Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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BENT, n.1 Used in St.Eng. as a name for coarse grass of a reedy or rush-like character; used also in the pl. the bents = the place where such grass grows. The early examples point to a northern origin. See D.O.S.T. and N.E.D. Special Sc. usages:

1. A sandy hillock covered with bent grass. Gen. in pl. in collective sense. Sc. 1893  R. L. Stevenson Catriona xiii.:
No eye of ours could spy what was passing behind there in the bents.
Abd. 1867  Mrs Allardyce Goodwife at Home, etc. (1918) 38:
It often happened that the boats were in great danger in crossing the bar, and on these occasions the women used to assemble on the “bents,” tearing their hair, clapping their hands, and collecting a crowd about them.
Ags. 1918  V. Jacob More Songs of Angus 20:
The Esk ae side, ae side the sea whaur she's set her lane On the bents between.
Ayr. 1887  J. Service Dr Duguid 259:
Nigellus . . . hired some ill-deedy dyvours frae Irvine to waylay her on the bent of Ardeer.

2. Phrases: (1) To go to the bent, to flee from danger. Sc. 1724  Ramsay T. T. Misc. (1762) 79:
And wilily they shot the lock, And fast to the bent are they gane.

(2) (To take) to the bent, (a) to flee from danger; (b) to flee from one's creditors. (a) Sc. 1818  Scott Rob Roy xxv.:
Take the bent, Mr Rashleigh. Make ae pair o' legs worth twa pair o' hands.
(b) Sc. 1725  Ramsay Gentle Shepherd Act I. Sc. ii. in Poems (1728):
With glooman Brow the Laird seeks in his Rent: 'Tis no to gi'e; your Merchant's to the bent.
Slk. 1822  Hogg Perils of Man II. 319:
This enables him to cheat his neighbours for a time; and . . . he takes to the bent, and leaves them all in the lurch.

3. Combs.: The following are found in Sc: (1) Bent bands. (See quot.) Ork. c.1912  J. Omond Ork. 80 Years Ago 17:
Bent bands made into ropes were used as tethers, bands for tying cattle and horses, hoods or hinges . . . in short it was both twine and rope.

(2) Bent-moss, “a soil composed of firm moss covered with a thick herbage of bent” (Ayr. 1825 Jam.2). [E.D.D. gives this as obs.] Ayr. 1811  W. Aiton Gen. View Agric. Ayr 35–36:
Bent moss, prevails . . . in the county of Ayr. . . . It makes excellent fuel, affords a tolerable pasture, for sheep and Galloway cows, and it is capable . . . of yielding good crops of grain and rich grasses.

(3) Broad bent, “psamma arenaria, R. and S. — Shetland, Edmonston MS.; not Scotland generally” (Sh. 1886 Britten and Holland Eng. Plant Names 66).

(4) Fly-bent, “given (in 1889 Bwk. Nat. Club Proc. 473) as an Upper Liddesdale name for purple melic, Molinia cærulea. My inquiries in the precise locality have failed to corroborate this assertion” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 135).

(5) Flying-bent, “species of dead bent blown about by the wind, especially in spring-time” (Ib.).

(6) Narrow bent, “elymus arenarius, L. — Scotl. Edmonston's MS.” (Sc. 1886 Britten and Holland Eng. Plant Names 38).

(7) Sweet bent, “luzula campestris, Willd. — Ayrsh.” (Ib.).

(8) The mother of bent, “elymus arenarius, L. — Outer Hebrides, Macgillivray, Journ. Nat. and Geogr. Science, ii, 93” (Ib.).

Hence benty-knot, “a tough patch of bent, Juncos squarrosus. Usually pl.” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 54).

[O.Sc. bent, bynt, a kind of coarse grass; a place covered with coarse grass, a field, a moor, as in Sc. and mod.Eng. O.E. beonet, found in place-names. Cf. Ger. binse.]

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"Bent n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Feb 2019 <>



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