This lovely descriptive word, used mostly in the north-east, is defined by the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) as "a lump or chunk of any solid substance, especially a knot of hardened dirt, dung, or matted hair, hanging from the coat or tail of an animal”. DSL continues: “As a term of abuse; an undersized, dirty cheeky fellow”.

In William Grant’s Scots Anecdotes of 1885, we have: “It’s nae a stone ava but a knapdaerlick that hung at ane o my stots’ [bullock] tails a the last summer”. An even less pretty picture is glimpsed in the following example from Helen Beaton’s At the Back o Benachie (1915): “His hair hings in knapdarlochs, like a coo’s tail clortit wi ile”. DSL also gives a quotation from an Aberdeen correspondent from 1929: “The beggar wis a sair sicht, her raggit claes wallopin in knapdarlochs as she hobble’t awa”.

More recently, it appeared in the Press and Journal (August 1995) - although it clearly needed some explanation: “Look up the P&J (July) an ye’ll see the wird I used wis ‘knapdarlochs’ an yer face I doobt will noo be the colour o the turkey cock. They’re nae a bonnie sicht”.

And later, again in the Press and Journal, the following letter was published (March 2017): “Supervising them is the new Meat Hygiene Service and a host of inspectors whose cost is exceeded only by their patent ineffectiveness… We are still at the political point-scoring stage, and the TV luvvies have discovered stirks sporting knapdarlochs”.

Scots Word of the Week is written by Pauline Cairns Speitel. Visit DSL Online at