Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

BIRN, Bern, n.2 [brn, bʌrn, bɛrn]

1. The scorched stem of heather which remains after the smaller twigs are burnt. Abd. 1790  A. Shirrefs Gloss. 3;
Watson W.-B.:
Birns, roots of burnt heath; or rather, the stronger stems of the heath that remain after the smaller twigs are gone.
em.Sc. 1920  J. Black Airtin' Hame 141:
Meal and water were well stirred with some handy heather “birn,” and partaken of with keen relish by the thankful wayfarer.
Lth. 1819  J. Thomson Poems 37:
Threescore o' bobbins, ten o' pirns, An auld blunt ax for hackin' birns.
Gall.(D) 1901  Trotter Gall. Gossip 192:
The next time he saw her she was . . . tryin tae roast a half herrin on the heather birns amang the asse.
Dmf. 1899  J. Shaw Country Schoolmaster 344:
It is said of a niggardly frugal person, “It's a queer brae that he couldna get a bern off.”

2. A burnt mark, a brand on parts of the bodies of animals for identification of ownership. Sc. 1725  Ramsay Gentle Shepherd Act III. Sc. ii. in Poems (1728) II.:
Fourscore of breeding Ews of my ain Birn, Five Ky that at ae Milkin fills a Kirn, I'll gi'e to Peggy that Day she's a Bride.
Sc. 1820  Scott Monastery ix.:
I have left him [a fat bullock] in the upper cleugh as . . . he is marked both with cut and birn.
Rxb. 1923  Watson W.-B. 56:
Birn. An identification mark on sheep, made by burning.

Hence the phr. skin and birn to express completeness or totality. Sc. 1718  Ramsay Chr. Kirke iii. xv. in Poems (1721):
The Smith's Wife her black Deary sought And fand him Skin and Birn.
Sc. 1818  Scott H. Midlothian xxiv.:
Do ye think our auld enemies of England . . . cares a boddle whether we didna kill ane anither, skin and birn, . . . all and sindry.?

[O.Sc. birn(e), byrn, a brand of ownership on an animal or thing, from birn, to burn; O.E. beornan, biernan; O.N. brinna.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Birn n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Dec 2017 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/birn_n2>

2485

snd

Try an Advanced Search

Browse SND:

Browse Up
    Loading...
Browse Down

Share: