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SCUNNER, v. and n. loathing, disgust, aversion


Among the examples in the Dictionary of the Scots Language (, of the verb scunner (to engender disgust or loathing) is this from John Wilson’s Noctes Ambrosianae (1826, in Blackwood’s Magazine):


“Be you strong of stomach, and ... dinna scunner”.


It is often used with ‘at’, as in John Buchan’s 1927 novel Witch Wood:


“There are times when I scunner at my native land”.

It also means to cause such feelings, as in this from Blackwood’s Magazine (1820):


“The scunnering smell o’ an acre o’ corses [bodies]”,


or this from The QuarryWood, by Nan Shepherd (1928):


“The smell of his body scunnered them”.

More figuratively, to scunner is to make one disgusted, bored or or fed up. Thus in J M Barrie’s The Little Minister (1891) a character declares:


“I was fair scunnered at Tammas the day”


and in George M Gordon’s The Auld Clay Biggin’ (1911) we read that


“He had hated the vera sicht o’ weemen, as he said they fair scunner’t him”.

As a noun, a rather precise meaning of scunner is explained in Margaret Oliphant’s The Ladies Lindores (1883):


“A scunner is a sudden sickening and disgust with an object not necessarily disagreeable — a sort of fantastic prejudice, which there is no struggling against”.


In Lennox Kerr’s Woman of Glenshiels (1935), we read:


“It fair gies ye the scunner the way they all grumble”


and in Robert J Muir’s The Mystery of Muncraig (1900):


“He had never told his weakness to his brother, having had a ‘scunner’ against doing so”.

In more recent times, we see derivatives such as scunnersome and scunneration. The Herald, in 1994, suggested that:


“Only the most introspective among us can contemplate our navels for any length of time without a degree of scunneration setting in”.



This Word of the Week was written by Ann Ferguson of Scottish Language Dictionaries

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First published 20th May 2017.