About a month ago, I looked up the definition of thingy with a thought to answering this question. The following example sentence from 1947 appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary. It seems to be from a Scottish newspaper. I preface the sentence with the OED definition of thingy.

orig. and chiefly Sc. A little thing. Also more generally: a thing (usually with some suggestion of small size).

1947 Forfar Dispatch 9 Jan. Inahent the coonter she's no' near sic a nochtie, shilpit, wee thingie. (Emphasis added.)

What does this sentence mean? I forgot about this mystery sentence until Should Scots language questions be considered in the English language community? appeared on ELU Meta. The consensus seems to be that questions about Scots language are on topic, as long as they show adequate research. So, here goes.

First, we all know that wee means small. As for shilpit, Merriam Webster says:

pinched and starved in appearance

WordSense.eu says nochtie means

good for nothing; insignificant

no' near sic probably means not such a

I am having trouble with finding out what coonter means. The first time I googled coonter, I found a definition that said counter. However, I cannot reproduce that search result. The OED has no listing for coonter, and wonders if I mean cooter, counter or booster. As for inahent. the OED asks me if I mean inbent, incent, indent, intent, or intuent, and Google is sure I mean inherent.

My guess is that the sentence means:

Behind the counter, she isn't so insignificant.

That is, however wee, puny and insignificant she may seem, she is pretty shrewd when she is selling you something. Is this correct?

  • 1
    There seem to be more results on Google if you search for "in ahent the". Ah, "ahent" is indeed apparently "behind".
    – herisson
    Jan 14, 2017 at 2:53
  • I believe that no' near sic actually means nowhere near such Jan 14, 2017 at 4:42
  • When looking at your link for shilpit, there was a comment from someone in Gretna Green who said "It's a word I use to describe a frail malnourished looking soul..my mother would have refered to someone like that as..a shilpit wee bochil", and if you look in the dictionary definition there is one for drink which would be weak as in shilpit scotch also used in another comment. As a frail person would be weak and feeble, you could say the definition is a weak person Jan 14, 2017 at 5:05
  • 2
    Coonter is probably not a genuine Scottish dialect word, but a phonetic rendering of the way a Scot would normally pronounce 'counter'. Jan 14, 2017 at 5:09
  • 1
    If my translation in my first comment is correct and you put my other comment with your work you can complete your incomplete translation and say that Inahent the coonter she's no' near sic a nochtie, shilpit, wee thingie means behind the counter she's nowhere near such an insignificant, weak little thing Jan 14, 2017 at 5:11

1 Answer 1


You can use the Online Scots Dictionary for a lexical translation. Entering your sample text yields these definitions:

inahent = in ahint: ...in behind.

coonter: A counter.

no' = no [no:, na, N. ne:]
adv. Negating a v., adj. or adv. Not.

sic a: Such a.

nochtie [noxti]
adj. Good for nothing, insignificant.

shilpit ['ʃɪlpɪt]
also shilpin ['ʃɪlpən]
adj. Pale, sickly, weak, puny, shrunken.

wee [wi:]
adj. Small, tiny, little, restricted in size.

thingie = thing [θɪŋ, hɪŋ, hɪn, I.Sh. tɪŋ]
n. A thing. Kind, sort, stuff. Reason, cause. Amount, quantity, number, extent, cost. pl. things.
dim. thingie, thingmie, thingum

So, yes, your translation is 'correct', but I don't think it entirely catches the spirit of the thingie. I would translate it as

Behind the counter she's not such an insignificant, puny, tiny little thing.

It's an understatement to say we're talking about somebody who's not small behind that counter.

  • It's worth noting that "thing" is often used to refer to a person, with several shades of meaning from contempt or pity to affection (sense 2.2).
    – Stuart F
    Sep 3, 2021 at 19:58

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