Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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BUNDLING, vbl.n. Also used attrib. A form of courtship common in Sh. and Lewis. (See second quot.) The N.E.D. gives under bundle, v., “to sleep in one's clothes on the same bed or couch with (as was formerly customary with persons of opposite sexes in Wales and New England).” Sc. 1875  W. A. Smith Lewsiana 89:
The “bundling” system is still universal in the Lews, and most of the dancers take home their partners and court them in bed until morning!
Lewis 1933  H. Sutherland Arches of the Years xxiii.:
Amongst the people of the black houses, there is a curious custom in courtship, and, like all primitive sex customs, it is based on economic conditions. The time for making love is during the long winter nights when the young men are at home. On that bleak windswept coast it would be difficult for two people to make love out of doors. So the young man goes to the girl's house. Again, with one living-room where the family are sitting, it is difficult to make love. The girl goes into the sleeping-room. There is no fire there, nor any light, because the burning of tallow candles and oil is a consideration to people who are poor. So, for warmth, the girl goes to bed. Once in bed, both her legs are inserted into one large stocking, which her mother ties above her knees. Then the young man goes into the sleeping-room, and lies beside her. It is called “the bundling.”

Comb.: barn-bundling (see quot.). Obsol. in Sh. 1895 (Bnff.2). Sh. 1871  R. Cowie Shetland 102:
The festivities over for the night, the dancers, instead of returning to their homes, adjourn to the barn of their host's cottage, which serves as a dormitory, the members of each sex being alternately ranged along the floor, on a huge couch of straw. . . . The people enter quite innocently into these barn-bundlings, as they are termed.

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"Bundling vbl. n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 10 Dec 2018 <>



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