When I haver

In the Proclaimers song I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), which we often sing in the Bangor ukulele club, the Scots word haver makes several appearances (see the lyrics here), and none of us know what it means. I thought it meant something like to shout, like holler, or to cry.

According to The Online Scots Dictionary, haver [‘he:vər] means:

- n. Nonsense, foolish talk, gossip, chatter.
– v. To talk in a foolish or trivial manner, speak nonsense, to babble, gossip. To make a fuss about nothing, to make a pretence of being busy, to dawdle, to potter about, to saunter, lounge. pt. pp. haivert, haivered. adj. Half-witted.

The OED defines haver as:

1. to talk garrulously and foolishly; to talk nonsense. (Chiefly Sc. and north. dial.)
2. to hesitate, to be slow in deciding. (Orig. Sc. dial. but now in general English use)

Related words include haiverin = babbling chatter; nonsensical gossiping, and haiverel = halfwit; wittless.

There’s another haver, which is listed separately in dictionaries, which means oats and comes from the Middle English haver, from Old Norse hafri (oats), from the Proto-Germanic *habrô (oats), from the Proto-Indo-European *kapro- (goat) [source].

Related words include:

– havermeal = oatmeal, half-ground meal
– haverpoke = a horse’s nosebag

Have you ever havered? Do you have any other words with a similar meaning?

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This entry was posted in English, Etymology, Language, Scots, Words and phrases.

2 Responses to When I haver

  1. Zeppelin says:

    Obligatory German Post: German has the same word for oats, Hafer.

    A rather pleasing german word with a similar meaning is “schwafeln”, to blather.

  2. dan docherty says:

    Verbal diarrhoea ; running off at the mouth ;ramble inanely .