A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)
Kemp, n. Also: kempt. [ME. kemp(e, OE. cempa, whence also ON. kempa. After c. 1485 only Sc. and north. Eng. dial.]
1. A champion. a. A fighter of mighty stature and great strength; one such who fights in single combat; a professional fighter, as a pugilist or athlete.
My fader, mekle Gow Makmorne, Out of that wyfis wame was schorne, For litilnes scho was forlorne, Sic a kempe to beire; Crying of Play 84.
Of the twa kempys suld stryfe in the pres, The bustuus Entellus and Darhes; Doug. v. vii. heading.
He hes … Twa kempys burdonys brocht, … With al thar harnes … , Of wecht ful huge and schap onmesurly; Ib. 69.
To Johne Drummond callit the Kingis Kemp xv li.; 1526–7 Treas. Acc. V. 317.
It is writtin that Arthur tuke gret delectatioun in wersling of strang kempis; Bell. Boece II. 83.
Scharpe schutting gart mony cowart quaik Quhair mony kemp wes causit for to kneill Agane his will; Stewart 5728.
To the men that graithit the harnes & to the kempis; 1534 Edinb. Hammermen in
Mill Mediaev. Plays 233.
Pugil, athleta, a kemp or campion; Duncan App. Etym.
Nather of thir erlis war bellicous men, bot yit Murray was the maist weirlyk … for he was a cumlie personage of a great stature and strang of bodie lyke a kemp; Hist. Jas. VI 246.
What if a man would but minte to burye a body in the presencechamber of a Prince? would not the kempes of the corps-guarde … cudȝell him … for his capped conseate? Birnie Kirk-b. xix. 34.
Irvine Kempt Garden. A man of admirable and stupendious strength, called the Kempt for killing of a feirce and mightie boar; Garden Worthies 130 heading.
b. One who fights on behalf of another or for a cause.
Albeit thir twa ȝoure kempis dar not for schame ansuer in this mater, ȝe wyll appeill to the rest of ȝour lernit theologis; Winȝet I. 33/16.
God … sall steir wp in his contrare strangar kempis and perfytear procutaris than I am; Ib. 62/5.
The templarian knights, who, being sometimes the kempes of the kirkes, became at last the … robbers of her rents; Birnie Kirk-b. xix. 35.
2. A stalk with flower-spike (or ‘head’) of the ribwort plantain, used in a childrens game.
‘Two children, or young people, pull each a dozen of stalks of rib-grass; and try who, with his kemp, can decapitate the greatest number of those belonging to his opponent. … They also give the name of soldiers to these stalks.’ (Jam. s.v.)
So also in mod. Sc. and north. Eng. dial. Cf. also Norw. kjempe (dial. kjæmpe, kampe), Da. kæmpe, kampe (dial. kamp). Sw. kampe (dial. (pl.) kämpar) as names for the plantain or (esp. in pl.) its stalks, which are also used there in similar games.
Gangand vpoun the Peill of Lynlythkow thay begane to gather kempis to se quhay mycht heid moneast … .The Kyng cryis thane, ‘Gar seik me ane guid kemp, for I will fecht in that quarrell’; 1583 Wemyss Corr. 81.
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"Kemp n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Apr 2019 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/dost/kemp_n>
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