Wherever it is from, however, neuk has developed some special meanings in Scots. It can mean a promontory, that is a piece of land projecting into the sea, as in the East Neuk of Fife, a place-name first recorded in the Dictionary of the Scots Language (www.dsl.ac.uk) from 1706 but clearly much older.
Compounds include such rarities as neukstanes (corner-stones), and an Orkney usage: neuk-bed, a bed in a recess of a cottage. The word occurs in phrases, such as “to hold one in his ain neuk”, meaning ‘to control strictly’.
Another similar-looking, equally mysterious word is Glaswegian nyuck, glossed rather vaguely in the Dictionary as “a contemptuous term for a person”, although it isn’t sure whether it’s the same word. Cliff Hanley records the word in his memoir, Dancing in the Streets (1958): “That yin wi’ the baldy heid is Julius Caesar, a right stupit-lukkin nyuck … Auld Green rolled up the street and shouted up to the first-storey window for the rotten cowardly nyuck to come down and get a basting.”