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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 but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WORTH, n., adj. Also warth (Cai. 1872 M. McLennan Peasant Life 37; ne.Sc. 1891 A. Gordon Carglen 36; m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 138); wirth (Sc. 1701 Seafield Corresp. (S.H.S.) 340; Knr. 1891 H. Haliburton Ochil Idylls 89; Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables frae French 44; Abd. 1971 Huntly Express (26 Feb.) 2), wirt (Sh.); ¶woth (m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 243). Hence wirthless, worthless (Gsw. 1807 J. Chirrey Misc. Poetry 171). [wʌrθ, ne.Sc., Ags. wɪrθ; Sh. wɪrt]

Sc. usages in various idiomatic expressions:

I. n. In phrs.: (1) a ( < o) worth, of any significance, worth mentioning; (2) no worth, nae wirth, (i) a worthless piece, (something) of no use or value (Ork., Cai., Per. 1974); ¶(ii) used adv. (a) so as to be useless or helpless, till one is worth nothing, to an excessive amount. For a somewhat sim. usage cf. nae handy s.v. Handy, adj., 4.; (b) in Sh. usage: so as to be not worth mentioning, hardly, scarcely; not even (I.Sc. 1974).(1) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 483:
I hadna been there ony time a worth.
(2) (i) Ork. 1952 Orcadian (22 May):
Hid wisno muckle wirt o' land.
Abd. 1993:
Fit's e eese o readin at love stories? Ey're jist nae wirth.
(ii) (a) Ayr. 1790 J. Fisher Poems 83:
This gart them a' laugh i' the cot No worth but Jenny Stein.
(ii) (b) Sc. 1847 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 184:
I had no worth a petticoat, To keep me frae the cauld.
Sh. 1960 New Shetlander No. 54. 18:
Der little üse o wis haein hit [bath] if du'll no wirt weet dee hide in hit.
Sh. 1973 New Shetlander No. 103. 24:
He never wirt drank da dram at I wis poored him.

II. adj. 1. As in Eng., but followed by vbl.n. with the (I., n.Sc. Ags., Ayr. 1974), or in I.Sc. by the inf. with to.Sh. 1897 Shetland News (9 Oct.):
Tattie bannocks is no wirt ta aet if dey staand an küle.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters x.:
I tell ye, sirs, he's worth the watching.
Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. 83:
De ting 'at tar ootside an' whisky inside 'ill no' cure, is no wirt tae live.
Abd. 1936 Huntly Express (1 May) 2:
My fast I'll br'ak fin I come back Wi' somethin' wirth the fryin'.
Bnff. 1955 Banffshire Jnl. (1 Nov.):
They[bees]'re nesty, kyard, ill-tempert vratches an' are fairly wirth the watchin'.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 55:
Sic a cheenge is warth the dreein
for ilka man maun shak whiles
the truths held dear
Sc. 1994 Brent Hodgson in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 69:
"Hae I been warth the wheepling?" enquired Lear, giein the contents of the cast-airn pot a heaving stir.

Comb. and phr.: (1) little-worth, -wirt, worthless, of small value (Ork. 1974); in failing health (Sh. 1974). See also Little, I. 2.(28); (2) to be worth anesel, to be worth one's keep.(1) Per. 1835 J. Monteath Dunblane Trad. 70:
There's mony little-worth marriages now-a-days.
Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. viii. 317:
Hid wad be better ta geong aboot wi' a little wirt name nor loss da twa tree babees I hae.
Sh. 1967 Sc. Poetry 2 56:
Da gowan noo is little wirt.
(2) Abd. 1882 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 192:
Ye ken Jessie 'll seen be worth 'ersel an' mair to onybody 't's needin the like o' 'er to help them.

2. Of use or service (for some purpose) (I.Sc., Cai., Ags., Per. 1974). Obs. in Eng.Per. 1840 R. Selby Rhymes 42:
It had nae crupper, nor a girth, And just ae stirrup that was worth.
Sh. 1897 Shetland News (13 Nov.):
Her sight is no muckle wirt wi' daylicht, lat alane da glim o' da lamp.
Abd. 1923 R. L. Cassie Heid or Hert xiv.:
A coorse time for us wis the thackin' o' the rucks. Foo? 'Cause we warna worth at flingin' the clew.

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"Worth n., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Jun 2023 <>



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