Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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GIRTH, n.2 Also †gerth, grith.

1. Security, protection, safety, asylum (gen. within a church) guaranteed by law, freq. in phr. girth and sanctuary: “the protection given to one who after killing without malice aforethought reached sanctuary” (A. D. Gibb Sc. Legal Terms); also the place of sanctuary. Now only in place-names. Hist. Peb. 1715  A. Pennecuik Descr. Twd. 98:
Since it is so, that thou has taen thy girth herein.
Sc. 1774  T. Pennant Tour 1772 251:
The precinct of these tombs . . . enjoyed the privileges of a Girth or Sanctuary.
Sc. 1797  D. Hume Punishment of Crimes I. 365:
It was the appointment of those laws, that the manslayer on suddenty was to have the benefit of the girth or sanctuary.
Sc. 1828  Scott F. M. Perth ix.:
Three or four men . . . came this morning before daylight to ask the privilege of girth and sanctuary.

Combs.: (1) girth-cross, a cross marking the boundary of church lands, hence a place of sanctuary; (2) girth gate, see second quot.; (3) girth-house, a house of sanctuary; (4) girth-stane, a stone marking out the boundary of a sanctuary (w.Lth. 1948). (1) Abd. 1725  W. Orem Descr. Old Abd. (1782) 24:
This cathedral had an asylum, a girth or sanctuary, and girth-cross. . . . If the manslayer came to the girth-cross he could be no further pursued, but the clergy received him into the cathedral-church.
Edb. 1779  H. Arnot Hist. Edb. 304:
A fourth [cross in the Canongate] called the Girth cross, from its being the boundary of the sanctuary.
Edb. 1895  “S. Tytler” Kincaid's Widow viii.:
She suffered at the girth-cross by the Maiden.
Sc. 1927  W. D. Simpson St Columba 99:
It [an early Christian stone at Whithorn] was probably a termon or girth cross, marking the boundaries of the monastic lands.
(2) Sc. 1820  Scott Monastery iii.:
Haud your peace! Think what ye're saying, and we hae sae muckle wild land to go over before we win to the girth gate.
m.Lth. 1845  Stat. Acc.2 I. 536:
A causeway leading from the vale of the Tweed to Soutra, . . . bore the significant name of Girth-gate, meaning the asylum or sanctuary road.
(3) Ork. 1866  A. Pope Ancient Hist. Ork. & the North 108:
The temple of Orphir or Gerth-house, was a rotunda 22 feet in diameter and 16 feet . . . above ground.

2. Fig. Sympathetic reception, comfort. Ork. 1929  Marw.:
Of some one going to lay his troubles before another — “He'll get little grith there.”

[O.Sc. has girth, (a place of) refuge or sanctuary, from 1375, met. form of O.N. grið, domicile, home, in pl. = peace, pardon, quarter, O.E. griþ, peace; protection, guarantee of safety or immunity.]

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"Girth n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 13 Dec 2017 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/girth_n2>

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