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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

DAINTY, Den(n)ty, De(i)ntie, adj., n. Sc. forms and usages. The form denty seems to be preferred by modern writers.

I. adj.

Sc. forms of Eng. dainty.Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall The Bonsai Grower 62:
He wis deintie and trig in aa his wyes fur sic a giant o a chiel, roch neither in thocht nor spikk. "Gweed sake," wis the warst sweirin he wis allowed at hame - an even yon wis like a reid rag tae a bull as far as Mither wis concairned.
Edb. 1979 Albert D. Mackie in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 43:
She's aye had her puckle siller tae,
And her that perjink and cannie
The perfect chatelaine -
Owre dentie for the Lawnmarket and the Bow.

Sc. usages:

1. Pleasant, agreeable; “worthy, excellent” (Sc. 1808 Jam., dainty); fine, handsome; decent, kindly (Ags.2 1940); “plump and thriving; as regarding a child. It is also used of adults in the same sense with stately” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2). Obs. since early 18th cent. in St.Eng. but still in use in n.Eng. dial. Known to Bnff.`2, Abd.9, Ags.17, Slg.3, Fif.10 1940.Sc. a.1698 Sc. Songs (ed. Herd 1776) II. 215:
O leeze me on your curly pow, Dainty Davie.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality vi.:
“Ay? Indeed? a scheme o' yours? That must be a dennty ane!” said the uncle with a very peculiar sneer.
n.Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
A dainty bird indeed, a large or well-grown person.
Ags. 1918 J. Inglis The Laird 15:
The Laird o' Pitsnottie's a denty auld sowl.
Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 175:
Ye mind, we burned the dom'nie's tawse, An' stuck preens in his seat! An' sune's the dainty man sat down He bang'd up wi' a yowl.
Edb. 1812 P. Forbes Poems 40:
A dainty crop, wi' sheaves bra' large.
Ayr. 1790 A. Tait Poems 278:
A farmer's life ye see it is dainty.
Rxb. 1821 A. Scott Poems 121:
He kiss'd me weel, And fond on wedlock was inclined, Sweet dainty chiel.

2. Large, fair-sized, “tidy”; of time: considerable. Known to Slg.3 1940. Ork. 1934 E. Linklater M. Merriman 229:
“Mansie!” he said. “Welcome home. It's a denty while since we've seen you here.”
Edb. 1872 J. Smith Jenny Blair's Maunderings (1881) 22:
The Sniggerses are in a denty majority.
Gsw. 1862 J. Gardner Jottiana 94:
When to the miller's ye may plod, A dentie bittock up the road.
Lnk. 1928 W. C. Fraser Yelpin' Stane 135:
Charlie . . . was taken to a room and told to wait, and there he sat for a denty bit.

Hence adv. dentilies, much, considerably. w.Lth. 1896 Poets Lnl. (Bisset) 292:
Tho' far, far awa' we maun wander frae thee, An' dentilies tried by the warld we be.

3. “Liberal, open-hearted” (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.2); sometimes used ironically (Ib.).Sc. Ib.:
She's a dainty wife; she'll no set you awa' tume-handit.

II. n. A large wrapped toffee sweet; cf. penny dainty, s.v. penny.Sc. 1999 Scotland on Sunday 20 Jun 1:
Its two-bus service won passengers' loyalty with the novelty of home-made sandwiches and toffee dainties, and now operates throughout the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Portugal, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and China.
Edb. 2005:
Dainties have gotten awfy wee noo-a-days.
Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 26:
Last shout at the sweetie tray. Toaffy caramels, dainties, soor plooms, sherbet, liquorice and pokey hats.

[Daynté, danté, daintie, etc., in various senses, occur in O.Sc. from c.1450; dentie appears in 1583 (D.O.S.T.).]

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"Dainty adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 Feb 2024 <>



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