Editors of the Dictionaries of the Scots Language
are kindly supplying us with a Scots word of the month. This month, the word is:
This lively word captures the fleeting nature of a glance.
From 1720, we have speed-reading practiced by Robert Wodrow and recorded in his Correspondence
: 'I have only got time to glisk it over cursorily'. Here the document endures but, in other examples, the opportunity for sight, or insight, is fleeting as in Gilbert Rae's In Howe o' Braefoot
(1951): 'In a singin' bird ye can glisk a likeness to the glory that fills a' heaven'. The notion of resemblance also appears in 'he haes a glisk o' his grandfather', not to be confused with catching sight of someone.
The latter sense is evident in Walter Scott's Waverley
(1814): 'They just got a glisk o' his honour as he gaed into the wood, and banged aff a gun at him', and in SR Crockett's The Raiders
(1894): 'She... had gotten a glisk of the grey thing that louped from Mistress Allison's petticoat'.
Glisk probably shares a common origin with 'glisten' and Norwegian 'glisa' (to gleam or flash). This is supported by usages such as DM Ogilvy's (1873): 'Ye are bright as the first siller glisk o' the morning', and Neil Munro's in John Splendid
(1898): 'The rapture of his eye infected me like a glisk of the sun'.
The sense extends to anything of short duration. So, in DG Mitchell's Sermons in Braid Scots
(1910), we hear: 'A glisk o' the dank air frae the deid mirk dale crap (crept) owre them'.
Similarly in J Stewart's Sketches
(1857) we have: 'My blude's unco thin, I'm frail, frail, an' auld, An' canna e'en thole a wee glisk o' cauld'.
It refers to time itself in G Stewart's Fireside Tales
(1877) 'If ye wid just bide a glisk whaur ye ir, I wid rin hame for a sark o' my midder's'.
Scots Word of the Month is written by editors of the Dictionaries of the Scots Language. You can sponsor a word from this national archive as a special gift for a loved one or friend. More information about word sponsorship can be found here.