Wednesday 10 October 2012


A whinner-neb is defined is Grose's Provincial Glossary (1787) as:

A meagre, thin-faced man, with a sharp nose.

It amused me to find this word in a dictionary because, at the time, I was sitting in the British Library and it was the perfect description of the chap sitting opposite me. I rather wanted to lean over and hiss the words "Whinner-Neb!", just to see his reaction. But I felt much too sorry for him. And anyway, I sometimes fear I'm a whinner-neb myself.

Grose speculates that the term is "Perhaps from some bird that feeds or is bred among whins", where whins is another word for gorse.


  1. .. and "neb" stands for nose or beak?

  2. It does indeed. Should have mentioned that.

  3. Neil Hannon from The Divine Comedy. Definitely.

  4. Surely the phrase is comparing the sharp thorn of gorse on its thin stem to the long, sharp nose of the thin man.

    As can be seen by this photo from Wikipedia: