither's witters.
Abd. 1832 A. Robb Poems (1852) 52:
Some confounded Tory asses Are in his witters.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxiii., xlix.:
He wudna haud a word o' me; but up i' my witters like a fechtin' cock. . . . But the Miss daurin' to flee in 'er mither's witters that gate!

II. v. 1. To furnish (a hook, spike, etc.) with barbs. Only in ppl.adj. wittert, widdered, barbed, jagged (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh., Kcd. 1974). Also fig.Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 6:
Mony a witterd, poisonous stang.
Abd. c.1860 Hamespun Rhymes (1917) 13:
Ae dart o' ingratitude, witter'd and keen.
Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 93:
Dey tak nae toucht o widdered heuks, An o da fytal rik.
Abd.4 1928:
Wuttert teeth hauds weel.

2. tr. To attach by means of barbs, to hook on; fig. to “button-hole” (a person) (Sh. 1974); intr. to become stuck or entangled as with a barb. Ppl.adj. wittert, intertwined, twisted, entangled (Abd. 1921 T.S.D.C.; Sh. 1974).Abd. p.1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 178:
Sae saft, sae deep, sae sleeketly the dart Was witter'd i' the bottom o' her heart.
Sh. 1961 New Shetlander No. 58. 16:
Dan didna he witter atill an immense Crofters Commission seeven-straand fence.

3. Fig. of persons: to quarrel, to fall foul of (one another) (s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl.).

[Orig. uncertain. N.E.D. compares Mid.Eng. wiþþerhoked, barbed, M.L.Ger. widderhake, Mid. Du. wederhake, barb, which is possible, though phonologically anomalous. See Wither-, pref.]

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"Witter n.2, v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Feb 2024 <>



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