Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)
BIRN, n.1 A burden, a load, usually one carried on the back; extended also to mean a group or crowd of people, animals or things; a race, a tribe. Lit. and fig. [brn, bʌrn, bɛrn]
Sc. 1923 Sc. Univ. Verses (1918–1923) 93:
For Time' wi' his shearin' heucks, Devalls at the sicht o' my goon An' my birn o' buiks. ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore of N.-E. Scot. 24:
When one boy or girl made a present of “sweeties,” lozenges, or such like, to another, if only one or two were given, the following words were repeated: “Ane's nane, Twa's some, Three's a birn, Four's a horse laid.” Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 106:
A witless littleane bred to herd the ews, Or whan they're fu' to pu' a birn o' cows. Mearns 1933 L. G. Gibbon in Scots Mag. (July) 265:
But the spinners had broken into the ring, a birn of them down to the farther end. Ags. 1823 A. Balfour Foundling of Glenthorn IV. v. 120:
But I didna think that ever I could ha'e had a warm heart to ane o' their [niggers'] birn, as I ha'e to the poor fallow wha's sittin' butt the house there.
Mry.(D) 1824 J. Cock Hamespun Days 110:
To hear ye sing o' Elgin town, My auld bit heart, that's now sair down, It helps to lift a wee aboon A birn o' years. Abd.(D) 1917 C. Murray Sough o' War (1918) 9:
Gey short o' breath, but keen an' teuch, It's but his birn o' days.
Phr.: a load abeen a birn, used of an excessive burden or of something in excess of normality.
Abd.(D) 1929 J. Alexander Mains and Hilly 5:
Weel, it's jist pittin' a load abeen a birn, an' aw'll be the waur o' 't.
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"Birn n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Dec 2017 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/birn_n1>
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