Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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CABER, KABER, KEBAR, n. Also in forms cabre, cabir, cabar, cabber, cauber, kebbar, kebber, kebbo, kebbre, keebar. [′kɑbər, ′kebər, ′kibər, ′kɛbər]

1. A long, heavy pole, usually made of a pine or fir tree; esp. in phr. to toss the caber, to throw such a pole so that it lands on the thicker end and falls away from the thrower, a contest in Highland games, the winner being he who throws the “caber” farthest. Gen.Sc. Sc. 1909  Colville 67:
It's a ticht caber 'at has neither knap (knot) nae gaw (crack, flaw) in't.
Abd. 1928  Abd. Press and Jnl. (22 Oct.) 6/5:
The haill rick-ma-tick o' the moleskin-breekit chiels sittin' on't as gin't wis a caber for the sawpit!
Ags. 1872  J. Kennedy Jock Craufurt 39:
They say he brags the kintra side To draw the sweer-tree, putt the stone, Or toss the caber on the green.
Hdg. 1892  J. Lumsden Sheep-Head and Trotters 37:
Hammers, and cumbrous caubers now Like willow wands are swingin'.
Gsw. 1711  Burgh Records (ed. Marwick 1908) 674:
Item, at the canale cutting of cabers, sharping them at the end.
Kcb. 1896  S. R. Crockett Cleg Kelly xxviii.:
I could toss the caber with any man.

2. A beam, rafter (Bnff.2, Abd.22, Ags.1, Fif.10 1938). Sc. 1718  Ramsay Chr. Kirke iii. xviii. in Poems (1721):
They frae a Barn a Kaber raught.
Mry. 1830  T. D. Lauder Moray Floods (1873) 121:
Rory Fraser, shoemaker, his daughter, and two children . . . were sitting aloft on twa or three deals, placed on the kebbers of the house, wi' the water up at their feet.
Mearns 1857  A. Taylor Lummie 3:
The floor o' clay was never sweepit; Black draps frae sooty keebars dreepit.
Per. 1835  J. Monteath Dunblane Traditions 69:
Then there were laid on the kebars, parallel to the couple-legs.
Fif. 1938  St Andrews Cit. (29 Jan.) 3/5:
This pauky display o' Saundy's wut Raised up sic a cheer that the kebbors shuk.
Ayr. (?1786)  publ. 1799 Burns Jolly Beggars (Cent. ed.) second recit.:
He ended; and the kebars sheuk Aboon the chorus roar.

3. “The small wood laid upon them [the rafters], immediately under the divots or thatch” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2, cabir, kebber). Lnk. 1881  D. Thomson Musings 18:
But ah! when he cam' to his ain native biggin' The thack was a' aff't, an' the cabers were bare.
Ayr. 1811  W. Aiton Gen. View Agric. Ayr 114:
Over these were hung sticks about the thickness of a man's arm, called cabbers; and smaller ones set on the top of the wall were termed upstarts.
Rxb. 1820  in Edin. Mag. (June) 533/2:
[The wind] gard the divots stour off the house riggins and every caber dunner.

4. “Used in some parts of S[cot]. for a large stick used as a staff” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2, cabir); “a clumsy, unwieldy stick” (Cai. 1907 D. B. Nicolson in County of Cai. 68, caber); “a twisted stick” (Cai.4 c.1920, cabre). Known to Abd.22 1938.

5. “The transverse beams in a kiln, on which the grain is laid for being dried” (Sc. 1808 Jam., cabir). See also kill-kebbers, kiln kebbars, s.v. Kill, n.1 and v.1 Ags. 1752  Inventory of Biggings (per Fif.1):
To a corn kilne with Simmers and Cabers.

6. In pl.: “the thinnings of young plantations” (Sc. (Highlands) 1879 Jam.5, kebbres). Not known to our correspondents.

7. Applied fig. (1) to persons: a big, coarse, clumsy man (Bnff.7 1925; Bnff.2, Abd.2 1938); “a strong person of a somewhat stubborn disposition” (Bnff. 1880 Jam.5; 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 92, kebbre); (2) to horses: “an old lean useless horse” (Cai. 1907 D. B. Nicolson in County of Cai. 68, cabre; Bnff.2 1938). (1) Mry.(D) 1897  J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sketches viii.:
Ay, he was a roch cabar, fond o' the dram.
Rnf. 1807  R. Tannahill Poems and Songs 136:
Weel, tak thee that! — vile ruthless creature! Sic fate to ilk unsocial kebar, Who lays a snare to wrong his neighbour.
(2) Bnff. 1925 7 :
Far got ye that great muckle caber o' a horse, Soothie?

8. Combs.: †(1) kaber-feigh, the contest of “tossing the caber”; (2) caber-tree, pole used for tossing at Highland contests (Bnff.2 1938). (1) Sc. 1860  A. Leighton Trad. Sc. Life 74:
You, the strong Alister, the first o' climbers, the champion at the wrestle, and the king at the kaber-feigh, what lie ye there for?
(2) Bnff. 1901  J. S. Rae in Bnffsh. Jnl. (3 Sept.) 6:
Ho! redd ye my lads for a reel on the heather A toss o' the hammer or caber-tree rare, O!

[O.Sc. caber, cabir, cabber, a pole or spar, a long slender tree-trunk, freq. used for a rafter; first quot. 1505 (D.O.S.T.). Gael. cabar, a pole, rafter (MacLennan).]

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"Caber n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Oct 2018 <>



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