Letter N - Glossary of Words in the Counties of Antrim and Down

Author: William Hugh Patterson, MRIA

Date: 1880

Source: A Glossary of Words and Phrases used in Antrim and Down (London: Trübner & Co., for the English Dialect Society)

Comments: In the introduction to his Glossary of Words and Phrases used in Antrim and Down, William Hugh Patterson provided an historical account of the Scottish settlement of east Ulster from 1607. From these origins he observed that the words and phrases of the local population ‘will be found in the main to be of Scottish origin, and many of them have already found a place in Jamieson’s dictionary’. He acknowledged difficulty in spelling many words ‘because I only had them as sounded’. William Hugh Patterson (1835-1918) was the son of a famous naturalist, Robert Patterson, whose book on Birds frequenting Belfast Lough was also published in 1880. Many of the local names for birds in the glossary were sourced from his father. As he was also a collector of phrases and proverbs, Patterson’s glossary remains a unique record of Ulster-Scots in the 19th century.

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Hist/1800-1899/006-n

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Naethin’ ava, sb. nothing at all.

Nag, sb. the wooden ball or ‘knur,’ used in the game of ‘shinney’ (hockey); also called a ‘golley.’

Nager [naiger], sb. a niggardly person.

Nagerliness, adj. niggardliness.

Naggin, sb. a measure of liquid = quarter of a pint.

Naigies, sb. pl. horses.

Nail, v. to strike with a sure aim.

Nails. The little white marks that come and go on the finger-nails are the subject of the following dividing rhyme: we begin at the thumb — a gift; a friend; a foe; a lover; a journey to go.

Naperty, sb. a vetch, with a fleshy root, Lathyrus macrorhizus. Children dig up and eat the little knobs at the roots.

Napper, Nabber, sb. anything large and good of its kind.

Nature, sb. the name for a particular quality in flax, an oiliness, softness, or kindliness in working, which is of great value. ‘This flax is hard and birsely, it has no nature.’ ‘Now here’s a flax full of nature.’

Nauky, adj. cunning.

Neaped in, adj. term used when a vessel cannot get out of a harbour in consequence of tides or winds causing the water to be shallow.

Near, adj. miserly; penurious.

Near begone, adj. penurious; stingy. ‘Near begone people disn’t give the workers mate enough sometimes, an’ that’s a burnin’ shame.’

Near by, adv. near at hand. ‘Do you live near by?’

Neardest, adj. nearest.

Near hand, adj. near; nearly; almost. ‘I was near han’ kilt.’ ‘Not a shot came near hand us.’ ‘The rope was not near hand long enough.’

Neayghen, sb. a small marine bivalve, about the size of a cockle, used for bait.

Neb, sb. the nose; a bird’s bill.

Neck, v. to catch and shake a person.

Nedcullion, sb. the wood anemone. Said to be derived from colleen, Ir. for girl (Co. Derry).

Needcessity, sb. necessity.

Neeze, v. to sneeze.

Neighbour, (1) sb. a fellow; a match. ‘A’m lookin’ for the neighbour of ma shai,’ i.e. I’m looking for the fellow of my shoe. (2) v. to give mutual assistance in farming, by lending and borrowing men and horses. Same as to Marrow.

Neugh, v. to catch, or grasp a person.

Never off his back, never ceasing to advise, or scold, or look after a person.

New-ans, or Newance, something new; a novelty. ‘It’s new-ans to see you down so early.’ ‘Ye’re behavin’ yerself for new-ans,’ i.e. you are behaving well for a novelty.

New-fangled, adj. strange; new-fashioned; much taken up with some new thing.

Next, adv. near. ‘Are you going next the quay?’

Nick and go, sb. a close shave. ‘It was just nick and go with him.’

Nicker, v. to neigh.

Nick my near, sb. a narrow escape; a close shave. Same as Nick and go.

Nick of time, sb. the right moment. ‘I arrived in the nick of time.’

Nieve, sb. the fist, or closed hand.


Nievy, navy, nick nack.

Which han’ will ye tak’,

The right or the wrang,

I’ll beguile ye if I can.’

The rhyme is used in a game played with the closed hands; in one hand of the player is a marble, or any small object; the other is empty. The second player tries to choose the hand that is not empty. Same as the old English game of ‘Handy-Dandy.’

Nignay, Nignoy, v. to do what is useless; to do something, but with no good result.

Nignays, Nignoys, sb. pl. useless profitless doings.

Nigh han’, adv. near; nearly.

Nippin’, adj. painful with cold. ‘Ma toes is just nippin.’

Nits, sb. pl. small objects among the hair, supposed to be the eggs of vermin, or young lice.

Niver ’s a long day, a saying.

No, adv. not. ‘I’ll no do it.’

Noan, adv. none.

No canny, adj. not lucky.

No fit, adv. not able. ‘I’m no fit to draw a herrin’ off the brander,’ i.e. I am in the last stage of weakness.

Noggin, sb. a wooden vessel with a handle smaller than a ‘piggin.’ Porridge and milk used to be eaten out of noggins.

Noit, sb. ‘A noit of a crayture,’ an insignificant person.

No odds, no matter.

Noole-kneed, adj. knock-kneed.

Norration, sb. a great noise. ‘The dogs are making a great norration.’

Not a founded, sb. nothing at all.

Not at himself, adj. mad; not in health.

Not can, v. cannot. ‘You’ll not can do that.’

Note, sb. A cow is said to be ‘commin’ forward to her note’ when the time of her calving draws near. ‘When is she at her note?’ i.e. when will she calve? The expression seems to originate in a note that is kept of the expected time. “For sale, a Kerry cow, five years old, at her note in May.” — Belfast Paper, 1875.

Not expected, adj. not expected to recover from sickness.

Notionate, adj. obstinate; self-opinionated; fanciful.

Notish, v. to notice.

Nout, sb. nothing. ‘I got it for nout.’

Nowd, sb. the grey gurnard. Same as Knowd.

Nudyan, sb. a bunnian.

Nurg, adj. miserly; stingy.

Nurr, sb. a small insignificant thing.

Nurse tender, sb. a monthly nurse.

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