GLISK n, v glimpse
This lively word captures the fleeting nature of a glance. From 1720, we have speed-reading practiced by Robert Wodrow and recorded in his
“I have only got time to glisk it over cursorily”.
Here the document endures but, in other examples, the opportunity for sight, or insight, is fleeting as in Gilbert Rae’s In Howe o’ Braefoot (1951):
“In a singin’ bird ye can glisk a likeness to the glory that fills a’ heaven”.
The notion of resemblance also appears in ‘he haes a glisk o his grandfather’, not to be confused with catching sight of someone. The latter sense is evident in Walter Scott’s Waverley (1814):
“They just got a glisk o’ his honour as he gaed into the wood, and banged aff a gun at him”
and in S. R. Crockett’s The Raiders (1894):
“She ... had gotten a glisk of the grey thing that louped from Mistress Allison’s petticoat”.
Glisk probably shares a common origin with ‘glisten’ and Norwegian ‘glisa’ (to gleam or flash). This is supported by usages such as D. M. Ogilvy’s (1873):
“Ye are bright as the first siller glisk o’ the morning”
and Neil Munro’s in John Splendid (1898):
“The rapture of his eye infected me like a glisk of the sun”.
The sense extends to anything of short duration. So, in D. G. Mitchell’s Sermons in Braid Scots (1910), we hear:
“A glisk o’ the dank air frae the deid mirk dale crap owre them”.
Similarly in J. Stewart’s Sketches (1857) we have:
“My blude’s unco thin, I’m frail, frail, an’ auld, An’ canna e’en thole a wee glisk o’ cauld".
It refers to time itself in G. Stewart’s Fireside Tales (1877):
“If ye wid just bide a glisk whaur ye ir, I wid rin hame for a sark o’ my midder’s”.
Written by Chris Robinson of Scottish Language Dictionaries.
First published 2nd December 2013.