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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid



WHINK, v., n.


August 26 was International Dog Day. I like dogs, so I am delighted to contribute a word to mark the occasion.


Whereas the distinctive Scots words for the noises made by cats are rather few – nurr and thrum for ‘purr’, waw and yaw for ‘mew’, loll for ‘caterwaul’ – there are numerous words for the sounds dogs make. Moreover, Scots distinguishes rather delicately between these noises, including such splendid words as guff ‘a low bark’ (a Shetland usage), nyaff ‘yap of a small dog’, wow ‘deep-throated howl’, and yatter ‘yelp’.


Today’s word, whink, is one such form. According to the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL), whink means


‘to bark in a sharp, suppressed way, to yelp as when chasing game’;


there is also a related noun meaning a sharp, suppressed bark. The word seems to be restricted to the Scottish borders and not to have been used after the first quarter of the twentieth century.


Interestingly, whink isn’t recorded before the early nineteenth century, when the great lexicographer John Jamieson cited it in his 1825 supplement to his Etymological Dictionary of the Scots Language. Nevertheless, it’s likely that the word is much older. DSL suggests a link to the English form whinnock, which means the smallest pig in a litter and is a compound of whine and the diminutive ending -ock. So it’s possible that the form in Scots has become specialised over time to canine contexts. Indeed, the earliest citation in DSL indicates that badgers could at one time whink like dogs.



This Scots Word of the Week was written by Jeremy Smith. Visit DSL Online at