Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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CURN, Kurn, Curran, Kirn, n.1 Cf. Corn, n.1 [kʌrn, kɪrn]

1. A grain or particle (Bnff.2, Ags.2, Slg.3 1941). Sc. 1725  Ramsay Gentle Shepherd Act. II. Sc. i. in Poems (1728):
And on the Haggies Elspa spares nae Cost; . . . she can mix fu' nice The gusty Ingans with a Curn of Spice.
Sc. 1822  Scott F. Nigel xxvii.:
Mind to spice high with Latin; a curn or two of Greek would not be amiss.
n.Sc. 1808  Jam.:
To express the greatest want, it is said that one has not meal's curn.
Fif. 1882  “S. Tytler” Scotch Marriages II., Harry Balfour's Elopement i.:
He's cleaned out his cap, ilka curran'.
Edb. 1887  R. S. Inglis in
D. H. Edwards (ed.) Mod. Sc. Poets (10th Series) 306:
To get a scone or bannock baket, When box an' barrel are clean raket, Nor ae kurn left to feed a mouse.
Rxb. 1825  Jam.2:
A curn o' bread, a small piece of bread.

Hence curn(e)y, kirny, adj., (1) “grainy, full of grains” (Sc. 1808 Jam.); †(2) “knotted, candied; as honey, marmalade, etc.” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2). Cf. quernie s.v. Quairn. (1) Sc. 1808  Jam.:
Meal is said to be curny, when the grains of it are large, or when it is not ground very small.
Sc. 1816  Scott O. Mortality xx.:
It [wheat-flour]'s no that ill food, though far frae being sae hearty or kindly to a Scotchman's stomach as the curney aitmeal is.
em.Sc. 1894  (a) “I. Maclaren” Bonnie Brier Bush 269:
Saunders has been . . . for five and thirty year . . . eatin' naethin' but kirny aitmeal.

2. A (small) number or quantity; a few (Mry.11925; Bnff.8 c.1920; Abd.2, Ags.17, Fif.10, s.Per. (per Fif.13) 1941). Also dim. curnie (Bnff.2 1941). Of persons: a band or company. Often used with a following noun with ellipsis of of. ne.Sc. 1929  M. W. Simpson Day's End 28:
A gey curn year — twal' oot come Caun'lemas — Ha'e worn awa' sin' yon day Bell was ta'en.
Abd. 1790  A. Shirrefs Poems 344:
O send poor Andie friends in curns, Or but one “bonny Dutchess.”
Ags. 1894  G. A. Mackay in People's Friend (30 July) 483/1:
East o' this, a fell curran miles, Miss Elliott.
Edb. 1776  Weekly Mag. (11 July) 82:
Of gowd and siller ('twixt us twa) It costs a curn.
Ayr. 1822  H. Ainslie Pilgrimage, etc. 109:
Behold ye wa's o' Alloway This curn o' canty carlies.

[O.Sc. curn, curne, kurne, etc., a single grain of corn; a given fraction or proportion of corn dressed for multure, 1446 (D.O.S.T.); O.E. corn, corn. The vowel relationship between curn and corn is uncertain: phs. due to early dial. variation; cf. Kirn, n.2]

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"Curn n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Dec 2018 <>



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