FLIT v, n to remove, a removal
The sense of flit meaning ‘to move house’ is predominantly Scottish, as illustrated by this quotation from Lord Elchies Letters, ed. H D MacWilliam (1927):
“Wee flitted last week to our house in the Canongate”
and this from Liz Lochhead’s Bagpipe Muzak (1991):
“We first flitted here, I thought we were going to be clomping about on the bare floorboards … for ever”
– the latter an experience which is perhaps depressingly familiar.
Flit appears in phrases contrasted with ‘sit’, a stay, as in the saying ‘Saturday flit, short sit’ meaning that if you move house on a Saturday your stay in your new home will be short-lived, and in the proverb ‘better rue sit than rue flit’ from Andrew Henderson’s Scottish Proverbs (1832). The phrase Flit Friday referred to the next Friday to the term day of Whitsunday or Martinmas, on which farm servants traditionally changed their employment.
In the wider sense, flit can also refer to moving or going elsewhere in general, whether involving a change of residence or not, or to moving something, as in this quotation from Spalding’s Memorialls of the Trubles in Scotland and in England, 1624–1645 (c1650):
“Quhairvpone Argile flittis his camp tua myllis fra Fyvie to Crechie”
and this from the Edinburgh Dean of Guild court revenue accounts (1595):
“To twa warkmen for … flitting the skaffald … out of the kirk”.
A flit-boat can be either a small barge for moving barrels of cured herrings from the curing stations to the cargo vessels, or a boat used for conveying passengers and goods between steamer and shore, as in:
“We dropped anchor at many places, and flit-boats came out to meet us”
from the New Shetlander (1952).
Death itself is the final flitting, as in:
“I man anes depart and flit out of this present warld”
from Edinburgh Testaments (1605).
This Scots Word of the Week was written by Ann Ferguson of Scottish Language Dictionaries.
First published 22nd June 2015.