Letter S - 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-s

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Sack, v. to vanquish an opponent by a show of superior learning. — W. Carleton.

Sacrament, sb. an oath.

Sad, adj. sodden, as badly-baked bread.

Sads. ‘Sitting over their sads,’ i.e. regretting something; repenting.

Safety, adj. (pronounced sometimes as a trisyllable). A useful article in nurseries is called a ‘saf-e-ty pin.’

Saggan, sb. the wild iris.

Said, v. ‘To be said,’ to be advised. ‘Now be said by me.’

Sail, sb. a ride in a cart or carriage of any kind.

Sailor-man, sb. a sailor.

Sailor’s grip, sb. a mode of holding hands by hooking the fingers.

Sair-bones, sb. ‘A’ll gi’e ye sair-banes,’ i.e. I’ll give you a beating.

Saired, v. served.

Sair sought, adj. nearly worn out with age or weakness.

Sair-wrought, adj. hard-worked.

Sally, sb. a willow.

Sally wran, sb. the willow wren.

Salt. ‘You will shed a tear for every grain of salt you waste.’

Same of, same as. ‘Can you give me a knife the same of that?’

Sang. ‘’Pon my sang,’ a mild kind of oath.

Sannies. ‘Upon my sannies,’ a mild oath.

Sark, sb. a shirt.

Sarking, sb. a coarse kind of linen; a sheeting of wood under the slates of a roof.

Saturday. ‘Saturday flit, short sit.’ Servants think it unlucky to go home to a new place on Saturday.

Saugh, sb. a willow.

Sauny-go-softly, sb. a soft fellow.

Saut, sb. salt.

Saving your presence, excuse the word. ‘But, savin’ your presence, the smell was that bad that,’ &c.

Saw doctor, sb. a workman who repairs and sharpens saws.

Scabbling, or Scaveling, hammer, sb. a large hammer for chipping stone.

Scald, sb. ‘A heart scald,’ a sore trouble. ‘He’s heart scalded with her,’ greatly troubled by her.

Scale-drake, sb. the shell-drake, Anas Tadorna.

Scame, Scam, v. to scorch.

Scantling, (1) sb. wood cut to special sizes for carpenters’ use. (2) sb. measurement of wood or iron to be used in work. ‘What scantlings of iron will you put into the gate?’

Scart, v. to scratch.

Scaud, v. to scald. ‘It’s sae het it wud scaud a pig,’ a comparison.

Scaur, Scar, sb. a steep or overhanging bank of earth; a reef or ridge of rocks.

Scheme, v. to endeavour to escape work by false pretences.

Scholar, sb. one who can read and write. ‘It’s a sore thing not to be a scholar.’

School, Schull, sb. a shoal of fish.

Scobes, sb. pl. rods of hazel or willow, sharpened at both ends, for pinnning down the thatch to the ‘scraws’ or sods in thatching a house. Same as Scollops.

Scog, sb. an offensive or mocking valentine.

Scollops, sb. pl. See Scobes.

Sconce, (1) sb. a skulking person. (2) sb. a hiding-place: used by wild-fowl shooters. It is generally a slight shelter built of stones on a beach.

Sconcer, sb. one who pretends to be sick in order to escape work.

Scope, (1) sb. an extent of land. ‘He owns a large scope of mountain.’ (2) sb. in trawling or dredging the extra length of rope which is paid out after the dredge has reached the bottom is called the scope. ‘Give it a faddom or two more scope.’

Scotch lick, sb. a very slight wash of the face or hands.

Scotch penny, sb. the thick English penny of 1797.

Scout, (1) sb. a squirt or syringe. (2) v. to squirt.

Scout-hole, Scoot-hole, sb. a rat-hole to which rats run for shelter when chased, or a concealed hole planned for exit, by which rabbits may escape when their principal holes are watched.

Scrab, (1) sb.a scratch. (2) v. to scratch. ‘The cat near scrabbed his eyes out.’

Scraigh, Scraik, sb. a scream, such as the cry of a sea-gull.

Scraigh o’ day, sb. early morning.

Scran. ‘Bad scran to you,’ bad luck to you. Scran is said to mean food.

Scrat, sb. something small. ‘The fowls he had were only wee scrats.’

Scraw, (1) sb. a thin strip of sward or turf. Scraws are laid under the thatch of a house to receive the points of the ‘scobes’ or ‘scollops.’ (2) v. to strip sods off the surface of a field. ‘Do you want to scraw the man’s land?’

Scraw, Scra, v. to cover a bank with sods. ‘To scraw a grave.’

Screech cock, sb. the missel thrush.

Screed, sb. a rent or tear in clothes; a discourse or harangue.

Screeding, sb. the mortar pointing round a window-frame.

Screenge, sb. a mean, miserly person.

Screw mouse, sb. the shrew.

Scrimpit, adj. scanty.

Scringe, v. to creak; to make a grinding or rasping noise.

Scrogs, sb. pl. places covered with furze, hazel, brambles, &c.

Scrubby, adj. mean; shabby.

Scruff, sb. a mean fellow.

Scruff of the neck, sb. the back of the neck.

Scrunch, sb.a crush or squeeze.

Scud, v. to slap.

Scuff, v. to subject to abuse or wear; to make shabby.

Scuffed, injured in appearance by wear or abuse.

Scuffle, (1) sb. a hoe that is pushed — called in trade a ‘Dutch hoe.’ (2) v. to hoe walks or beds with a scuffle. (3) v. to scrape or drag the feet along the ground.

Sculder, Scalder, sb. a jelly-fish (medusa) of any species.

Scunner, Scunhur, Scunder, sb. a disgust; a loathing. ‘I’ve taken a scunhur at that man.’

Scutch, v. to remove the ‘shives’ or ‘shows’ from flax.

Scutch grass, sb. couch grass. Same as Quickens.

Scutch mill, sb.a mill where flax is ‘scutched.’

Scutching tow, sb. the rough tow which is taken off flax at a scutch mill.

Scythe hook, sb. a reaping-hook that requires to be sharpened, as distinguished from a ‘toothed hook’ or sickle.

Seam, sb. ‘Goose seam,’ goose fat.

Selch, sb. a seal, Phoca.

‘Seed, breed, and generation, the whole of one’s family and relatives.

Seeds, sb. pl. the husks of oats. See Sowans.

See outens, v. to go about for pleasure. ‘If A didn’t see outens when A’m young, when would A?’

Seep, v. to leak or ooze.

Seepage, sb. what ‘seeps’ or leaks. ‘There’s a great seepage from that cask.’

Sel, self: hence himsel, hersel, themsel, m’sel.

Server, sb. a small tray or salver.

Set, (1) sb. a spell. ‘A long set of saft weather.’ (2) A ‘low set person,’ a person with a squat figure. (3) v. to plant. (4) v. determined. (5) v. ‘She sets that very well,’ i.e. that becomes her very well. (6) v. ‘The night is set,’ i.e. the night is fixed; night has come on. (7) adj. applied to a person who has stopped growing taller. ‘She’s quite set lookin’.’ (8) v. to appoint. ‘I can’t set no time,’ i.e. I cannot appoint a time.

Set a stitch, v. to make a stitch in sewing.

Sett, sb. the number of ridges of corn that a ‘boon’ or reaping party is spread over. If there are ten able-bodied reapers in the ‘boon,’ the sett would consist of ten ridges.

‘Set tae lowe,’ set on fire.

Setting down, sb. a scolding. Same as Doing off.

Setts, sb. pl. ‘Paving setts’ or ‘cross setts,’ rectangular blocks of stone used for paving streets.

Seven’dible, sb. thorough or severe; very great.

Severals, sb. pl. several persons or things. ‘Severals told me about it.’

Shaaps, Shaups, sb. pl. the shells of beans or peas.

Shade, sb. the parting or division of the hair on one’s head; a shed.

Shai, sb. a shoe.

Shaima-hait, sb. nothing. Same as Sorra hait, Deil a hait.

Shamrock, sb. The lesser yellow trefoil (Trifolium minus) is the plant the leafy part of which is worn as a shamrock in Patrick’s Day (March 17th).

Shandry-dan, sb. an old shaky and noisy car or carriage.

Shank, sb. a handle.

Shanks’s mare, sb. on foot. ‘We went there on shanks’s mare.’

Shanough, (1) sb. a confidential chat. (2) v. to talk confidentially; to gossip.

Sharn, sb. cow-dung.

Shaver, sb. a wag or funny fellow; a keen, shrewd fellow.

Shear, v. to reap corn.

Shearin’, sb. the cutting of corn.

Sheebeen, sb. a place where intoxicating drink is sold without a license [sic].

Sheebeening, v. keeping a place for the unlicensed sale of drink.

She-cock, sb. corruption of ‘Shake cock,’ a small hay-stack built up loosely.

Shedding, sb. the place where cross roads intersect.

Sheela, a ‘molly-coddle’ or effeminate man. Sheela is a woman’s name.

Sheep’s naperty, sb. a plant, Potentilla tormentilla.

Sheerman, sb. a workman employed at a bleach green. Obsolete. “Wanted a skilful journeyman sheerman and dyer.” — Belfast News-letter, 1739.

She sole, sb. a fish, the whiff, Rhombus Megastoma.

Sheugh, sb. a ditch. ‘I always let the sheugh build the dike,’ i.e. I always let what was dug out of the ditch make the raised fence, a saying, my spending never exceeded my earning. ‘Scourin’ a dyke sheugh,’ cleaning out a ditch.

Shill corn, sb. a small hard pimple on the face.

Shilling seeds, sb. pl. the husks of oats.

Shilty, sb. a pony (corruption of Shetland).

Shin, Shoon, sb. pl. shoes.

Shinnen, sb. a sinew.

Shinney, sb. hockey, a boys’ game, played with shinneys, i.e. hooked sticks, and a ball or small block of wood called the ‘golley’ or ‘nag.’

Shired, adj. thin: applied to a part of any knitted article which is thinner than the rest owing to loose knitting.

Shirey, adj. thin: applied to the thin part of a crop or of a garment, or of woven materials.

Shoddy, sb. pl. the smaller stones at a quarry.

Shoddy men, sb. pl. the men who shape paving sets, &c., at a quarry.

Shods, sb. pl. the iron heel-tips on men’s boots.

Shoe mouth, sb. the open of a shoe. ‘I was over the shoe mouth in glar.’

Shog, sb. a jolt or shake.

Shoo, v. to sew.

Shoot, v. to set a long line or net: a fisherman’s term.

Shore, sb. a sewer.

Shot, sb. a half-grown pig.

Shotten herring, sb. a spent herring; one that has spawned.

Showl, adj. shallow, as ‘showl water.’

Shows, Shoughs, Shives, sb. pl. flax refuse. It si the hard part of the stem in small fragments.

Shuggy-shu, sb. (1) a beam of wood balanced so that persons sitting on the opposite ends go up and down alternately; (2) a swing.

Shuler, sb. a vagrant.

Shunners, sb. pl. cinders.

Shut, sb. a shutter.

Si, sb. a dressmaker’s term for the part of a dress between the armpit and chest.

Sib, adj. related by blood.

Sic, such.

Siccan, such. ‘Siccan a heap o’ coos.’

Sicker, adj. sure; precise in mode of speaking.

Sight, sb. a quantity. ‘There was a quare sight of people there.’

Silly-go-saftly, Silly-go-sefly, sb. a foolish, useless creature.

Simper, v. to simmer.

Sinnerry, Sinthery, adv. asunder.

Sirraft Chooseday, sb. Shrove Tuesday.

‘Sit down off your feet,sit down.

Sit fast, sb. a ranunculus, R. repens.

Skart, Scart, sb. a cormorant.

Skeeg, sb. a small quantity. Same as a Wee drop. ‘There’s no a skeeg o’ watther in the kettle.’ Same as Squig.

Skee-weep, sb. a dash; a smear; something indistinct in writing.

Skeigh, adj. restless; frisky.

Skelf, (1) sb. a splinter or chip. ‘He got a skelf o’ wud ondher ’is nail.’ (2) v. to splinter.

Skelly, (1) sb. a guess; an unsuccessful attempt. ‘You made a queer skelly at it.’ (2) v. to squint.

Skelp, (1) sb. a blow. (2) v. to run; to slap.

Skemlin, sb. a quantity of peat dug from the edges of a bog-hole, and thrown in to be mixed, and afterwards taken out and dried. ‘Tak’ a skemlin aff that side o’ the hole.’

Skeow, sb. a large flat barge, used to receive the mud raised by a dredging machine.

Skep, sb. a straw bee-hive.

Skerry brand, sb. sheet lightning.

Skey, sb. a small artificial island forming part of an eel-weir.

Skiff, sb. a slight shower.

Skillet, sb.a small saucepan.

Skillop, sb. a gouge-shaped borer, of tapered form, for wood.

Skimp, v. to stint.

Skimpy, adj. a tight fit; short; deficient in quantity.

Skin a fairy, v. said of very cold weather. ‘Dear, but it’s that cowl it would skin a fairy.’

Skinadhre, sb. a thin, fleshless, stunted person.

Skink, sb. a mixture to drink.

Skip, a box in which stones are hoisted out of a quarry; a basket or crate to contain live fowls in transit; a large basket.

Skip-jack, sb. the merry-thought of a goose made into a child’s toy. See Jump-jack.

Skirl, (1) sb. a cry or scream (2) v. to scream.

Skirr, sb. a sea-bird, the tern.

Skirt, v. to run.

Skite, (1) sb. a term of contempt; an empty, conceited fellow. (2) sb. a sharp slap or blow. (3) v. to slap.

Skiver, sb. a skewer.

Skiver the goose, sb. a boys’ game. Two persons are trussed somewhat like fowls: they then hop about on their ‘hunkers,’ each trying to upset the other.

Skull, v. ‘To skull cattle,’ to cut off their horns close to the head.

Skulled, adj. Same as Horned or Polled. Applied to cattle which have been subjected to the cruel operation of having their horns sawn off close to the skull.

Skyble, sb. a thin person.

Slabby, adj. sloppy; muddle. ‘Slabby wet clay.’

Slack, adj. neglectful; remiss.

Slack lime, v. to put water on quick lime.

Slack spun, adj. said of a person who is half a fool. The same kind of person is said ‘to have only eleven cuts to the hank,’ or ‘he is not all there,’ or ‘he wants a square of being round,’ &c.

Slap, (1) sb. a gap or passage through a hedge for occasional use. It is closed by filling up the opening with branches, &c. (2) sb. a large quantity. ‘A whole slap of money.’

Slater, or Slate-cutter, sb. the wood-louse, Oniscus, and several of the allied species of crustaceans.

Slats, sb. pl. The laths of a Venetian blind and the laths of a bed-stead are called slats.

Slattering, v. going about like a slattern.

Slavers, sb. pl. water flowing from the mouth.

Slay hook, sb. a small implement used by weavers; in slang, a term for a dried herring.

Sleech, sb. fluviatile or marine silt; sea-wrack growing on mud banks.

Sleech grass, sb. Zostera marina.

Sleek, Slake, sb. a smear; a streak of dirt.

Sleekit, adj. cunning; underhand; hypocritical.

Sleep in, v. to lie too long in the morning, so as to be late for work.

Slep, v. slept. ‘A’ve slep noan.’

Sleuster, v. to flatter.

Slever, sb. saliva.

Sliggaun, sb. the pearl-bearing fresh-water mussel, Anodon cygnea.

Slinge, v. to sneak about.

Slip, (1) sb. a pinafore. (2) sb. a young pig. (3) v. to let slip or escape from punishment. ‘If ye do that again, see if I slip ye for it.’

Slipe, (1) sb. a triangular framework of wood on which large boulder stones are drawn out of fields; a large trough, like a cart without wheels, used for drawing earth or wet peat from one part of a field or bog to another; a kind of sledge on which stones are drawn down hilly roads. (2) v. ‘To slipe stones’ = to draw them out of a field on a ‘slipe.’ ‘To slipe mud’ = to carry it in a ‘slipe’ from the bog-hole to a level place where it is spread out to harden and cake into turf.

Slip of a girl, sb. a young, growing girl.

Slither, v. to slip or slide.

Sliver, sb. Flax in process of being spun by machinery is drawn out into a ribbon or long lock before it is twisted: this lock is called sliver.

Sliver can, sb. a tall cylinder of tin in which the ‘sliver’ is coiled away and then carried to the ‘roving frame’ to get the first twist.

Sloak, sb. a seaweed, laver, Porphyra laciniata. Called in the Co. of Clare ‘sluke’ or ‘slukane.’

Slobbering bib, sb. a small, thick pinafore worn by infants.

Slockan, v. to quench fire or thirst.

Sloiterin’, Sluterin’, v. loitering or lingering about pretending to work.

Slonk, Slump, sb. a ditch; a deep, wet hollow in a road.

Slonky, adj. having muddy holes. ‘That slonky road.’

Sloosh, sb. a sluice.

Sludge, sb. wet mud.

Slummage, sb. a soft stuff produced at distilleries used for cattle feeding.

Slump, (1) sb. a muddy place. ‘The road was all slumps of holes.’ (2) v. to sink in mud.

Slunge, (1) sb. a skulking, sneaking fellow. (2) v. to slink or lounge.

Slurry, sb. mud; ‘glar.’ ‘I took eight buckets of black slurry out of his well.’

Sluttherin’, Swattherin’, v. applied to the noisy, slopping way that ducks feed.

Slype, v. to strip the branches off trees. ‘They would come and slype them down in the night for no use.’

Small family, sb. a family of small children.

Smell, sb. a small quantity.

Smirr, Smurr, sb. ‘A smirr of rain,’ a slight shower.

Smit, v. infected. ‘I think you’ve smit me with that cowl.’

Smithereens, sb. pl. small fragments.

Smittle, adj. infectious. ‘Is it anything smittle he has?’

Smoorin’, v. smothering — in sense of covering over, as snow over ground or treacle over bread.

Smud, Smudge, v. to smoulder.

Smuddy coom, Smiddy coom, sb. the ashes from a smith’s forge.

Smudge, sb. a concealed laugh.

Smudging, v. laughing in a smothered way.

Snack, Snick, sb. a thumb-latch.

Snail’s pace, sb. To go at a snail’s pace, to go very slowly.

Snakes, sb.Snakes set here,’ is a form of notice sometimes painted on a board at the boundaries of plantations, &c. The snakes are supposed to be iron spikes, fixed point upwards in the ground.

Snake stones, sb. pl. ammonites found in the Lias.

Snaply, adj. quickly.

Snap the head off one, v. to be very angry. ‘Feth, he was like to ha’ snapped the heed aff me.’

Sned, (1) sb. the handle of a scythe. (2) v. to cut. ‘Sned turnips,’ to cut off the leaves.

Snedden, sb.a large-sized sand-eel.

Snell, adj. supercilious; impudent.

Snib, Sneck, v. to fasten. ‘Snib the window.’

Snicher, Snigger, v. to giggle.

Sniffle, v. to sniff.

Snifter v. to sniff.

Snifther, sb. a strong blast of wind.

Snifthers, sb. a cold in the head.

Snig, sb. a juvenile thief, who steals the kites of other boys by cutting the string and seizing the kite when it falls.

Snirt, v. to make a noise through the nose when endeavouring to suppress laughter.

Snod, adj. cut smooth; even: as the edges or eaves of a thatched roof.

Snood, sb. the thin part of a sea fishing-line, to which the hook is fastened.

Snook, v. to sneak.

Snool, sb. an ill-tempered, sneaking fellow.

Snoot. ‘Whether wud ye rether hae a soo’s snoot stewed, or a stewed soo’s snoot?’ an alliterative saying, to be said very quickly.

Snotther, sb. mucus of the nose; also a term of contempt.

Snow. (1) When snow lingers on the ground it is said ‘to be waiting for more.’ (2) To ‘go like snow off a ditch’ is to disappear quickly. The expression is used in reference to families that have died off rapidly.

Snow broth, Snoo broo, sb. half-melted snow.

Snuggle, v. to nestle, as a child against its mother’s breast.

Snurley, adj. gnarled or twisted.

So! (1) indeed! (2) ‘So I am,’ ‘so I will,’ ‘so it is,’ are added apparently to make a statement more forcible. ‘I will, so I will,’ is considered to be stronger than merely ‘I will.’

Soäns, sb. Same as Sowans. ‘Sup soäns wi’ an elsin,’ attempt an impossibility.

Soddened, adj. “The stones so soddened or wedged together, you cannot get one loose to throw at a fowl.” — Richard Dobbs, Description of the Co. of Antrim, 1683.

Soft, Saft, adj. wet, as applied to weather.

Soft drinks, sb. pl. soda-water, lemonade, &c., as distinguished from whisky, &c., which are called hard drinks.

Soil, (1) sb. fresh fodder for cattle. (2) v. to feed cattle in the house.

Sojer (soldier), sb. a red herring.

Soldiers, sb. pl. The little creeping sparks on paper that has been burned, but is not quite converted into ashes, are called by children soldiers.

Sole, (1) sb. a sill. ‘A window sole.’ (2) sb. the sod; grassy turf. ‘The lawn has a good sole.’

Sonsy and douce, pleasant and quiet.

Sonsy, adj. lucky. ‘It’s not sonsy to do that.’ Comely; stout: as applied to a woman.

Soo, sb. a sow.

Soogan, sb. a saddle of straw or rushes.

Soo luggit, sb. with the ears hanging. ‘A soo luggit horse.’

Soop, v. to sweep.

Soople, (1) sb. a part of a flail. See Flail. (2) adj. flexible; active.

Sooter, sb. a fish, the gemmeous dragonet, Callionimus Lyra.

Sore, (1) adj. sad; unpleasant; severe. ‘It’s a sore day on the stooks,’ i.e. a very wet day. Also pitiful or contemptible. ‘He’s a sore fool.’ (2) v. swore.

Sore foot, adj. Same as ‘a rainy day,’ i.e. bad times or sickness.

Sore hand, Sair han’, sb. a disagreeable spectacle; anything spoiled or disfigured. ‘He fell in the mud, an’ made a sore han’ o’ himsel’.’ ‘He tried to paint the boat, and made a sore hand of it.’

Sore head, sb. a headache.

Sore thumb, sb. ‘To sit up like a sore thumb,’ to sit with a supercilious or unbending air.

Sorra hait, nothing. ‘Sorra hait rowled up in deil perlickit,’ nothing at all.’

Sorra mend ye, you deserve it.

Sorra yin, not one.

Sort, v. to repair anything.

Sosh, adj. snug; comfortable; neat-looking. ‘She’s a sosh wee lass.’ Saucy.

Soud, v. ‘Let them soud it amang themsel’s,’ i.e. let them settle it among themselves.

Sough, (1) sb. a hollow sobbing or groaning sound, caused by the wind or by running water; the sound that comes from a great crowd of persons at a distance; a rumour or report of news. (2) ‘Keep a calm sough till the tide comes in,’ i.e. have patience. (3) v. to breathe loudly in sleep, but not to snore.

Sourlick, Sour’k, sb. a sorrel, Rumex acetosa.

Sowan pot. ‘A wud nae gi’e scrapin’s o’ a sowan pot for it:’ said of anything very worthless.

Sowans, sb. flummery; a sour gruel made from the husks of oats called seeds. These are steeped in water till the liquor sours; they are then strained out, and the fluid portion is boiled. This thickens into a kind of jelly on cooling.

Spadesman, sb. a man accustomed to dig.

Spading, Spitting, sb. the depth of soil raised at one time by the spade.

Spae, v. to foretell.

Spae fortunes, v. to tell fortunes.

Spae man, Spae wife, sb. a man or woman who it is supposed can tell fortunes or foretell events.

Spain, v. to wean a child or a foal.

Spaivied, adj. spavined.

Spang, sb. a bound or spring. “About three horse spangs frae the thicket.” — Huddelston [sic].

Spangle, sb. a measure of hand-spun linen yarn. “As the terms hank and spangle are not known to all readers, especially in their application to the quantities of hand-spun yarn, it may be stated that after the thread had been spun, it was wound off the spool on a reel, constructed so as to measure exactly ninety inches in circumference. Every hank contained a dozen cuts, each cut was 120 rounds of the reel, and four hanks were counted as a spangle.” — Ireland and her Staple Manufactures. Second ed. Belfast: 1865.

Spark, v. to splash with water or mud.

Spark to deeth, v. to faint. ‘I was liken to spark to death,’ i.e. I was in a fainting condition. Refers also to persons who can hardly recover breath after a paroxysm of coughing.

Sparrow hail, sb. very small shot.

Spave, sb. a spavin.

Spawls, Spuls, sb. pl. long-shaped fragments of stone or wood.

Spearling, sb. the gar-fish. Same as Horn-eel.

Specs, sb. spectacles.

Speel, v. to climb.

Speer, v. to enquire.

Speigh, v. to splice.

Spell-man, sb. a man engaged to work by the job or spell.

Spend, v. to deteriorate or ‘go back,’ as cattle if put upon a poor pasture.

Spenshelled, v. spancelled. A cow with her fore-feet tied together is said to ‘spenshelled.’

Spentacles, sb. spectacles.

Spit, v. to rain slightly.

Split the differ, v. to divide the sum which is the difference between buyer and seller in bargaining.

Spoiled five, sb. a game of cards.

Spoke, v. to ‘spoke a cart,’ is to force it on by pulling round the wheels by the spokes.

Spool of the breast, sb. the bone in the middle of the breast.

Spraughle, (1) v. to sprawl. (2) sb. a straggling branch.

Sprickly-beg, sb. a stickleback.

Springer, or Springin’ cow, sb. a cow in calf.

Springing, v. about to calve.

Sprint, v. the ‘keeper’ of a chest lock.

Sprig, v. to embroider muslin or linen.

Sprigging, sb. the occupation of embroidering muslin.

Sprit, sb. a mildew or disease to which growing flax is subject. Same as Firing.

Sprunged, adj. miserable-looking; starved.

Spuans, sb. what is vomited.

Spuds, sb. potatoes.

Spulpin, sb. a corruption of the Irish word usually written ‘spalpeen,’ a troublesome or disagreeable fellow.

Spung, sb. a large pocket.

Spunkie, adj. high-spirited; courageous.

Spurtle, sb. a pot stick. A small double-pointed flat stick with a T head, used for thrusting in the knots of straw, in repairing a thatched roof.

Spy farlies, v. to pry about for any thing strange. ‘Now, don’t be commin’ in here to spy farlies.’

Spy hole, sb. In cottages a wall called the ‘hollan’ is built to screen the hearth from the observation of any one standing at the threshold; but in order to allow a person within to see who approaches the door, a small hole, usually triangular, but sometimes four or five-sided, is made in the ‘hollan,’ three or four feet from the floor; this is the spy hole.

Spy Wednesday, sb. the Wednesday before Easter.

Squagh, sb. the cry of wild ducks or geese.

Square, sb. a squire.

Squench, v. to quench.

Squig, sb. Same as Skeeg.

Squinacy, sb. a quinsy.

Stab, sb. a stake or post.

Stab, Beggar’s stab, sb. a large thick needle.

Stag, sb. a game cock under a year old; an informer.

Stagger, sb. an attempt. Same as Stammer.

Stagging, sb. a man’s game. Two men have their own ankles tied together, and their wrists tied behind their back; they then try to knock each other down.

Stag warning, sb. a boy’s game.

Stake and rice, sb. a kind of paling.

Stammer, sb. an attempt. ‘Ye didn’t make a bad stammer at it.’

Stand, sb. Four knitting needles are a stand.

Standard, sb. the upright stick of a kite.

Stand at peace! stand quiet.

Stand by, (1) sb.a snack; something taken in place of a regular meal. (2) v. stand aside.

Stand off, adj. reserved; haughty.

Stand over, v. to warrant the quality of anything.

Stank, sb. a ditch or ‘sheugh’ in which water lies.

Stank hole, sb. a pool of stagnant water.

Stank water, sb. stagnant water.

Stanlock, sb. a fish, the seath or grey lord, Merlangus carbonarius.

Stapple, sb. the stem of a pipe.

Stare like a stuck pig, v. to stare in a stupefied manner.

Stchiven, sb. a kind of sea-wrack on which pigs are sometimes fed.

Steek, v. to shut. ‘Steek your e’en,’ shut your eyes.

Steeped milk, sb. curdled milk.

Steep grass, sb. Pinguicula vulgaris, used for cudling [sic] milk along with rennet.

Stelk, sb. mashed potatoes and beans. Same as Bean champ.

Sten, v. rear. ‘Stennin’ like a tip on a tether,’ a comparison.

Stenchels, sb. pl. the wooden cross bars in a window-sash.

Step-mother’s bairn, sb. the caterpillar of the tiger moth. Also called Granny.

Sthroe, sb. straw.

Sti, adj. steep. ‘A sti brae.’ ‘A sti roof,’ a high pitched roof.

Stian, sb. a stye on the eyelid.

Stick. ‘If you throw him against the wall he would stick,’ said of a very dirty person.

Stickin’, adj. obstinate; stiff.

Still, adv. always. ‘He’s still asking me to do it.’

Stilts of a plough, sb. pl. the handles of a plough.

Stime, sb. ‘It was so dark I couldn’t see a stime before me,’ i.e. I could not see anything at all.

Stir, sb. popular commotion; excitement; a concourse of people.

Stirk, sb. a cow one or two years old. ‘A bull stirk,’ a young bull.

Stitch, sb. clothes. ‘She hadn’t a dry stitch on.’

Stock, sb. the outside of a bed, i.e. the side furthest from the wall. ‘I canna’ sleep ony where but at the stock.’

Stoit, v. to walk in a careless, staggering way.

Stone. It is said that during the winter half of the year, the cold side of every stone turns uppermost. There is also a saying — ‘Never sit on a stone in a month with an R in it.’

Stone-checker, sb. the wheatear; also the cock stone-chat. The hen Is ‘whin-checker.’

Stood, v. withstood. ‘Your honour knows I never stood your word.’

Stook, (1) sb. the ‘shock’ into which sheaves of corn are first built up after being cut — generally from eight to eighteen sheaves. (2) v. to put up sheaves of corn in ‘stooks’ or shocks.

Stookie, sb. the inflated skin of a dog or other animal, used by fishermen as a float for their lines or nets.

Stooky, sb. a thick red composition used by French polishers.

Stopple, sb. a knot of hair in a brush.

Stour, (1) sb. dust. ‘It went off like stour:’ said of something that has sold rapidly. (2) sb. a disturbance or row.

Stove, v. to suffocate with smoke.

Straddle, sb. the saddle on the back of a cart-horse on which the ‘back-band’ rests.

Strain the anklet, sb. to sprain the ankle.

Strange, v. to wonder. ‘I strange very much that you didn’t come.’

Stranger. ‘You’re a great stranger,’ i.e. I have not seen you lately, or you have not been here lately.

Stravaig, v. to wander about.

Stresses, sb. pl. “Many of the inhabitants, particularly females, die in their youth of what they call stresses, that is violent heats from hard work.” — Mason’s Parochial Survey, 1814.

Strick, (1) sb.a small handful of flax fibre. (2) v. to arrange flax which has passed through the rollers, for the scutchers, so as to make it as even as possible.

Strickle, sb. an oak stick covered with emery for sharpening scythes. Same as Stroke.

Strip, sb. the soil or clay which has to be stripped off the surface of a rock, before the rock can be quarried. Also called Red, i.e. something to be got rid of.

Stripper, sb. a cow that is giving milk, but is not in calf.

Strippings, sb. the last milk taken from a cow at each milking; it is the richest.

Strit, sb. a plant, Juncus lamprocarpus.

Stroke, (1) sb. an oak stick covered with emery for sharpening scythes. Same as Strickle. (2) sb. a measure of potatoes containing two bushels. Dungiven, co. Derry (Mason’s Parochial Survey, 1814). (3) sb. to give a ‘stroke of the harrow,’ is to pass a harrow over land.

Stroop, sb. a spout, as — ‘the stroop of the kettle.’

Strunt, sb. a sulky fit.

Stughies, sb. pl. stews, of a greasy and coarse description.

Stump and rump, sb. the whole.

Stune, sb. a sting of pain.

Stupe, v. to bathe or sponge any part.

Sturdy, sb. “Near the sea-coast a sort of Poyson, I take it, called darnell, rises in the oats and other grain, very offensive to the brain, and cannot be cleaned out of the corn; ye country people call it sturdy, from the effects of making people light-headed,” — Description of the co. of Antrim, by Richard Dobbs, 1683.

Such an’, such. ‘Such an’ a fine day.’

Suck in, (1) sb. a deception. (2) v. to deceive; to mislead.

Suck! Suck! a call to a calf.

Sucky, sb. a calf.

Sugar. ‘You’re neither sugar nor salt that you’d melt:’ said to reconcile a person to a wetting.

Sum, sb. “A sum of cattle in these parts is what they call a collop in other parts of Ireland, consisting of one full-grown cow or bullock, of three years old, or a horse of that age; though in some places a horse is reckoned a sum and a half. Eight sheep make a sum.” — Harris, Hist. co. Down, 1744. In some places six ewes and six lambs make a sum.

Sundays. ‘A month of Sundays’ = a long time. ‘I won’t go back there for a month of Sundays.’

Sup, (1) sb. a small quantity of any liquid. (2) sb. a quantity. ‘A good sup of rain fell last night.’

Sup sorra, v. to be sorry; to repent. ‘Sup sorra wi’ the spoon o’ grief,’ a saying.

Surely to goodness, adv. surely.

Swab, (1) sb. a butcher’s swab = a butcher’s boy. (2) sb. a contemptuous term for a person.

Swank, sb. a tall, thin man.

Sward, sb. the swathe, or line of grass cut by the scythe.

Swayed, adj. said of a wall that is leaning to one side.

Sweel, sb. a swivel.

Sweer, adj. unwilling; slow.

Swinge, v. to singe.

Swinger, sb. anything big. ‘That conger eel ’s a swinger.’

Swingle-tree, sb. part of the tackle of a plough.

Swirl, sb. a whirling gust of wind.

Swirly, sb. a quarryman’s term for a large ammonite.

Swither, v. to be in doubt; to hesitate.

Switherin’, undecided. ‘I’m switherin’ whether to go or not.

Swithers, sb. To be ‘in the swithers,’ wavering; to be undecided. ‘I’m in the swithers what to do.’

Swurl o’ wun, sb. a blast of wind.

Synavug, a soft crab. Same as a Peeler.

Syne, adv. late.

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A new edition of Michael Montgomery’s From Ulster to America: The Scotch-Irish Heritage of American English recounts the lasting impact that at least 150,000 settlers from Ulster in the 18th century made on the development of the English language of the United States. This new edition published by the Ulster-Scots Language Society documents over 500 ‘shared’ vocabulary items which are authenticated by quotations from both sides of the Atlantic. A searchable online version of this dictionary is now also available here.


The Ulster-Scots Academy is currently working on the digitisation of Dr Philip Robinson's seminal Ulster-Scots Grammar and the English/Ulster-Scots part (with circa 10,000 entries) of a two-way historical dictionary of Ulster-Scots. These projects are planned to be completed and available on the site in 2016.



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This site is being developed by the Ulster-Scots Language Society (Charity No. XN89678) without external financial assistance. USLS volunteers have been involved in preserving and promoting Ulster-Scots for more than 20 years. All donations, however small, will be most gratefully received and contribute towards the expansion of the project. Thank you!

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