[Ads-l] OED correction -- SNIB, n2

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Sat Feb 28 11:30:54 UTC 2015

The second (of only two) citations in the OED for SNIB, n2, "a petty thief", 
is from Pierce Egan's 1823 revision of Francis Grose's Dictionary:

        OED citation --  1823   P. Egan _Grose's Classical Dict. Vulgar 
Tongue_ (rev. ed.)    _Snib_, a prig. _Scotch cant_.

Egan took this entry from a work published two years before, David Haggard's 
_Life_ (Edinburgh, 1821).

The word, either as a noun, verb, or adjective, occurs 37 times in Haggart's 
_Life_, two of these occasions being in the glossary,  where it is one of 
several entries which Egan took over virtually verbatim:

        Snib, _a pickpocket ; prig._ ( p. 173)

The first occurrence of SNIB as a noun in Haggart's _Life_ is on page 13 
(cf. pp. 25, 38, 63, 78, 103 [twice], 104, 108, 110 [twice], 112, 115, 120):

        Young M?Guire was a well known snib, and I did not keep much by him, 
and never spoke to him in the streets. [p. 13]

It earlier occurs as an adjective (a form not recorded in the OED) on page 

           ...    owing to my want of knowledge of the flash. kanes, where, 
I might fence my  snib'd lays;

It first occurs as a verb, again a form not noted in the OED, on page 16 
(cf. pp. 20, 26, 57, 62, 72, 78 [twice], 96, 99, 104 [twice], 114, 119, 122, 

        ... young M'Guire snib'd the lil, and passed it to Barney, who made 
off,   [p. 16]

To the two entries in the OED for SNIB as a verb, the following should be 

        SNIB, v3 -- Scottish cant --  to pick a pocket

The adjectival form should also be noted:

        SNIBBED, adj -- Scottish cant --  stolen (goods)

Two variant forms of the noun might also be noted:

        SNIB, n3 -- the act of picking a pocket ---  Haggart, p. 39: cf. p. 

                 ... we attended a market, and obtained nine screaves at one 
snib   [p. 39]

        SNIBBING, n  -- the act of picking a pocket -- Haggart, p. 74:

                ... in a former part of my narrative, I have described the 
methods of snibbing.

Haggart's _Life_ is available on google books:


                                        Robin Hamilton 

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list